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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Monday, July 01, 2002
5:45 PM

The Osama bin Laden Journalism Award goes to Blake Morrison of USA Today, who along with his source thinks he's a brave crusading journalist by telling the world that airport checkpoint screeners are still missing a lot of test items:

Checkpoint screeners at 32 of the nation's largest airports failed to detect fake weapons — guns, dynamite or bombs — in almost a quarter of undercover tests by the Transportation Security Administration last month, documents obtained by USA TODAY show...Overall, screeners missed simulated weapons in 24% of the tests. At three major airports — in Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Las Vegas — screeners failed to detect potentially dangerous items in at least half the tests. At a fourth, Los Angeles International Airport, the results weren't much better. The failure rate there was 41%. Screeners repeatedly failed to find stainless-steel test pieces that set off metal detectors as guns might. Screeners also had trouble spotting simulated bombs.

The detection rate is indeed "pathetic," as a security expert quoted by Edwards says. I don't know how much this tells us, however, since virtually none of the screeners here have gone through the Transportation Security Administration's tougher federalized training program.

And in case you missed how much of nincompoop Edwards is, he tells you himself:

The documents detailing the results, considered "security sensitive information" by the agency, are part of a series of undercover tests that are set to conclude today

Edwards also provides a handy list of the airports easiest to penetrate.

Remember Dennis Pluchinsky?:

As a terrorism analyst, I am both appalled and confused by many of the post-9/11 articles published at home and abroad, in newspapers, news magazines and academic journals, as well as on the Internet. Many of these articles have clearly identified for terrorist groups the country's vulnerabilities -- including our food supply, electrical grids, chemical plants, trucking industry, ports, borders, airports, special events and cruise ships.... No terrorist group that I am aware of has the time and manpower to conduct this type of extensive research on a multitude of potential targets....

Imagine that you are a supporter or sympathizer of a terrorist group and you have been tasked to identify and collect tactical information on potential U.S. targets. Consider some of the following headlines that have appeared since 9/11: "Private Plane Charters: One Way Around Air Security," "Suicidal Nuclear Threat Is Seen At Weapons Plants," "Priority Required for Protecting Utilities," "NRC Warns of Missing Radioactive Materials," "Freight Transport: Safe from Terror?" "Chemical Plants Are Feared As Targets," "America's Roads May Be Just As Vulnerable As Its Skies," "Study Assesses Risk of Attack on Chemical Plants," "Terror Risk Cited for Cargo Carried on Passenger Jets: 2 Reports List Security Gaps," and "Truck Terrorism Possible, U.S. Says: Investigation Finds Lack of Licensing Safeguards."

I do not understand the media's agenda here. This country is at war. Do you honestly believe that such stories and headlines, pointing out our vulnerabilities for Japanese and Nazi saboteurs and fifth columnists, would have been published during World War II? Terrorists gather targeting information from open sources and field surveillance. What other sources do they have? Do they have a multibillion-dollar intelligence community with thousands of employees? Do they have telecommunications satellites to intercept communications?

Nope. They got USA Today.

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