learn to love your inner terrorist

This morning, Alan sent me a link to a little story about an in-flight terrorist scare, and it reminded me of a little incident I had a year or two ago.

I was leaving work carrying only my laptop in a small, discrete black bag. It's one of those small cases that's barely larger than the 3 lb laptop itself with reinforced sides and two handles. It's no more than 5cm thick and can't weigh more than 4 lbs with the laptop.

As I was walking out to my car, which I usually park far from the building to avoid getting dinged, I realize I had covered the car earlier that day. There is no reasonable place to set a laptop, so I rested it against the wheel of the car. I wanted to put it someplace I could remember it while I removed the cover from the car.

I then remove the cover, get in the car, and head home.

It normally takes me about 10 minutes to get home.

I walk in the front door and then realize I'm not carrying my laptop. I check my car; it's not there.

I quickly decide to make a phone call to a friend at work who often works late. I ask him to go out to the parking lot and see if my laptop is there (I'm pretty sure it is).

Later, he tells me the rest of the story. As he is walking across the front lobby out toward the parking lot, the security guard warns him that there is a bomb squad outside and to be careful. Quickly putting the two together, he says that everything is okay, and he knows what is going on.

He steps outside and there is a full bomb squad and fire truck in the mostly empty parking lot. There are many security-related people standing around but away from a small, flat, black object on the tarmac with four orange cones placed evenly around it.

As my friend approaches the situation, the he indicates that he is aware of the object's origin and its harmlessness. While the security officers believed my friend, they urged him to walk very slowly toward the "object" when retrieving it.

Ultimately, the laptop was retrieved without further fuss. The bomb squad and security force returned to their normal operations. The laptop was fine, too.

My biggest worry about all of this is that it's fed by a fear that's been taught to the American public and self-perpetuated by the public. We have taken extensive measures to counter terrorist activity, to the point that everyone believes we're perpetually in the cross hairs of a terrorist attacker. A little common sense says that it is no more likely that someone would leave a bomb in front of this building before 9/11 than after.

I understand there may be legitimate concern for additional security measures for known _terrorist_ measures. However, it's also clear that the U.S. has a couple of advantages. Our first is our distance from the terrorists and the sheer logistical difficulty of carrying out a terrorist act of global notoriety. The second is our and our allies' extensive intelligence and their ability to detect these things.

The heightened fear of the public or the eulogistic cries to 9/11 are not helping, and instead only dampen our spirits and lower the quality of life for everyone.
Written on August 28, 2006