Terror suspect Najibullah Zazi has done us all a favor. But is it enough to rouse a nation in permanent snooze-button mode?
The arrest of Zazi, a Colorado-based Afghan airport shuttle driver who counterterrorism officials believe may have been plotting bomb attacks on New York City mass transit trains, raised alerts on rail lines across the country. A joint FBI-Department of Homeland Security assessment issued Monday warned law enforcement agencies about the use of improvised explosive devices against passenger trains overseas. Zazi was allegedly trained in manufacturing liquid explosives with hydrogen peroxide — the same material used in the London subway attacks in 2005. FBI/DHS analysts have recommended random sweeps and patrols at rail stations and terminals as deterrents.
The bust reminded America that while the annual September 11 memorials are over, the jihadi threat looms. Yet, homeland security remains crippled by a 9/10 mentality.
Remember: The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the New York Police Department a few years ago to try to stop random bag searches. The civil liberties absolutists are against random searches because they constitute "unreasonable" invasions of privacy. They're against targeted searches because they amount to racial, religious or ethnic "profiling." And they're against across-the-board searches because they lack "individualized suspicion."
The ACLU homeland security strategy: Do nothing.
The suit against NYPD's random bag search policy ultimately failed, but litigation both real and threatened continues to tie the hands of homeland security and law enforcement officials. This summer, a judge cleared the way for a lawsuit against federal and Minneapolis airport officers by the infamous "flying imams." They are the six Muslim clerics whose suspicious behavior — fanning out in the cabin before take-off, refusing to sit in their assigned seats, requesting seat-belt extenders, which they placed on the floor — led to their removal by a U.S. Airways crew in 2006.
The feds rejected the imams' attempt to shake down the airline with a discrimination lawsuit. But three years later, law enforcement officers are still battling the flying extortionists. Political correctness remains the handmaiden of terrorism.
Over at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder is committed to eliminating racial "disparities" in law enforcement.
His anti-profiling allies at the ACLU and something called the "Rights Working Group" are working to end Bush administration counterterrorism initiatives, "including FBI surveillance and questioning, special registration programs, border stops, immigration enforcement programs and the creation of 'no fly lists.'" The ACLU and RWG have appealed to the United Nations to intervene through the "U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)" — which they say is empowered to require sovereign governments "to review national, state and local policies and amend or repeal laws deemed to be creating or perpetuating discrimination."
Now, add anti-gun activism and stubborn union squabbling to the mix. As I reported two weeks ago, the Obama administration has quietly gutted the nation's most highly trained post-9/11 counterterrorism rail security team. According to multiple government sources who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, the Office of Security Strategy and Special Operations' East Coast and West Coast teams have not worked in a counterterrorism capacity since the summer. Their rifles were put under lock and key after Amtrak Vice President for Security Strategy and Special Operations Bill Rooney and Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold, who played an instrumental role in creating OSSSO's predecessor at Amtrak, the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU), were pushed out by Team Obama.
Amtrak confirmed to me last week that the elite members of the specialized OSSSO no longer carry long-arm weapons, which played a vital role in the unit's show-of-force patrols. Government sources blame anti-gun hostility inside Amtrak for the move. Amtrak also confirmed to me that West Coast members of the rail security unit — most of whom come from Special Forces, counterterrorism and other military service — have been denied police credentials. According to OSSSO sources on both coasts, the rival Amtrak Police Department, in conjunction with the local police union in California, have stymied the process over labor issues (OSSSO members are non-union).
"Amtrak fully expects to have a resolution in the near future," I was told by the rail agency's press office last week. In the meantime, according to a high-ranking homeland security source, Amtrak's unionized police chief has taken over and makes counterterrorism deployment decisions based on pay squabbles. The rail agency is still dealing with grievances filed by Amtrak police officers over compensation during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Says my rail security source: "The deciding factor is overtime, not security."
Dickering while jihadis plot. Feel safer yet?