This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits is a follow-up to last week’s, which discussed Annie Jacobsen’s encounter with the Syrian trombonists. This one is a review of Ms. Jacobsen’s book.
It’s All for Show
Originally published on Sept. 27, 2005
Does the accumulation of four years without further terrorist attacks make you feel safer when you fly? It shouldn’t. The Bureaucratic Bunglers are out in full force and with them in charge you don’t have a prayer. Or rather, all you do have is prayer.
According to Annie Jacobsen, we’d better do our homework on this one because there is no one watching out for us. Back in April, Gates of Vienna posted on Ms. Jacobsen’s tenacity and her willingness to follow this story wherever it led. That post, “Silence of the Sheep,” proved that the author is a sheepdog indeed. Her interviews with other passengers, with government agencies, with the House Judiciary Committee, with airline personnel, and with individual people who bear the day-to-day hazard of working in this field, have made her case. The tale of her experiences is documented well in Terror in the Skies.
This is a top-down problem. The guys in harm’s way — the pilots and flight attendants — know the problems but they have no more power to address them than you do. Less than two percent of pilots are armed. Want to know why? Because in order to actually carry a firearm on board, the firearms training must be done on the pilot’s own time and it has to be done in a place far from home, squeezed into his holiday time or vacation.
And flight attendants? Again, they have to arrange self-defense training on their own time, at their own expense and without the cooperation of the airlines themselves. Think of it this way: what if Brink’s hired drivers and gave them no training in handling attempted robberies? What if they expected their employees to get training — if any — on their own time and their own dime? How long do you think Brink’s would be in business?
That’s the situation we have in the friendly skies of America. When you add to that the cruel joke of the Federal Air Marshals, the lackadaisical behavior of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the farce we all know as the Department of Homeland Insecurity, it’s enough to make you want to stay home and do your business by long-distance and email.
Let’s take just one: FAMS. This is bureaucratese for the Federal Air Marshal program. You know the old joke that goes “you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny”? Well, for this program, the first part may or may not be the case, but for the second premise — being dressed funny — you can count on FAMS. Due to the boneheaded policies of those in charge, Federal Air Marshals are required to wear sport coats and collared shirts. Yes, that’s right: they must look like Federal Air Marshals at all times because they are a reflection of FAMS and dressing in a slovenly disguise would somehow bring disgrace to the organization. Comments about being a lovely corpse would be appropriate here.
Then there’s what they do after they’re up and dressed. Remember, they’re carrying guns, right? So obviously they can’t go through security. However, there’s a second obvious thing they can do — they can fight the current and walk through the exit lanes for deplaning passengers. How’s that for subterfuge?