So we can give up all of our freedoms, and create hassles and holdups in every aspect of our daily lives, and there's still really no way to protect ourselves from becoming "soft targets" once the war has begun.
Sounds like another good reason to NOT START THE WAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Sounds like an even better reason to NOT GIVE UP ALL OF OUR FREEDOMS since it won't make us any safer anyway.
I have a real problem with articles like this. Parts of it regarding the use of Total Information Awareness are informative, but the rest of it just adds to the hysteria.
Are we drawing up roadmaps for the terrorists now?
Writers and officers are thinking up horrific potential disasters, and printing them up, with details about which places would be best to blow up in order to cause the largest amounts of casualties -- and for what purpose? To let us know how bad it could be if we don't let our freedoms be compromised? To add to the re-freakening of America, perhaps?
At the risk of adding to the hysteria. I bring this article to you.
By Matthew Brzezinski fo the NY Times
February 23, 2003
By MATTHEW BRZEZINSKI
In the last several weeks, as preparations for the war against Iraq
have heated up, it has begun to sink in that this will be a different
conflict from what we have
seen before -- that there may, in fact, be two fronts, one far away
on the ground in the Middle East, the other right here at home. For the
first time in history,
it seems plausible that an enemy might mount a sustained attack on
the United States, using weapons of terrorism. The term ''soft
targets,'' which refers to
everyday places like offices, shopping malls, restaurants and hotels, is
now casually dropped into conversation, the way military planners talk
Earlier this month, the federal government raised the official terrorism
alert level and advised Americans to prepare a ''disaster supply kit,''
including duct tape to
seal windows against airborne toxins. Members of Congress organized news
conferences to demand that passenger jets be outfitted with
systems. In major public areas of cities, the police presence has been
especially conspicuous, with weapons ostentatiously displayed. Whatever
the details, the
message was the same: war is on the way here.
The impossible questions begin with where, what and how, and end with
what to do about it. Sgt. George McClaskey, a Baltimore cop, spends his
about the answers, and one cold day recently, he took me out in an old
police launch to survey Baltimore harbor. He showed me some of the new
measures, like the barriers at the approach to the harbor, which rose
out of the water like stakes in a moat. Cables were suspended between
pylons, designed to slice into approaching high-speed craft and
decapitate would-be suicide bombers before they reached their mark. It
looked fairly daunting.
Then McClaskey maneuvered the boat toward an unprotected stretch of
Baltimore's Inner Harbor. With the temperature dipping into the teens,
the place was
empty. But when the weather is warm, up to a quarter of a million people
congregate on these piers and brightly painted promenades every weekend.
''If I wanted to create a big bang,'' McClaskey said, adopting the
mind-set of a suicide bomber, ''I'd pack a small boat with explosives
and crash it right there.'' He
pointed to a promenade. ''It'd be a catastrophe,'' he declared. ''It
would take 48 hours just for the tide to flush out the bodies from under
The port is lined with large oil terminals, storage tanks and
petrochemical facilities, incendiaries in need only of a lighted fuse.
Even the Domino sugar refinery,
with its sticky-sweet flammable dust, poses a threat. ''Most people
don't think about it,'' McClaskey said, ''but that's a giant bomb.''
The list of vulnerabilities is perilously long in Baltimore, as it is
just about everywhere in the United States. And every one of those
potential targets can set in
motion an ever-broadening ripple effect. Should terrorists manage to
blow up an oil terminal in Baltimore, for instance, the nearby
ventilation systems for the
I-95 tunnel would have to be shut. Shut down the tunnel, and the
Interstate highway must be closed. Close down a section of I-95, and
traffic along the entire
Eastern Seaboard snarls to a halt.
''So how would you defend against frogmen blowing up half the harbor?''
I asked McClaskey.
The sergeant shrugged uneasily. ''Honestly,'' he confessed, ''I don't
think it's possible.'' Like most law enforcement officers in this
country, McClaskey has been
trained to catch crooks, not to stop submerged suicide bombers.
Imagining doomsday possibilities is one thing; we've all become good at
it these past 18
months. Coming up with counterterror solutions is another story, often
beyond the scope of our imaginations. But while that expertise may not
yet exist in the
United States, it's out there, if you know where to look.
''Sonar,'' replied Rear Adm. Amiram Rafael, when I put the same question
to him 6,000 miles away in Israel, perhaps the one place in the world
is as much a part of daily life as commuter traffic. ''It can
distinguish between humans and large fish by mapping movement patterns
and speed.'' Rafael spent
28 years protecting Israel's coastline from terrorists and now consults
for foreign clients. ''If the alarm sounds, rapid response units in fast
boats are dispatched,''
he said. ''They're equipped with underwater concussion grenades.''
''To stun the divers?'' I asked.
''No,'' Rafael said, flashing a fatherly smile. ''To kill them.''
