Next time you’re standing in an airport security line with your pants around your ankles, wondering if it all makes any difference, let me tell you now that the answer is “not much”. Are we marginally safer because of all of the security nonsense we put ourselves through? I suppose so. Disasters have been averted, or so we are told, and I have no reason to think otherwise. But at what cost?
It would be impossible, I imagine, to put a dollar figure on what we have spent as a nation on “security” in the wake of 9/11, but it has to be an enormous number. Think of time lost at work, the general interference with productivity, the cost to airlines and every form of travel. Consider the cost of the security personnel themselves, the agencies, vehicles and administration. It is simply nuts and I have to wonder sometimes if we’d be better of just winging it.
I’d like to see one airline say “we’re going to fly our airline as though 9/11 never happened and you are welcome to fly with us, or not. If you do, we’ll be asking for your participation in common-sense efforts to suppress terrorist activity, and urge you to subdue at will any passenger that presents a threat to the safety of the flight. You will arrive at the airport, check your luggage, get your boarding pass and fly.”
I would fly that airline in a heartbeat and, hopefully, enjoy the lower fares they could offer as a result of their increased efficiency. We live in a free country where people come and go at will. Surviving each day is a roll of the dice. Most important, I have no faith that the people who slow us down in the interest of keeping us safe…are keeping us any safer than we would be without them.
In Detroit, outside a federal building that houses the FBI as well as the offices of Senator Carl Levin and the Social Security administration, a package was left. The package was left there…outside the building…in February. A security guard noticed the package and brought it in and placed it in the “lost and found” bin. Fair enough for a civilian…but a security guard? The package sat, incredibly, in the lost and found bin until mid-March when another security guard noticed it and called the Detroit Police. The package was a bomb. The Detroit Police Bomb Unit removed the device and detonated it. The design was intended to detonate upon opening. Let’s be grateful no kids, or curious adults, were snooping around the “lost and found” bin for treasure.
The guard who ultimately discovered the package and reported it was part of a union. The contract guard who found the package outside originally was not. So this, of all things, has become the focus of the story. The brunt of the story for me is human error, coupled with the impossibility of watching everything in a country the size of the United States, as vivacious and alive as the United States, and as free as the United States.
At some point, we will have to decide how much money and energy we are going to spend trying to do the impossible. We can’t inspect every package. We can’t even inspect every suspicious package. And it is only a matter of time before we have suicide bombers here and begin to enjoy the kind of terrorism that has been plaguing Europe and the Middle East for decades. It’s coming.
That said, I find myself more and more inclined to remove the net. We’re on the high wire, like it or not, and it’s not the long drop that kills you anyway…it’s the sudden stop.