So Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, has been catching a lot of heat for saying “the system worked” after a would-be terrorist was stopped from blowing up an airplane a few days ago. And, indeed, she deserves the flogging. If “the system worked” means you got very, very, very lucky, well, the system worked.
Truth be told, despite millions upon millions of dollars being poured into airline safety measures after 9/11, we still seem wide open to some guy blowing up a plane with a device stashed in his undies. In fact, if there’s one thing we were sadly reminded of last week, it’s that the skies are not 100 percent safe; that the government can’t fully protect us; that there will be other terrorist attacks, that people will probably die.
However, another legacy exists, too. And it’s an important one.
Before 9/11, people occasionally hijacked airlines. They waited until the plane was in the sky, screamed “Bomb!” and told everyone to remain calm; that they were taking the plane to [FILL IN THE COUNTRY] until [FILL IN THE GOVERNMENT] delivers either some political prisoner or lots of money. Everyone sat and waited, scared, concerned, but, ultimately, believing they would get out alive. And usually, it’s safe to say, they would.
Those days are over. Think of the shoe bomber. Think of a few days ago. From now on, if a group of people try and hijack/blow up an airplane, they will get the living s*** kicked out of them. Maybe the plane will still go down, maybe it won’t. But there are no more free lunches for terrorists. You so much as pull out a wire with a beeping sound, someone in a neighboring seat will club you with his forearm.
In other words, while it’s important to have the government protect us, perhaps it’s most important to have, well, us protect us.