I’ve long argued that significantly increased security before 9/11 based on “chatter” and the 8/6/01 PDB would not have gone over well. Like the No-fly list that the ACLU is fighting:
What if this list had gone into effect on September 1st, 2001? Maybe, just maybe, many if not all of the 9/11 hijackers would have been on the list. We’ve heard over and over again how they had already been identified by one agency or another as potentially dangerous.
Then in comes the good old ACLU. They march up a number of people on the list who probably don’t deserve to be, and then BOOM! The FBI and the CIA and especially the White House are singling out people and profiling and generally being racist bastards. Lawsuits are filed. Press conferences are held. Stigma is applied. Cain is raised.
Then 19 guys get through security one Tuesday morning.
Lists like this have their place. The issues the ACLU are raising have their place. Regular law enforcement has its part to play in the War on Terror.
But so many people wonder why we didn’t do more before 9/11 when they ignore what we struggle to do even AFTER 9/11.
Now, this doesn’t mean to say that we need a GOP Gestapo running around looking into everyone’s library records. But if we’re having so much trouble after 9/11 and 7/7, when these attacks on Western cities are a PROVEN FACT and PEOPLE HAVE DIED, how much trouble would we have had before?
Let’s say that President Bush took that PDB and the little scattered tidbits of unspecific, dated, inaccurate information it contained and figured out the 9/11 plot on September 1st. He sends National Guard troops to guard airports. He freezes bank assets. He sends the FBI to arrest 19 Muslims. He goes on television and tells us that he’s fired 250 cruise missiles at Afghanistan and that Special Forces are landing as we speak to destroy what’s left of the terrorist camps and capture Osama bin Laden. From now on security would be stepped up. He’s going to create a Department of Homeland Defense and rejigger the leadership and organization of our intelligence agencies.
And he’s going to do it all because those 19 Muslims were going to hijack some planes and knock down the World Trade Center.
90% of America and 99.9% of the world would go “Yeah. Sure they were.”
You know it’s true.
But today, after we’ve learned lessons we would rather not have, it’s a constant struggle just to put some basic security measures into place. And yet if (when?) something slips through we’re sure to hear all about how Bush let it happen.
In this particular case, over the searching of bags on the New York City subway:
Some civil libertarians have already concluded the search policy violates the 4th Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
“It represents a change in the balance between citizen rights to privacy and the ability of the state to intrude on that,” said Bill Goodman of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
I wonder what it’s going to take to make searches “reasonable”. Because National Guard soldiers with M-16s and a new Transportation Security Administration would have seemed pretty “unreasonable” on 9/10/01.