Thursday, February 10, 2005

The case for "behavioral science"

From the The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 - In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission.

But aviation officials were "lulled into a false sense of security," and "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11 did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures," the commission report concluded.

The report discloses that the Federal Aviation Administration, despite being focused on risks of hijackings overseas, warned airports in the spring of 2001 that if "the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

The report takes the F.A.A. to task for failing to pursue domestic security measures that could conceivably have altered the events of Sept. 11, 2001, like toughening airport screening procedures for weapons or expanding the use of on-flight air marshals. The report, completed last August, said officials appeared more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays, and easing airlines' financial woes than deterring a terrorist attack. *

Among other things, the report says that leaders of the F.A.A. received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001. That represented half of all the intelligence summaries in that time.

Five of the intelligence reports specifically mentioned Al Qaeda's training or capability to conduct hijackings, the report said. Two mentioned suicide operations, although not connected to aviation, the report said.

* I would argue that the FAA was more concerned of the ACLU's band of domestic terrorists and the lawsuits they weild. Had the FAA correctly subjected the right group of people to additional screening, derived from the 52 al Qaeda related intel reports and the number of them that hijacking planes and suicide missions, we'd likely be talking about an averted disaster and the rigorous defense the ACLU was mounting on behalf of terrorists "unfairly singled out because of their ethnicity."

Instead wasting resources on background checks on 50 year old white women, those resources would have likely uncovered the expired visas of the 5 hi-jackers that the FAA received on 9/12. It's not fun to say or think about the innocent people and the hassle they'd have to go through, but it's less fun to think about all the people we could have saved.

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