The XX Factor

Napolitano: The System Worked

Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, thinks that the attemped Christmas bombing of a flight bound for Detroit showed that, ” The system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days,” words echoed by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. So the billions we pour into airline security and the hours of shuffling through lines millions of us are forced to endure is supposed to allow Islamist fanatics onto planes to blow them up? Does she mean that the system relies on the incompetence of the terrorists to keep us safe? Surely we’ve all shaken our heads at the endless patdowns we’ve witnessed of elderly people in wheelchairs. But who knew harassing the elderly was the point of our security system, and not just a demonstration that we don’t want to acknowledge that certain people have a greater propensity than others to want to be mass murderers.

The father of the would-be bomber notified the American embassy that his son, Umar Abdulmutallab, had become radicalized and had possibly traveled to Yemen for terrorist training. So his name was put on a meaningless list, because Abdulmutallab bought a ticket-in cash!-and boarded a transcontinental flight to the U.S. without checking any luggage. In her maiden speech to Congress Napolitano did not use the word “terrorism” but instead said she was concerned about “man-caused disasters,” as if hoping that by not calling Islamist killers mean names they will decide to act nice. It was sheer luck, and fast action by other passengers, that kept a planeful of people from exploding on Christmas. And if the officials charged with overseeing our national security can’t see that, that is a man-caused disaster.

Photograph of airport security by Digital Vision/Getty Images.