Patterico's Pontifications

7/25/2004

“I’m Not a Pessimist. I’m a Realist.”

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:27 pm

The recent Annie Jacobsen “Terror in the Skies” episode seems a little like a Rorschach test for your views on terrorism — a little like the Bush Administration’s treatment of the available intelligence before the war.

As the Washington Post recently noted in an editorial, “no evidence has been presented that intelligence on Iraq was deliberately falsified for political purposes.” Essentially, the rap on Bush is that he and his top aides were too pessimistic — they too readily saw the available evidence in the worst light.

It seems to me that the reaction to Ms. Jacobsen’s story is similar. There is a set of facts out there that could be interpreted either way: as a completely innocent set of circumstances, or as a group of terrorists conducting a dry run.

Some say: Don’t panic. Maybe Iraq is developing nuclear weapons; maybe not. Maybe it will give WMD to Al Qaeda; maybe not. Maybe those 14 guys are musicians with weak bladders. So what if half of them defy the captain’s order, and leap up upon final approach? There could be an innocent explanation. Until we know for sure, let’s not over-react.

Folks like me are willing to say: I don’t know which interpretation is correct — the pessimistic one or the optimistic one. But something about 9/11 has made me less critical of those in power who choose to treat every potential threat seriously.

Which way do you come down?

3 Responses to ““I’m Not a Pessimist. I’m a Realist.””

  1. Since you ask, I come down on the side of the FAM officials who, in spite of having perhaps 3% of the marshals necessary to cover all the domestic US flights daily, decided to put “several” marshals on that flight. That fact alone, often overlooked in the debate, indicates that the feds smelled a rat long before that plane took off. Too bad they subsequently felt the need to smear Mrs. Jacobsen as a hysteric, but that tactic may be an attempt to convince the Syrians that no one is interested in them now. I hope the feds are aware of every move and contact those Syrians are making — wiretaps and listening devices, video, 24 hour tails, the whole bit. I believe they used their cover as musicians to probe airline and airport security at the behest of a terrorist cell.

    The real issue is profiling. Security people should not be simply allowed to profile — they should be instructed to. The current federal position on that is insane, as has been pointed out on this blog. We need to demand a change in federal policy.

    L. Barnes (1b54e8)

  2. Profiling wouldn’t have caught the one guy who actually tried to kill people on a plane since Sept. 11–remember the shoe bomb guy? He was white.

    And yet…if he had been carrying a butane lighter, two of which are still permitted on board per passenger, the plane would’ve gone down.

    Racist Big Brotherisms certainly aren’t the only way to go about better airplane security.

    I know this may seem like a longshot, but it’s also possible that the Syrians were, in fact, simply musicians. But that’s just based on the silly fact that is absolutely no evidence that anything wrong happened or was going to happen.

    Oh, but they did have brown skin. And they were acting funny. Guess we’d better give ’em all the chair, just to be safe.

    For the record, I also don’t believe that the number of marshalls on that particular flight proves anything. Neither you nor I have any idea what standard marshalls-on-planes procedures entail, so let’s not fantasize that it was such a rare thing for there to be “several” air marshalls on this particular plane, when we have no idea how normal that is. There are way too many variables.

    Tom (e27454)

  3. More Realism
    Patterico casts the Flight 327 debate as between pessimists and optimists, and that those who saw a real danger in that event are “realists.” Realism. The war on terror is the real deal. This is serious and will take a long time. It calls for patient, …

    The Politburo Diktat (4c4fc9)


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