05 May 2010

Working and success are not the same

When something 'works', that means that it is operating in a normal fashion.

When something is 'successful', that means it achieves its objective.

The backtracking of Janet Napolitano, who heads up DHS, in the previous Detroit attempted terrorist attack was telling in that regard, this from the Telegraph, 28 DEC 2009:

On Sunday, Miss Napolitano told CNN that "one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked" and ABC News that "once the incident occurred, the system worked".

After widespread condemnation of her comments, she told NBC on Monday that she had been quoted "out of context", claiming that she was referring to the system of notifying other flights as well as law enforcement on the ground about the incident soon after it happened.

"Our system did not work in this instance,' she said. "No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way."

She moved from the categorical of the system working to the specific of it working after the incident to the categorical of the system not working. All of that in the space of a day.

Now we move to the current attempted terrorist attack, this from Politico on 02 MAY 2010:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that the car bomb police found in New York's Times Square Saturday night could be a "one off," but that authorities are nonetheless treating the incident as a "potential terrorist attack."

“We’re taking this very seriously,” Napolitano said on CNN's "State of the Union." “We are treating it as if it could be a potential terrorist attack. The derivation of that we do not know and that’s what the investigation will tell us.”

She said they have not pinpointed particular suspects but a lot of forensic evidence investigators are working through, including a possible video.

“We view this very, very seriously,” she said.

“We have no evidence that it is anything other than a one-off,” Napolitano said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that federal investigators are nonetheless alerting state and local authorities.

“Times Square,” she said, “I think is now safe.”

Times Square is just as safe, today, as the Twin Towers were at 8:00am on 11 SEPT 2001.

Of course so is every other place in the Nation so similarly 'safe'.

And the evidence of the attempted car bombing is that it would not have been a well made device and that it was found because of the premature way the system acted when it was being armed. Thus when President Obama says the following, from the White House blog at Fox News 04 MAY 2010:

On Tuesday the president credited "ordinary citizens" with the failure of Saturday's Times Square incident. Two street vendors alerted the NYPD to the suspicious Nissan Pathfinder packed with explosives in Manhattan's busy epicenter. "I've had the opportunity to personally thank the citizens and law enforcement officers whose quick thinking may have saved hundreds of lives." the president said before remarks to the Business Council.

and you know he has beaucoup experts in the CIA, FBI, NSA, BATFE and so on, he must certainly of known this sort of thing as pointed out at Threats Watch on 04 MAY 2005 by Steve Schippert:

The contents of the vehicle, a Nissan Pathfinder SUV, included two plastic five-gallon containers of gasoline, three metal propane tanks (the type commonly used for outdoor grills), dry fertilizer in a lock metal gun cabinet described as containing "eight bags (over 100 pounds) of an unknown, fertilizer-like substance and an inverted pot with a "bird's nest" of wires. There were two analog alarm clocks wired to arrangements of M-88 firecrackers. The bomber expected the M-88 firecrackers to go off and puncture the gasoline and propane tanks to spark the explosion. This clearly did not happen. Some of the M-88's ignited, as heard by nearby pedestrians and vendors, but failed to penetrate either the plastic gasoline containers or the propane tanks.

The fertilizer still in bags and clearly expected to explode or add to the impact is another sign of a bomb maker of low skill and knowledge perhaps following poor or unclear instructions. In order for an ammonium nitrate fertilizer to be transformed into an explosive, it must be combined with diesel fuel and stirred into a slurry. The fertilizer was reportedly not an ammonium nitrate based type to begin with, slurry or none.

It should be noted here that the crude, technically lacking bomb design itself should be no source of reassurance that the threat to New York City, its citizens, its tourists and its workers is minimal. It was a mistake for authorities and experts to publicly describe it as "amateurish." Americans taking in their information from news reports who see this written and hear it spoken will instinctively conclude that the threat is significantly less than feared. This is a mistake, because upwards of 80% of a successful attack comes from the motivation and desire of the attacker. This is far harder for terrorists to cultivate among recruits than skill levels and tactics. And the motivation and desire to kill innocents on New York City streets was clearly demonstrated Saturday.

While intending to make a bomb, the bomb maker, instead, had some fertilizer that doesn't add to an explosion, along with a couple of gas cans and propane tanks, plus some firecrackers. You might get something if you know what you are doing with that, but what was made was not going to kill anyone, unless the gasoline fire got out of control at the very worst of prospects. The will to kill does not bestow skill.

