August 10, 2006
We Must Consider Travel Cards and Security Profiling
Islamist terrorists may think they're scaring us with their attacks and their threats of attacks. No, what they're doing is annoying us to death. If the government continues its ban on passengers bringing liquids into the cabin of an airplane we'll take another step down that path.
What would have really terrified average Americans was attacks on places they went frequently. Hitting the Pentagon and the World Trade Center made for spectacular television, but most Americans never went near those places. Imagine the fear induced if a few days after the Sep. 11 attacks a truck filled with fertilizer and heating oil exploded outside a Columbus, OH shopping mall. Then a few days later al-Qaeda let natural gas leak into an elementary school in Milwaukee, WI and then lit a match. Those acts of barbarism would truly scare people. They wouldn't know where they could be safe. After Sep. 11 there was some cocooning. The phenomenon would have been more widespread with more widespread attacks. Instead, Islamist terrorists stick to the big, bold bombing like something out of a Hollywood movie. They're either not the brightest people on the planet, or else their egos are so big they believe the only thing good enough to impress the world and their god is something spectacular.
There are two ways to stop airline travel from becoming one of Dante's rings of hell and save the airline industry. First, the government could issue travel cards to passengers who are willing to undergo background checks. They would get the cards if they passed. With the card they could bypass some of the security non-cardholders would have to go through. It wouldn't stop people from flying, it would only ease some security hassles for some flyers.
Second, we could finally resort to racial and religious profiling. After reading enough stories describing terrorists we have a good sense of who they are: they're muslim males in their 20s or 30s. In the case of CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen he is "always concerned about citizens of Pakistani descent." I'm sure security firms, police, and government intelligence services could put together a more finely-grained profile. Those fitting the profile would undergo greater scrutiny. They wouldn't be banned from flying only be looked at more closely unless they were determined to be a threat. Those fitting the profile could also be eligible for a travel card where they would undergo a background check. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) won't like it, but let them regularly fly seven-hour flights in a humidity-free airplane with your contact lens solution in your checked bags while your waiting for some water from an overworked flight attendant.
Travel cards and profiling aren't perfect. Cards no matter how sophisticated can be hacked or duplicated. Al-Qaeda could recruit suicide bombers who don't fit the profile. But no security system is perfect. We need to see what makes more sense treating every airline passenger as a potential terrorist or dropping our collective fear of "offending someone."
"Travelers Forced to Throw out Liquids"
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