What’s That In Your Underwear?

On Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, an alleged Al Queda operative, attempted to attack a commercial flight by igniting an explosive powder that was hidden in his underwear. The attack was successfully thwarted, but the “Underwear Bomber” has cast a new shadow of doubt on security at airports, mass transit systems and in our country in general. It is remarkable how one man was able to cause our nation to question so much.

Ever since the Christmas Day attempt, political pundits on both sides of the aisle have been asking the same two questions. The first is, “are we safe?” which cleverly implies that we are not. The second is the logical follow-up, “What can we do to keep us safe in light of this new attack?” While the questions themselves may not be unfounded, the motivations of the pundits asking the questions are drastically misplaced.

It is healthy to question the security of our nation once in a while, but only if the questions stem from a genuine concern for our country. The political pundits that have showered the airwaves with constant abuse of America’s security system frankly do not.

The right wing has attempted to score political points by attacking the Obama administration on national security and the left has tried to counter by pointing out the conservative flaws in national security. This discussion is disingenuous.

The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, we are safe. Now, someone reading this article is most likely asking, “if we are so safe then how did an al Queda operative sneak explosive powder onto a commercial flight?” The answer to that is simple: while we are safe for the most part, there will always be some sort of threat on American soil simply because there are groups that do not share our values. No matter what measures we take to patch up the most current hole in national security, there will always be a threat..

What can we do to become safer? While there are healthy steps to be taken to make our nation a more secure one, it seems that the majority of political figures in office and in the media have missed them. The discussion of solutions to this gap in national security has been anything but healthy. The discussion of national security has led us to ideas such as full body scanners that are not only absurd, but should be rendered unconstitutional as well.

The unsettling thing about the notion of full-body scanners is that despite infringing on more constitutional rights, we will not be any safer than we were before Christmas. That’s because it is unreasonable to believe that terrorist will continue to plan attacks in the same manner even after seeing the precautionary measures we take after prior attacks. In other words, if we allow full body scanners, no terrorist in his or her right mind would attempt to sneak an explosive powder in their undergarments. These people are intelligent. They will find new ways and new holes into our security.

This may sound frightening, but it should not be. While the discussion of national security has taken a rather extreme turn, the Obama administration has stayed away from the fray and is doing exactly what it should be doing. Instead of trying to protect mass transit systems from every new threat, the United States should be working to prevent every threat.

It seems as if in many terror attacks on our country there was some sort of intelligence – and that if that intelligence was relayed to the right person and given enough weight the attack could have been prevented. The Christmas Day attempted attack was no different. The attempted attack was due to a “systematic failure” in U.S. intelligence as Mr. Obama puts it. Since the attempted attack on Christmas Day, President Obama has held those who failed to successfully process the intelligence accountable, and is fixing the system so it does not happen again.

These preventive measures to keep our country safe are the result of genuine concerns and is what America should hear from its political pundits. Unfortunately, in the incredibly partisan America we have today, talks of a full-body scanner, torturing the “Underwear Bomber” and the creation of a black list of suspicious names has ruled the airways. It seems as if genuine concern is simply a thing of the past.

Neil Thakor is a second-year political science major. He can be reached at nthakore@uci.edu.