Nathan Tsoi is a computer sicence senior and Mustang Daily political columnist. His column, “First Things First” will appear every Wednesday.
Nathan Tsoi is a computer sicence senior and Mustang Daily political columnist. His column, “First Things First” will appear every Wednesday.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb failed to detonate properly on Christmas day, but the intended damage was done. Thankfully, Umar failed to kill the nearly 300 people on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. However, Umar did successfully instill fear in the American population. This fear should prompt change, but not the change terrorists intend.

Terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman suggests in the Washington Post that al-Qaeda’s strategic shift from the “knock-out blow” in 2001 to the new “death by a thousand cuts approach” has given the terrorist organization new vitality. This new five-point strategy calls for smaller attacks over a longer period of time, meant to bleed America to death. It attempts to cripple our will as well as our infrastructure. This includes overloading already taxed intelligence organizations with false or irrelevant information. Our current reactionary measures, including heightened security and new high-tech screening solutions, all of which are very expensive, play into the arm of al-Qaeda’s new strategy that wants to slowly “bankrupt America.”

Hoffman’s outlook on the immediate future of American security does not look bright. “Over the past 18 months,” Hoffman declared, quoting American and British intelligence officials, “well over 100 individuals from such (unsuspecting non-Islamic) countries have graduated from terrorist training camps in Pakistan and have been sent West to undertake terrorist operations.”

The “systematic failure” of intelligence analysis and delayed responses stem from a combined misunderstanding of al-Qaeda’s new strategy and failure to embrace change, Hoffman claimed.

Hoffman’s argument points out the necessity of a new American counter-terrorism strategy.

Unfortunately, responses from individuals in the current administration, such as Secretary Napolitano’s highly publicized claim that the current Homeland Security strategy is working, indicate the administration’s resistance to acknowledging this problem and embracing change.

American security could learn a valuable lesson on recognizing and responding to changing terrorist strategies from the safest (and most targeted) airline on earth: El Al, Israel’s national airline.

MSNBC reports that, “Israeli officials — and a growing number of American security consultants — agree that aviation security has to be multipronged in its approach.”

They argue that even the most advanced technology, such as X-ray machines and metal detectors, are no replacement for current intelligence about passengers, tamper-proof cockpit doors, hand searches and some degree of “profiling,” carried out by properly trained security personnel.  This would be a complete shift from the current U.S. model of random checks, run on one in every 10 passengers, according to Israeli Security Chief Rafi Ron. A shift to the Israeli security strategy could bring much improvement to the one-in-10 chance of catching a terrorist, odds that Ron calls “unacceptable.”

The Obama administration continues to cling to Bush-era policies, but the fact remains that more than 100 Pakistani-trained terrorists are positioning themselves to carry out terrorist acts in the near future. Until there are significant changes in American security policy, we are left with few options.

Living in fear of is simply not one of them, lest we let the terrorists win. Therefore, we must live our lives not in fear, but in vigilance.  The last line of defense against terrorism is the American citizen.

Join the Conversation


  1. We don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber!

    Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

    The Problem
    Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

    The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” – all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

    All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

    1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

    2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

    3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

    The Solution
    Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

    The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

    As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

    Visit our blog at where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.

  2. What do the terrorists attacks on the USS Cole, Egyptian Embassy, 9/11, the Madrid train bombers, and the underwear bomber have in common?……

    #1 Muslim
    #2 Male
    #3 Ages 16-50

    Question: If you only had enough resources to screen every white woman over 65 years old named Suzie Q or every Muslim man between 16-50 named Abdullah Muhammed Allhariini, who are you going to screen? Which makes more sense?

    I appreciate your sense of subscribing to “diversity” and freedom from discrimination, but it doesn’t work in realty.

    When you apply for a job, employers profile you in hope of picking someone likely to succeed…its not different when picking people from a security line that are likely to blow up a plane.

  3. Nathan demonstrates a skill our founding father was often credited with having, he sees the world as it it, not as we would like it to be. The idea of approaching everyone equally, in abosolute terms or via random samplying, will never scale to the depth needed to properly protect aircraft. We have seen this for years. An approach the intelligently focuses on those who fit closet to a profile threat (young, male, Muslims with disfunctional social skills) need to be the priority of focus. Only by focusing our resources on most likely threats can we have any expectation of saftey. Israel’s practives for 30-years have shown that. It is unfortunate that many innocent people will be inconvenienced and esstentially given less rights than others, simply due to religous preference and ethnic origin.

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