Gnawing Dread of the Future

Article excerpt

Byline: James G. Zumwalt, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It has now been over five months since the events of September 11. As Americans appear to be getting back to life as it was prior to the attack, we may well be lulling ourselves into a false sense of security.

Some of Israel's leading security experts believe the United States is only weathering the eye of the terrorist storm. They believe the other wall of the storm is yet to hit. They believe when it does, Americans will again be stunned, failing to comprehend they are partially responsible for the terrorists' success. They believe there is little that can or will be done of a substantive nature to defeat the major terrorist attack still to come in the United States as it is a natural evolution of the public's mindset in a country where antiterrorism defense is yet to be accepted as a necessary part of life's daily routine.

At an invitation-only security seminar sponsored by Israel's security industry in New York City Feb. 19, both American and Israeli experts shared their fears that Americans' concerns about terrorism, even in the wake of September 11, are more surreal than real. They report concerns raised by potential clients calling for security advice in the days following the attack have faded in the months after with no real serious follow-up.

One security expert shared his recent observation at a New York City subway stop. A man with a video camera was seen filming the station and its approaches. Dozens of people passed him by, totally oblivious to the man's activity. The observer brought the matter to the attention of a transit officer who, like the passing crowd, did nothing. The observer finally found a policeman who then took the initiative to question the man's actions. With New Yorkers recently subjected to the horrors of September 11 demonstrating no increased security awareness, it is doubtful others in the United States are faring much better.

Experts expressed concerns too that a failure to fully coordinate a security plan leaves great potential for incalculable disaster. For example, U.S. armed military personnel are now positioned in the narrow causeways through which international passengers transit from the arriving aircraft to the terminal, where passports are inspected.

However, were weapons to be used in a causeway, rounds could easily penetrate its walls, the aircraft and the plane's fuel cells, causing extreme damage and injury to a number of passengers in the restricted confines of the causeway. If a terrorist has made it that far, it is better to contain him in an area where the defender has more control of surrounding conditions.

It is also difficult apparently for Americans to understand the concept of the perimeter defense and of identifying the terrorist outside that perimeter. We are, in effect, "too gentlemanly" in our efforts to deal with the terrorist on the outside, often allowing him to become a problem inside. …