- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

In a lot of years of writing about crime, I've noticed that we don't appear to take it seriously. Instead, we appease this group or that, we'd rather be nice than strict and we have a very short attention span.
When something happens, there follows a brief flurry of concern, followed by business as usual. Is this happening in the case of terrorism?
I don't know. The evidence available to me is largely anecdotal. But it doesn't look good.
For example, Human Events reports that more than 80 percent of security people at Dulles aren't American citizens. Have they been fired? Are there now laws or rules in place mandating citizenship?
Security forces at airports are notoriously composed of low-end people who get paid little. Are there now hiring rules in effect to screen for intelligent, motivated people? Have salaries been raised to attract good people, despite political considerations?
Friends who have flown recently say they see no obvious difference at the X-ray stations.
Have foreign governments changed their security for flights coming into the U.S., or going anywhere else? The husband of a friend of mine (I said this was anecdotal) recently came through Paris and reported he saw the same slack security he always sees.
How tight, really, is airport security? I can go to the ticket counter, show my picture ID, get my boarding pass, and give it to someone else.
I mentioned in a recent column going through security at BWI, before the attacks, with a long-bladed scuba knife that I'd forgotten about, and not getting caught. I see no reason not to believe Michael Parker of Sierra Times, an Internet publication, who reports carrying several knives aboard several flights after the attacks.
Given that the terrorists in question are entirely Islamic, the obvious and practical thing from a police point of view would be to search, very carefully indeed, anyone carrying a passport from a Mideastern country, and perhaps ban holders of such passports from flying.
This I think we cannot do, as it would be politically unpalatable. In particular it would be is being called "profiling," which is the kiss of death. The greatest sin of the police today lies in recognizing politically incorrect patterns. (Which is exactly what "profiling" is.) Any attempt to watch groups that we know perfectly well contain terrorists among their number will be attacked as discrimination. I suspect we will choose to lose another 7,000 people rather than to concede publicly what we already know privately.
National Airport is reopened, "under tight security," with "limited traffic for several months." How much of the pressure for reopening arises from economic and political concerns, and how much from real changes in security policy? I don't know. But I can guess.
Maybe someone has addressed the obvious questions.
For example, how do you stop an airliner that drops to rooftop level and heads for the Capitol? If you shoot it down, you kill 250 Americans plus whoever gets hit by the pieces, and the terrorists have won. How do you avoid mistakenly shooting down a plane that malfunctions ? Have we figured this out? Or are we trying to appease businesses involved with the airport?
There is talk of putting air marshals on flights with preference given to the disabled. I haven't verified this, but it is exactly the kind of thing I would expect: The belief that jobs exist for the benefit of the employed rather than for the purposes of the employer. It is not a sign of seriousness.
An obvious idea would be to arm pilots and lock cockpit doors. I don't know where the idea is going, but I hear the predictable talk about how we shouldn't allow them to have guns, or shouldn't have to have them, etc.
It's an interesting concept: People will trust pilots to drive them 3,000 miles in a metal box at 600 mph at 35,000 feet, but won't trust them with a pistol.
Practically speaking, this means that, while the pilots cower behind locked doors, the terrorists will be free to kill at will and figure ways to bring the craft down from inside. If they pry open the cockpit door not that hard they will own the plane. But guns are politically incorrect.
If terrorism continues, how many people will we have to lose before we get serious?

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