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VOL. 127 | NO. 181 | Monday, September 17, 2012

Eleven Years Later: Reassessing Safety

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Eleven years after the 9-11 attacks, we still mourn for those lost in the attacks and the wars that followed and the war that continues in Afghanistan.

Our country is now a nation changing all over again as one wave of veterans has already come home and another will join them soon.

Even the extreme atmosphere that spawned the decisions of the men who flew the jets into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and a field in Pennsylvania has changed to a degree that they could never have foreseen.

We are still in motion from several generations of events after that September day in 2001. Each wave of events is in some way an echo or ripple from the events of that day. The directions we have taken in our reactions have combined to take us on a journey no one could have predicted.

We believe the time has come for a clearer assessment of the ongoing threat to our safety in public places including the places the 2001 attacks came from, our airports.

Are we really safer or are the government officials charged with providing for our security in airports and other public places safer from criticism in the event of more attacks?

How much of what airline passengers endure is truly necessary and even more relevant, how much is effective?

We aren’t suggesting the answer is anywhere but somewhere in the middle on both questions. The dilemma is how to get to the middle.

Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford, in The Hill’s Congress blog, points to the work of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in his state formed in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

The group works with the local law enforcement agencies to build the expertise of local police and use their experience and knowledge of the places they protect every day in a number of ways.

Meanwhile, in 11 years, we have built several times over an airport security apparatus that initially was politically nearly impossible to question. Security personnel were hired from private companies at first. Then airports went to the Transportation Safety Administration. This week, a new congressional report suggests going back to private contractors and touts the economic benefits of such a switch.

A national security system is not a part of an economic recovery plan.

Today, some distance from the events that changed our country indelibly we believe it is time to strip away the parts of our security cocoon that are there to give political cover to a security bureaucracy and not legitimate protection from a terrorist threat.

Eleven years after the unthinkable we must remain vigilant against threats. We also have to remain realistic about what works and what doesn’t and what some would have us give up in the blink of an eye in the name of security.

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