23 November 2010

Security theater

I had the pleasure of visiting the United States last month, and traveling from New York City to Boston, by train. It was a slow train, but even the fast train wasn't much faster, but that's not the point of this article.

The point is that security in the United States is being used as an excuse by small people to demonstrate their power over other peoples' lives. "I have the POWER over your live now! So now YOU are the little person." It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

In fact, it is just down right stupid. Moronic. Inept. And a massive waste of money.

So, let me describe the scenario:

1. I purchased my ticket online (key point).
2. At the station, I used the scanner on the machine to read my printed confirmation and print my ticket.
3. The man behind the ticket window was very helpful in pointing me to the right platform.
4. I waited for the train, with my backpack containing a change of clothes.
5. Train arrives, I and others board, find seats.
6. Train leaves, conductor comes along, takes ticket, punched hole in it, returns ticket, continues.

Boston is a nice town, and it was great to visit visit with old and new friends, and unfortunately pass a cold bug along. (Sorry about that).

Two days later it was time to return.

So I took the Boston subway to the Amtrak station, arriving just in time to be told that I the train was closed - and then watched it pull away. Fair enough. If I had been there2, or even 1 minute earlier, I would have simply walked onto the train. Oh well. So I asked the conductor, what are my options? Oh, no problem, he said, just go to the ticket counter and they'll issue you with a ticket on the next train.

7. I go to the ticketing hall - that's all I can call it, a hall, with 8 - 10 granite protected windows (bullet proof glass also I suppose).
8. Only two windows are open, at opposite ends of the room, but there is still the rope-corridor that you are suppose to follow endlessly, even though you are the only one int he queue.
9. Arrive at window (I'll not say which one), and explain, I just missed my train, is it possible to get on the next train to NYC?
10. Certainly - transaction under way, then "I need to see some ID?"
11. Oops. That's when I remember that I've left my passport with the people we are staying with in NYC, and all I have is an expired drivers license. No harm, I hand it over.
12. He studies it., then declares: "This is not valid, give me another ID." Note the politeness along the way...
13. Umm, I don't have any, I forgot my passport in NYC.
14. "Then I cannot sell you a ticket. Amtrak is now under the same rules as Airplanes and the TSA won't let us sell you a ticket with out a valid ID". (But your machine already did, over the Internet, without any ID, and you let me travel to Boston without any ID - I think this, but do not say it.)
15. Umm, how can I get back to NYC?
16. "You can't by train without an ID".
17. Umm, so what are my options?
18. "You can go across the street to the bus station."

Well, I'm not getting anywhere with Mr Charming, so I leave.... ...and

19. Return to the ticket hall, but go directly to window number (other).
20. I just missed my train, is it possible to get on the next train to NYC?
21. Certainly, that will be $6.
22. I hand over the same credit card used to purchase the ticket (over the Internet).
23. Card is swiped, ticket printed, card and ticket passed under the Al-Qaeda Proof Glass barrier.
24. Thank you, and I leave.
25. Time for a quick spot of lunch, then get on the train, walking past the conductor who glances to see that I'm actually carrying a ticket to NYC (or at lease on this train).
26. Find seat, conductor passes through (after we've left the station, takes ticket, clips hole in ticket, returns ticket, moves on.

So Congratulation Amtrak.

You let someone onto one of your tains who might have been carrying a bomb in his backpack (but most definitely was not!). You actually let the train travel long enough for that person to detonate that bomb (which wasn't there, not even a practice bomb). You let travel all the way to my destination without ID, based on a ticket I bought online.

But coming back, when I missed my train. Oh no. You wanted me to travel by bus to NYC with all the Al-Qaeda operatives who, without ID, are transporting their bombs to NYC by bus.

US Security is Theater. That's all it is. If I was a terrorist (which I am NOT - please, I'm not. PLEASE - stop, I'm not an enemy combatant, please do not take me to North Carolina and and put me in solitary confinement until I admit anything you tell me to) I can think of probably hundreds of ways to cause problems, and the TSA would simply be the joke that would facilitate my accomplishing my (if I had one) evil plot. (Which I don't, so please don't put on a "No Fly List").

I believe in the Constitution, and believe that these morons in Washington, from both parties, have spent years undermining it. I'm also a veteran, and spent four years in the Pentagon. That doesn't make my a Timothy McVeigh either.

But I've reached the point where I'm afraid to be in the United States, because honestly, I have no idea what I might do that will have me declared an enemy combatant, stripped on my rights, thrown into a cage, and deprived of liberty until I will admit to anything, so they can prove how effective the system is at rooting out terrorism.

It is a Joke. And a very bad one.

(Truth is, I'm actually afraid to publish this. "But is you done nothing wrong, what are you afraid of?" I'm afraid of retribution for even questioning their authority. That's what I'm afraid of.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm a veteran of the Cold War too Dan. I can also tell national security strategy from a made up jobs and tinker toy contracts program too. DHS has in my opinion been a total failure. The real mission was -- and in my opinion remains -- to restore the country to GREEN status. Instead they've imprisoned a nation in a perpertual shade of cowardly YELLOW and in the process served to embolden enemies who can see just as clearly what a facade it is.

    The proof of that failure is measured in the actual outcome. Terrorism remains as viable as ever. It's macabre as DHS lives to expand itself cherishing the affirmation of each turn of the threat to bluster with self indulgent pride that it's so central to our lives we should rejoice that it must be allowed to be even more intrusive to get it's job done.

    But the real measure of merit that never gets graded is whether or not attempts at terror are actually diminishing and if so, what plan is in place to demobilize the intrusion commensurately. These questions need to be asked and asked forcefully.

    How many times in my life have I witnessed programs like these measuring input myopically while the outcome remains failure. It merely creates the illusion that more input has usefulness. It does not.

    Dennis Santiago