Pew Research Number of the Day for November 18, 2010:
“43% – Why Has the U.S. Not Been Attacked?
A 43%-plurality says that the reason there has not been another terrorist attack in America since 2001 is mostly the result of luck.”
There is no doubt that the scanners and gropes (thought by some to be intimidating, not security related) at the airport have become a focal point with many of the public as they give everyone who flies, even rarely, the expectation of this invasion of personal privacy. Before this, airport security was annoying but didn’t intrude on “personal space.” Now, no matter which option one chooses, it will. Possibility has become certainty and the issue is no longer “I don’t care what they do to ‘those’ people because I’m not one of them,” but has become “I am ‘one of them.'”
The issue is partisan and the government gets much credit (http://bit.ly/cW33j3) But underlying that is that a plurality of 43% of those surveyed by Pew believe “there has not been another terrorist attack in America since 2001 is mostly the result of luck.” Your equipment, staff and activities are not thought of as being key to our safety. Bombers get on planes with materials neither your new scanners nor your gropers can detect; “terrorists” are acquitted or given light sentences because you appear to be entrapping poor people; getting on or off one of your databases is an opaque process leading to the suspicion that it is subjective and possibly a matter of someone else’s disliking one personally; fusion centers can’t seem to distinguish political dissent from potential for terrorist activity. If instruction on the Bill of Rights and their interpretation since adoption is a part of the training of your people who deal with the public, that is not plain to anyone with an undergraduate degree in political science and probably less so to people whose interests lie primarily in other subject areas.
So luck, not design and certainly not the activities of any of the agencies charged with security that once held, if not public confidence, at least public hopes, for their effectiveness.
Lest anyone misunderstand, luck often, if not always, plays a part in important outcomes. But, where the government takes on a task, secures huge resources for it, and finds that nine years later a respectable survey indicates a large plurality attribute a favorable outcome to luck, it ought to be an alarm signal to those agencies and to their boss–and that doesn’t mean more vigorous “entrapment” either.