Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Secure is Your Homeland?

After the quick weekend after attending the anti-war protest in Washington D.C, I was flying home this past Sunday evening out of Baltimore/Washington International Airport. It is one of the most security-conscious airports in the nation, given its proximity to Washington, D.C., one of the sites of the coordinated terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. In 2002, BWI was the first airport in the nation to deploy federal security screeners and another layer of security with random (and perhaps profiled) screening at gates. That layer has since been largely phased out. Sunday evening seemed routine, though as events unfolded, it became a sobering post-9/11 reality-check, up close and personal.

I went to the security line with my carry-on full with my laptop and accessories, a book and a few CDs. Knowing the meticulous drill by heart, I removed my shoes, my belt, coinage, wallet and such; took off my suit coat, removed my laptop from the bag and placing them in tubs on the conveyor belt. I stepped through the detector without incident as my possessions were screened. The security agent studied the monitor with scrutiny and summoned another agent to assist with further investigation.

“Sir, is there bottled water in your carry-on?” he asked.

“No sir, I believe I took care of that earlier today,” I replied.

He removed the book and CDs and screened my bag again without incident. I was cleared. Puzzled, I asked what prompted further screening. He pointed to the removed items and said that when things are packed together, the system can misinterpret them for other objects. This seemed odd and even laughable since the items in question bore no resemblance to bottled water. But hell, better safe than sorry, right? I shrugged it off, making my way to the gate area for my flight to Newark/Liberty International Airport.

It was a short trip on Continental Flight 2491. With the breathtaking Manhattan skyline visible just miles away, we landed in Newark. I searched my suit coat for my ticket back to Austin. To my surprise I felt a metal object in a pocket. It was a standard bottle opener, four inches long and three-fourths of an inch wide, squared off at one end and sharp-pointed on the other. I suppose it takes little imagination to find a way to further sharpen it in an airplane’s lavatory and wreak havoc, if it is one’s intention. Saturday at my D.C. hotel I bought a beer from the pantry to end the night. The front desk supplied the bottle opener and I said would return it during Sunday’s 12:00pm check-out. I never did. On Sunday I signed the receipt and continued with my day unaware of what was still in my possession. Just fresh into Newark at the gate, we waited for the staircase to be wheeled to the door. The discovery left me in a state of disbelief. I thought about notifying fellow passengers and the flight crew of the unintended security breach, but quickly discarded the idea. I was due back into Austin on one of the night’s last flights and eager to get home, so I avoided the prospect of being detained and questioned overnight.

Anyone can point out with little or no debate that in the post-9/11 world, the security process is an imperfect science. But here we are, well over five years after that terrible morning in the late summer of 2001 and it is proven that the apparatus is penetrable; all too easily it seems. After massive reorganization and consolidation of federal agencies leading to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, two quagmires, over 6,000 American deaths and billions upon billions of dollars spent, I had to ask myself, “What the hell?”. Given the culture of vigilance, fear and paranoia that gripped the nation, one has to wonder, ‘How much safer are we?’.

News investigations have tested the waters in the sea of security, clearing with dangerous items at times. I am now left mildly shocked and awed by my own encounter with Homeland ‘Security’; further questioning overall, the unsound and even woeful policies enacted both at home and abroad by President Bush and our government. Needless to say I am not encouraged. What about you? When you travel, do you feel any safer than you did five years ago?

JONATHAN CRONIN is an activist and writer based in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at jcroninmail@aol.com.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail