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Tuesday, June 10, 2003

They are NOT making us safer. War in Iraq involved spending much of our DEFENSE budget stationing most of our troops on the other side of the world. While no WMD's were found, much of the world was outraged, quite possibly adding to the ranks of determined anti-American terrorists. If the WMD's were actually there, the war may have accomplished what it was supposedly intended to prevent: getting WMD's in the hands of terrorists. Meanwhile, shoulder-launched missiles, like the ones we were selling to Osama bin Laden 15 years ago, may well be in the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists. These could easily be used to shoot down US airliners, unless serious preventive measures are taken immediately. But the Bushies don't see the need to rush:

When al-Qaida terrorists in Kenya failed in their effort to shoot down an Israeli charter jet with a shoulder-launched missile last November, airline security experts were relieved, but only briefly. Such an attack had long been expected, and though the missile missed its target that day, the experts urged that the near-miss be regarded as a wakeup call to airlines and governments worldwide.

A little more than six months later, the administration of President George W. Bush is making only a limited commitment to reduce the threat of shoulder-launched missiles, and critics both inside and outside the government say he is putting both passengers and the airline industry at risk.

The administration recently blocked two congressional measures to address the threat, including a comprehensive $9 billion plan to begin outfitting passenger jets with sophisticated anti-missile equipment. Instead, a new report by Bush's Department of Homeland Security says the administration is proposing a timetable in which the study and planning would not be completed until 2005, and the first widespread installation of anti-missile technology would be years away, at best. Only $2 million would be spent in the next few months to assemble staff and data on the risk posed by portable missiles; up to $60 million would be allocated next year to continue the study.

Those most familiar with the danger, regardless of political stripe, agree that the missiles pose a significant, immediate threat. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican who chairs the House aviation subcommittee, has called the risk "sobering," and at a Washington news conference in March, he said: "We can't afford to not act." A Boeing official privately described the shoulder-launched missiles as "the greatest current threat to the U.S. air transport system." Over the past year, intelligence officials have grown increasingly concerned about the likelihood that al-Qaida has smuggled the launchers into the United States. The FBI in May 2002 issued a remarkable bulletin to local and state law enforcement agencies warning that al-Qaida possessed such missiles and would likely attempt an attack inside the United States.
-- From Salon via Atrios.