My pledge to avoid parking in front of the television for the 9/11 anniversary was a qualified success. But there was so much wall-to-wall coverage that it was unavoidable. Some of it dealt with how much and how little airline travel has changed during the last decade.
Several readers sent me this link for a blog
that went viral over the weekend. It's an account of a woman of Arab extraction suffering through a humiliating search and interrogation for reasons that were never made clear to her, other than probable racial profiling. According to her report, there were some 50 such incidents in the U.S. on Sunday or over the weekend. Obviously, people were spooked and security agencies weren't taking any chances. Given the complacency before the original attacks, I can't really fault them.
But I can fault them for ham-handed treatment of falsely roused "suspects" when it becomes obvious that the lead they're pursuing is a dead end. Who of us can forget the John and Martha King takedown at gunpoint earlier this year? I continue to believe we should insist that agencies train their people to handle the public with more respect unless the threat is clear, present and confirmed.
TSA is evidently getting the message. It recently announced that it's going to stop the moronic practice of patting down toddlers and, ludicrous as this sounds, we're in sight of being able to board an airliner without removing our shoes. Who'd of ever thought this would rise to the level of a small victory?
The anniversary reporting turned up some interesting nuggets that I didn't know about. One involved the origin of the shoot down order given to Air Force fighter pilots after the hijackings. Contemporaneous reporting said that the order came from Vice President Dick Cheney after consultation with the President. The record has since revealed that he made the decision on his own and forwarded it to the Air Force which promptly ignored it initially because the order didn't come through the proper chain of command, which was the SecDef through the President.
Now you gotta wonder, Air Force One is as much a flying communication center as it is an airplane and the VP can't pick up the phone to urge the President to issue this order? I don't begrudge either the decision or the command go-around, given the circumstances. But wouldn't it be better to tell the truth about it from the outset? Cheney only recently confirmed that the decision was made without Presidential consultation.
The 9/11 Commission's report revealed the FAA's poor handling of some aspects of the minutes immediately after the hijackings were confirmed. While the facilities working the airplanes figured out they needed to get fighters airborne, when the request was bumped up the chain of command, the paralysis was disturbing. The 9/11 report released transcripts, but now the actual tapes are out there. As the 9/11 report revealed, the degree to which the federal governmentincluding the FAAwas unprepared to react to such attacks all but assured their success.
Last, some people just don't seem to get it. That would be the three stooges who decided it would be a fun idea to lock themselves in a lav of an American Airlines flight enroute from LAX to JFK on Sunday. This understandably alarmed the crew and, taking no chances, the flight ended up with an F-16 escort. Overkill? I don't think so, frankly. When the pax refused to exit the lav and return to their seats, the crew was right to expect the worst. (The airplane landed with them still in the lav. The FBI and Secret Service soon arrived.)
Now this may have been a perfectly innocent prank. Details remain sketchy. An American Airlines spokesperson described it as a "big nothing." But the fact is, you can't do this sort of thing at all, never mind on the anniversary of 9/11, and expect no repercussions. If the other passengers had gotten nervous about this, the three could have found themselves beaten to a pulp, if not worse. Passengers are not going to stand for even a whiff of another hijacking. If I were the judge in this case, I'd slap these dopes with the largest fine possible and a bill for those F-16s. If you wanna have fun, you're gonna pay for it.
Maybe that's a little harsh, but if we want to get rid of overbearing security, maybe we ought to behave in a way that shows we don't need it.