The Friendly Skies of Homeland Security
Chertoff is an idiot. A Republican idiot. First , he’s going to prevent another 9/11. Republicans always look backwards. Remaking the past. Second, he’s focused on protecting the corporate mass transit systems. More federal subsidies for airlines. Third, he’s done a cost benefit analysis. He figures that he gets more bang for his buck by putting Homeland Security dollars into airlines because a single terrorist strike on an airplane will take more lives than a strike on other mass transit systems. The best part of all is that he can claim success because another 9/11 type strike cannot happen.
All that was ever needed to prevent another 9/11 was to secure the cockpit door. If somehow a hijacker could breakthrough the door, passengers ever since 9/11 would assume the worst and en mass, overwhelm and take out the hijackers. This still leaves airplanes vulnerable to a bomb. But a suicide bomber with the explosives strapped to his or her body cannot get through airport security. Checked luggage, freight or some other method of planting a bomb are the only open points of vulnerability. It would be stupid to think that nobody will ever try to do this, but the risk is much lower than accidents due to mechanical or pilot error.
The London bombings may or may not indicate that Muslim extremists are becoming more organized and effective at executing terrorist attacks. Compared to the number of people worldwide that use public transportation, the risk to any one of us remains very low. However, we know a few things about how these terrorists operate that should guide us. First, they get fixated on targets. They like those things that they view as having high symbolic value. Eiffel Tower, WTC, Pentagon. If they don’t get it the first time, they will most likely try again. Public mass transit systems is their latest fixation. Second, they like things that go “boom.” They go for attacks with high shock value, preferably with multiple, concurrent strike zones that make for good TV. It’s not so much about inflicting significant damage on their enemies as it is about scaring them, and seeing how easily we are scared, their believers are emboldened to keep the “faith.” Third, they know that no society can remain in a constant state of vigilance. They know that sooner or later, the barriers will be lowered, and they will patiently wait for the opportunity. I doubt that they failed to notice the large contingent of London police sent to Scotland for the G-8 meeting. Striking the day after the euphoria of winning the 2012 Olympics made it that much easier but may have been fortuitous and not planned. Such luck also feeds the true believers as another sign that Allah is on their side.
They aren’t finished with Europe. Italy is at the top of their list. But while they have lists, the timing has more to do with resources and opportunity than a list that they work from top to bottom. All we know is that they will hit mass transit, most likely at rush hour, and use bombs. Since Americans can’t rely on Homeland Security to protect them (the HS terror alert warnings have been so corrupted by being used for political purposes by Bush that they are worthless), they will have to take matters into their own hands. I would ban all packages, briefcases and backpacks on mass transit. Only clear plastic carryalls should be allowed. Set up security entry points to buses and separate train cars for those that have no choice but to travel with luggage, boxes and bags. This would inconvenience most users of public transit, but not by as much as having everyone go through security checkpoints. It would cost less and also bring everybody into the collective effort because they would be the first line of defense in keeping those with bags that can hide bombs off trains.
Then we’ll have to figure out what to do about track and train booby traps and bombs strapped on the body of a martyr for OBL. Maybe we can get there before they can.