Well, I think it's time. Time for us to agree that all the increased post-9/11 security is a waste of time and not doing us any good. Here's the latest evidence.
This week, the New York Times reported on a confidential report it had obtained by the Department of Homeland Security. In it, the DHS noted that despite what it called progress in securing airports since September 11, after "Herculean" efforts, "significant security gaps" still remain at checkpoints run by the TSA. For example, while the TSA has sophisticated machines that can detect traces of explosives, it tends not to use them. Or, in their words, the machines get only "limited, undirected use," so that only a very small percentage of carry-on bags or other items are actually checked. Also, the report states that the TSA should make better arrangements to have armed backup in case of trouble. Here's why: "If, say, a handgun were discovered, the terrorist would have ample ability to retain control of it. TSA screeners are neither expecting to encounter a real weapon nor are they trained to gain control of it [if encountered]."
Question. If TSA screeners are not "expecting to encounter a real weapon," then WHAT THE F*** ARE THEY DOING AND WHY ARE WE STANDING IN LINE?
As Christopher Hitchens wrote on Slate.com, this is what we have to show for efforts that have now lasted almost exactly the same length of time that elapsed between Pearl Harbor and the surrender of Japan. So it is possible to accomplish a fair amount during that period of time, or at least it used to be.
Oh, but according to TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield, there has been progress, because the average peak wait time at checkpoints has dropped one minute during the past year, to about 12 minutes. To begin with, which airport is it exactly that has "twelve minutes [or less] peak wait time"? And why is a one-minute improvement something to brag about?
Let's see. Where else are we not secure? How about the border? Well, you tell me. The AP reported today that in April, a man arrived at a US-Canada border crossing in Maine, carrying "a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood." He told border guards he was working for President Bush and needed to cross the border in order to catch a helicopter.
Another question. Don't you think something like that might be on the test you have to take to get your border-guard license? "A man appears who claims to be working for the President. He is carrying a chain saw stained with what appears to be blood. What do you do?" If you answer, "Let the man into the country," you should FAIL. Anyway, that's what happened. They did take his weapons (you can't be too careful), but in he came. It's not like you need to worry that he might be a murderer, say that he might have decapitated somebody, maybe his neighbor, with the chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. (Just a coincidence, but this guy did.) And even if you were worried, what can you do? You're not expecting to encounter a real weapon, let alone five of them. You're not trained for that!
A spokesman for U.S. Customs said that the man had been questioned for two hours, but that they did not detain him further because "nobody asked us to detain him . . . Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up." He conceded that it "sounds stupid" that a man carrying a bloody chain saw could not be detained at the border. But he said that as far as they knew, it could have been rust or red paint. "Our people don't have a crime lab up there," he said.