Until recently, the United States and countries like Israel occupied
opposite ends of the security spectrum: one a confident and carefree
untouchable, the other a tiny garrison state, surrounded by
fortifications and barbed wire, fighting for its survival. But the
security gap between the U.S. and
places like Israel is narrowing. Subways, sewers, shopping centers, food
processing and water systems are all now seen as easy prey for
There is no clear consensus yet on how to go about protecting ourselves.
The federal government recently concluded a 16-month risk assessment,
month, the new Department of Homeland Security was officially born, with
an annual budget of $36 billion. Big money has already been allocated to
certain perceived weaknesses, including the $5.8 billion spent hiring,
training and equipping federal airport screeners and the $3 billion
''bioterrorism preparedness.'' All that has been well publicized. Other
measures, like sophisticated radiation sensors and surveillance systems,
have been installed
in some cities with less fanfare. Meanwhile, the F.B.I. is carrying out
labor-intensive tasks that would have seemed a ludicrous waste of time
18 months ago,
like assembling dossiers on people who take scuba-diving courses.
This marks only the very beginning. A national conversation is starting
about what kind of country we want to live in and what balance we will
public safety and private freedom. The decisions won't come all at once,
and we may be changing our minds a lot, depending on whether there are
here, what our government tells us and what we believe. Two weeks ago,
Congress decided to sharply curtail the activities of the Total
program, a Pentagon project led by Rear Adm. John Poindexter and
invested with power to electronically sift through the private affairs
of American citizens.
For the time being, it was felt that the threat of having the government
look over our credit-card statements and medical records was more
dangerous than its
Congress didn't completely shut the door on the T.I.A., though. Agents
can still look into the lives of foreigners, and its functions could be
expanded at any
time. We could, for instance, reach the point where we demand the
installation of systems, like the one along the Israeli coastline, to
maim or kill intruders in
certain sensitive areas before they have a chance to explain who they
are or why they're there. We may come to think nothing of American
citizens who act
suspiciously being held without bail or denied legal representation for
indeterminate periods or tried in courts whose proceedings are under
seal. At shopping
malls and restaurants, we may prefer to encounter heavily armed guards
and be subjected to routine searches at the door. We may be willing to
give up the
freedom and ease of movement that has defined American life, if we come
to believe our safety depends upon it.
For the better part of a generation now, Americans have gone to great
lengths to protect their homes -- living in gated communities, wiring
their property with
sophisticated alarms, arming themselves with deadly weapons. Now imagine
this kind of intensity turned outward, into the public realm. As a
tolerance for fear is low, and our capacity to do something about it is
unrivaled. We could have the highest degree of public safety the world
has ever seen. But
what would that country look like, and what will it be like to live in
it? Perhaps something like this.
Electronic Frisking Every Day on Your Commute
As a homebound commuter entering Washington's Foggy Bottom subway
station swipes his fare card through the turnstile reader, a computer in
the bowels of
the mass transit authority takes note. A suspicious pattern of movements
has triggered the computer's curiosity.
The giveaway is a microchip in the new digital fare cards, derived from
the electronic ID cards many of us already use to enter our workplaces.
It could be in
use throughout the U.S. within a couple of years. If embedded with the
user's driver's license or national ID number, it would allow
transportation authorities to
keep tabs on who rides the subway, and on when and where they get on and
The commuter steps through the turnstile and is scanned by the radiation
portal. These would be a natural extension of the hand-held detectors
that the police
have started using in the New York subways. A cancer patient was
actually strip-searched in a New York subway station in 2002 after
residue from radiation
treatments tripped the meters. But this doesn't happen to our fictitious
commuter. The meters barely flicker, registering less than one on a
scale of one to nine,
the equivalent of a few microroentgens an hour, nowhere near the 3,800
readout that triggers evacuation sirens.
Imagine a battery of video cameras following the commuter's progress to
the platform, where he reads a newspaper, standing next to an old
utility room that
contains gas masks. Cops in New York already have them as part of their
standard-issue gear, and a fully secure subway system would need them
everybody, just as every ferryboat must have a life preserver for every
passenger. Sensors, which are already used in parts of the New York
would test the air around him for the presence of chemical agents like
sarin and mustard gases.
The commuter finishes reading his newspaper, but there is no place to
throw it away because all trash cans have been removed, as they were in
London when the
I.R.A. used them to plant bombs. Cameras show the commuter boarding one
of the subway cars, which have been reconfigured to drop oxygen masks
ceiling in the event of a chemical attack, much like jetliners during
decompression. The added security measures have probably pushed fares up
country, maybe as much as 40 percent in some places.
