Almost four months after, it’s very disturbing that a suicidal 15-year old with a Bin Laden fixation is able to fly a plane into a building. What if it were a cropduster, loaded up with smallpox or anthrax or sarin gas?
There’s a good discussion going on among the Anti-Idiotarians about Tom Ridge, and what he is or isn’t doing; right now I’d have to agree with Jeff Jarvis that it doesn’t appear to be very much. Jeff has a detailed list of actions he thinks should be taken, and it’s hard to quibble with. But Will Vehrs is quite right to urge caution—even though he simultaneously makes the contradictory point that Ashcroft’s strong and very controversial law enforcement actions have probably prevented more terror attacks since 9/11.
Let’s face it, baggage screening and ID checks aren’t going to prevent crazy-ass kids from doing things like this, and the scary thing is that they also won’t catch the lone Al Qaeda operative with a pocketful of anthrax and a head full of martyrdom.
The two areas where we are most deficient are 1) response time to possible attacks, and 2) dealing with the aftermath.
We need to shorten the response time in scrambling fighters, alerting civil authorities, etc.—in other words, responding more quickly to possible attacks in progress. The everyday air travel passenger has already realized this, as demonstrated by the quick action of passengers and crew against Shoe-Fly Richard Reid; no passenger will ever sit blandly in his seat again if trouble breaks out on a plane.
But the government still seems to be lumbering along at pre-9/11 pace; where are the preparations for handling a serious attack with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons? Where are the aid stations, hospital annexes, vaccine stockpiles, etc., to deal with the aftermath? Why hasn’t a huge increase in public health spending been a priority? If you look at some of the possible scenarios for attacks like this, you quickly realize how frighteningly unprepared we are for this eventuality.
It’s almost as if the US still hasn’t gotten it in some important sense, as if our government is so short-term crisis-oriented that it won’t face up to the implications of these weapons being in the hands of terrorists until they’re actually used. I hope that’s not the case, and that there’s much more going on behind the scenes.