Recent events in Iraq involving armed intervention by American security contractor has resulted in the death of an estimated twenty-eight civilians killed by employees of the American private security contractor, Black Water USA. It has been reported that the security personnel employed to protect U.S. Government personnel and installations became engaged in a firefight with Iraqi nationals after the Blackwater personnel fired on a vehicle that failed to stop when ordered to do so by an Iraqi police officer.
For example, attacking an airliner in flight with an easily acquired plastic explosive is likely to achieve the desired goals of maximum terror and economic damage sought by terrorists; they have done so in the past. Such an attack would also help to convey to Americans at home and our trading partners around the world that for all of its power the U.S. remains helpless when it comes to protecting its commercial aviation system; and by extension its vital world-wide economic interests. For these reasons and others, commercial aviation remains the terrorism target of choice and the place for us to focus our best efforts.
Consistent with the Middle-East theme, the above quote captured in the Talmud has no doubt inspired millions over the centuries to meet responsibilities they would rather avoid. With that well known Talmudic quote in mind, I must set a side an earlier decision to stay out of the political debate over the wisdom of a national security issue affecting our posture in the war on terrorism. I join the debate to protest what I fear is a dangerous pattern of government decision making on security now affecting both our seaports and our airports which would have security decisions made on basis’ other than what is best from a security point of view.
Some of us are of the opinion that in a free society it is generally not a good thing to have your name on a government established list. And when you have to pay annually to keep your name on the list, it adds insult to injury. A government in a democratic society is not supposed to impose a fee on the citizenry as a sign of trust, and if it does, doesn’t that mean that those who don’t, can’t or won’t pay to remain on the respected citizens list are less trustworthy than those who do?
The plan by Department of Homeland Security’s, Transportation Security Administration to begin the behavioral profiling of passengers in as many as 60 of our largest airports, may provide that opportunity. Profiling, the art of identifying individuals for heightened scrutiny in this case, has been used successfully by Israel to identify passengers deemed to be a threat to their commercial aviation system. But profiling in the United States for the same purpose has raised the ire of the ACLU and other organizations concerned that it would unfairly single out minorities, particularly those most closely identified by race, ethnicity, religion and gender with the terrorists involved in 9/11 and other terrorist events around the world.
Today they formally announced that scissors up to four inches in length and screw drivers, wrenches and pliers less than seven inches long will now be allowed in carry-on bags and in pockets. They also announced new procedures regarding pat downs of passengers and random secondary searches will take affect all on December 22nd at the start of the Christmas travel season. Sorry folks, that 1 inch Swiss Army knife on your key chain will still be confiscated if they find it at the screening station. As none of these new rules regarding prohibited items mean anything one way or the other with regard to actual security, it is amazing how much ink and air time have been devoted to the announcement particularly since just a few weeks ago it was disclosed by the General Accountability Office, Congress’ watch dog agency, that the cargo in the cargo hold under the passenger seats is being carried virtually unscreened for explosives with little response from anyone.