Friday, January 08, 2010

Just a thought

According to the radio this morning, one of the intelligence failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board the plane he nearly blew up was the U.S. State Department’s inability to determine whether or not he had a visa. He did; the State Department thought he didn’t. Why? His name was misspelled.

This is disturbing in and of itself, and is a glaring demonstration of why relying on technology rather than human intelligence and common sense gets us into trouble. But what strikes me as particularly worrisome is that if a misspelled name can lead to a terrorist slipping through the cracks, we’re doubly in trouble when the principal antagonists originate from countries that don’t share our alphabet.

Seriously. We can’t settle on how to spell al-Qaeda (al-Qaida?). If Momar Qaddafi (Moammer Khadafi? Muammar al-Gaddafi?) didn't travel everywhere with a huge tent and sexy bodyguards, he could probably board a plane for Des Moines tomorrow without being identified.

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