The commuter -- now the surveillance subject -- gets off at the next
stop. As he rides the escalator up, a camera positioned overhead zooms
in for a close-up of
him. This image, which will be used to confirm his identity, travels
through fiber-optic cables to the Joint Operations Command Center at
There, a computer scans his facial features, breaks them down into
three-dimensional plots and compares them with a databank of criminal
mug shots, people on
watch lists and anyone who has ever posed for a government-issue ID. The
facial-recognition program was originally developed at M.I.T. Used
mainly by casinos to ferret out known cardsharps, the system has been
tried by airport and law enforcement authorities and costs $75,000 to
tower, as the camera stations are called.
''It can be used at A.T.M.'s, car-rental agencies, D.M.V. offices,
border crossings,'' says an executive of Viisage Technology, maker of
recognition system. ''These are the sorts of facilities the 19 hijackers
Almost instantly, the software verifies the subject's identity and
forwards the information to federal authorities. What they do with it
depends on the powers of
the Total Information Awareness program or whatever its successors will
be known as. But let's say that Congress has granted the government
authority to note
certain suspicious patterns, like when someone buys an airline ticket
with cash and leaves the return date open. And let's say the commuter
did just that -- his
credit cards were maxed out, so he had no choice. And he didn't fill in
a return date because he wasn't sure when his next consulting assignment
was going to
start, and he thought he might be able to extend his vacation a few
On top of that, let's say he was also indiscreet in an e-mail message,
making a crude joke to a client about a recent airline crash. Software
programs that scan for
suspect words are not new. Corporations have long used them to
automatically block employee e-mail containing, for instance, multiple
references to sex. The
National Security Agency's global spy satellites and supercomputers have
for years taken the search capability to the next level, processing the
content of up to
two million calls and e-mail messages per hour around the world.
Turning the snooping technology on Americans would not be difficult, if
political circumstances made it seem necessary. Right now, there would
resistance to this, but the debate could swing radically to the other
side if the government showed that intercepting e-mail could deter
communicating with one another. Already, says Barry Steinhardt, director
of the A.C.L.U. program on technology and liberty, authorities have been
records from Internet providers and public libraries about what books
people are taking out and what Web sites they're looking at.
Once the commuter is on the government's radar screen, it would be hard
for him to get off -- as anyone who has ever found themselves on a
telemarketers' list can attest. It will be like when you refinance a
mortgage -- suddenly every financial institution in America sends you a
card. Once a computer detects a pattern, hidden or overt, your identity
in the digital world is fixed.
Technicians manning the Command Center probably wouldn't know why the
subject is on a surveillance list, or whether he should even be on it in
place. That would be classified, as most aspects of the government's
counterterrorist calculations are.
Nonetheless, they begin to monitor his movements. Cameras on K Street
pick him up as he exits the subway station and hails a waiting taxi. The
plate number, as a matter of routine procedure, is run through another
software program -- first used in Peru in the 1990's to detect vehicles
that have been
stolen or registered to terrorist sympathizers, and most recently
introduced in central London to nab motorists who have not paid
peak-hour traffic tariffs.
Technicians get another positive reading; the cabdriver is also on a
watch list. He is a Pakistani immigrant and has traveled back and forth
to Karachi twice in the
last six months, once when his father died, the other to attend his
brother's wedding. These trips seem harmless, but the trackers are
trained not to make these
sorts of distinctions.
So what they see is the possible beginning of a terrorist conspiracy --
one slightly suspicious character has just crossed paths with another
character, and that makes them seriously suspicious. At this moment, the
case is forwarded to the new National Counterintelligence Service, which
will pay very
close attention to whatever both men do next.
The N.C.S. does not exist yet, but its creation is advocated by the
likes of Lt. Gen. William Odom, a former head of the National Security
modeled after Britain's MI5, a domestic spy agency, or Israel's much
more proactive and unrestricted Shin Bet, the N.C.S. would most likely
require a budget
similar to the F.B.I.'s $4.2 billion and nearly as much personnel as the
bureau's 11,400-strong special agent force, mostly for surveillance
N.C.S. surveillance agents dispatched to tail the two subjects in the
taxi would have little difficulty following their quarry through
Georgetown, up Wisconsin
Avenue and into Woodley Park. One tool at their disposal could be a
nationwide vehicle tracking system, adapted from the technology used by
Land Transport Authority to regulate traffic and parking. The system
works on the same principle as the E-ZPass toll-road technology, in
which scanners at
tollbooths read signals from transponders installed on the windshields
of passing vehicles to pay tolls automatically. In a future application,
installed throughout major American metropolitan centers could pinpoint
the location of just about any vehicle equipped with mandatory
(American motorists would most likely each have to pay an extra $90 fee,
similar to what Singapore charges.)
