Speaking to CBS This Morning, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff suggested that the U.S. ought to respond to today’s horrific attacks in Brussels with a useless and silly measure that will make absolutely no one safer.
In the event of terrorism, television networks call up their terrorism experts. They are reassuring agents of law enforcement, defense, and “homeland security”: Current and former cops, prosecutors, military officers, and spooks. And when they’re not speaking in frightening vagueries (I think you’re going to see an elevated security presence at airports and transit hubs; there may be copycats), they are blithely endorsing the expansion of the police state, to the murmured approval of whichever anchor is lobbing them softballs as footage of the still-smoking site of the latest catastrophe loops.
Chertoff, a co-author of the USA PATRIOT Act and a former prosecutor, U.S. Attorney, circuit judge, and Homeland Security secretary, is currently in the private security consulting business through his firm, The Chertoff Group, which advises various corporate clients on “risk management”—and on the securing of homeland security and defense contracts.
He is eminently qualified to speak on law enforcement and government counterterrorism strategies. He is an expert, after all, in ineffectual security theater designed to project the appearance of law-and-order, as well as in the practice of exploiting, for profit, the government’s need to appear vigilant in the face of terror. (In 2009, following the pathetic charade that was the failed attack by “the underwear bomber,” Chertoff took to the press to advocate for the mass employment of full-body scanners at airports. He did not disclose that Rapiscan Systems, the company that makes those scanners, was a Chertoff Group client.)
This morning, prompted by anchor Charlie Rose’s leading question—“Do we need to change airport security at this point, and move it back even further, if you would?”—Chertoff first made this important point:
“Well I have to say this is something I’ve spoken to people about for some time. The actual portion of the airport before the checkpoint is not really controlled by the federal government, it’s controlled by the local authorities. And it has increasingly become vulnerable, because as people wait to go through security they actually congregate there.”
In other words, security measures put in place to prevent (extremely rare) airport terrorist attacks ended up doing nothing to prevent one of those attacks from succeeding. We closed the gates to all but ticketed passengers, and increased the intensity and invasiveness of the security checks needed to get to those gates, thus creating the softest of soft targets—huge, penned-in crowds of people waiting in security lines.
A surprisingly astute observation from a longtime security official, responsible in some ways for the current state of affairs. What does he propose to do, now that it turns out that these policies and procedures did next to nothing to “keep us safe”?
“And so now there’s an effort I think on the part of TSA to start to move the airports into pushing the security envelope back. We’ve seen some of that in terms of not allowing you to park in front of the terminal, but I think we’re going to have to step that up.”
Ah. Of course. We’ll “push the security envelope back.” The old checkpoints created crowds, sure, but once we move the security checkpoints back, just a bit bit further (to just before you enter the airport, I guess), it will be much safer for everyone, at least once everyone gets past the new checkpoints. Maybe eventually we can push the security envelope back to before you get in your car to go to the airport—your garage door, maybe?
No matter what it takes, we can count on people like Michael Chertoff to come up with bad ideas to protect us from whatever the last thing that happened was, and you can count on the press to take seriously their grim nonsense.