Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Enablers of 9/11 (UPDATED)

We all know who was responsible for the most devastating terrorist attack on America; that's easy - it was Islamist terrorists. No one seriously doubts that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda murdered our fellow citizens.

But who enabled the attackers to be successful? It wasn't the private security screeners in place at the time, they followed the procedures in place. Box cutters were not prohibited items. The FAA and the airlines allowed anyone with a ticket to take a box cutter on the plane. Probably to open the damned peanut bags.

But the FAA and airlines were only responding to the ultimate enablers, the people who dictated policy. That would be business travellers and other frequent flyers. Market forces ensure that the airlines have always been eager to cater to the whims of their most prized group of passengers. To this day they are, as a class, the most difficult passengers for airport screeners to deal with. They bitch and moan, they can't understand why they're not recognized on sight at any airport and simply passed through security. They don't understand why the Federal Agents of the Transportation Security Administration won't behave like parking valets.

Now they're doing it again. Peggy Noonan, a woman whose columns I normally enjoy, is whining like a spoiled child in this one. And she gets just about everything wrong; either too tired or disinterested to actually observe what was happening, or shading the truth to make her points.

Peggy Noonan should be ashamed of herself for this witless rant. Princess Peggy thinks that airport security is comparable to sixties-era East European Communist regimes. Peggy the drama queen has no idea that her status as a selectee, someone pulled out for extra screening, is determined by a computer program, not the TSA screener who informs her of this fact.

Peggy Noonan should be ashamed of herself for referring to TSA screeners as "clerks". Perhaps Peggy doesn't know that 11 out of 12 applicants for the "clerks" jobs are rejected. Perhaps Peggy doesn't know the "clerks" are tested on the job daily, under threat of dismissal, and that the "clerks" must requalify every six months in a rigorous recertification process that carries the threat of dismissal.

Peggy Noonan should be ashamed of herself for the shocking ignorance displayed in this column. Her readers (and her editors) deserve better. Peggy Noonan should be ashamed of herself for putting the convenience of her exalted social class above the security of everyone else in the country.

Most TSA screeners thank God that the Peggy Noonans of the world are balanced out by thoughtful passengers who remember the horror of 9/11 and make a point of thanking them for doing their jobs.

For an opposing viewpoint, visit open book.