When the commuter arrives home, N.C.S. agents arrange to put his house
under 24-hour aerial surveillance. The same thing happens to the
cabdriver when he
arrives home. The technology, discreet and effective, is already
deployed in Washington. Modified UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, the kind
uses to intercept drug runners, now patrol the skies over the capital to
enforce no-fly zones. The Pentagon deployed its ultrasophisticated RC-7
planes during the sniper siege last fall. The surveillance craft, which
have proved their worth along the DMZ in North Korea and against cocaine
Colombia, come loaded with long-range night-vision and infrared sensors
that permit operators to detect move-ment and snap photos of virtually
backyard from as far as 20 miles away.
A Government That Knows When You've Been Bad or Good
In the here and now, an aerial photo of my backyard is on file at the
Joint Operations Command Center in Washington, which, unlike the N.C.S.,
The center looks like NASA, starting with the biometric palm-print
scanners on its reinforced doors.
The center has not singled me out for any special surveillance. My
neighbors' houses are all pictured, too, as are still shots and even
of just about every building, landmark and lot in central D.C.
The technology isn't revolutionary. How many times a day is the average
American already on camera? There's one in the corner deli where I get
coffee and bagel. Another one at the A.T.M. outside. Yet another one
films traffic on Connecticut Avenue when I drive my wife to work. The
lobby of her office
building has several. So that's at least four, and it's only 9 a.m.
There are few legal restraints governing video surveillance. It is
perfectly legal for the government to track anyone, anywhere, using
cameras except for inside
his own home, where a warrant is needed to use thermal imaging that can
see all the way into the basement. Backyards or rooftops, however, are
There is a growing network of video cameras positioned throughout the
capital that feed into the Joint Operations Command Center, otherwise
known as the
JOCC, which has been operational since 9/11. The experimental facility
is shared by several government agencies, including the Metropolitan
Department, the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the State Department and the
Defense Intelligence Agency. Agents from different law enforcement
bodies man the
JOCC's 36 computer terminals, which are arrayed in long rows beneath
wall-size projection screens, like the Houston space center. The wall
simultaneously display live feeds, digital simulations, city maps with
the locations of recently released felons and gory crime scene footage.
''From here we can tap into schools, subways, landmarks and main
streets,'' says Chief Charles Ramsey of the D.C. Police, with evident
with a few clicks of the mouse the system could also link up with
thousands of closed-circuit cameras in shopping malls, department stores
and office buildings,
and is programmed to handle live feeds from up to six helicopters
simultaneously. Ramsey is careful to add that, for now, the majority of
the cameras are
off-line most of the time, and that the police aren't using them to look
into elevators or to spy on individuals.
But they could if they wanted to. I ask for a demonstration of the
system's capabilities. A technician punches in a few keystrokes. An
aerial photo of the city
shot earlier from a surveillance plane flashes on one of the big
screens. ''Can you zoom in on Dupont Circle?'' I ask. The screen
flickers, and the thoroughfare's
round fountain comes into view. ''Go up Connecticut Avenue.'' The
outline of the Hilton Hotel where President Reagan was shot
materializes. ''Up a few more
blocks, and toward Rock Creek Park,'' I instruct. ''There, can you get
any closer?'' The image blurs and focuses, and I can suddenly see the
on my roof, my garden furniture and the cypress hedge I recently planted
in my yard.
The fact that government officials can, from a remote location, snoop
into the backyards of most Washingtonians opens up a whole new level of
they can find out about us almost effortlessly. They could keep track of
when you come and go from your house, discovering in the process that
you work a
second job or that you are carrying on an extramarital affair. Under
normal circumstances, there's not much they could do with this
information. And for the
time being, that is the way most Americans want it. But this is the kind
of issue that will come up over the next few years. How many extra tools
will we be
willing to grant to the police and federal authorities? How much will we
allow our notions of privacy to narrow?
Because if domestic intelligence agents were able to find out secret
details of people's lives, they could get the cooperation of crucial
witnesses who might
otherwise be inclined to keep quiet. There is more than a whiff of
McCarthyism to all this, but perhaps we will be afraid enough to endure
The JOCC is also studying the effect of large-scale bombs in Washington.
A three-dimensional map of all downtown buildings allows technicians to
bomb blasts and debris projections. They can also tap into the weather
bureau for real-time data on wind speeds and directions to determine
which parts of the
city would have to be evacuated first in the event of a radiological or
biochemical plume. Programmers are now working on an underground map of
that would show water and gas distribution and power grids.
Efforts are under way to establish facilities similar to the JOCC in big
urban centers like Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and New York. One
benefit of the
JOCC's is that they are relatively cheap to set up, particularly since
most major cities already have surveillance equipment positioned in
places like tunnels and
bridges. Each command center would likely cost around $7 million to
build, with an additional $15,000 charge for every camera installed.
There is also talk of connecting all the facilities together so that
officials in different parts of the country could coordinate response
efforts to terrorism. ''Attacks
will likely occur in different cities simultaneously,'' Chief Ramsey
says. And as for those civil libertarians uneasy with the notion of
surveillance, Ramsey just shrugs. ''We can't pretend we live in the 19th
century. We have to take advantage of technology.''
