by Gordon M. Hahn
The U.S. media has been filled with news reports for the last week about the Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) failure to detect bombs and weapons sent through airport security check points as part of a test inspection. Although the results of the TSA inspection are hardly surprising, something else while also not surprising should be of grave concern to all Americans.
The Barack Obama Administration, the TSA, the Homeland Security Department (HSD), and US media have done jihadi terrorists a great favor by releasing and trumpeting this news. The Islamic State, Al Qa`ida, and numerous other terrorists belonging to the groups that comprise the global jihadi revolutionary movement have now been signaled that it is a good time to try and attack U.S. airports and airliners.
The reports have indicated that 95 percent of the time (!) TSA personnel at airport check points failed to detect bombs and weapons – an astounding failure rate that can only encourage terrorists to initiate operations.
Even in the name of transparency, there is no good reason to announce such vulnerability to the world. Imagine a baseball batting coach who tells the opposing team’s pitching coach that such and such a player cannot handle the low inside curve ball. Imagine an intelligence officer who reveals that U.S. intelligence cannot penetrate a particular country or target.
While transparency is a worthy goal there are situations, especially when it comes to obvious national security requirements, when the need for secrecy trumps transparency. The Obama Administration had no problem keeping secret the fact that the NSA was spying on Americans. Perhaps something like Americans’ vulnerabilities to certain types of terrorist attacks constitutes a better candidate for secrecy?
Another interesting issue in connection with this announcement is that if it is true that 95 percent of attempts to get explosives and weapons through security succeed, then why has there been no successful attack on U.S. airports and airliners in recent years? Have the jihadists given up on this particular tactic? This brings us back to the beginning. Now that we informed them that we cannot protect out airports and airliners, they are likely to revive efforts to undertake such terrorist operations.
An open society is an important cornerstone of Western democracy, and transparency is an important part of an open society and democratic system. However, not everything needs to be known to everyone – not the public and certainly not the most vicious enemy our country has ever seen.
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.