Friday, December 17, 2010

A new scene in security theater

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Police will now randomly search the bags of every third person at Washington, D.C. Metro stations, using explosives detection equipment and bomb-sniffing dogs.

Since one of the Metro stations is at Reagan National Airport, passengers can now look forward to having their luggage inspected not only before their flight, but after it.
If people refuse, they will be barred from entering the rail station or boarding a bus with the item, [Transit Police Chief] Taborn said. The inspections will be conducted "indefinitely," he said. …

The inspections over the far-flung transit network, which has 86 rail stations and 12,000 bus stops, will be conducted by several dozen officers at most. Metro's trains and buses carry more than 1.2 million passengers every weekday, and officials acknowledge the limitations of the plan. "This is just another method to sort of throw the bad guy off" by using the threat of a search to discourage bringing a bomb into the transit network, Taborn said. "We're not going to clog up the Metro system." 
Yup, 12 Metro functionaries with badges — not even real police, let alone counter-terrorism specialists — dividing their time among 86 stations and 12,000 bus stops are sure going to "throw the bad guy off." This is not only security theater, it's the Theater of the Absurd.

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As usual, the only ones who will be inconvenienced and treated like potential criminals will be ordinary people commuting to their jobs and tourists visiting the shrines of America's former freedom. It's also safe to predict that the "random" searches will be especially sensitive to the feelings of certain riders. Hey, if you're a Metro uniform, why take a chance on getting in trouble with CAIR? When there are so many grandmothers walking with canes and pinstripe-suited executives whose belongings you can search?

Terrorists are at war with us, but we can't admit it is part of a war. They represent one faction of a politico-religious ideology, Islam, which we dare not name in connection with terrorism. Every day, we welcome dozens or, for all I know, hundreds of Muslims into the country as immigrants. We go out of our way to avoid giving any special attention to the group whose adherents have been behind almost all recent terrorist plots.

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Instead, we tighten the screws on everyone else. What next? Police roadblocks on highways leading to Washington? Guns drawn, open-the-trunk-and-step-out-of-the-car? Don't be silly, you say. Well, think back to not so long ago, 10 years. What if someone had suggested then that transit guards search the bags of one out of three passengers at a Metro station or bus stop? Don't be silly, you'd have said.

We are rapidly spiraling into something new in history: the Politically Correct Police State, where the law burrows into the lives of everyone except Those Who Must Not Be Offended. (Britain points the way. According to Simon Black, "one report from the BBC in 2009 showed that an average of 1,500 petitions are submitted - every day - to conduct surveillance on UK citizens.")

Anti-terrorism itself is becoming a variety of low-grade terrorism, more pervasive than the traditional sort, chipping away at our liberty through uniformed bullying of the kind we once associated with Latin American juntas.

Update later December 17

Commenter David writes, "Are they also going to station officers every 50 feet or so along the whole line of track?"

Yes, quite. A large portion of the Washington Metro is above ground. Any modestly bright terrorist would plant explosives along the tracks, where even in the D.C. metropolitan area there are a few places on the route that are hidden from ordinary view.

David's comment points out the fallacy (one of many) in our concept of security. We cannot, because of political correctness, get past the idea of looking for weapons rather than dangerous people. We have to pretend that anyone and everyone is equally likely to be a terrorist.

The American nation did not always elevate stupidity to an official policy. During World War II, the government knew that Germany and Japan would try to land saboteurs here. (Germany actually succeeded in putting a few agents ashore early in the war, although they were quickly arrested, and some of them were hanged, back in the days when it was understood that we faced an existential threat.)

Despite that awareness, we didn't search every American who got on a plane or rode a streetcar. We reckoned that some people were more dangerous than others, and acted accordingly. With the wisdom of hindsight, we now know that many perfectly loyal Japanese Americans were interned, but who knows how many disloyal Japanese were prevented from acting? Not many, probably. Some, probably.

Now we harass everyone so that we don't offend the few, including the portion of them who will launch further terror strikes, unsuccessful and successful.

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4 comments:

Sheila said...

As an aside, I must mention that most of the Metro workers are black, with a lukewarm IQ at best, and most of the suburban commuters whose bags they'll be searching are white.

Let me also predict that, despite a bit of grumbling, the sheeple will passively accept yet another government intrusion in the name of "security." If I ever visit the D.C. area again, it will be for my mother's funeral. I've told her I will not fly with the TSA in charge, and I certainly will not take the Metro, so they'd better delay any funeral service 3-5 days so I can drive in (unless, of course, by then they also have an armed perimeter guard around the city, in which case I will be staying home - I can pray for her soul just as well from home).

Rick Darby said...

We are all having to face tough choices thanks to the Security State. As much as I detest it, I'll still go through the airport screening process so I can visit my mother, as I did recently. And while my wife and I chose to vacation by car this year (partly for financial reasons), we can't bring ourselves to forever write off trips to places we must fly to.

That doesn't stop me from protesting this oppressive security racket — but unfortunately the only way I know how is to blog about it. Any actual resistance to the security goons would probably only get me fined thousands of dollars, jail time, maybe even confiscation of my meager property.

It's incredible that we have come to this.

David said...

Are they also going to station officers every 50 feet or so along the whole line of track?

Anonymous said...

Sam Francis called it "Anarcho-Tyranny."

-Jas