Tag Archives: terrorism

Theories abound over Flight 370 fate

Everyone seems to have a theory about what happened to Malaysian Air Flight 370.

With those theories, the emotions of those most intimately involved — the family members and other loved ones of the 239 people aboard the jetliner — are pulled and pushed in every direction imaginable.

My heart breaks for those who are waiting for some sign, any sign, of the fate of those on board the Boeing 777.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/17/world/asia/malaysia-plane-up-to-speed/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

Was the plane hijacked?

Did someone on board sabotage the aircraft?

Did the plane lose cabin pressure and fly on for hours before crashing?

Did the Triple Seven crash into the ocean, into the jungle, the Himalayas … where?

Is it sitting on a remote airfield in the middle of nowhere?

All these theories are being kicked around on various print and broadcast media.

No matter how this story turns out, there will be some serious questions to ask the authorities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Flight 370 originated en route to Beijing, China.

I don’t know, nor will I dare predict, how it will end. It well might be that the plane crashed somewhere and it’s just taking the world an inordinately long time to detect the wreckage. It well might be a cut-and-dried mechanical failure of some sort.

You can rest assured, though, that everyone who proclaims some expertise on airline safety will venture ideas, theories and recommended solutions.

This story is going to remain on our conscience for a very long time after searchers find the airplane — intact or in pieces.

Meantime, let’s pray for strength for the loved ones who must endure this torture.

Time to lift Cuba sanctions

highplainsblogger_wordpressTime has this way of changing public attitudes as the old ways give way to new ideas.

Witness what’s happening in the Cuban-American community — particularly in southern Florida — as it relates to this country’s non-relationship with Cuba.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/exiles-america-soften-stance-cuba-ties-n44121

Cuban expatriates, or their direct descendants, are softening their hardline view that the United States must continue to strangle Cuba. I keep asking: To what end?

Fidel Castro overthrew a dictator in 1959. He pledged to “reform” the country. By many accounts, he made it worse. He fomented revolution less than 100 miles from the Florida shoreline. By 1961, the United States closed its embassy in Havana and clamped strict economic sanctions on the island nation.

Then, in October 1962, came the missile crisis that nearly brought the United States to war with the Soviet Union because of those missiles being installed in Cuba.

The bad guys blinked. The missiles went away. So did the Soviet Union, eventually. Fidel Castro has left office, although his brother, Raul, isn’t any better.

But why do we keep seeking to punish a nation that poses no threat to us?

Some Cuban-Americans think the time has come to restore a relationship with Cuba.

According to NBCnews.com: “’Cuba is a completely different country than what we left in the fifties. Folks here have no clue. They continue to see Cuba from Miami or New York or wherever they are located. You have to spend time there and talk to the Cuban people. The hard line position is dying and it will disappear,’” says Zamora, who was once an active member of the Cuban American National Foundation, an organization that has been a leading voice of Cuban exiles against relations with Cuba.”

That feeling isn’t unanimous, obviously. Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores, who was born in Miami, says Cuba is a sponsor of terrorism. My response? So what? So are Yemen are Saudi Arabia. We have diplomatic missions there, as we do in the People’s Republic of China, Venezuela — and, oh yes, in Moscow, the capital of a country that is provoking the United States hourly with its aggression in neighboring Ukraine.

The Cuban trade embargo is a vestige of a Cold War that no longer exists. It’s time for it to go. If more and more Cuban-Americans who comprise a huge political powerhouse in south Florida have come to that conclusion, why can’t the White House follow their lead?

Olympics have ended; world can breathe now

Russia closed its Sochi Winter Olympics in fine fashion Sunday.

It ended without any terrorist incident, which had been the talk of the world in the days leading up to the lighting of the Olympic torch.

Mission accomplished, Russia.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/2014-sochi-winter-olympics-end-103820.html?hp=l17

The Russians’ Ring of Steel, which comprised several thousand military and law enforcement personnel, had been deployed around the Olympic venues to ensure that no suspicious individuals or groups got in. I take my hat off to the Russians for protecting the spectators and athletes from harm.

This does beg the question: Were the alarms sounding prior to the Olympics justified?

Members of the Congress were there, declaring they had evidence of “credible threats” to the Olympics. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, actually suggested that the Russians might want to consider canceling the Olympics because of these threats, which he deemed to be valid and potentially disastrous.

