Last year, despite the attempts of his own father to warn authorities, a dude got on a plane landing in the U.S. and tried to blow up an airplane. That was after he smuggled an impressive amount of explosives through “security” and onto the plane in his underpants.

It happened during Christmas.

This year, the Obama administration seems keen to get ahead of any terrorist activity both to prevent something bad from happening and also to manage the public’s expectation about something bad happening. Cuz apparently that still might happen cuz Al Qaeda hates Christmas and is in fact the real Grinch.

From ABCNews:

“We are concerned these terrorists may seek to exploit the likely significant psychological impact of an attack targeting mass gatherings in large metropolitan areas during the 2010 holiday season, which has symbolic importance to many in the United States,” said the “Security Awareness for the Holiday Season” bulletin released by the FBI and DHS last week.

In the year since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up the Detroit-bound Northwest flight with a bomb concealed in his underwear, authorities have discovered or foiled attempted attacks on Times Square, on cargo planes, and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Oregon.

From Attorney General Eric Holder:

“What I am trying to do in this interview is to make people aware of the fact that the threat is real, the threat is different, the threat is constant,” he said.

Right… um, as a frequent flyer whose brother is a pilot, I can attest that while there’s a lot of security theater crapola at airports, the truth is that there remain many areas where security needs to be tightened and where government has completely failed to update post-9/11 on the backend, behind the scenes. A pilot took some video to try to show the lax security checks for ground crew and TSA, rather than actually addressing the issue, is harassing the pilot. Not cool. TSA = #FAIL. Obviously, this pilot (like a lot of pilots btw) felt that legitimate concerns aren’t being addressed and decided to let the public pressure expedite change. All hail YouTube and the action of one brave person to change the world we live in. Some video is above. It’s time for the Obama admin to clean up the games of the Bush admin and completely overhaul security procedures top to bottom at airports.

Here’s what the administration says it’s trying to do to protect us this holiday season (a few highlights from a long list the White House sent me) after the jump.

Watchlist Process Improvements and Enhanced Targeting

The Administration has revised and modified the criteria used to create terrorist watchlists, including enhancements to the process by which names are added to the No-Fly and Selectee Lists.  Further, the Administration expanded the use of Terrorist Screening Database records to ensure the safety of the traveling public.  In addition, TSA fulfilled a key 9/11 Commission recommendation by implementing the Secure Flight program, which matches passengers against terrorist watchlists for all flights within or bound for the U.S.. NCTC has also established an enhancement group and expanded its research of and access to relevant databases to enhance records of known or suspected terrorists.

Deploying Advanced Imaging Technology

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accelerated deployment of Advanced Imaging Technology, and has now deployed nearly 500 machines at over 75 domestic airports.

Real Time Watchlist Information

DHS and FBI launched the Watchlist Service, a new technical mechanism to transmit data from the Terrorist Screening Database, operated by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, to DHS in real time. In addition to bolstering security, this system also achieves efficiencies by creating a centralized service for transmitting information to DHS instead of maintaining separate connections to multiple organizations within DHS.

Advances in Cargo Screening

In 2010, as required by the 9/11 Act, 100 percent of all cargo transported on passenger aircraft that depart U.S. airports is being screened commensurate with screening of passenger checked baggage.  TSA’s Certified Cargo Screening Program strengthens security by certifying more than 1,000 entities responsible for conducting cargo screening throughout the supply chain, minimizing the impact on the movement of commerce.  In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in coordination with the World Customs Organization, launched Operation Global Shield in 2010, an unprecedented multilateral law enforcement effort aimed at combating the illicit cross-border diversion and trafficking of precursor chemicals for making improvised explosive devices by monitoring their cross-border movements.

Following the thwarted terrorist plot to conceal and ship explosive devices on cargo aircraft bound for the United States in October 2010, DHS took a number of additional steps to further strengthen supply chain security. These steps included adapting inbound cargo targeting rules to reflect the latest intelligence and ordering a ground halt on all cargo coming from Yemen and Somalia; prohibiting high risk cargo on passenger aircraft; prohibiting toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces on passenger aircraft – in both carry-on bags and checked bags  – on domestic and international flights in-bound to the United States, as well as on certain inbound international air cargo shipments; and implementing additional and enhanced screening of all cargo identified as high risk.

Be safe out there…and Merry Christmas.

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