For a few years leading up to 9/11/2001, I conducted training classes for customs and border security officials around the globe. I traversed more than 60 airports in the U.S. and abroad. The low level of passenger screening was appalling. I used to take my classes to the airport and demonstrate how easily things as obvious as a pistol could be walked through x-ray and metal detectors—not because of defects in the machinery, but because of poorly trained and motivated personnel.
At least one book was written about the lack of adequate security in U.S. airports, and hearings were held by Congress. Congress, however, did nothing. Private securtiy firms made a lot of money from the status quo, and airports didn’t want to spend any more money annoying their passengers.
I used to say that drug traffickers had the expertise to move illegal commodities across borders and terrorists had the desire to do harm. The thin line between these two groups was the only thing keeping us safe.
So, Congress listened to those who profitted from leaving well enough alone and they did nothing. 2,977 people died on 9/11. During the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 6,717 American service members died. It could have been prevented by a corps of professional screeners. Or, by sky marshals, whose number had been reduced to near zero by budget-cutters.
On so many issues, Congressional members place the cost in dollars above the cost of lives when considering disaster prevention. Then, they blame others for the tragedies that follow. Still, you’d think that at least one current or former Congressperson would have the decency to apologize for their failure to prevent 9/11.