Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes in FrontPage:
Twice since 9/11 we have witnessed high-profile reminders of our mass transit system’s vulnerability to terrorist attack. And while the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings and the July 7 atrocities in London loom largest in our memory, they are not the only indications that such attacks are possible in the United States. Chechen terrorists have bombed the Moscow subway system with alarming frequency over the past several years, and in late August of last year two men were arrested in an alleged plot to blow up a Manhattan subway station.
Commentators have spoken frequently of how our open society is vulnerable to terrorism. But al-Qaeda derives particular advantage from the fact that one of its goals is to cripple our economy: To the extent that our anti-terror measures overreact to the terrorist threat, we may unwittingly do al-Qaeda’s work for it. For example, if we tried to protect New York’s subway system through anti-terror measures similar to those used on airlines, complete with metal detectors and wandings, traveling by subway would become so inconvenient that many people would no longer do it. The resulting traffic congestion and delays would have a significant economic impact.
In light of this dilemma, some commentators have concluded that nothing can be done. For example, the talented Newsday columnist Ellis Henican wrote on the day after the London attacks:
Every day, 4 1/2 million men, women and children climb aboard [the New York City subway] trains. Add another half-million or so for the commuter rails, another 2 1/2 million if you count the buses. You”re gonna strip-search every one of them? You”re gonna walk them through metal detectors and wand their bodies when the magnetometers ring? You”re gonna rifle every briefcase, knapsack and gym bag? Impossible!
Henican is right that we cannot protect ourselves 100 percent from the threat of terrorism. However, we can improve our odds. In writing of the impossibility of protecting the subways, Henican takes as a given our current one-size-fits-all model of anti-terror policing wherein every passenger must be treated equally. In this model, everyone must be equally inconvenienced by metal detectors, wands, and bag searches. Yet it is precisely from this policing model that we must move away if we”re to have a realistic chance of preventing an attack on the mass transit system right here in the United States…
Read it all.