Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Security Pendulum

Ten years ago, whenever I flew domestically within the US, I thought the security level was exceptionally low. You could pretty much walk up to to the gate to drop/receive the travelers. The carry-on baggage checks were perfunctory, and the traveler herself went thru no checks at all.

9/11 changed all that, and we had high security theater for a while, with travelers being put thru a variety of checks, and all sorts of new technology tried at different airports, who were all looking for expensive ways to spend all the new Homeland Security $$.

The security theater is pretty much over. What we currently have has a bit of a theatrical element to it, and security experts will find 1001 ways to fault it, but it seems reasonable and passes the smell test for me. Airports have also been streamlined to handle the current set of procedures.

But unfortunately, the security pendulum cannot stop: it has to keep swinging, and now it's swinging in the other direction. Even seemingly good ideas are being criticized now and we will soon -- in the next 10-15 years, say -- find ourselves in the same place where we were prior to 9/11. This LA Times story, for example, is titled "CIA staged mock execution, wielded power drill in interrogations, secret report says."

Maybe I'm naive about how police states are created, but shouldn't mock executions (or mock anything for that matter) be allowed in interrogations of some of the most dangerous people on Earth? To me, this is definitely not remotely close to torture.

It's depressing how the security pendulum is almost inexorably swinging to the laxer extreme again.

It is funny how torture (or so-called torture) of a handful of people riles this country so much when most of its citizens have no problems with fighting baseless and criminal wars abroad which lead to needless and fruitless deaths running into hundreds of thousands.

That said, I think you are mixing up security with a frivolous discussion about the conduct of war, and overestimating the impact of the latter on the former. A martial society like this has long perfected the art of debating the morality of war/policing endlessly while at the same time wielding an iron fist and not allowing its security interests to be harmed.
Interesting you mention the "martial society" angle. This NYT piece also refers to the "warrior culture" of the US and Great Britain.

But aren't all cultures the same when it comes to fighting/defending/killing? Some folks/countries suppress it for a while, but it's easy to revive, no?
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