Thursday, January 13, 2011

Look up and be afraid

The heading for an article by Jeff Goldberg in the Atlantic Monthly reads, "Wealthy travelers routinely bypass the TSA by flying on private jets.  How long until al-Qaeda does the same?"

Here's the key passage from Jeff's alarming article about this threat:
We climbed aboard the eight-seat twin-engine plane. The pilot greeted us, took my bag from me, and placed it on a seat. I noticed that no door separated the cabin from the cockpit.

We took off a few minutes later and headed south, in the direction of the Pentagon, the White House, and the United States Capitol complex.

“So let’s just say that I’m a terrorist pilot,” I said, “and I have a bag filled with handguns and I shoot these two pilots and then I take control of the plane and steer it into the headquarters of the CIA,” near which we would soon be flying. “What’s stopping me?”

“There’s nothing stopping you,” my friend said. “All you need is money to buy a plane, or a charter.”

Luckily for America, I am not a terrorist, I did not kill the pilots, and I did not steer the plane into the headquarters of the CIA. Nor did I pack my bag with Semtex or a dirty bomb. Instead, I occupied myself by taking free candy and bottles of Evian from the plane’s endless stock of free candy and Evian, which reminded me, as if I needed reminding, that it is better to be rich than poor.
Lucky indeed.  As Jeff has illustrated, the freedoms enjoyed by the pilots of private planes are a catastrophe waiting to happen.  

After this weekend's shooting in Tucson, it is important to contemplate the likelihood that any number of small planes are piloted by mentally ill people under the influence of anti-American ideologies.

As SecFear pointed out on Twitter today, in response to the tragedy in Tucson, Americans need to ask themselves what freedoms they are prepared to sacrifice.  Severely restricting private plane flights would be an obvious place to start.  Think about it.  If some freedoms enjoyed by the pilots of small planes were taken away, few of us would miss them, yet all of us would sleep a lot easier.

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Dr. Rebecca Wolf
Undersecretary for Community and New Media
United States Department of Fear