January 2, 2007

TSA TLC: the Devil Is In the Details

Hatched by Dafydd

Several conservative commentators, notably Michelle Malkin channeling Andrew McCarthy and Andrew McCarthy in the raw, are incensed that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is sponsoring "sensitivity training" for its airport employees, training them in what to expect from Moslem travelers during the Hajj (which this year corresponds to the Christmas and New Year's holiday season; the Islamic calendars, all eight of them, are lunar based, causing the exact date of the Hajj to shift from year to year).

The Hajj is a religious pilgrimage that Moslems are required to perform at least once in their lives to Mecca and sometimes Medina as well. Typically, they will pray very frequently all during the pilgrimage, may seem subdued and act oddly, and will likely return from the Hajj with a jar full of holy water from the Zamzam Well in Mecca, near the Kaaba. During the Hajj, pilgrims are required to dress in the ihram, a special type of robe.

Each of these things -- intense praying, an odd, nervous or subdued appearance, traditional Arab dress, and carrying vials of liquid -- would ordinarily raise the TSA's suspicion level; all together might set off a red alert, if they did not understand about the Hajj.

And of course, there is always the danger that jihadis might take advantage of the Hajj to hide among batches of pilgrims and commit a terrorist act; so TSA employees must be trained how to spot differences between pilgrims and terrorists that are more subtle than differences between ordinary Moslems (not on pilgrimage) and terrorists. There are many reasons why such cultural-awareness training is vital for the TSA.

Alas, none of this appears in Michelle Malkin's post; here is how she puts it:

Monday morning blood-boiler: Bush kowtows to CAIR

Andy McCarthy rightly excoriates the dhimmis in the Bush administration for pandering to CAIR. [There follows a lengthy quotation from McCarthy.]

Here is a sample from the McCarthy column on NRO; note the enraged language McCarthy uses, bordering on the hysterical:

As if snuggling up to CAIR, coercing our law-enforcement and intelligence professionals to endure CAIR’s Islamic “sensitivity training,” and inviting CAIR to weigh in on our nation’s foreign policy were not enough, we now have a Bush-administration agency publishing an unedited CAIR press release on publicly subsidized, official government Internet space....

This is naked proselytism on behalf of an Islamic interest group [!]. Americans will no doubt be thrilled to learn, through TSA’s good offices, about CAIR’s delight that our travel-safety agency “has provided special training about Islamic traditions related to the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, to some 45,000 airport security officers[,]” and that this “cultural sensitivity training includes details about the timing of Hajj travel, about items pilgrims may be carrying and about Islamic prayers that may be observed by security personnel.”

Actually, yes; I am "thrilled" to learn this, though I must confess it's hardly a surprise. Because what the TSA boorishly calls "sensitivity training" in its joint press release with CAIR is more accurately termed "awareness training." There is nothing in the release, nor in the original article it's based upon, that sounds like actual sensitivity training... nothing about not using certain terms because they might upset Moslems, for example, and nothing about allowing Moslems to do things disallowed to others.

Rather, it appears to be just "cultural awareness," and it has been going on for years. In other words, since we know that many thousands of Moslems are going to travel in groups -- praying all the way -- during the Hajj, and that they're likely to bring jars of Zamzam holy water back with them, it behooves us to warn the TSA ahead of time what to look for and how to distinguish such pilgrims from groups like the "Flying Imams," who are either Islamist agents provocateurs or even actual, real terrorists.

For the same reason, when the Million Man March is coming to town, the cops train their officers in what to expect, what to look out for, and what to avoid doing to prevent rioting. It's simply the smart thing to do... as McCarthy would realize, if he weren't so intent upon chest-thumping and spewing BDS from the right.

The devil, as always, is in the details. If the TSA were to hire CAIR itself, for example, to teach these cultural-awareness classes, that would be a serious problem; CAIR is unquestionably a terrorist-supporting organization with deep ties to actual jihadist groups. But there simply is no evidence that CAIR had anything to do either with the policy being adopted or in designing the training. CAIR only shows up in the TSA's press release.

McCarthy's TSA link is in the press-release section of the website; it's clearly a joint press release between TSA and CAIR (CAIR's press release was on December 27th, the TSA's one day later). Like it or not, and in spite of (or because of) the fact that CAIR has many deep and integral connections to terrorist organizations, CAIR is the most powerful Moslem spokesgroup in the United States, eclipsing the Muslim Brotherhood's American branch, the Muslim American Society. It's not evidence of "dhimmitude," as Michelle puts it, for the TSA to collaborate on a press release... it's evidence that you cannot dismiss such a powerful organization just because it's also unsavory; you must take it into account, even if that means holding your nose as you do so.

In the original article from the State Department's USINFO website (linked above), predating both press releases, CAIR is not even mentioned; there is no evidence that CAIR supplies or is involved in the training:

[TSA spokesman Darrin] Kayser said cultural awareness has been an integral part of TSA training since the agency assumed responsibility for managing airport security after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He said the hajj briefings were essentially “refresher training” and a chance to alert officers that a larger number of Muslim travelers will be passing through the airports during this season. He said the TSA had a particular interest in performing the training this year, as the hajj corresponds with the busy Christmas-New Year holiday travel season.

(USINFO is brought to us courtesy of the State Department's "Bureau of International Information Programs.")

There simply is nothing in either the TSA's cultural awareness or its joint press release with CAIR that constitutes any evidence of "kowtowing" or "dhimmitude" on the part of the Bush administration.

But wait, that's not the end of it; there actually is something sinister... but it emanates from the State Department, the most rogue, out of control agency of the government, and the department that most firmly rejects the idea of the "unitary executive." The Department of State has had its own foreign and domestic policy throughout the Bush administration... first under Colin Powell (who encouraged them), but now even under Condoleezza Rice, who seems genuinely to want to reform them but hasn't yet succeeded.

What is far more disturbing is the next paragraph of the USINFO story, which shows that not only State but also the new Department of Homeland Security itself are still behind the power curve when it comes to the danger we face from jihadi terrorism (the story still has nothing to do with CAIR, however). The provenance of DHS makes it clear that, like the CIA, DHS is a child of the State Department... not of the Defense Department; that is the great flaw that renders both CIA and DHS less than useful in the War on Jihadism:

The training comes just one month after Department of Homeland Security personnel came under criticism for removing six imams from a domestic flight for what one passenger considered suspicious behavior. (See related article.)

In the "related article," also published by the State Department, a spokesman for DHS weighs in on the "flying imams" incident:

According to press reports, a passenger aboard a US Airways flight told a flight attendant that the six men were engaged in suspicious behavior and security personnel subsequently removed those six men from the flight. The men were questioned by the FBI and Secret Service, and then were released, according to press reports....

“Ultimately, it seems that the information had led to a misjudgment, but we’re not going to be critical of that judgment,” [Homeland Security press secretary Russ Knocke] said.

This story dates from November 22nd, 2006, or one day after the incident. Yet even the day before -- the very day it happened -- the Minneapolis Star Tribune had reported that it was not just "one passenger" but multiple "witnesses" who complained about the imams' behavior. The Strib also noted the business with the seatbelt extenders (handy weapons) that were requested, even though the imams didn't need them -- and didn't use them, laying them by their seats instead. (Via Power Line, which has been all over this story like honey on Pooh.)

By the next day (the day of the story on USINFO), the New York Times published a story on the incident that included this (again via Power Line, November 22nd):

Witnesses, including a number of passengers and US Airways employees, said they heard some of the men making anti-American remarks and chanting “Allah,” first as they boarded the plane and then when led off, Mr. Hogan said.

(This was also the first appearance of discussion about the peculiar seating arrangement the imams took, though it was not reported until days later that they were deliberately emulating the seating pattern used by the 9/11 hijackers.)

Here is the point: what in the wide, wide world of sports was DHS doing minimizing the imams' behavior by flatly stating that only "one passenger" had complained, when the MSM were already reporting that there were far more witnesses? And where did DHS get off, concluding -- just one day after the incident -- that removing the imams was a "misjudgment?"

In fact, subsequent revelations make it very clear (and even what was known at the time raised the strong possiblity) that it was excellent judgment, that the imams were clearly and intentionally trying to provoke an incident... probably to set themselves up for a fat lawsuit that CAIR would push through the courts, to scoop up millions of dollars in "damages;" but also to gain a federal court ruling setting Moslems up as a "privileged class," exempted from the behavioral profiling that is routinely applied to every other airline passenger.

There is nothing wrong (other than the goofy name) with giving "sensitivity training" -- awareness training -- to TSA employees about the Hajj. But there is everything in the world wrong with the Department of Homeland Security running interference for Islamists, backed by CAIR and by new Rep. Keith Ellison ("CAIR's congressman"), deliberately creating a security breach for purposes of using the federal courts to weaken American homeland security. The purpose of DHS is to preserve domestic security, not help our enemies endanger it.

I wish those jumping on the TSA for its awareness training had noticed this point instead; it's liable to have far more of a real-world impact and calls for a thorough housecleaning in the agency most involved with protecting the American homeland.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 2, 2007, at the time of 5:30 PM

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The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2007 5:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I never read anything Malkin or McCarthy write anymore. They are both in a perpetual never ending state of hysteria over something. Nothing but drama from those two and of course anyone who does not agree with them is an unhinged liberal or a dhimmi.

This does not help. It is difficult enough to convince people that we need to deal with radical Islam without having a cow over everything and anything that is remotely associated with Muslims. After awhile people just wish everyone would shut up about it.

The constant yammering about dhimmitude is not only not helping, it is making things worse.

For instance, at Christmas Governor Bredesen of Tennessee sent out a Christmas card with an Afghan girl on it, it was from a painting he had done. Needless the say people just had to make a federal case out of it because the girl was a Muslim. A Christmas card for Chrisake. Peace on earth good will to men. I bring good tidings to all men. Or at least that is what I was raised to believe. But noooo, we had to get all bent out of shape and start carrying on about the Governor of Tennessee being a dhimmi. Sheesh. Ease up people. They are not the Borg.

So yes, people in airline security need to know what they can expect with the Hajj so that they don't waste their time worrying about the wrong people. That is only common sense.

As for the flying imams, who knows why DHS put that in there? Was it a misjudgment? Well, I think the airlines had every right to refuse to transport those people, but it seems they were not carrying bombs or anything and if everyone who does not like America was kicked off the planes these airlines would be in worse shape than they are.

So I guess in retrospect someone could see it as a misjudgment, but under the circumstances the people in charge did what they belived was the right thing at the time. And who knows what the motive of the imams really was?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2007 7:14 PM

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