- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2001

It's difficult to exaggerate the impact of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on Americans' sense of personal security. Indeed, the devastatingly vicious attacks have made Americans feel so vulnerable that they could serve to radically undermine civil and fundamental liberties, such as our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
But Americans must not let terrorism cow them into the compromising security of a police state. It would be truly regrettable and incongruous if this Republican administration were to unleash ubiquitous Big Brother agents in the name of security. On the other hand, it isn't unreasonable for Americans to bear with some inconvenience as a safeguard, including the indefinite closure of Reagan National Airport.
Although there is great potential that, if another terrorist strike were to occur, it could differ widely from Tuesday's horrors, the events of Sept. 11 have certainly exposed the frightening vulnerability of air travel. And, the Transportation Department on Thursday mandated a series of new measures demonstrating that the government is thinking beyond Tuesday's events. According to the new rules, only ticketed passengers may enter gate areas, and planes must be searched for bombs before takeoff. Furthermore, curbside check-ins will no longer be possible, police will patrol airports more aggressively and parked cars will be kept away from terminals.
But, strangely, federal regulators haven't addressed the very security inadequacies exposed by the terrorist hijackers. In light of those inadequacies, federal regulators should also mandate stricter background checks for airport and airline personnel, and should define more narrowly which areas personnel can enter. But personnel screening should be left in the private sector, rather than being turned over to public agencies as some experts are recommending. Also, regulators should require airports to use more powerful equipment to scan luggage and cargo, and airlines should consider using specially trained and armed sky marshals to deter terrorism.
Finally, the FAA should improve on its system for alerting the Air Force to passenger flights that stray off flight plans. According to one pilot, the American Airlines plane hijacked out of Boston and was the first to hit one of the World Trade Center towers, "got two-thirds across Massachusetts and suddenly made a beeline for New York," reported the Wall Street Journal Friday. "Why didn't air-traffic control respond [and call the Air Force?]" After the second tower was struck 20 minutes later, "there should have been no doubt" that the third hijacked plane, which pulled an abrupt u-turn towards Washington, was on a similar crash mission, another pilot told the Wall Street Journal.
These measures for air travel would all be tolerable for the American public. Airports and airlines will incur increased costs as a result of stricter requirements, and, as a result, so will consumers. For the frequent business traveler and many corporations, the longer check-in times will signify a consequential loss of revenue, which is unfortunate. But it seems that, for many Americans, witnessing the horror of passenger planes being turned into lethal missiles has given them a new perspective. The country should bear these inconveniences. But Big Brother should otherwise remain largely restrained.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide