Terrorism Watch Update

TERRORISM WATCH UPDATE….Following up on my earlier post about terrorists and airplanes (and the French!), Steve Bainbridge points to a Wall Street Journal article (subscription only) that suggests the French did exactly what they were supposed to do. The real problem, apparently, is that the American “watch list” is woefully out of date.

It does seem as if creating a unified and current terrorism watch list ought to be a little farther along than this two years after 9/11. What’s going on?

POSTSCRIPT: And just to make my own position clear, I’m obviously in favor of keeping track of suspected terrorist sympathizers, and the United States certainly has the right to refuse entry to anyone it wants. However, we don’t have the right to demand that suspects be arrested just because they’re on our list, and that goes double or triple if the list is as crappy as the WSJ article suggests.

And one more thing: I don’t quite understand the point of all this. If we (or a foreign intelligence agency) have suspicions about a flight, why cancel it? Why not just search every passenger and all luggage to within a inch of its life, put an air marshal on board, and then take off? Even if there are wannabe hijackers on board, what can they do if they don’t have any weapons?

(And I say this as someone who doesn’t share the seemingly common blogospheric disdain for orange alerts and a super cautious approach to air travel. That’s the world we live in, folks, and it’s just shallow and childish to pretend that the people running homeland security don’t have some very difficult decisions to make about this stuff. Nonetheless, we still have to operate within the law and we still have a right to expect basic competence. If we keep proving time after time that our intel is wildly unreliable, we’re going to pay the price eventually when everyone stops paying attention to it.)