Fix The System, Don’t Punish The Passengers

The federal government’s response to the (forgive me) underwear bomber is a bit like the response of an incompetent teacher who can’t control a class: just punish everyone.

The main question here is how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab got a valid U.S. visa and how his name was cleared on the flight manifest by U.S. authorities. The other really important question would be how he managed to get on board with his shorts full of explosives.

The first question is what the authorities need to focus on, investigate and fix. They can acknowledge that their procedures allowed a man already under suspicion for terrorist sympathies to get a U.S. visa and travel legally to the United States. They blew it, and they need to fix it.

The answer to the second question is important, too, but harder to fix. It’s going to involve security procedures in foreign places, procedures that this country can’t fully control. The United States can exert pressure on other nations to tighten security, and no doubt it will.

What the United States shouldn’t do is prevent people from using lavatories and (presumably) reading books on airplanes. These are ridiculous, punitive restrictions that don’t take one single step toward answering these questions: How did Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab get on a commercial airliner with those explosives? And how are we going to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

In this matter, I find myself in rare agreement with the American Spectator. As Doug Bandow declared on its blog, “inconvenience should not become a substitute for vigilance.” Amen.

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