Saturday, December 03, 2005

A step in the direction of sanity

Credit to Buzzflash for the story.

The Transportation and Safety Authority will soon be allowing some items that were banned post-Sept. 11, including small pairs of scissors (4 inches or less) and screwdrivers back on board in carry on items. Later, nail clippers are also mentioned as now being allowed in carry on bags. Sharp knives and boxcutters are still not allowed.

And I think this is well overdue. Not only because it was making travel a bigger headache than it had to be:

"We are opening a lot of bags to take away objects that do not pose a great risk," [TSA Deputy Administrator Kip Hawley] said. "We found that a disproportionate amount of our resources go to line-slowing bag searches directed at objects that do not pose a real threat of taking control of an aircraft."

But also, it is a step in the right direction because it makes a great deal of sense. The reason why 9/11 worked was because it was a surprise. The passengers and crew didn't expect it. And at that, once the passengers on the fourth flight learned from cell phone conversations what was going on, they prevented that flight from reaching its target. In a post-9/11 environment, the idea that a few people could take over a plane with four inch scissors, nail clippers and screwdrivers is ridiculous. Modern crew and passengers are well aware of 9/11 and would not simply sit by and let it happen (in addition to new security measures designed to prevent an unauthorized breach of the cockpit.)

In fact, I was a bit embarrassed that the person speaking out against making these changes is a Democrat:

Congressman Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he will introduce a bill that would roll back the new TSA changes.

"Mohamed Atta and the other September 11 hijackers used box cutters as a weapon to launch their deadly attack against our country," he said. "TSA should not make it easier for future Mohamed Attas to arm themselves with razor sharp objects and bring down a passenger plane."

But Mr. Hawley said truly dangerous objects will still be banned from planes.

"TSA is not removing items like ice picks, box cutters, or knives of any kind from the prohibited list," he said. "Based on our research and analysis, however, I am convinced that the time now spent searching bags for small scissors and tools can be better utilized searching for the far more dangerous threat of explosives."

Just because something is proposed by some Republicans doesn't automatically make it bad. In this case, Mr. Markey, who hopefully simply bit before looking very closely, is wrong.

September 11, 2001 was a horrible day. And it makes sense to take measures to prevent it from happening again. But all too often, the specter of 9/11 has been invoked to justify actions that in fact have very little to do with fighting terrorists and all too often have everything to do with maintaining or gaining control over the American people. This includes provisions in the Patriot Act authorizing the storing of every single email sent in the United States on a government computer (for how long? Given how much the government is averse to getting rid of information, we can assume it's forever), or authorizing Federal agents to search your home while you are not there and without telling you. It also includes the invasion of Iraq, and the announcement that you will need a passport to get into the United States from Canada or Mexico starting in 2008 (which real terrorists always have their paperwork impeccably in order, so this one is aimed more at forcing Americans who cross the border to buy prescription drugs to pay the much higher prices for the same drugs that the same manufacturers charge when they selectively gouge only Americans).


dorsano said...

I agree that most of those should be rolled back - I'm not sure about the scissors though (even 4 inches or less). Some of the flight attendants lost their lives early in the flights because their throats were slit.

Your point about Markey is right on though as far as I'm concerned - when elected officials do that sort of thing they either they sound like they're uninformed or like they're trying to score political points.

One of the more painful examples in my opinion (though it's not in the news) is how the work of Thomas Petri (R) from Wisconsin on direct lending is treated.

He's championed direct lending for most of his career in office. The current budget issues surrounding student loans would not exist if his plan were in effect. His plan pays it's own way much like the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security or Medicare does.

Eli Blake said...


Sure you could, given enough training, kill someone with a 4 inch pair of scissors. But then heck, if you have the training, you could kill someone with your bare hands (so are they going to handcuff everyone when they get on the flight and uncuff them when they get off? Let's not forget that right after 9/11 there were some serious proposals to put people in locking seatbelts that only the pilots or the flight attendants could unlock).

I just don't see them as that much of a threat. If someone has a four inch pair of scissors, but a plane full of people remembers 9/11 and knows they are up to no good, I doubt if they would be able to get very far.

I just feel that some of the lunacy has to stop. I have no problem with reasonable steps to deter another 9/11 from happening (although as I say, the best defense is that it happened already so people won't just sit by and let it unfold again), but it seems to me that there should be common sense prevailing. I mean, last month there was some deranged guy in Las Vegas who drove his car up on the side walk and killed a few people. Now, you can put up a few concrete barriers along sidewalks of you want, but some of what we have been doing about 9/11 would be like denying everyone in Las Vegas a driver's license to prevent this from happening again. Keep things in perspective. 9/11 was terrible, but I don't see how it justifies saying you can't take your nail clippers with you on the flight.

dorsano said...

But then heck, if you have the training, you could kill someone with your bare hands

True - unfortunately.

BibleBelted said...

Scissors under four inches of length can only do limited damage.

I'm more worried about little things like our port security, and the possibility that someone could introduce a dirty bomb, bioloigical agents etc.

And then there's that other matter of radio frequencies. Our emergency response forces could definitely use a common frequency on which they could communicate in the event of an attack, but guess what? The Radio Executives and their lobbyists in Washington have pressured our wonderful, elected officials into denying this. Unless I'm wrong, this could actually be accomplished by an executive order from the president, but corporate America (read the broadcast industry) has so much power over "W Incorporated" that we can't even do something as simple as streamlining emergency communication for our emergency response teams.

At the same time I think we have a huge problem with the CIA. When it was created by Harry Truman it was intended to serve as an independent agency to which the President could turn for advice. Under Bush this has been turned on its head. The agency is being stacked with "yes men" who tell this President what he WANTS to hear, not what he NEEDS to hear.

At the same time, experienced, highly qualified agents leaving the agency at a time when they are needed the most, and the reason they give, almost to the individual,is that they don't like the way this CIA has been centralized and politicized under Bush into a proverbial rubber stamp for the Bush Administration. Wonder why we're still short of people who can speak Mid eastern languages?

In the meantime, homeland security has a become a politicized mess in which pork rules after all. Why in God's name should the State of Wyoming, presumably a low risk state, get more funding than other, more obvious targets? Why should the Port of Memphis get more funding than ports in new York City?

Something has gone very wrong. We are self-interesting ourselves to death and we don't even realize it.

BibleBelted said...

And worse yet, obtaining and storing prfiles and personal information on every American citizen, regardless as to guilt or innocence. And to trust such a measure to a known liar like John Poindexter. Thank God that particular measure wasn't approved, but you really have to wonder. How many times has this Administration floated a trial balloon, found negative results, and then turned around and done what it wanted anyhow behind the public's back?

Consider phony news stories.

Initially, when the Bush Administration announced that it would seed foreign (and, I would assume, local press) with fake news, the American people were outraged and the Administration backed off. But only in public. Here we are in December 2005, and what did we learn a few days ago? The Pentagon was paying to plant phony news stories in the Iraqi press. That's just fine and dandy with some people, but we should remember that those stories will almost invariably be quoted by American meda, meaning we will in effect be using propaganda on the American people. As one of my team members has pointed out, such a tactic could well be a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act which--you guessed it-- essentially prohibits the United States government from using domestic propaganda on the American people

We are royally screwed.

Eli Blake said...

Why should the state of Wyoming, presumably a low risk state, get more funding than other, more obvious targets? Why should the Port of Memphis get more funding than ports in new York City?

Maybe because Cheney's house is in Wyoming, and Bill Frist is from Tennessee, and New Yorkers are a bunch of liberals?