The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Security Theater

It’s been my opinion for quite some time that the security procedures instituted at our airports are more about the appearance of security and less about the actual act of stopping Islamic terrorists from downing an aircraft. With each new event (the abortive Detroit incident is only the latest), the TSA has ratcheted up “safety procedures,” inconveniencing millions of travelers on a daily basis. Rather than using psychological and physical profiling (oh, the horror of such a suggestion!), our protectors ask an 80 year old to remove her shoes or undergo a pat-down search if her knee replacement sets off a metal detector. The intent, of course, is to appease the gods of political correctness—to appear even handed. But why?

While security personnel waste time on those with a 0.0001 probability of being a terrorist, it’s entirely possible that a potential bad guy (think: the Nigerian terrorist) waltz through the security line undetected. Not only could it happen—it just did.

Christopher Hitchens comments on this when he writes:
Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can't—or won't. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to "feel safe." The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens' toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

Many on the Left continue to assert that most terrorist instances are “lone wolves” that can be treated as criminal assailants. It’s a useful fiction when you can’t accept a much harsher truth. Again Hitchens tells it like it is:
What nobody in authority thinks us grown-up enough to be told is this: We had better get used to being the civilians who are under a relentless and planned assault from the pledged supporters of a wicked theocratic ideology. These people will kill themselves to attack hotels, weddings, buses, subways, cinemas, and trains. They consider Jews, Christians, Hindus, women, homosexuals, and dissident Muslims (to give only the main instances) to be divinely mandated slaughter victims. Our civil aviation is only the most psychologically frightening symbol of a plethora of potential targets. The future murderers will generally not be from refugee camps or slums (though they are being indoctrinated every day in our prisons); they will frequently be from educated backgrounds, and they will often not be from overseas at all. They are already in our suburbs and even in our military. We can expect to take casualties. The battle will go on for the rest of our lives. Those who plan our destruction know what they want, and they are prepared to kill and die for it. Those who don't get the point prefer to whine about "endless war," accidentally speaking the truth about something of which the attempted Christmas bombing over Michigan was only a foretaste. While we fumble with bureaucracy and euphemism, they are flying high.

It’s time that we become grown-ups and jettison politically correct security theater for something really quite different. We must profile and do it without guilt or shame. There are people out there who want to kill us. They have relatively predictable profiles. In my view, it’s perfectly reasonable to inconvenience the relative few who fit into the profile group, rather than inconveniencing the millions who do not.