Thus the noting of the M-88s going off was the earliest warning sign of a potential terror attack in Times Square. There was no increase in 'chatter' from typical INTEL sources, a single posting from the Tahreek-e-Taliban that they were going to do many attacks in the US, but nothing directly about NYC until after the attack failed.

But after THAT the system 'worked', right?

This from Fox News 05 MAY 2010:

Shahzad had been under constant watch at his Bridgeport, Conn., home since 3 p.m. Monday and federal authorities had planned to arrest him there that evening, two people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. Authorities believe he decided to flee after being spooked by news reports that investigators were seeking a Pakistani suspect in Connecticut, one of the people said.

Shahzad somehow lost the investigators who were trailing him, the two people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

The Obama administration played down that Shahzad had made it aboard the plane. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would not talk about it, other than to say Customs officials prevented the plane from taking off. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the security system has fallback procedures in place for times like this, and they worked.

And Attorney General Eric Holder said he "was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him."

So the Attorney General believes that the great power of those watching Shahzad meant that after losing track of him they could find him again. Brilliant!

And that great No-Fly List? Wasn't consulted.

So we have a terrorist who fails to construct a bomb, attempts to detonate that mass of materials which wasn't a bomb, a local vendor hears the firecrackers go off and calls the cops thus saving tens if not hundreds of people who weren't going to be killed, and then the ever prescient authorities find the man at his home, watch him to make sure he doesn't leave and then LOSE TRACK OF HIM and Shahzad is only stopped when his plane is on the damned tarmac ready to take off for Dubai due to the laxity in checking him out until his name popped up in the system.

And the only thing that 'worked'?

Well the system of National Intelligence (NSA, CIA, and a few other spook houses) failed in tagging the guy early on. And even if they did, no one paid attention to their tags and warnings.

The State Department failed in not doing a more thorough background check on him before he applied for US Citizenship, which he got a year ago.

There is no way on Earth to track all fertilizer, firecrackers and diesel so you can forget anything along those lines, as nothing can work on that score.

He bought a vehicle with cash in a private transaction, and even if he went to a dealer his name wouldn't have popped up for much of anything.

Whatever 'training' he got from Pakistan didn't work, though not for lack of trying.

The authorities on the police side that found him, lost him.

The TSA system that was supposed to prevent him from getting on a plane didn't work.

And only once his name was actually in the system, with him on-board the plane, did the system finally respond in the nick 'o time to stop the plane from taking off for Dubai with said terrorist on-board.

Thank heavens the Taliban are piss poor trainers, huh?

Otherwise we would now be talking about the blown in facade of the building Viacom is in, the folks who own Comedy Central that censored the South Park - Mohammad episode, and the dead due to shrapnel and debris in Times Square which would now be a massive 'crime scene' that would be, in actuality, an impromptu battlefield in the war with no fronts.

And the system that deprived the Taliban of good trainers and training facilities?

The US Armed Forces.

The fizzled attack in Times Square was stopped by the ineptitude that the Taliban now have in training because they have lost so many people in Afghanistan and Pakistan that their high value trainers are gone. Mostly dead.

DHS didn't work.

TSA didn't work.

The police didn't stop the device, and lost the suspect.

The DOJ with its firm belief in the ability to re-find said suspect shows that they don't understand that their system didn't work, either.

Out of all the official agencies, parts of the multiple governments both in the US (federal, State, local, municipal) and overseas (Pakistan and Afghanistan), the only part of this entire system that is working to deprive the terrorists of the skill, personnel and materials to attack the US successfully is the US Armed Forces.

For the attack did 'work'.

It was just not 'successful'.

And as we are reminded by KSM: they do revisit failed attack sites to carry out a successful one, just as they did at the Twin Towers.

There is no safety in our system, save for the part that works and it can't do everything for us.

I'm very glad that folks in Times Square weren't blown to smithereens, and that they noticed this failed almost-bomb attack and notified authorities.

They did their job because our soldiers can't be everywhere.

Save for one man who first noticed the event and called it in.

He is a vet, NY Daily News 04 MAY 2010:

"I'm overwhelmed," Lance Orton, 56, told the Daily News. "Do something good one day and you'll see."

The Vietnam veteran remains a reluctant hero. "I'm just an average guy," he insisted. "A glory hound seeks attention - that ain't me."


Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Hope, change, luck and incompetence are not the key elements of a good national security policy -- which are precisely Mr Obaka's current security elements.


A Jacksonian said...

Mr. Z - That is exactly right.

Hope is many things. It is not a strategy.

We are now marking time and the only thing between what we have and disaster is sheer, dumb, luck. That has to last a bit over 2.5 years... I am not optimistic on that score.