(Response to September 11, written in 2001)
[This editorial was previously published in Aero-News, and reprinted in the Federal Observer. Note: all the cited articles (from ANN) were also authored by Tim Kern. The publisher has a habit of non-attribution of peoples' work.]~ Federalize everything in sight ~
Politicians are calling for federalization of airport security, saying things like, "Security at airports is handled by people who make less than the McDonald's employees at the terminals they are supposed to protect." That is insulting to the security people, for one thing -- how much they make doesn't necessarily reflect on their intelligence or dedication -- it just reflects on the degree of discretion they can exercise. Secondly, these folks are being beaten up by politicians that think that the security people did something wrong, something which can only be remedied by a bunch more taxpayer expense (shifting the expense from those who use air travel, to those who don't), and federal supervision. Patronage, in other words -- the same program that gave us the great surveillance and intelligence the FBI and CIA and INS used, to identify and track the hijackers -- all the way onto the planes.~ The airport security people didn't do anything wrong ~
The people who screened the hijackers didn't do anything wrong; they followed the federal and airline guidelines in place at the time, guidelines effective only in disarming people who could have helped short-circuit the hijackings. The hijackers apparently didn't break any laws in the airports, at all. Think about this: if 200 passengers have, say, knives, and five hijackers have knives, who wins? On the other hand, if 200 people have nothing, and five hijackers have knives, who wins?~ We're getting military involved in airport security ~
Strangely enough, we don't have enough military to patrol the borders and check other ports of entry, to keep illegals from entering the country; but we have plenty of military, to put them in charge of supervising the legal activities of citizens in our airports.~ We want student pilots to pay for their own background checks ~
This is somehow supposed to make a difference. As we've detailed ("Knee Jerks: Student Pilot Background Check Bill," 09-27-01; "Knee Jerks: Another Anti-Flight-Training Bill," 09-28-01, ANN), some in Congress are saying that student pilots, before they start training, should pay to have their own backgrounds investigated -- by the CIA and FBI, through the FAA. Not only is this impossible to do, an any timely way; but the FAA can already make student pilot applications available to the FBI or CIA whenever the snoop agencies want them. How much should such a background check cost? How much, and what kind, of information, would be assembled? Why finger student pilots? (How about doing to same for, say, truck drivers, or just regular drivers? Does anyone's presumption of innocence still hold? Shouldn't we require this every year or so -- peoples' beliefs could change, you know!) When will we start requiring invasive psychological testing for the military, who could really do damage, if they got out of hand? [If that sounds unreasonable, why, then, would testing civilians --who don't have ready access to sophisticated weapons -- be reasonable?]~ We're turning the threats around ~
If the purpose of all these new actions by our military and police is to prevent another September 11, we might ask why the facts of September 11 have been perverted. Military base commanders are now closing civilian GA (General Aviation) airports that are "too close for comfort" ("Navy's Duplicity Kills Coastal Airport in Georgia," 09-28-01, ANN). Let's see: the commercial airliners were used to attack civilian targets (the Pentagon was a secondary target, we're told). Therefore, the paranoia goes, non-commercial, small planes will attack military targets. That's '180-degree reasoning,' in the name of seizing more power, and expressing the military's paranoia about being able to protect its submarine bases against C-172s, and allowing politicians like Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to kill Meigs Field ahead of schedule (because it's 'too close' to Navy Pier -- Hey, neither the airport nor the pier has moved, Mr. Mayor!).~ We're asked to give more power to the entities that screwed up ~
Far from asking why the INS and the FBI and the CIA (all of which knew something of the hijackers and their activities) didn't do anything about these terrorists, we are asked to take authority from the airlines and their contracted security firms (which didn't make mistakes in this series of events), and give even more discretion and power to the very entities that screwed up. If the FAA's rules for disarming passengers were insufficient, why blame the security people? If the rules weren't any good, why trust the people who made them up?~ We want stronger cockpit doors ~
The argument goes, that the cockpit doors need to be hijacker-proof ("ALPA's President Wants Stronger Doors, Even Stun Guns," 09-21-01, ANN). As far as we know, the doors weren't a problem; they were opened during the hijackings because of threats of atrocities, and actual atrocities being carried out in the cabins. They were also opened because the pilots had been trained, again by the FBI and FAA, to submit, rather than to resist, when a hijacking was in progress. If the FAA and FBI were so wrong in their counterintuitive mandates, what makes anyone think they'll be right the next time?~ We won't arm the flight crews ~
Yes, it's been a law all along, that flight crews could carry heat, if the airlines and FAA would agree on the training they should receive. As soon as this law (14 CFR 108.11) was made well-known, by ANN and others ("Feds: Airline Employees May Pack Heat," 09-18-01, ANN), the FAA said it would continue its policy of not honoring it, and would, in fact, circumvent the very law that could have helped, on September 11 ("FAA To Rescind Federal 'Crew Carry' Rule," 09-21-01, ANN).
