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Screen out useless reactions to Christmas Day attack

Drop the partisan politics and knee-jerk security measures resulting from the Christmas Day attack. Focus on what’s useful: passenger screening and terrorist watch lists.

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Talk about the need for better screening. Right now, the United States needs to screen out partisan reactions and knee-jerk responses to the attempted Christmas Day airliner attack over Detroit. Instead, it must focus on what really needs fixing.

Terrorists want to make Americans afraid and panic-stricken, and to send politicians and government officials crashing into each other so that they can’t accomplish anything.

The terrorists succeed when they prompt exaggerated security responses such as not allowing passengers to stand up for the last hour of the flight and not allowing people to keep pillows or blankets on laps. Couldn’t someone do the dirty deed of detonating a bomb in the hours before the last one – with or without a blanket as cover?

They also succeed when they get politicians to pull out their daggers and go for each other: President Obama wants to “appease” the terrorists, and Democrats want to “weaken” security. Republicans disregard terrorism by blocking spending and nominee action in Congress.

True, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano overplayed the calm-the-nation role by declaring incongruously last Sunday that “the system worked.”

But she quickly corrected herself, and Mr. Obama is rightly focused on two weak spots in the system: screening passengers and tracking terrorist suspects. On Thursday, he is expected to receive a preliminary report on the alleged failed attempt of Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 – a near miss that Obama admits showed “human and systemic failures” in security.

The president has ordered a review of passenger-screening measures. Any number of methods might have detected Mr. Abdulmutallab’s hidden explosives, including “full body” scanning machines that can detect nonmetallic objects, explosive-sniffing dogs, and alert security employees who could have pulled the young man aside because they noticed he carried nothing more than a small carry-on bag for an international flight.


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