Monday morning quarterbacks always get it right.  With the miracle of TIVO and digital recorders, the Monday Morning team is quick to say that he should have thrown long , went right and not left, and gone for the field goal on the fourth down.

But in the heat of the game or in the heat of battle, there is no TIVO. Decisions are made based  on available people and resources to off-set the situations that are happening or could happen.  So until you have actually put on the cleats of the quarterback to face situations in the heat of the moment under the glaring lights of network television cameras, it is easy to say things were dumb or a waste of time.

At least in football, you known who your opponents are and can be fairly confident that they will – for the most part – play within the rules.  But in today’s security and law enforcement fields, there is no luxury of knowing who the enemy is.  And one of the few certainties is that the guarantee that the enemy is not playing by anyone’s rules.

Faced with constant threats and changing rules, security and law enforcement professionals on the ground have to balance the goal making us as secure as possible while still maintaining an open environment to live, work and move about.  This balancing act invites neverending criticism for Monday Morning quarterbacks, and the security measures recently implemented by Amtrak appear to be the latest target.

An article last week implies that the rail security upgrades are akin to smoke and mirrors.  I might remind these critics that every government agency and business has competing budgetary needs and face a challenge of achieving their missions with the money, staff and resources on hand. Amtrak is no different.  Securing operations is only a part of its mission, and trying to spread the available money as far as possible is never easy.

Critics assert that the random searches recently implemented by Amtrak cover only 2 percent of passengers, letting the vast majority of terrorists on the trains. They neglect to mention the flip side of Amtrak’s operations that allow the majority of passengers who are free and honest citizens to get on and off the trains with ease to get to their jobs on time and home to see their families.

The article also suggests that even if a random search did yield a terrorist, the target would nonetheless proceed to blow up the crowd and achieve the same effects.

Well I am sure the security people at Amtrak would love to pre-screen everyone coming into Union Station, that type of operation would slow the boarding of the trains to the halt and negatively impact the historical significance of the building and the flow of traffic

The article also calls for a camera system to monitor the entire Amtrak system. As much as I like security cameras, my calculator does not have enough digits to total what that sort of undertaking would cost the taxpayer.  With the price of fuel, rail certainly is a cheaper way to ship goods and travel, but investing in such an extreme expenditure would negate that efficiency.   Amtrak has made a great effort to better secure their infrastructure and operations within the constraints of their budget and without locking the door on the ease and convenience of rail travel. We can only hope that the real threat of terrorism will not translate into unfounded paranoia that compromises the very freedoms our nation was built upon.

The Monday morning quarterbacks also need to remember that even though  law enforcement agencies are never staffed adequately, there is a brotherhood that extends past the type of patch on their sleeves and the shape of the badge on their chests.  If an incident happened at Union Station, the Metropolitan Police, Capital Police and others would be right there to support Amtrak and do the right thing.  If things were to happen on the train, there is not one federal agent and officer that would not step up and do whatever is needed.  TSA has been using their VIPR teams to offer assistance and a different security posture.

Clearly, I am Monday morning quarterbacking in a sense by responding to the criticism, but in short, Amtrak appears to be doing the best they can to change their security practices with limited resources..  Maybe with a little less criticism and a few more offers to help, we would be ONE TEAM in a battle against a faceless enemy so we can maintain the freedom and openness that our forefathers fought and died for.