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Do We Really Need An Office Of Homeland Security?
by Steven D. Laib, JD MS
19 September 2002

Has the knee-jerk creation of an Office of Homeland Security resulted in the accomplishment of anything? The new federal agency hasn't even succeeded in making airline passengers feel more secure.



One of the predictable knee-jerk government reactions to the attacks of September 11, 2001 was the creation of the Office of Homeland Security currently headed by former governor Tom Ridge. As some critics have pointed out, Ridge has been responsible for little more than attempts at increasing airport security, which one unscientific poll found did not increase the passengers’ feelings of safety.

Some passengers have found it extremely inconvenient. In two instances which this writer was aware of, passengers were subjected to indignities which probably would never have happened two years ago. One was asked by a security officer to remove his implanted pacemaker, and another was told to take his medical ID “out of my face” when he displayed it to verify his artificial knee joint. Then there were the infamous cases of the 80 year old wheelchair bound grandmother who was suspected of carrying a bomb and columnist Ann Coulter who had a harmless charm off of her key ring confiscated. Do we really need this?

For many years I have enjoyed watching old movies and these recent events eventually reminded me of the airport scene from All About Eve. Bette Davis sees her boyfriend off with little more than a cursory glance at his ticket. Seeing loved ones off at the gate, or meeting them there was almost an American ritual. Now, it no longer exists. At the same time, these exclusions probably do not enhance security significantly. The few people we need to worry about are not going to be excluded by these means. They are smart enough to find other ways onto an aircraft, or will use other means, to do their dirty work.

At the first anniversary of this tragic event, it is easy to ask how it could have been avoided, and whether or not our new measures can make a real difference. Certainly, we had sufficient laws in place to do the job, and competent agencies charged with their enforcement. Criticism of insufficient oversight, poor use of intelligence and lax enforcement are present virtually from all quarters. Many blame Mr. Clinton for the problem, but should a department head be exculpated in this kind of situation on the basis that he was “just following orders”?

I’ve found in recent weeks that many of us tend to remember the spectacular rather than the important events of September 11. We recall the Twin Towers best, the Pentagon attack somewhat less, and the fourth airliner – yes, some folks have actually forgotten the fourth and most important airliner. For those who have forgotten, that airliner was the one which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after, it is believed, passengers heroically overcame the terrorists and prevented an additional attack at the cost of their own lives.

Former Soviet military intelligence officer Stanislav Lunev has spoken widely in America after the collapse of the Soviet government. One of his statements, not widely circulated, was that a major reason for the USSR not attacking the United States was its fear of an armed populace. It seems that they believed that their forces could handle the US Army, but not a population sprinkled with patriotic military veterans. This information, combined with what happened to that fourth aircraft should provide us with a valuable lesson.

For many years we have been taught not to take the law into our own hands. We are told to let law enforcement handle everything. If we are accosted we are told to give the criminal what he wants and not resist. So, let’s imagine if the people in that fourth airliner took a “let the government take care of it” attitude, what might have happened to them, and who might have been attacked on the ground. Meanwhile, it just might be possible that the best way to protect America could be John Lott’s “More Guns, Less Crime” approach. The Soviets were scared of us, and they stayed away. Might we be able to do the same thing with respect to terrorists?

On the surface we can logically assume that the average Islamic terrorist is realistically seeking three things: First, to kill the enemy in spectacular fashion, second, to make headlines, and third, to inflict fear. If the terrorist meets up with a reasonably well armed populace which shows little or no fear, then killing the enemy will be made much more difficult, and inflicting fear will not be possible. Lastly, if the headlines read “Terrorists Foiled by Heroic Citizens” then the third goal is eliminated as well. Sure, if all of the September 11 hijackings were foiled in the same manner, you would have seen the Bin Ladens of the world claiming victory but it would have been hollow. The goals would not have been realized. Terrorists count on an ability to circumvent law enforcement agencies. When they must deal with a citizenry which is willing and able to deal with them as well, then the game changes radically. Perhaps the government might do well to reconsider the role of the armed citizen and the second amendment. Guns in the hands of the people at large pose a threat to an abusive government, but they also create a similar threat toward any outsiders seeking to do damage. And isn’t looking out for the security of America part of everyone’s duty as a citizen?

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