Not to be derailed, the Russian organizers — with plenty of help from other governments — proceeded with the Olympics and they turned out to be quite the affair.

The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens faced similar questions and concerns about terrorism, given that it was the first Summer Olympics after the 9/11 attacks. The Greeks were thought to be terribly lax in their anti-terror preparation. However, they too were able to pull off a successful Olympic event.

Congratulations are due the Russians. They might be our foes in some key geopolitical disputes at the moment, but they managed to stage a successful Olympic spectacle. They spent a ton of money on it, about $50 billion.

Given that they headed off any terrorist attack, it likely will be deemed worth the cost.

Russians’ Olympic prep shockingly poor

Security isn’t the only concern facing the 2014 Winter Olympic Games that are about to commence in Sochi, Russia.

It appears the site is lacking in hotel space, streets and roads aren’t complete, the Olympic village where the athletes will stay need finishing.

Yet the Winter Games will go on, with opening ceremonies set to begin Friday night — after the skating and snowboarding events have begun.

Let’s flash back a decade to the start of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

I had the honor of visiting Athens three times prior to the start of those Olympics. The Greek press ministry invited journalists of Greek descent to visit the country of their ancestors. Being one such journalist, I got the invitation, so I went — in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

I recall vividly all the concerns leading up to the Athens Olympics. The venues wouldn’t be done. Security was huge concern there as well, given the Greeks’ infamously lax history of fighting terrorists, which is to say they did little to combat the scourge. Athens had a pitiful international airport, but by 2001 they had opened a gleaming new terminal outside of the city. They, too, had road and highway infrastructure concerns. They built a subway system, a new highway from the airport into the city, scrubbed the buildings of graffiti and spit-shined the ancient city.

Thus, they managed to complete preparation for the Olympics — on time. Yes, it was barely on time, but it was on time. One key was the Greeks’ decision to re-enlist powerhouse businesswoman Gianna Angelopoulous-Daskalaki, who put together Greece’s bid to play host to the Olympics. She stepped in to take command of the Olympic preparation. Believe me when I tell you that she is simply a force of nature. She got ‘er done.

The Greeks took some shortcuts to make sure the venues were suitable, such as not putting a roof over the swimming and diving facilities. It didn’t matter, given that the weather during that period was gorgeous.

To be sure, Greece paid a huge price to stage these Olympics. They went into enormous debt, which contributed to the collapse of the country’s economy just a few years after the Olympic flame was extinguished.

I bring all this up because the Russians, which were awarded the Winter Olympics in 2007, had promised to avoid all the troubles that bedeviled the Greeks. They vowed to spend whatever it took to ensure complete safety and a completed venue in time for the athletes’ arrival.

Well, now we’re hearing about the threat of bombs planted in tubes of toothpaste and the aforementioned incomplete road and highway construction and the lack of lodging for the thousands of tourists pouring into the Black Sea resort city.

That big old Russian machine needs some repair, it seems, especially in light of little ol’ Greece being able to stage an even bigger event than the one that’s about to get under way.

I remain hopeful that the Russian “Ring of Steel” will head off any terrorist attacks during these Olympics. The rest of it remains dicey. Let’s wish them all the best.

Yes, even babies can get a TSA pat-down

We are living in a strange new world, brought to us to by some terrorists who on Sept. 11, 2001 attacked the United States of America by using commercial jetliners as deadly weapons.

Everyone who boards an airplane is subject to potentially intense scrutiny by security agents working for the federal government.

Isn’t that right, Alec Baldwin?

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/alec-baldwin-5-month-old-daughter-selected-tsa-pat-article-1.1593109

Baldwin was returning from a vacation with his wife and five-month-old daughter, Carmen, when Transportation Security Administration agents decided to pat down — gulp! — the baby.

The sometimes-tempestuous actor tweeted about the incident, signing off with the hashtag #travelingUSisadisgrace.

I won’t get into Baldwin’s previous run-ins with flight crews and airport security officials, but I feel an odd obligation to defend the TSA in this latest incident.

I’m not sure how I would react if I was traveling, say, with my 11-month-old granddaughter and some TSA agent pulled Emma out of a line and started patting her down. I might express more-than-mild surprise, I suppose.

