Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Homeland Insecurity

Three years after 9/11 our country still has its head in the sand. A sudden surprising event such as 9/11 is a time to assess what went wrong, make efforts to prevent it from occuring again and then to examine what other surprises might happen. When your kid leaves their bike out repeatedly and it then gets stolen, you stress the importance of keeping the bike locked and then point at the other items left out which could also be stolen. Live and learn. We are not learning enough from the knowledge we gained from 9/11.

For instance we have the technology to screen airline passengers for plastic explosives, but we don't. The only real explaination for this is that it costs money and pressure from the airlines.

Consider the sceening of air cargo. Federal legislation passed after 9/11 required the screening of all mail and cargo carried on commercial passenger jets — cargo that could carry explosives, dirty bombs, or deadly biological agents. But last May an investigation by a TV station in Indianapolis WISH-TV, found that the belly of an ordinary passenger plane carries commercial cargo that probably has never been screened. WISH-TV did a follow-up on this revelation and showed just one month later the House of Representatives defeated — by a vote of 211 to 191 — a bill that would finally have ensured inspection of all cargo shipped on passenger planes.

The members of the House of Representatives were pressured by the air cargo industry not to implement safety measures. This is a case where the Republicans don't walk the walk. Their rhetoric of making Americans safer is not proven by their votes on bills. WISH-TV probably wished that the Republican Representatives in their own state of Indiana had watch their series on air cargo.

The same thing occured when presented with the issue of chemical plants. Once again news sources performed the work that our government basically refuses to do. As the article I link to reports, Carl Prine, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, walked into sixty-two chemical plants in Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, and Pittsburgh. He found lax security; easy access to sites; unguarded rail lines; and employees, customers, and neighbors who allowed a stranger to walk in, some giving directions, to the most sensitive valves and control rooms in the place. At one steel plant, near Pittsburgh, mill workers tipped their hats to Prine as he wandered “toward 100,000 pounds of acid that could kill, injure, trap, or displace 16,000 people” living within a mile of the plant.

The paper continued with coverage of the lobbying efforts of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, to defeat legislation that would require stronger security at the nation’s 15,000 chemical plants. That legislation, championed by Senator Jon Corzin of New Jersey, remains stalled. Blocked by Republicans more interested in campaign contributions from the chemical industry than from protecting Americans from a possible terrorist attack.

These are only the tip of the iceberg of our Homeland Insecurity. Unfortunately much is not reported and the issues that are reported such as those above are not acted on. Worse, when these issues are reported we Americans just shrug our shoulders and don't put the pressure on our government. Do you think any of these politicians, mostly Republicans, are going to be voted out of office in November for not acted in our interest of protection? I doubt it, these votes against protecting Americans will probably not even be issues in the campaigns.

So if we experience another terrorist attack that takes advantage of our head in the sand reaction to 9/11, Americans should do less blaming of the terrorists and put more of the blame on themselves. Our government has been charges with fixing the holes in our security, the media has the responsibilty of shining a light onto the failure of our government to fix those holes and the population of America has to fire the politicians that don't want to protect us. 9/11 was an eye opener, but it sure looks to me like America has gone back to sleep. Almost all of us are to blame. We can start opening our eyes and vote out those politicians who favor campaign money over our security.

Please read this


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