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09/11/2008
Any number of stories are on the wire today about the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. I understand the impulse. It's important to remember the people who died in those attacks, both former schoolmates and perfect strangers. It's important to remember that the United States is not as invulnerable as we would sometimes like to believe. It's important that we maintain a sense of history in a world that's increasingly focused on the micro news cycle, and a time when truth and reality are so malleable on the Web. But when people are constructing these 9-11-related stories, I have to wonder what the point is. Take this one, which I link to on Newsday, but ran in many places, about DHS chief Michael Chertoff's remarks to the National Press Club yesterday. Here it is in its entirety: WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's top domestic security official said Wednesday aviation remains vulnerable to terrorist attack seven years after 9/11. How is that news? And what purpose does it serve for Michael Chertoff to say that out loud? Anyone with half a brain can see numerous vulnerabilities. Wouldn't it be news if aviation was deemed invulnerable? Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on the aviation system as a target. He said that the Bush administration has made strides in reducing the nation's vulnerability but that the risk remains. Glad the AP has crack reporters to cover this stuff. I'm shocked by that news. Shocked. Chertoff was speaking at the National Press Club. Thursday is the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in which terrorists crashed hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Space filler. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president thinks about 9/11 every day and is always concerned about another attack. "The terrorists are very determined, and they have to be right only once, and we have to be right every single time," she said. A: I wonder if the AP even actually called Perino or if they just have those two paragraphs on file to stick in any time they're writing about 9-11. B: If they did actually put in a call, or if Perino was at the same event as Chertoff (it's not clear), I'd love to know how that conversation went. Did somebody ask, "Um, does the president still think about 9-11?"? C: Aren't "the terrorists" (as though they're a giant group who all work together, and have business cards) right pretty often, as when they blow up troops in Iraq on a regular basis? How is it that when American troops die - and it happens all the time - it's not newsworthy. But if five people were to die in a terrorist attack on a Target, it would be the biggest story since 9-11? I just can't stand the public perception of "security." That all of these people feel like someone else should be taking care of them and keeping them from harm, but if that is in any way inconvenient, then it needs to be justified with some grand statement from someone "in charge." And every time something horrible happens, everyone acts like they never could have seen it coming. What? Someone shot up a class at a university? I'm shocked! How could this happen?!? Yes, aviation is vulnerable. You know what else is? EVERYTHING ELSE. Aviation is actually probably the least vulnerable of all of the modes of transportation. Every tunnel is vulnerable. Drive a car full of explosives completely unfettered into a major tunnel in Boston at rush hour and create chaos. That's impossible to prevent. Get on any bus or train in the United States with a bomb in your backpack and create chaos. Right now, you can pretty much do that any time you want. Walk into any mall, movie theater, etc., with a bomb strapped around your waist and create chaos. Nothing would prevent that right now. Think about what a bomb would do on a subway car at 8:15 a.m. in New York, Chicago, Boston, etc. And we're talking about aviation being vulnerable? That's news? I'd say it's considerably safer than just about every other way of getting around.