Don’t hit the snooze on this alarm

When an alarm system is broken, you fix it, you don’t turn off the alarm. But that’s what Congressman Mike Rogers-R (Alabama) who is also the chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee Congressman said in a recent Bloomberg article – he believes that the terrorist threat has changed and that we should look at getting rid of the air marshal program. Was George Bernard Shaw right? Do we truly learn nothing from history?

Let’s say your house gets robbed, so you buy an alarm system. Then, you don’t get robbed again for 10 years. Should you conclude that the threat is now gone and you should get rid of the system? No, most people would logically conclude that the alarm system is what’s keeping the house from being robbed again. Then, take it a step further and post a sign in front of your house stating that the system is now inactive. How ludicrous would that be? But, it’s apparently what is now being considered.

The air marshals have had some problems recently. The solution should be to fix the problems, not get rid of this essential layer of aviation security. Air marshals were among the first responses to hijackings to ever be employed (JFK deployed them back in the early 1960s to deter hijackings). Throughout history, as we’ve applied additional security measures, the air marshal program has come and gone and come and gone –  and every time it goes away we pay the price. In fact, nearly 3,000 people paid the price on 9/11 when we decided back in the 80s, that the hijacking threat was essentially gone and we should just focus on bombs.

While you cannot point to defeated terrorist attacks or hijacks attempts as a result of the air marshals, I can almost guarantee without them, the terrorists will have renewed resolve that they can once again use hijackings as a weapon in their arsenal.

What are we thinking? Is the thought that passengers will suddenly rise up against an attempted hijacking – against knife-wielding bad guys, maybe, but it’s short-sighted to think that the next hijacking will look like the last one. It will probably not. In fact, the next hijacking may have hijackers with pistols, IED’s and submachine guns that have been smuggled on board by airline or catering employees – it’s a tactic that’s been used frequently in the past and why should the terrorists not return to what’s worked for them in the past? Do we really want to bring guts and skin to a gunfight, and also tell the bad guys that there is NO chance an air marshal will be on board?

Air marshals should be here to stay. They are part of an integrated, layered security system – and if there aren’t any  attempted hijackings on their watch, then maybe they are doing their job. Take them away, and I can almost guarantee the bad guys will break out the old blueprints and start planning the next 9/11. This is one alarm system we don’t want to hit the snooze on.

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-17/air-marshals-cost-effectiveness-questioned-by-u-s-house.html

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2 Responses to Don’t hit the snooze on this alarm

  1. I am an old airline employee. I always appreciated the safety net of air marshals. Advertising removing them is certainly a mistake. Having them on board is a great preventive and they are armed in case of a terrorist nut. Prevention is certainly better than taking down a planeload of people.

  2. I think it’s valid to compare Rep. Rogers (R-Ala.) comments regarding our current terrorist threat to the madness associated with placing a sign in your front yard announcing that your own home security system has been disabled.

    What is more astonishing than Rogers’s perception that we are out of the woods, so to speak, is that a politician that thinks this way is chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee in the first place.

    But then again, why am I so surprised? After spending a significant part of 2011 in Washington, D.C, working in legislagive affairs, I have some insight into the, “If it aint broke, by all means fix it,” mentality.

    This backwards way of thinking is being applied to the debate on whether or not the Federal Air Marshal program should be dismantled.

    I think your conceivable points in favor of the program are credible; none quite as in your face as the reminder that, in so many words, a 9/11 where more than 3,000 innocent people perished, has not occured since bringing Air Marshals back, post 9/11.

    The thought of eliminating the Air Marshals, and thus an entire level of security appears to be another example of politicians’ mis-guided approach to solving problems and gross failure to learn from history.

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