Travel, privacy and freedom from fear

Never have I embarked on an international trip with such feelings of trepidation.
Thanks to the Islamist terrorist movement, international travel has been wrenched backward into a far earlier state of being. Before Sept. 11, 2001, the hassles and delays of international travel were the subject of jokes and frustration, but not of fear. Ever since Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in 1927, the aviation industry has labored mightily to make civil air travel safer, more reliable and more accessible. And they succeeded.
But when Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11, they not only killed 3,000 people but threw into question a century’s worth of work on improving and building air transportation—indeed, all transportation. With the terrorists’ minds firmly implanted in the 14th century—but with the benefit of 21st century technology—they dragged international travel and commerce into something approaching the days when caravans and coaches were preyed upon by bandits and brigands.
With the summer travel season under way, we decided to examine the efforts of the United States government to restore some of the safety and reliability of travel to its pre-9/11 state.
In this month’s edition, Dan Cook looks at the programs proposed or under way to screen travelers and tries to judge their level of effectiveness and likely implementation. WR Stephens examines aviation security in Canada, a sometimes overlooked but critical component of American homeland security. One of the most dangerous threats to civil aviation is man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS)—shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles—and Mickey McCarter covers the efforts to counter that danger.
Restoring freedom from fear
Efforts to provide transportation safety have raised legitimate concerns about the level of government scrutiny of travelers and infringement on rights of privacy. Government infringement on privacy should indeed be avoided. But it sometimes seems that critics miss the point orperhaps have grown complacent in the absence of successful attacks, especially in the United States.
At this point in time, collective security must trump personal privacy. The right to life of all the passengers on a plane must take priority over the privacy of someone who may want to hide his whereabouts because he’s sneaking off for an illicit weekend.
We must balance our fears: Is our fear of government surveillance greater than our fear of physical destruction? For me, there’s no contest: My worries about my own government knowing which flight I’m taking isn’t going to amount to much if I’m blown out of the sky. And if preventing that catastrophe means giving up some privacy about flight numbers and travel arrangements, well, so be it.
We must realize that sensible security measures preserve not only our physical existence but also our freedom—our freedom from fear. One of the greatest tragedies of 9/11 was that it robbed us of our fundamental freedom not to be frightened, one of the four fundamental human freedoms that President Franklin Roosevelt formulated at another time ofconflict with the forces of terror. If we have to take off our shoes or belts or have our nail clippers confiscated (yes, I’ve had that happen to me), or if our flight numbers go into a government databank, it’s a very small price to pay for preserving ourselves, our families and our country.
I don’t believe travel can ever be returned to its relatively serene pre-9/11 state, regardless of our efforts and our technology. But I believe we can over time raise the level of security for everyone who boards a plane, a train or a ship. With the technology being developed and the active cooperation of all who oppose terrorism maybe we can return travel to some semblance of the normalcy that preceded the terrible events of Sept. 11. It will, however, be a long struggle.
I look forward to being in touch when I return.HST

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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