Saturday, July 23, 2005

Insecurity On Metro Rail

After the second round of London mass-transit bombings within two weeks, a comforting headline appeared above the fold on the front page of the Washington Post on July 22, 2005:
Metro Patrols Grow As Security Tightens.

Much of the article focused on the feasibility of bag searches of the type which the NYC Police are conducting. Apparently, Washington, D.C., is going to wait to see how the random bag-searches work in New York before employing such searches here.

Meanwhile, Metro has issued some guidelines for the public to follow, including the following:
"Federal agents and police officials urged citizens to look for suspicious behavior on the area's Metro and rail systems..."

Metro's official guidelines contain these words, directed to the riders themselves:
"Be observant. Watch what people bring onto trains. Look to make sure they don't leave behind packages or bags....To report such incidents, use the intercoms, call transit police or call 911."

Yet, when, on the very next day, Metro riders reported one such package left behind, response on the part of Metro was delayed:
"Jittery about the bombings in London and told to be vigilant, Metro riders spotted an unattended backpack yesterday on the last car of a Blue Line train and did exactly as officials have been urging. They alerted the train operator.

"But the suspicious bag stayed on Train 401 as it rolled through two more stations Metro Center, a major hub, and McPherson Square, a few blocks from the White House -- before Metro officials took the train out of service and inspected the backpack...."
Blessedly, the abandoned backpack turned out to be a false alarm and contained two baseball bats belonging to a forgetful child. Nevertheless, the incident shows just how vulnerable Metro is--not only because it is a mass-transit system but also because the proper steps were not taken. In fact, when one of the riders contacted a security officer after the train had already proceeded unchecked through two stops, the officer contacted at that point admitted that he had received no previous notification of a suspicious package.

In what may be the ultimate irony, Donnelly had the following experience after the incident was resolved:
"Shaken by yesterday's incident aboard the Blue Line train, Donnelly sent an e-mail complaint to Metro. She received an automated reply, thanking her for her e-mail.

"The reply also reminded her to report anything suspicious on the Metro system."
Even before the incident cited above, Metro riders seemed to have adopted a fatalistic attitude, as found in the first article:
"At Metro Center yesterday afternoon, James Washington, 54, of Brookland changed trains for a trip to Silver Spring. He had heard about the bombings, but the news did not change his plans.

"'There's not much you can do,' Washington said. 'These people have shown thateven if you prepare for it, if they want to do something they're going to do it. It doesn't matter if you have all kinds of security or not. You have to keep going.'

"Nearby, Chad Pipan and his wife, Julie, of Modesto, Calif., said that they had just heard the news over lunch and that they hesitated only momentarily before getting on another train to head to Arlington National Cemetery.

"'If they want to bomb something, there's not really something we can do about it,' Chad Pipan said."
Is this an attitude one that our Founding Fathers would endorse? Just accept this way of life? Hunkering down for a crisis to pass is one thing; indefinitely living in a state of siege is another.

We must, somehow, turn around the crisis-management mode in which we've become locked.

Step One is the renewal of the Patriot Act. As Robin Leach said on Fox News on July 22, 2005:
"We are living in war conditions." In wartime, civil liberties sometimes have to be temporarily curtailed in the interest of national and personal security.

Step Two is to follow through on security guidelines. It is inexcusable for those who have sworn to enforce security to assume a lackadaisical attitude, even in the face of false alarms. Just because bombings such as London has endured have not occurred here does not mean that they won't. Denying the enemy soft targets requires constant vigilance from citizens and from security officials. Any break in the chain of security will eventually have fatal consequences.

Step Three is to employ criminal profiling. Seditious and treasonous words, including but not limited to what goes on inside mosques and Islamic centers, should result in rapid and effective prosecution. With free speech come responsibility and certain limitations, and in wartime, that responsibility and those limitations assume grave importance. Cutting off the funding of jihadists is a corollary to step three, and relying on Saudi oil-supplies funds to the Wahhabists.

Talking about understanding Islam and about reform within Islam is just so many words, not a proactive step. Furthermore, such reform is not a step we Westerners can take. Islam must reform itself. And those who are not jihadists cannot afford to wait too long for such hypothetical reform to take place. Reform is a process, not a definitive turning point in and of itself.

In the meantime, I won't be riding Metro.

1 comment:

anna said...

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