Friday, March 7, 2008

It's Not Terrorism Unless It's an Airplane

The recent stories on the ricin found in the Las Vegas hotel room and the bombing of the armed forces recruiting center in New York really bother me.  In both of these stories we have the "authorities" saying that they don't know if it is terrorism at this time or not.  In fact, in the story on the ricin in Las Vegas they said this:

"I want to assure everybody that the Las Vegas Valley is safe," Las Vegas police Capt. Joseph Lombardo said. "We don't currently have any terrorist threat at this time or possibility of contamination (due) to ricin."

And in this story on the bombing in Times Square we find:

In Washington, the Homeland Security Department said there was no sign of an immediate threat to the United States from the incident and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said there was no initial sign of any link to terrorism.

Okay, I'm all for the investigating authorities withholding judgment until the facts are in and I'm all for actually thinking things through before accusing people of terrorism, but my problem here is the complete lack of consistency in the way that our government is behaving when it comes to the threat of terrorism.  I am told we must maintain a constant state of preparedness.  I am told, when I read the story of the teen who had his feeding tube examined by the TSA that anybody could be a terrorist and we have to be constantly vigilant.  On the DHS web site for the current National Threat Advisory I am told the following:

All Americans should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicious items or activities to local authorities immediately.

(I wonder if "guns and literature about anarchy" along with an actual chemical weapon doesn't constitute "suspicious items or activities.")

On the TSA blog the byline says, "Terrorists evolve.  Threats evolve.  Security must stay ahead."  According to the TSA's site on "Why we screen shoes":

Today improvised explosive devices are the number one threat that we guard against. More than 31,000 of our TSOs have received rigorous training in IED detection and are required to complete four hours a month of recurrent training to detect all forms of explosives.

Oddly enough, actual explosives that, you know, blow stuff up, are not an indication of "any link to terrorism."  Every time I go through an airport I stand in a long line of people that go through the now very familiar partial undressing ceremony and ostensibly this is "for our protection" since anybody could be a terrorist and shoes might contain an IED.  Actual IEDs elicit a shoulder shrugging and a denial of "any link to terrorism" from the same authorities that insist upon checking our shoes.  This inconsistency is driving me crazy.  I'm a pretty conservative guy, but this type of thing makes me wonder if the libs have got it right and all this security paranoia talk is really just to control the sheep like me who aren't actually a threat and not to actually do anything about real terrorists.  I'm trying to decide if all of this is malice or incompetence, and which of those two options frightens me more.

As I'm trying to make sense of the senselessness here it is becoming obvious that we are now fixated on airplane travel as the primary (only?) threat vector for activity that we will label as terrorist.  As evidence of this, I cite not only the preceding stories and incongruous government information but also the Department of Homeland Security's National Threat Advisory.  Other people have noted that even after the IED in Times Square the National Threat Advisory level didn't go up.  Now, I don't know why I didn't notice this before, but if you look at the DHS web site along the left-hand side where the National Threat Advisory is listed you will notice that it clearly states "The threat level in the airline sector is ..."  Maybe I was the only person in America who thought that the DHS was taking a holistic approach to "Homeland Security" and wasn't just focused on airline travel but why is the only widely publicized metric for threat status only about airline travel?  If a nuke destroyed Los Angeles would the National Threat Advisory level stay a pleasant shade of yellow, or would it only go up because LAX was in the blast zone?  Why is the metric called a "National Threat Advisory" and not a "National Air Travel Threat Advisory" if it is really only about air travel?

In my opinion inconsistencies like this create insecurities.  I don't like being told by my government that these things are for my safety and then discovering so much inconsistency.  I doesn't make me feel safe.

No comments: