As you probably already know the TSA has changed their security procedures to include fully body pat downs and full body scans. Here are my thoughts on the whole issue.
First, Some Perspective
On September 11 2001
- 2,819 people died from terrorists.
- 3,700 people died from abortions.
We have had a 9/11 every day for the last 20 years. If you care about saving lives then terrorism is a distraction.
- 2,824 Americans died from terrorist attacks (2,819 9/11 deaths source + 5 anthrax deaths source).
- 16,037 Americans were murdered by other Americans (source).
- 42,196 died on American roadways (source).
- 853,485 died in American abortion facilities (source).
These numbers are from 2001; the year with the highest number of terrorism related deaths. You are more likely to die from lightning than from a terrorist in an airplane.
Looking at these numbers you should spend more time praying at abortion clinics and going to defensive driving than worrying about terrorists. If you are particularly concerned about saving life, get a concealed handgun. All of these things would be statistically more effective than groping people at the airport.
The The Science of Fear quotes a study that found if a plane crashed in America once per week, flying would still be safer than driving. When terrorism is put into context there is no rational justification for TSA’s invasions.
We are the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. To be free you must also be brave. Safety is not our god.
New procedures degrade our dignity.
Dignity is not a word you hear much any more. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for it. Everyone is born with it. The government wants to take it away.
Could you imagine anything more demeaning than the current TSA procedures? Getting ogled or fondled should not be part of the flying process. This is how the terrorists win: They scare us into abusing each other.
“But don’t other countries use similar procedures?” You may ask.
Yes. But so what? Just because old world countries abuse their subjects gives us no justification to do likewise. Freedom and justice are what set us apart from the old world. That is why we left. Our ancestors wanted to come to a new world where citizens did not need to fear the government abusing them.
We are free! Why should we long to go back to the “safety” of slavery?
Terrorism doesn’t work.
The goal of terrorism is to strike terror into a population. This is their goal because terrorists lack the ability to actually harm. They can’t conquer us, and even on their best day they can’t even pass the murder rate. An attack like 9/11 won’t work again. The old advice of “comply with hijackers” is gone. Hijacking only works when the passengers are docile, and the days of docile passengers came to an end when Flight 93 revolted.
Terrorism is not dangerous. Fear is. According to a study by the University of Michigan there were 1,018 additional traffic fatalities in 2001 because people were afraid to fly and, instead, chose to drive.
Terrorists have a very small tool belt. Hijacking doesn’t work and guns don’t work well on an armed population. Anthrax doesn’t work. Chemicals weapons only work when deployed with artillery or an air force. Bombs are really their only tool and bombs are a weak opponent for bomb-sniffing dogs and often require the bomber to sacrifice himself.
Once we decide to not let terrorism scare us, we rob the terrorists of their only effective weapon: fear.
After we take a deep breath and stop panicking, this is what I think we should do in response to terrorism:
Our best response to terrorists is to show them they are ineffective. We do this by getting back to normal as soon as possible. This is what they do in Israel. After an attack they get back to business as fast as possible, and it frustrates the terrorists.
In hindsight, I wish we would have let commercial planes fly on September 12th.
Nuclear bombs should be our primary focus. A suitcase nuke could depopulate a city for years. If we were wise we would spend the majority of our efforts on nuclear protection. Fortunately for us, nuclear weapons are heard to deploy by terrorists. Terrorists don’t have rockets or bombers so they need to sneak a Bomb into the country somehow.
Nuclear bombs give off radiation that can be picked up with special equipment. This radiation sniffing equipment is what we should be buying, not strip search scanners. We should have radiation scanners at every border crossing and at every airport. We should develop the technology to make compact scanners for every police car. Squad-car based scanners would more or less cover the whole country.
We should reset to pre 9/11 security and then make the following changes.
Change 1: Profiling – America is not being attacked by old women or small children. The threat comes from a few very specific profiles. People who fit a profile should go through a more strict screening process. Non-citizens should be particularly targeted. Profiling works in Israel and we would be wise to emulate them.
If positive profiles are too distasteful then we should at least use negative profiles. We should stop scanning minors and senior citizens. Has there ever been a terrorist older than 50? I doubt it.
Change 2: Background checks – Non-citizens traveling into and around this country should go through extensive background checks. I know we do this now but we could do it much better. Instead of funding an army of soldiers to topple governments we should have an army of spies infiltrating every terrorist organization in the world. Then when we check someone’s background we will actually have some useful data to check.
Change 3: Dogs – Bomb-sniffing dogs are effective and non intrusive. I rarely see dogs at the airport. A dog should sniff every piece of luggage that goes onto a plane.
Change 4: Privatization – Airport screening is not a good role for the government. Let the airlines do the screenings and they will compete on quality, safety, efficiency etc. If American Airlines wants to grope you and Delta doesn’t, the free market would reward the wiser company.
Typically when there is a successful terrorist attack, the airline that is hit goes out of business. Anyone remember Pan Am? The fear of bankruptcy motivates airlines toward quick and effective innovation.
Good policy is based on reason, not on irrational emotions like fear and revenge. If you look at America’s response to 9/11 you will find a lot more fear and revenge than reason. When you look at things rationally you see that changing the government in Iraq does not protect us from Saudi Arabian terrorists. You don’t fight non-governmental organizations by attacking governments. You don’t let terrorists scare you into destroying yourself.
Good policy is based on principles like life, liberty, justice, property and dignity. We can learn from other countries but we need to be careful what we bring over. What makes us different also makes us special.
What do you think? What should our response to 9/11 have been? What do you think about TSA’s new procedures?