However, from a distance as it relates to little Carmen getting frisked, I have the luxury of being able to reflect just a bit.

Consider a couple of things here:

The bad guys who killed all those people on 9/11 told the world that virtually any act of evil is possible when flying on an jetliner. We also know that terrorists would use any means necessary — any means at all — to harm others. That means they would be fully capable of arming infants with explosive devices.

What’s more, it is totally plausible that someone seeking to sneak contraband into a country — say, drugs or weapons — might consider stuffing it into a baby’s diaper. Is it possible? The question you have to wonder, though, is its probability. Why take the chance to assume that such a thing cannot happen?

I’ve been aggravated myself by overzealous TSA agents in the years since 9/11. My wife and I have traveled some overseas and we’ve been subjected to intense scrutiny by security agents. You haven’t lived, for example, until you’ve been interrogated by an Israeli airport security guard at David Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

One consideration in this Baby Baldwin pat-down caper has to be how the TSA agent handled it. Was he or she discreet? Was the agent courteous and did the agent explain fully why? My wife and I were leaving Venizelos International Airport in Athens in November 2001 — two months after 9/11 — and had every luggage item searched meticulously by an agent, who took the time to apologize profusely for the intrusion.

Should it be routine to frisk every baby who flies on these commercial jetliners? No. I do get, though, the need to take extra precaution, even if it involves an act that seems ludicrous.

Cancel Olympics? You must be joking

U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul says he’s open to canceling the Winter Olympics in Russia because of security concerns.

Someone needs to throw some cold water on that Texan’s face. Snap out of it, Mr. Chairman.

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/russia/196442-house-homeland-security-chairman-terrorist-threat-on-olympics

Yes, there’s a threat to the Olympics. Ever since 9/11, there’s been security concern at every international event as large as the Olympics, winter or summer. It goes with the territory, in my view.

Canceling the games because terror organizations are making threats? What’s new about that?

The Salt Lake City Olympics of 2002 went off without a hitch, even though it had been beset by financial worries and incompetence. Two years later, the Athens Olympics were considered threatened. The Greeks mobilized their entire military establishment and, with the help of U.S. and other intelligence services, pulled off a stunning event. The 2006 Olympics in Japan came and went. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing were spectacular, even with the pollution that threatened athletes’ health. The Canadians’ biggest worry in 2010 was whether there would be enough snow in Vancouver; there was and those games were staged beautifully. The London Olympics of 2012 had similar security concerns, but the Brits did what they had to do to protect the athletes and the thousands of spectators who watched the events.

The Russians are pulling out all the stops to ensure the Sochi Olympics will be carried off. The Russians have deployed 100,000 troops into what’s being called a “ring of steel” around the Olympic village. If any military force knows how to clamp down on security, it would seem to be the Russians.

Past and present Olympians are urging organizers to ensure the games proceed. Yes, the threats are real. However, they were real in advance of prior Olympics — and they became a reality as far back as 1972, when Palestinian terrorists killed those Israeli athletes in Munich.

I am not dismissing the threat. I do not believe they pose a sufficient threat to cancel an entire Olympic Games. Doing so would give terrorists precisely what they want.

What did POTUS know, and when?

Howard Baker was a young U.S. senator from Tennessee when he sat on a congressional committee back in 1973. He then posed a profound question of the witness sitting in front of him: What did the president know and when did he know it?

He was inquiring about President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, which would force the president to resign in disgrace the following year.

Sen. Baker’s inquiry is fitting today. What did President Obama know about the National Security Agency’s wiretap of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone — and when did he know it?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/28/us-germany-usa-spying-idUSBRE99Q09F20131028

The NSA tap doesn’t rise to the level of the Watergate scandal. It does, however, call into question the NSA’s involvement in trying to protect U.S. citizens against potential terror threats.

I’m still trying to fathom, however, why the NSA would tap into the phone calls of a trusted U.S. ally — Chancellor Merkel — and what the agency thought it would gain from this intrusion.

Merkel reportedly is fuming over it. Can anyone blame her? Can anyone blame our nation’s other allies who believe their own trust in the United States has been violated by these revelations.

Now comes a report that President Obama knew about the wiretap, which contradict directly his assertion that he knew nothing about it.

Which is it, Mr. President? What did you know and when did you know it?