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We're at war with terrorists, so let's focus sensibly

How many red flags had to be raised before the U.S. government and Northwest Airlines saw danger in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's intent to down the airliner ("Terrorism Attempt Fails on Jetliner Over Detroit," Dec. 26)? The first red flag was waved by his own father who warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria of his son's radicalization and potential threat to the United States. The airlines should have seen red flags when Abdulmutallab purchased expensive tickets with cash and did not check luggage for a three-continent trip.

Why didn't the airline notify appropriate authorities of these suspicious actions? The only additional red flag Abdulmutallab could have waved would be to call the American Embassy in Yemen and the U.S Justice Department and say "My name is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and I will be boarding flight No. 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit carrying petin sewn into my underwear by al-Qaida. It is my intent to detonate the explosive upon landing at Detroit."

We are at war. The United States has to rethink its policy regarding profiling. The United States should concentrate and, yes, profile instead of wasting time and expense on obviously harmless people. For those being profiled, if you have nothing to hide why do you care? Some of the actions of the Transportation Security Administration are absurd.

I am 77, have a pacemaker and ask not to go through airport detectors. The last time I flew out of Norfolk with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson I was thoroughly searched from head to toe. I saw a sailor's wife, who was traveling with three small children, have her baggage completely emptied and examined. Highly unlikely terrorists.

While Abdulmutallab failed in his mission -- al-Qaida did not. They created more expense for land and air security, caused a backlog for the airlines and more aggravation and concern for travelers.

It's time for the United States to get tougher. Learn from the Israeli airline security officials.

ALEX J. VALLAS
Plum


Smarter measures

How stupid are we? Air travel security screening is a joke. The secretary of homeland security thinks the system worked after being confronted with another failed airline bomb plot ("Ire Rises Over Air Security Lapses," Dec. 28).

So the biggest list of people with suspected terror ties is 550,000. Put them all on a no-fly list. Why make millions of law-abiding Americans who are not under suspicion of any kind shimmy, shake and walk shoeless at the airport every day? Let the 550,000 explain the circumstances that landed them on the list.

Let the rest of us, like me, an Army veteran, former law enforcement officer, former elected official, licensed insurance agent in 10 states with a valid passport have some way to avoid the security "Lambada," which is so annoying and time-consuming but apparently and alarmingly incapable of keeping terrorists bearing high explosives off a plane.

The government has at least a dozen copies of my fingerprints: I once held a top secret, background investigation, security clearance (TSBI) and guarded some of the nation's closest secrets, nuclear weapons and the president of the United States.

I would gladly give my retinal scan, DNA or perhaps my first born in the name of national security or easier travel, but no, despite the fact that no Presbyterian or Pittsburgher, for that matter, has ever taken over an airliner, there is no respite from the ineffective screening and hoax security regime. Dumb, dumber, dumber-er.

ERIC EWING
Pine


Why blame citizens?

In Bill Kaszycki's letter ("Sorry Values," Dec. 17), he makes the assertion that "average citizens who want to maintain their own current comfortable situation," in regard to their own health-care situations, are somehow of questionable character and morally defunct. While there is no argument that the lack of affordable health care has led indirectly to the deaths of many Americans, to lay some part of the blame at the feet of those who want nothing more than to look after the well-being of their own families is folly and risks creating opponents that Mr. Kaszycki's camp can't afford to have.

Simply stated, it is wrong to attack those who fought to gain health care for themselves in an attempt to gain it for those who lack. We of the working class, of unions and of American families, have already paid in pain and sweat for the health benefits we currently hold. Any attempt to take what you have not earned shall be met with, "You can have my health care when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers."

JEFFREY J. BENNETT
Beechview


Turnpike waste

After reading former Gov. Dick Thornburgh's commentary about the turnpike ("Abolish the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission," Dec. 23), I just had to get something off my chest. A few years ago, I was working at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, and instead of using Route 51 with all of its lights, I decided to use the turnpike and Route 70 back to Route 51.

Between the Monroeville and Irwin exchanges, the turnpike had a three-month project. For the first month and a half, they graded about every 30 feet and patched the humps. After a month and a half of this (night turn at time-and-a-half), they decided to remove all of the surface and put a new one down. Could someone please tell me why they had to patch it before removing it? Talk about wasting money and giving someone some pocket change. It's time to get rid of this big money-sucking machine.

P.S. Gov. Thornburgh was the best governor for Western Pennsylvania. He did more for the roads in our area than any other one.

TIMOTHY R. HOHMAN
Shaler


Costly falls

With regard to the letter "Shovel, or Pay Up" (Dec. 29): Right on, Mr. Blumenfeld. The situation here in Point Breeze, except for a few law-abiding, conscientious homeowners, is the same: icy, snow-covered sidewalks that surround lovely, beautifully maintained homes, yards and driveways.

A slip and fall can be very expensive for the homeowner, and not maintaining snow removal just cries out for a major lawsuit. Any sidewalk in the front, back or side of a house is the responsibility of the homeowner!

Homeowners, beware, and city of Pittsburgh, wise up.

ROSEMARY FREEMAN
Point Breeze


This public safety threat demands attention from Gov. Rendell

There is a clear public safety threat looming for Pennsylvania, and the Rendell administration seems content to let it happen ("Shortage of State Troopers Looming," Dec. 29). The state recently graduated a small class of 80 cadets from the state police academy, but no money for hiring troopers is allocated for the 2009-10 state budget.

Typically, classes help replenish about 150 annual retirements, but the recent class fails to cover this. Making matters worse, an unusually large number of retirements are likely, as 1,000 troopers will become eligible to retire in 2010. Such retirement numbers are nearly unprecedented.

The administration's response to this glaring problem was troubling. A spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell said it comes down to "budgetary considerations."

Such considerations should never prevent the state from handling one of its primary duties -- protecting its citizens.

This stance is dumbfounding when you consider the state police is the sole law enforcement agency for more than 85 percent of the state. The department's technology, forensic and investigative services are used statewide and the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) is mobilized at a moment's notice. It was the Rendell administration that added patrol duties along the interstates in Philadelphia -- at the city's request -- further stretching department resources.

If, as Gov. Rendell says, he wants to remain relevant in his final year in office, then he'll make the decisions necessary to protect the 12 million citizens he represents.

Otherwise, Gov. Rendell's legacy will include this dubious fact: Pennsylvania, in a post-9/11 world, will have fewer troopers when he leaves office than when he took office in 2003.

JOSEPH E. SARKIS
Vice President
Pennsylvania State Troopers Association
Harrisburg


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We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.



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