L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 139, September 17, 2001
Nine One One
The Passengers Were All Disarmed
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
For years, Americans hoping to travel peacefully between major cities have suffered the indignity of being run through metal detectors, being made to empty our pockets and our purses, remove our belt buckles and our steel-insoled boots, answer rote questions about whether we've stupidly let some guy in a turban insert in our bags a "gift for my sister in Boston."
Our bags have been scanned and subjected to "random searches."
All of this has cost us millions of productive hours wasted, not to mention billions in salaries for these laughably ineffective goons, all dutifully passed on to us in the price of our airline tickets.
I have long warned the only reason no plane was hijacked in this country in the past decade was because no serious terrorist had tried. "The Fred and Ethel Mertz security system" would have zero impact on anyone serious enough to plan ahead and plant a "mole" among the minimum wage employees who load soda pop and TV dinners aboard our aircraft.
Tuesday, I hoped I was wrong. As it quickly became clear terrorists had placed several agents aboard each of four transcontinental flights taking off from Eastern airports with an aim to using those fueled-up jets as flying bombs, I waited to hear in how many cases our crack security operatives had polished off the would-be terrorists before they ever made it to the plane.
Had all the metal detectors and bomb-sniffing wands and random bag checks and "may I see your travel papers please" stopped even one terrorist team?
Nope. The Fred and Ethel Mertz security system stoppeth not even one in four. The only reason one of the four planes failed to hit its target - it now appears from passenger cell phone calls made from the plane which crashed near Pittsburgh - is that some brave American men decided to "do something," counterattacking their captors.
So what will Congress and the FAA and the airlines - the ones that manage to avoid immediate bankruptcy - do in the months to come?
Will the Powers That Be conclude, "Well, we tried disarming law-abiding Americans and running the metal detectors and scanning the bags; that obviously didn't work. So, we might as well try the Archie Bunker plan"?
(Decades ago, leftist series creator Norman Lear had Carroll O'Connor's lead character in the TV show "All in the Family" propose the best way to prevent airline hijackings was to issue loaded firearms to the passengers upon boarding, collecting them again as the travelers disembarked. "Norman Lear obviously thought the notion represented the very height of right-wing absurdity," my friend, novelist L. Neil Smith, wrote to me last week. "But somebody tell me -- now -- how an aircraft full of well-armed people could be hijacked and used against civilization the way four were today.")
No, there will be no restoration of the Second Amendment in once free and fearless America. Instead, fulfilling a pretty good definition of insanity, what they'll do is a whole lot more of what already hasn't worked.
Now we're going to make our law-abiding disarmed victims-to-be wait in even more interminable lines while we search their bags and their persons really, really, really well.
For nail-clippers and scissors and little, tiny knives.
"That's not gonna do any good, it's the minimum wage employee comin' in the back door who did this," exclaims my friend Pete the pilot (he didn't want me to use his real name.) Pete flies 757s and 767s - precisely the models that were hijacked - for a major airline back East.
Today's commercial aircraft swarm with people in the hours before they take off, Pete explained to me last Tuesday. From the janitors who vacuum out the planes to the employees of the contract catering firms that load the TV dinners and the soda pop into the pantries, these tend to be minimum-wage employees, often recent immigrants in high-turnover jobs. Background checks on these workers are minimal to nonexistent, Pete explains. A mail-order driver's license would get Osama bin Laden's nephew one of these jobs, whereupon all he would have to do is wait to be told which night to leave the knives and box-cutters - or the full-auto Uzi, for that matter - in with the ice cubes or under the cushion of seat 11-C.
But that won't be fixed, Pete says. Instead, he (and all of us) will be banned from carrying even his little Schrade Old-Timer pocket-knife with the under-four-inch blade. "It'll all be, as it always has been, public-relations sort of stuff; they'll make it appear that they're doing something. ... I worry they'll impose more Draconian restrictions on our liberties that aren't gonna make us any more secure.
"It's company policy that the pilots can't be armed on the airplane," Pete says. "Now we've seen from recent events that that makes us sitting ducks."