Monday, December 28, 2009

Profilers, Precogs -- Soon to a Career Fair Near You



A State Department official during the George W. Bush administration by the name of Christian Whiton is now advocating an idea that was floated around in 2002. For FoxNews, Mr.Whiton writes Homeland Security Must Grant Visas -- Not the State Department.Quick excerpts below:

"News reports are already indicating the screening of air travelers have been tightened. If that is necessary, so be it. But would it not be smarter to avoid letting would-be terrorists onto flights to the U.S. in the first place? What if Mr. Abdulmutallab wanted to commit a terrorist act within the U.S., rather than on the way here? No amount of airport screening would have stopped him, given that the State Department had permitted him access to the United States.
[…]
To most people, this is common sense. But to critics on the left, it is the unacceptable act of “profiling.” But the fact is, whether we choose to admit it or not, we are engaged in a global conflict against those who wish us mortal harm. We should empower government officials to apply reasonable skepticism, statistical data and common sense in screening those who wish to visit the U.S."

Mr. Whiton also provided his recommendations: "Unless we are prepared to see innocent civilians murdered en mass as they travel or otherwise go about their lives—and the massive changes to our society and economy that would result—we need to do three things:"

First, Congress should launch an investigation into why Mr. Abdulmutallab was given a visa. It should also determine how many other risky applicants are visiting or preparing to visit the U.S. with visas issued under similarly lax screening criteria.

Second, Congress should relieve the State Department of its role in issuing visas. This task should be given instead to the Department of Homeland Security, which is less eager to please foreign constituencies. Assigning DHS this role was contemplated at its creation in 2002, but not implemented in order to protect the State Department’s bureaucratic turf. But the department that issued visas to the September 11 terrorists, and still more since then, should no longer be allowed to perform this duty.

Third, we need to demand that senior officials not take the easy and politically correct route of grandstanding against “profiling” while failing to keep America safe. Their job is to make sure security personnel have the guidelines and training to do their jobs effectively. We need to put common sense and judgment back into the equation—before more Americans pay for political correctness with their lives.

As best I could tell from his online bio, Mr. Whiton served as the Deputy Special Envoy focused primarily on the promotion of human rights in North Korea.  Before joining the State Department, Mr. Whiton worked for the corporate finance practice of KPMG LLP, where he was a senior associate, overseeing daily activities of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) engagements and other financial consulting projects. 

Unless things have changed in the last, oh, 60 seconds or so… only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permits access to the United States through its Customs and Border Protection arm. The State Department issues visas, which are travel documents that allow airlines to board you.  It is not your permit to "access" or enter the United States.  You can have a visa and still be denied entry into the United States by CBP. Any current or former official of the State Department ought to know this. 

That said, it is imperative, of course, that bad people not get visas and board transportation bound for the United States. But like I wrote in a prior post, what do you do with a culprit that has not yet committed a crime? Do you arrest him or her before he commits a future crime thereby protecting the public from all prospective harm?  How do you stop, even arrest an individual when there is "insufficient derogatory information available?”

Demanding that the State Department should not have issued this person a visa in 2008, or yank his visa even absent derogatory information in the databases (as it is reported), requires that our visa officers possess both a third eye and skills in precognition -- be seers for the unknown, oracles of the future -- and deny visas now to anyone who may turn out to be terrorists in the future. 

Shall we go ahead and start with fetal screenings now?

Note that Mr. Whiton also calls for Congress to relieve the State Department of its visa function in the same breath that he calls for an investigation on Abdulmutallab’s visa issuance and the Department’s “lax screening criteria” for visas. So in fact, whatever the results of this visa issuance investigation do not really matter, hmmnn?.

If somebody did not do his/her job on this, there should be consequences.  But that's another story. Right now with the investigations just unfolding, we don’t know what we don’t know.  Calling for the shifting of visa functions from the State Department to DHS is the easiest option on the list of knee-jerk reactions.  Visa screening went from somewhere near the Stone Age in the 80’s to 21st century technology after 9/11.  To call it “lax” without really knowing what goes into the current adjudication process including various security requirements is just hoo-hah without substance.

Let's take a deep breath and go through this methodically and rationally minus the fear mongering and dark emotion.  The last time we let emotion ruled, "we" ended up starting a long war with the wrong country. 

 

                 



1 comment:

NoDoubleStandards said...

Here, here. Nothing I have seen from my interactions with DHS, with all due respect to my colleagues there, fills me with even a scintilla of confidence that they'd do a better job with the visa function. I've never seen an organization so dysfunctional to the point where their internal divisions don't have a clue what the others are doing.