The Mall Guard Who Carries a Machine Gun
Imagine a wintry scene: snowdrifts and dirty slush and a long line of
people muffled against the cold. This is a line to get into the mall,
and it is moving
frustratingly slowly. What's the holdup? There is no new blockbuster
movie opening that day, or any of those ''everything must go'' clearance
sales that might
justify standing outside freezing for 20 minutes. Customers are simply
waiting to clear security.
Shopping in an environment of total terrorist preparedness promises to
be a vastly different experience from anything ever imagined in America.
millions of people who live in terror-prone places like Israel or the
Philippines, tight security at shopping malls has long been a fact of
life. ''I was shocked when
I first came to the States and could go into any shopping plaza without
going through security,'' says Aviv Tene, a 33-year-old Haifa attorney.
''It seemed so
strange, and risky.''
It took me just under eight minutes to clear the security checkpoint
outside the Dizengoff Center in downtown Tel Aviv. But that was on a
morning before the food courts and multiplex theater had opened.
The future shopping experience will start at the parking-lot entrance.
Booths manned by guards will control access to and from lots to prevent
emulating the Washington sniper and using parking lots as shooting
galleries. Cars entering underground garages will have their trunks
explosives, as is the practice in Manila. It has also become common
outside New York City hotels. This will guard against car or truck bombs
of the type that
blew up beneath the World Trade Center in 1993.
No one will be able to drive closer than a hundred yards to mall
entrances. Concrete Jersey barriers will stop anyone from crashing a
vehicle into the buildings
-- a favored terrorist tactic for American targets overseas -- or into
the crowds of customers lining up. Screening will follow the Israeli
model: metal barricades
will funnel shoppers through checkpoints at all doors. They will be
frisked, and both they and their bags will be searched and run through
Security would be tightest in winter, says a former senior F.B.I. agent,
because AK-47's and grenade belts are easily concealed beneath heavy
What won't be concealed, of course, are the weapons carried by the
police at the mall. Major shopping areas will not be patrolled by the
guards to whom we're accustomed, but -- like airports and New York City
tourist attractions -- by uniformed cops and soldiers with rifles.
What will it be like to encounter such firearms on a regular basis? I
lived for years in Moscow, and after a short time, I rarely noticed the
guns. In fact, I tended
to feel more uncomfortable when armed guards were not around; Israelis
traveling in the United States occasionally say the same thing. But
powerful presence of guns in popular culture, few Americans have had
much contact with the kind of heavy weapons that are now becoming a
common sight on
city streets. Such prominent displays are meant to convey the notion
that the government is doing something to ward off terrorists, but they
can have the reverse
effect too, of constantly reminding us of imminent danger.
Even more mundane procedures might have the same effect -- for example,
being asked to produce a national identification card every time you go
into a store,
much the same way clubgoers have to prove they are of age. The idea of a
national identity card, once widely viewed as un-American, is gaining
Washington, where some are advocating standardizing driver's licenses
throughout the country as a first step in that direction. Though perhaps
Big Brother, these cards are not uncommon in the rest of the world, even
in Western Europe. In Singapore, the police frequently ask people to
papers; it becomes so routine that people cease being bothered by it.
How long would it take Americans to become similarly inured?
The new ID's, which are advocated by computer industry leaders like
Larry Ellison of Oracle, could resemble the digital smart cards that
plan to introduce in Hong Kong by the end of the year. These contain
computer chips with room to store biographical, financial and medical
tamper-proof algorithms of the cardholder's thumbprint that can be
verified by hand-held optical readers. Based on the $394 million Hong
Kong has budgeted
for smart cards for its 6.8 million residents, a similar program in the
U.S. could run as high as $16 billion.
Among other things, a national identity card program would make it much
harder for people without proper ID to move around and therefore much
police and domestic-intelligence agents to track them down. And once
found, such people might discover they don't quite have the rights they
thought they had.
Even now, for instance, U.S. citizens can be declared ''enemy
combatants'' and be detained without counsel. Within a few years,
agencies could have the kind of sweeping powers of arrest and
interrogation that have developed in places like Israel, the Philippines
and even France, where the
constant threat of terrorism enabled governments to do virtually
whatever it takes to prevent terrorism. ''As long as you worry too much
about making false
arrests and don't start taking greater risks,'' says Offer Einav, a
15-year Shin Bet veteran who now runs a security consulting firm, ''you
are never going to beat
In years past, the U.S. has had to rely on other governments to take
these risks. For example, the mastermind of the 1993 W.T.C. bombing,
Ramzi Yousef, was
caught only after Philippine investigators used what official
intelligence documents delicately refer to as ''tactical interrogation''
to elicit a confession from an
accomplice arrested in Manila. In U.S. court testimony, the accomplice,
Abdul Hakim Murad, later testified that he was beaten to within an inch
of his life.
