This post — written by a colleague — should have been posted on Friday, May 7th. For a several reasons, it was not posted. However, the point the author makes is still valid.
There were plenty of articles and comments over the past few days stating that once again DHS did not fulfill its responsibilities of keeping bad people out of an otherwise sterile security environment.
As the story goes, DHS is to be blamed for allowing the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, to board the plane thus putting the flight at risk or allowing him the opportunity to make an escape to freedom. Unfortunately, in most instances DHS has become the Nation’s equivalent of an inflatable punching bag when all manner of safety and security activities go awry. Such criticism is offered by the politically disingenuous intelligencia and easily accepted by the media and uninformed masses.
Might there be another way to assess the situation?
Suppose there were compelling intelligence collection, investigative, and prosecutorial reasons to allow the suspect to continue with his plan (attempting to depart the country) up until he was about to leave a “positively controlled” environment.
During Tuesday’s press conference, AG Holder responded to the “did Shahzad almost get away” question by stating “I was aware of the tracking that was going on and was never in fear of losing him.”
Might this be another example of the intelligence collection-safeguarding society-prosecutorial discretion tension that occurs almost daily when trying to assess whether to arrest and shut down activities perceived to be related to terrorism, contrasted to the need to allow the bad actors to continue with their plans for purposes of gaining a better contextual understanding of the plot and associated conspirators?
Or, as Paul Harvey suggests, possibly there is more to the story than meets the eye: FBI Team ‘Lost’ Suspected Times Square Bomber During Crucial Hours
In either case, whether this was a well orchestrated intelligence collection operation or, as the web article above notes, the FBI did lose Shahzad in the waning hours of the manhunt, it appears DHS should be praised, not excoriated, for being an effective safeguard of last resort.
As the article notes, Shahzad was first added to the no fly list at noon on Monday (May 3rd). A decision and job not of DHS’ doing.
Once DHS officials became aware he was on the plane, based on a routine check of the flight manifest by CBP officials, procedures were followed and the system was implemented as designed.
Maybe this incident has highlighted how the DHS should be viewed in most safety and security settings: the Nation’s safeguard of last resort.