Throughout history, people have made sacrifices for the common good. We sacrifice part of our income to taxes. We sacrifice the right to do whatever we please for law and order. Usually when our government asks something of us we expect a service in return, be it welfare, schools or the guarantee of safety.
Now, in light of the Christmas Day incident on Detroit Flight 253, if the U.S. government is continuing to ask us to give up our constitutional liberties, time and privacy in the interest of our security, it too must step up to provide exceptional intelligence.
Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, world governments have imposed travel restrictions that ask more and more of us. When we travel we give up not only our time but also our privacy, having all of our belongings examined and even being legally required to undergo a random body search. As one traveler told the New York Times, “Everyone just accepted that that’s what you have to do. I’m quite happy for them to do it. It’s peace of mind for everyone.”
Peace of mind is priceless, but we’ll keep losing it if the government doesn’t take reciprocal action to make sure incidents like Flight 253 don’t happen again. In the United States, we have sacrificed our civil liberties in the interest of national security. The Patriot Act made legal certain types of wiretapping and indefinite detention, previously considered unconstitutional. Although President Obama has spoken against these policies, many are still in place. Our leaders tell us that times of exceptional danger call for exceptional measures.
The recent attempted terrorist attack is evidence that despite the billions of dollars that have been spent on intelligence programs and watch lists since 2001, the government has not lived up to its promises of increased security.
When Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate an explosive device on the plane carrying 289 people near Detroit, it was passengers that leapt on the flames and subdued the individual, as they have in several similar incidents since 2001.
The utter failure of U.S. intelligence is apparent in the case of the Christmas Day attempt. Not only was Abdulmutallab on a British watch list after being denied a visa, he was also in a U.S. database of suspected international terrorists. Furthermore, the would-be bomber’s father went to the U.S. Embassy in the Nigerian city of Abuja in November specifically to warn U.S. officials that his son posed a threat to U.S. security. It is difficult to imagine a more easy terror suspect for intelligence agencies to spot.
Just like all of us, U.S. government officials are human and do make mistakes. However, it is the government’s duty to maintain intelligence, because intelligence is an aspect of security that average individuals do not have the capacity to carry out. Only governments can successfully communicate with foreign leaders and investigate complicated ties between organizations.
In response to this incident, the Transportation Security Administration has implemented new restrictions for air travelers. Passengers on international flights to the U.S. face additional screening, including random full body scans, full body pat-downs, and hand searches of carry-ons. Passengers on domestic flights may also be selected for random additional screening procedures.
If leaders continue to ask more of us, they need to step up as well. Instead of taking reactionary measures to ensure our safety, they need to listen to available intelligence and act on it when red flags are raised. They must increase communication with other countries, close loopholes in their systems and essentially do their duty to all of us. Our sacrifices become irrelevant if they are not met with increased efforts and efficiency on the part of our government.