In Israel, it is touted that 90 percent of suicide bombers are caught
before they get near their targets, a record achieved partly because the
Shin Bet can do almost
anything it deems necessary to save lives. ''They do things we would not
be comfortable with in this country,'' says former Assistant F.B.I.
Pomerantz, who, along with a growing number of U.S. officials, has
traveled to Israel recently for antiterror training seminars.
But the U.S. is moving in the Israeli direction. The U.S.A. Patriot Act,
rushed into law six weeks after 9/11, has given government agencies wide
invoke the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and get around judicial
restraints on search, seizure and surveillance of American citizens.
intended to hunt international spies, permits the authorities to wiretap
virtually at will and break into people's homes to plant bugs or copy
documents. Last year,
surveillance requests by the federal government under FISA outnumbered
for the first time in U.S. history all of those under domestic law.
New legislative proposals by the Justice Department now seek to take the
Patriot Act's antiterror powers several steps further, including the
right to strip terror
suspects of their U.S. citizenship. Under the new bill -- titled the
Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 -- the government would not be
disclose the identity of anyone detained in connection with a terror
investigation, and the names of those arrested, be they Americans or
foreign nationals, would
be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, according to the Center
for Public Integrity, a rights group in Washington, which has obtained a
draft of the
bill. An American citizen suspected of being part of a terrorist
conspiracy could be held by investigators without anyone being notified.
He could simply
The Face-to-Face Interrogation on Your Vacation
Some aspects of life would, in superficial ways, seem easier, depending
on who you are and what sort of specialized ID you carry. Boarding an
flight, for example, might not require a passport for frequent fliers.
At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, ''trusted'' travelers -- those who
have submitted to
background checks -- are issued a smart card encoded with the pattern of
their iris. When they want to pass through security, a scanner checks
their eyes and
verifies their identities, and they are off. The whole process takes 20
seconds, according to Dutch officials. At Ben-Gurion in Israel, the same
basic function is
carried out by electronic palm readers.
''We start building dossiers the moment someone buys a ticket,'' says
Einav, the Shin Bet veteran who also once served as head of El Al
security. ''We have quite
a bit of information on our frequent fliers. So we know they are not a
The technology frees up security personnel to focus their efforts on
everybody else, who, on my recent trip to Jerusalem, included me. As a
holder of a
Canadian passport (a favorite of forgers) that has visa stamps from a
number of high-risk countries ending in ''stan,'' I was subjected to a
interrogation. My clothes and belongings were swabbed for explosives
residue. Taken to a separate room, I was questioned about every detail
of my stay in
Israel, often twice to make certain my story stayed consistent. Whom did
you meet? Where did you meet? What was the address? Do you have the
cards of the people you met? Can we see them? What did you discuss? Can
we see your notes? Do you have any maps with you? Did you take any
photographs while you were in Israel? Are you sure? Did you rent a car?
Where did you drive to? Do you have a copy of your hotel bill? Why do
you have a
visa to Pakistan? Why do you live in Washington? Can we see your D.C.
driver's license? Where did you live before Washington? Why did you live
Moscow? Are you always this nervous?
A Russian speaker was produced to verify that I spoke the language. By
the time I was finally cleared, I almost missed my flight. ''Sorry for
apologized the young security officer. ''Don't take it personally.''
El Al is a tiny airline that has a fleet of just 30 planes and flies to
a small handful of destinations. It is also heavily subsidized by the
government. This is what
has made El Al and Ben-Gurion safe from terrorists for more than 30
Getting the American airline system up to this level would require a
great deal more than reinforced cockpit doors and the armed air marshals
domestic and international flights. It would require changing
everything, including the cost and frequency of flights. Nothing could
be simpler, right now, than
flying from New York to Pittsburgh -- every day, there are at least a
dozen direct flights available from the city's three airports and
countless more connecting
flights. Bought a week or two in advance, these tickets can be as cheap
as $150 round-trip.
Making U.S. airlines as security-conscious as El Al would put the U.S.
back where the rest of the world is -- maybe a flight or two a day from
New York to
Pittsburgh, at much higher costs, and no assurance whatsoever you can
get on the plane you want. Flights would take longer, and landings might
be a little more
interesting, because pilots would have to stay away from densely
populated areas, where a plane downed by a shoulder-launched Stinger
missile could do
Kayaking in the Wrong Place Is a Federal Crime
In a state of full readiness, American cities would be a patchwork of
places you couldn't go near. At first, most people wouldn't even notice
when no-sail zones
were instituted around all 50 major industrial ports in the country.
Maybe they would find out when they went to a local marina where they
occasionally rent a
small outboard to go water-skiing and found that it had been closed and
relocated. Or maybe they went kayaking up near the Indian Point nuclear
plant on the
Hudson and spent an afternoon talking to the Coast Guard after they got
a little too close.
