14 years ago today, four planes were hijacked and used as missiles. All 246 passengers on the planes were killed when the hijackers flew the planes into two of the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, along with a further 2,731 people in those buildings.
Nobody wants something like that to happen again (unless you’re from Al-Qaeda, in which case, as-salamu alaykum and welcome to my blog, please don’t blow us up), so security was increased immediately and then gradually over the next decade, in ever more annoying ways, to keep us safe.
Blades were banned, no matter how tiny or dull. Nevermind that a person willing to kill themselves can fashion a knife out of most anything – prisons don’t allow knives in but that doesn’t prevent stabbings.
Liquids in bottles larger than 100ml were banned. If you want to take a 400ml bottle, you’re out of luck. You can separate it into four 100ml bottles though. Wait, doesn’t that add up to 400ml that you could just combine in a larger bottle once you were through security? Personally, I had a 250ml jar of homemade chutney confiscated, which I think we can agree made us all safer.
We get no-fly lists, which are lists of thousands of people so dangerous they cannot be allowed on a plane under any circumstances. We don’t arrest them though, they’re not that dangerous – at least not until they get on a plane, anyway.
We get hundreds of millions of dollars worth of full body scanners, courtesy of Michael Chertoff, the former head of Homeland Security, who was paid as a lobbyist by Rapiscan, one of the largest makers of the scanners. It’s hard to measure exactly how much safer I feel now that he’s gotten rich off us, but if I had to say, I’d say, “Well, at least a little bit, probably.”
Security takes longer now, so there are longer lines. In many airports hundreds of people line up at once to go through security. If someone wants to blow up a large group of people, why not do it on the new targets the TSA has created for them, before they’ve even gone through security to detect their bomb?
The weird thing about it is that none of those security measures would have prevented 9/11. If they would, I could accept them. But they don’t. Another 9/11 has been prevented by the simple, cheap, common sense method of installing locked and reinforced cockpit doors. That’s right: before 9/11, some airlines didn’t lock their doors, and those that did used flimsy locks which could easily be broken. Now the FAA mandates cockpit doors able to withstand a grenade blast which can only be opened by permission of those inside the cockpit, and even before 9/11 any terrorist would have had a pretty hard time getting something stronger than a grenade – say, a bazooka – onto a plane. 9/11 literally cannot be repeated because of the stronger cockpit doors and because everybody is aware of the threat.
Innocent people died on 9/11/2001. Heroic civil servants died saving even more from death. I wish, sincerely, that those people were still with us today. But the way to honor their memory and their sacrifice is not by subjecting ourselves to pointless, time-consuming, expensive ‘security,’ it’s to work to make ourselves and our countries better and less fearful so that terrorists have no weapon to use against us.