TERRORISM TAKES BACK SEAT TO CRONYISM. With today's word of an apparently foiled plan for a massive, mid-air terrorism plot against airliners heading to the United States from Britain, I find myself trembling with fear at the fact that Michael Chertoff -- who proved his callous ineptitude during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath -- is the guy charged with protecting you and me from the likes of al Qaeda. The only possible explanation for Chertoff's continuing tenure as secretary of Homeland Security is his ability to keep the contracts flowing to Bush pals (even those known to have soaked the taxpayers) and away from local economies.

Today the Washington Post's Griff Witte and Spencer Hsu report on new FEMA contracts won via a bidding process by Bechtel, CH2M Hill Cos., Fluor Corp. and Shaw Group Inc. -- the same four companies awarded controversial no-bid contracts for Hurricane Katrina clean-up and the provision of trailers to those left homeless by the storm.

The trailer contracts were originally supposed to be worth $400 million total but have ballooned in recent months to about $3.4 billion. They are still being reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general's office, and they have been cited in numerous investigations for poor oversight and high costs.

And crony-contractriger expertise appears to be a requirement elsewhere in our security establishment, most recently demonstrated by yesterday's resignation of two top Defense Department counterintelligence officials allegedly involved in securing contracts for MZM Inc., the company at the center of the Duke Cunningham scandal. From the Post's Walter Pincus:

David A. Burtt II, director of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, the Defense Department's newest intelligence agency whose contracts based on congressional earmarks are under investigation by the Pentagon and federal prosecutors, told his staff yesterday that he and his deputy director [Joseph Hefferon] will resign at the end of the month.

Any doubt that these guys would sell out your safety and mine for a few (billion) greasy bucks?

--Adele M. Stan