There may be a lot of places private boats will be unable to go, like
anywhere near a shipping channel used by oil and gas freighters.
Infrared and video optronic
systems that can detect small boats, and even inflatable rubber craft,
may be deployed to enforce the no-sail zones. ''We invented it after
terrorists rode a
freighter to within 10 miles of Tel Aviv,'' says Rafael, the former
Israeli rear admiral, ''and used inflatable boats to attack beachfront
Each optronic installation costs $2 million, and four or five of the
units would be needed to protect the approach to any major harbor,
Rafael says. The system
would thus cost around $500 million.
''I'm always amazed at how lightly defended your industry is compared to
most other countries,'' says Hezy Ribak, another Israeli intelligence
expert, who runs a
security consulting firm. ''In Israel, we treat security at our
industrial facilities the way we do borders. The stakes,'' he adds,
''are just as high, higher if you
consider the damage terrorists can do if they infiltrate a nuclear power
plant or blow up a gas reservoir.''
The P-Glilot natural gas reservoir near Tel Aviv is a good example of
what security experts like Ribak have in mind for the U.S. From a
doesn't seem all that different than similar installations in New
Jersey, Ohio or Texas. The massive storage tanks are even painted with
quaint butterflies and
birds. But just off the highway, watchtowers dot the landscape. If you
drive closer, the complex takes on the feel of a military garrison, with
high walls and
electric fences bristling with sensors and cameras, and notices posted
in Hebrew, English and Arabic warning: ''No Photography.'' Pull off the
road and park by
the perimeter fence for a mere 15 seconds, and a metallic voice sounds
from an unseen loudspeaker, calling out your license plate number and
telling you to
''Security,'' Einav says, ''is about layers, creating buffer zones.'' On
the ground, that means changing the way industrial sites are guarded.
Security precautions in
the U.S. are concentrated around the core of the targets -- be they
reactors, pumping stations or chemical plants -- rather than the
perimeter. ''Security at the
main buildings might stop environmental protesters or the lone crazy,
but it doesn't help in the case of a truck loaded with explosives,
because the terrorists have
already reached their objective,'' Ribak says. ''Why give yourself so
little room? There should be as big a buffer as possible between the
first line of defense --
the perimeter of the property -- and the target, to give yourself early
Perimeters, Ribak says, will need to be equipped with vibration sensors;
thermal and infrared cameras; buried magnetic detection devices that can
between humans, animals and vehicles; and several rows of old-fashioned
razor coil to delay intruders, giving guards time to respond to alarms.
In the U.S., where many industrial facilities are concentrated in dense
urban areas, such security measures would necessitate the rerouting of
possibly the relocation of neighborhoods that are just too close. In New
York City, power plants sit right in the middle of residential
neighborhoods, like the one
at 14th Street and Avenue D in the East Village. It is across the street
from Stuyvesant Town and a public housing project, home to tens of
thousands of people.
Israeli security officials shake their heads in astonishment at such
''crazy'' U.S. practices, but then again who ever thought that putting
an airport next to the
Pentagon was a security risk?
Securing dense, mixed-use urban neighborhoods could not only complicate
housing markets and commuting patterns, which are typically a disaster
cities already, but could also come at tremendous expense. Consider the
Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant in Berrien County, Mich. It has two
Westinghouse reactors and sits on a relatively cramped 650-acre plot.
Just to provide a three-mile buffer around the plant would run $76
million, according to
U.S.D.A. statistics on the average price per acre of land in Michigan.
For the Indian Point plant in Westchester, the cost would be
exponentially higher. Add to
that the $3.5 billion to $7 billion estimated by a recent Princeton
University study to safeguard spent fuel pools from air attack, the
roughly $3.5 million price
tag of new perimeter sensors and the $160 million that Raytheon charges
for a Patriot missile battery capable of knocking out airborne threats,
and multiply the
total by the 103 nuclear power stations in the country.
Now factor in the 276,000 natural gas wells in the U.S., the 1.5 million
miles of unprotected pipelines, the 161 oil refineries, 2,000 oil
storage facilities and
10,400 hydro, coal and gas-fired power generating stations, and you get
a sense of the costs involved.
Every Day Is Super Bowl Sunday
But you probably won't be thinking about any of that when you go out to
dinner or to the movies or to a ball game. By then, it could all be
second nature. The
restaurant attendant will go through your purse and wave a
metal-detector wand over your jacket, as they do in Tel Aviv. The valet
parker will pop open your
trunk and look through it before dropping your car off at an underground
garage, just as in Manila.
If you take the family to a Dodgers game, you'll be able to tell your
kids how, back in the day, they used to have blimps and small planes
trailing ad banners
over stadiums. The flight restrictions, started at Super Bowl XXXVII in
2002, would not permit any planes within seven miles of any significant
Fans would have to park at least five miles from the stadium and board
shuttle buses to gates. Spectators would be funneled through
detectors and watched over by a network of 50 cameras installed
throughout the stadium. Air quality would be monitored for pathogens by
the type of portable
detectors brought in by the Army at last year's Olympics.
