"Soft On Terror" Is The New "Soft On Crime"

Once again, the Republicans are trying to rebuild their shattered and broken party by pointing the fingers at Democratic failings. The latest: advocating for pre-emptive strikes while playing politics on appropriations bills that would help stop terrorist attacks.

In order to make this point, they employ a wide umbrella of what constitutes terrorism. The Politico reports:

"In the past six weeks, you've had the Fort Hood attack, the D.C. Five and now the attempted attack on the plane in Detroit … and they all underscored the clear philosophical difference between the administration and us," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

"I think Secretary Napolitano and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack," Hoekstra told POLITICO. "And we believe in a forward-looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen."

Hmm...where have we heard that before?

More interesting still are the recommendations made by Republican lawmakers:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) went even further, telling FOX News that the Christmas attack proved President Obama's talk-to-your-enemies approach might actually be encouraging terrorists.

"[S]oft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo, these things are not going to appease the terrorists," he said. "They're going to keep coming after us, and we can't have politics as usual in Washington, and I'm afraid that's what we've got right now with airport security."

Let's talk politics for a minute. Politics is one of the reasons why we do not have a person at the head of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) - and Senator DeMint is the one who placed the hold on the Obama Administration's nominee. So why, in this age of flight-based terrorism, are we procrastinating on appointing a new leader?

DeMint says he's blocking Southers because the top cop at Los Angeles International Airport hasn't vowed to block TSA unionization. And spokesman Wes Denton said the agency is better off headless than with big labor running the nation's airports.

"This is an important debate because many Americans don't want someone running the TSA who stands ready to give union bosses the power to veto or delay future security measures at our airports," Denton said.

Because clearly, it's the unions that delayed these vital decisions, and not Congress. There is also the matter of a defense appropriations bill that died in the Senate, one which political insiders think could have instituted the technology (like full body scanners) that might have detected the explosive powder before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the suspect currently held) boarded the plane. However, the opposition to that was varied - some Republicans voted against the bill for procedural reasons, but other people (including some Democrats and Libertarians) also voted no due to concerns about privacy and civil liberties.

Much of the criticism of the Obama Administration seems to stem from a much larger question facing our society. Is it rational or reasonable to believe that we can prevent terrorist attacks before they happen?

The Washington Post shares an infographic to explain our terrorist tagging procedures (click the link for the full sized version):

"Soft On Terror" Is The New "Soft On Crime"

The graphic demonstrates that it was a matter of assessing risk, and agents did not see the need to push Abdulmutallab through the process further. A Washington Post review of Abdulmutallab's online activity also do not show any predisposition toward extremist views, but rather a young man grappling with friendship, religion, sex, and love.

But that person is nowhere to be seen today, as the Times UK reports that this attack may be the first of many:

The fresh-faced engineering graduate was transferred yesterday from hospital in Detroit to a federal prison in Milan, Michigan, where agents questioning him said he told them that he was one of many bombers being groomed by the Yemeni alQaeda affiliate to attack American-bound aircraft, according to ABC News

How do we prevent terrorism, when the signs are unclear, and easily misread, and the threats are largely matters of individual execution?

GOP seizes on terror issue [Politico]
Terror databases [Washington Post]
In online posts apparently by Detroit suspect, religious ideals collide [Washington Post]
I'm the first of many, warns airline ‘bomber' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [Times Online]