As if we didn't have enough signs that the administration's priorities on the war on terrorism are seriously out of whack, now this.
The same day we hear of a renewed threat of 9/11-style hijackings, we also find out that our new air marshal program is being scaled back because of tight budgets at the Department of Homeland Security.
The number of screeners is being cut too.
Transportation Security Administration spokesman Brian Turmail wouldn't get into the specifics of what changes were being made. But he did tell an MSNBC reporter that all programs at TSA are âsubject to ongoing review.â He went on to say, âTSAâs current task is to balance the need to meet changing threats with the need to live within the agencyâs budget. The federal air marshal budget is under review to determine how best to meet these two objectives.â
Can someone talk to this guy? Or maybe his boss?
I don't think these guys quite understand the 'task.'
Forget balance. As nearly as I can figure it, the 'task' is to do everything possible to prevent anyone from flying another one of our jets into a building.
Another TSA spokesman told the Washington Post that the marshal's program "is not exempt from budget realities facing the TSA."
Really? Can we make it exempt?
Here's some helpful information from that article in Wednesday's Post ...
Just one day before the [terrorism warning] memo was distributed, an official with the undercover Federal Air Marshal Service canceled what are considered some of the most vulnerable flight missions because they required marshals to spend nights in hotels, as well as cut training for Washington-area agents next month. The official cited "monetary considerations," according to an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.
I'm sitting here at my keyboard just before two in the morning and I'm literally at a loss. I seldom like it when people make what are often facile comparisons between what we're spending in Iraq and this or that priority at home. But, in this case, how can you not? We're spending $4 billion a month in Iraq in what we're now being told is the "central battle in the war on terror." Can't we pop for these hotel rooms? I know budgets are always complicated matters in every government agency, no matter how sensitive or vital their mission. But you back up and look at the big picture here and it really defies comprehension.
I recently had a talk with an editor of mine when I had to make a tough call about whether or not to include a particular piece of information in an article. Journalism has all sorts of established rules for when you really have a story nailed and when you don't -- this or that number of sources, statements on the record or off the record, and so forth. But a lot of the toughest calls just come down to judgment, your gut feeling. During that conversation I told him how I usually make these decisions.
When I find myself in these situations the reasoning I use with myself goes something like this: 'Let's say I run with this story. And let's say it goes bad. And then I have to explain my reasoning to my editor. How is that conversation going to go? Am I going to have a good story to tell? Or am I going to have a why-was-I-such-a-friggin-idiot story to tell?'
It's a very clarifying mental exercise.
If something terrible happens with a plane, aren't a lot of people going to have a lot of why-was-I-such-a-friggin-idiot stories to tell?