Even people with no interest in sports who live in high-rises near
stadiums would know whenever game day came round. ''Tall buildings near
stadiums are also
a risk,'' says Col. Mena Bacharach, a former Israeli secret-service
agent who is one of the lead security consultants for the 2004 Summer
Olympics in Athens.
''They would have to be swept for snipers or R.P.G.'s.'' R.P.G.'s? Those
are rocket-propelled grenades, another term that could become an
It's still too early to tell what all this would mean to ticket prices,
but, in a sign of the changing times, the security allocation alone for
last month's Super Bowl
was $9 million -- the equivalent of $134 for every one of the 67,000
fans in attendance.
Of course, public awareness programs could help to significantly cut
down counterterror costs. In Israel, televised public service
announcements similar to
antidrug commercials in the U.S. warn viewers to be on the lookout for
signs of suspicious activity. The messages are even taught to
schoolchildren, along with
other important survival tips, like how to assemble gas masks. ''I was
out with my 7-year-old granddaughter the other day,'' recalls Joel
Feldschuh, a former
Israeli brigadier general and president of El Al. ''And she sees a bag
on the street and starts shouting: 'Granddaddy, granddaddy, look.
Quickly call a policeman.
It could be left by terrorists.' ''
What Is Your Security Worth to You?
It is commonly held that a country as big and confident in its freedoms
as the United States could never fully protect itself against
terrorists. The means
available to them are too vast, the potentially deadly targets too
plentiful. And there is a strong conviction in many quarters that there
is a limit to which
Americans will let their daily patterns be disturbed for security
precautions. Discussing the possibility that we might all need to be
equipped with our own gas
masks, as Israelis are, Sergeant McClaskey of Baltimore assured me it
would never happen. ''If it ever reaches the point where we all need gas
McClaskey said, shaking his head with disgust, ''then we have lost the
war on terror because we are living in fear.''
What does it really mean, however, to ''lose the war on terror''? It's
as ephemeral a concept as ''winning the war on terror.'' In what sense
will it ever be possible
to declare an end of any kind?
One thing that makes the decisions of how to protect ourselves so
difficult is that the terrorism we face is fundamentally different from
what other governments
have faced in the past. The Israelis live in tight quarters with an
enemy they know well and can readily lay their eyes on. Terror attacks
on European countries
have always come from colonies or nearby provinces that have generally
had specific grievances and demands. Americans don't know exactly who
are or where they are coming from. Two of the recent thwarted
terrorists, Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, were in fact Europeans.
The United States also lacks the national identity that binds Israel and
most European countries and helps make the psychic wounds of terrorism
heal faster. In
Israel, hours after a bombing, the streets are crowded again -- people
are determined to keep going. Immediately after 9/11, that's how many
Americans felt, too,
but it's not at all clear how long this kind of spirit will endure.
Nor is it clear how we will absorb the cost. An adviser to President
Bush estimates that as much as $100 billion will have to be spent
annually on domestic
security over the next 10 years, if you factor in all the overtime
accrued by police departments every time there is a heightened alert.
There are many who believe,
as General Odom does, that the money is ''insignificant.'' ''At the
height of the cold war we used to spend 7.2 percent of G.D.P. on defense
and intelligence,'' he
says. ''We spend less than half that now.''
Outside of defense and some of the entitlement programs, however,
domestic security will dwarf every other kind of federal spending:
subsidized housing, environmental protection. More than that, the
decisions we make about how to protect ourselves -- the measures we
demand, the ones we
resist -- will take over our political discourse and define our ideas
about government in the years to come.
One significant argument against the creation of an American security
state, a United States that resembles Israel, is that even there, in a
organized around security, the safety of its citizens is far from
guaranteed. But what keeps Israelis going about their daily lives -- and
what might help
Americans do the same despite the fear of violence here -- is the
conspicuousness of the response and the minor sacrifices that have to be
made every day. The
more often we have to have our bags searched, the better we might feel.
Sitting in the kind of traffic jam that would have normally frayed our
nerves might seem
almost comforting if it's because all the cars in front of us are being
checked for bombs. We may demand more daily inconveniences, more routine
of our rights. These decisions are not only going to change how we go
about our days; they're also going to change our notion of what it means
to be an
American. How far do we want to go?
''Security is a balancing act,'' says Einav, the former El Al security
chief. ''And there are always trade-offs. Give me the resources, and I
can guarantee your
safety. The question is, What are you willing to pay or put up with to
Matthew Brzezinski, a contributing writer for the magazine, last wrote
about the detention of Hady Hassan Omar, a Muslim immigrant.