As more pilots and rational citizens realized that the pilots were indeed the last line of defense against these types of terrorist activities, a public clamor was made to allow pilots, on a voluntary basis, to defend themselves and their ships ("Duane Woerth: Allow Pilots to Defend Selves, Aircraft -- with Firearms," 09-26-01), a talking-head clamor for 'calm' was heard across the non-aviation media.
The argument against self-protection goes something like this: "Pilots have their hands full with flying the aircraft, and turning them into some kind of 'Flying Wyatt Earp' won't help." First of all, if pilots want to keep flying the airplanes, they may need something stronger than just regulations, as bloodthirsty terrorists break into the cockpits and slit their throats. Secondly, a large percent of our pilots are military-trained, and already understand firearms and their proper use. Third, simply putting out the word that some pilots may be ready and able to defend their ships would be a major deterrent. [Marshal Earp, because his presence meant law and order would prevail, was in very high demand, we might do well to remember... --ed.]~ We need more Air Marshals ~
That's true. The FAA won't say how many Air Marshals were flying, on a typical day, prior to September 11; only that there was always an Air Marshal presence. Since the FAA can hide behind "security reasons," and not tell us -- or Congress, for that matter -- how many of these off-budget air police there were, it's a safe assumption that the FAA, always crying for more money for its regulators (but never for its engineers and controller training, it seems), was using every available penny of Air Marshal money to fund other things. The mere and obvious fact that the FAA is scrambling now to recruit and train so many new Air Marshals says there couldn't have been many to begin with.~ If you want to be safe, count on yourself ~
The Air Marshals, had they actually existed, could have gone a long way toward saving planeloads of submissive pilots and disarmed passengers -- but they weren't there, were they?~ Don't mistake Nationalism for Patriotism ~
Patriotism is founded on understanding the things that make the nation great, and a commitment to them. Things like religious freedom, the sanctity of contracts, the protections against unwarranted searches and seizures -- these are some of the principles on which the United States of America was founded, and these are the things that Patriots support. They love the USA, and will stand for her, because they believe in the things she stands for.
Nationalism, however, is a purely emotional phenomenon. It is a tool of tyrants, and counts on co-opting Patriotism, and perverting it, so that anything that questions the absolute power of the government, is viewed as treason. Nationalism re-labels political opposition, based on principle, based even on the Constitution, as treasonous thought. Nationalism turns free people into slaves in their own countries. Nationalism represents the end goal of centralized, unlimited power -- tyranny -- cloaked in the name of Patriotism. Let's not let our patriotic feelings be stampeded into nationalistic programs.~ The lesson is clear ~
The culture of submission is suicidal; the only protection you can count on, is what you provide, yourself. For the government, which screwed up in its regulations, its training, its intelligence, and its screening; its procedures, its engineering, and its risk assessment, to say, "Now, we'll protect you," is patently absurd.
Freedom, as they say, isn't free. A free society, if that is what America still wants to be, needs to remain vigilant; independent people cannot delegate their most basic need -- self-protection -- to a bureaucracy.