Former DHS Inspector General Clark Kent Irvin offers this bit of dramatic insight on the New York Times’ blog: “Like many people, I spend a lot of time in airport terminals, and I often think that they must be an awfully appealing target to terrorists.”
No kidding. This would explain the high level of security one sees around airports. The IG, however, says that the armed law enforcement and cameras and layers of other security at airports aren’t enough. He proposes that checkpoints — the places of long lines, shoes in buckets, baby strollers on conveyor belts and screeners rummaging through bags — should begin not at the gates but at the very entrances of airports themselves.
“Certainly this is an expensive proposition,” he concedes. “It would be very costly to retrofit existing airport terminals. But then security is costly, and part of the reason we’re still an open target for terrorism these many years after 9/11 is that we’ve tried to “do security” on the cheap.”
Well. One trembles to think where the former DHS Inspector General’s deep pockets end — particularly since the public would be paying for his spending binge — and common sense begins. Besides making airports an even greater misery than they already are in terms of waits, lines, crowds, screaming babies and tired angry travelers … would putting screeners at the entrances of airports prevent violence? September 11th was wrought with box cutters. What creativity could be brought to bear among the many stores and equipment located in airport terminals? Would the Starbucks employees need security clearances?
Mr. Ervin notes that airports are particularly vulnerable because the “largest airports have huge terminals teeming with thousands of passengers on any given day. They serve as conspicuous symbols of American consumerism, with McDonald’s restaurants, Starbucks coffee shops and Disney toy stores.”
Yes, they are kind of like malls that way. Should we put airport style security in all of the nation’s malls as well? Could we afford Mall Marshals?
Led by a Congress that reacts with unthinking political hysteria after every scare, the United States is moving toward a less and less practical effort to seal off and prevent every possible terrorist attack one can conceive. The problems is that the result is unplanned and ineffective security. Remember the Great Lighter Conscription Campaign of 2004-2005? After Richard Reid tried to light his shoe to set off an explosive, the rage in Congress was seize lighters from travelers. Nevermind that you could ignite an explosive via any number of other ways — you know, like matches (which were not banned).
American homeland security policy must move away from the false notion that we can prevent any and all attacks against the United States and instead, while implementing risk-based strategic security measures, begin to build up the resiliency of our country to respond to and recover from such attacks.