October 24, 2007

Putting On A Good Show

When it comes to airline safety, we know what's important to the Bush administration:

... "We are directing NASA to halt any destruction of records relating to the project, whether in the possession of the agency or its contractors," Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat and chairman of the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee, said in a letter to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

Gordon said NASA had made "repeated representations" to committee staff that the "material interests of the commercial airline industry may be harmed" by releasing the study findings.

Gordon's committee requested last week that NASA turn over records related to the study. But Gordon ordered the space agency to accelerate those efforts, citing in his letter an Associated Press report on Monday that NASA had told the lead contractor on the project to return material to NASA and then "purge it from their computers and files."...

We all know how much more important the material interests of any large business sector are, compared to the material interests of their customers or employees. No one who lacks a multi-million dollar investment in an industry can be said to really have a stake in it, so the key thing is to preserve public confidence in their valuable holdings.

But the Bush administration has the same attitude about their own interests, namely, not being shown up as incompetent. In their case, instead of talking about public confidence, they talk about national security. Which means that they don't want citizens to know that we've entrusted our safety to officials who are so quick to leap to judgement that they waste our resources and time going after the wrong people. Leah at Corrente writes about the Higazy case (minor spelling corrections):

... Abdallah Higazy, an Egyptian national, whom I assume is a man of some means, was staying at a New York hotel when the Twin Towers were hit on 9/11; along with the rest of the hotel guests, Higazy emptied the hotel as per the request of the staff. A precautionary search of the rooms revealed in the closet of Higazy’s room, a device used to communicate with airline pilots. Now, obviously this was suspicious, and it is no wonder that the hotel reported their finding to authorities, and no wonder that the FBI might feel they needed to question Higazy, even vigorously.

... What finally prompted Higazy’s confession was a threat, quite credible considering the nature of Mubarek’s Egypt, that Higazy’s family would be assumed to be terrorists as well, and that as such they would be on the receiving end of what Mubarek’s secret police are well known for - torture. So Higazy spared his family and more or less gave up his own life, by confessing. As Bergstein points out, it is to avoid precisely such unjust proceedings that we don’t allow coerced confessions in this country, and I would add, why the Geneva Conventions don’t allow interrogators to make threats against family members.

Well, it turns out Higazy was telling the truth. The device was not his. The prior occupant of Higazy’s hotel room, an airline pilot himself, notified the hotel management that he’d left an instrument in the closet of his hotel room and he’d like to pick it up. ...

Instead of checking the story independently, we had FBI agents wasting their time and their nation's reputation by coercing a false confession out of an innocent man through threats to his family.

Then when they insist that the court redact portions of the decision demonstrating their incompetence, they claim national security. I guess I can see how it makes us less secure for other countries to know that our security apparatus under the Bush administration can barely tell its arse from its elbow, but they should consider that there are benefits to being misunderestimated.

After all, if they give up their claim to deserving public confidence, they might finally achieve that hyper-paranoid mindset they've tried so hard to establish among members of the public. Because, admit it, when you think about what sort of paranoid-to-paralysis pikers we've got running things, doesn't it make you a little more inclined to watch out for unattended baggage? My friends, that's some confidence in airline safety, right there.

Posted by natasha at October 24, 2007 09:36 AM | Civil Liberties | Technorati links |