FOR more than a century now, winged dragons flanking a shield have guarded each entrance to the City of London. In recent decades, this coat of arms has been reinforced with an elaborate anti-terrorism apparatus known as the "ring of steel," consisting of concrete barriers, checkpoints and thousands of video cameras. City planners call the system, set up to defend against bombings by the Irish Republican Army, "fortress urbanism."
Perhaps no city in the Western world is better equipped to deter terrorist bombings. Yet the two waves of attacks this month have demonstrated that in London, "fortress urbanism" is far from impregnable.
Like the simple wooden ladder that was used to circumvent a castle's stone walls and moat, determined terrorists can still find tools to strike almost at will, even if their plans do not always succeed, as apparently happened last week in London.
This reality, security experts say, must be considered as officials in New York City ramped up security to include random checks of bags in entrances to subway and rail stations, as well as to buses and ferries. A ring of steel, they say, is expensive and may not be a good investment of scarce resources, even in target-rich cities like New York and Washington.
Yet random searches of bags may be only the beginning. Some government officials in Washington and New York want to spend billions of dollars on security systems like closed-circuit television cameras in subway stations, tracking devices for buses and electronic monitors that could detect any unauthorized intrusions into tunnels.
The call to redirect a chunk of the nation's homeland security dollars to "harden" mass transit systems is hardly a surprise. In fact, for politicians from urban centers, it is an almost irresistible refrain. The argument is also a compelling one. Around the country, buses, subways and rail cars carry 32 million riders during a work day, compared to the approximately 1.7 million people who fly everyday. Yet federal grants allocated specifically to protect mass transit - $250 million over the last four years - is but a fraction of that spent on aviation security, $18 billion.
But if the United States is going to wage an effective war against terrorism, security experts say, the government must avoid being too reactive, sticking to a more disciplined and reasoned approach. "You can't childproof America," said James Jay Carafano, a homeland security expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization in Washington.
That means focusing first on rebuilding the deficient intelligence network, both outside and within the United States, Mr. Carafano said. Next comes reducing the consequences of any successful attack, like ensuring that rescue personnel have the necessary equipment and training and local hospitals can handle large numbers of casualties. Only third in this priority list, he said, is building barriers, be they concrete flowerpots or lines of police officers searching backpacks.
"I understand what they are doing in the New York City subway today," said Randall J. Larsen, a retired Air Force colonel and homeland security consultant. "But are they going to be doing that a month from now? A year from now? Because the threat will still be there."
The United States, just four years into its new homeland security campaign, is already replete with examples of well-intentioned but marginally effective efforts to create anti-terrorism barriers.
In 2004, Homeland Security kicked off the Arizona Border Control Initiative to patrol the Mexican border, where officials say they fear terrorists may enter the United States. But the unmanned aerial vehicles and added helicopters, cameras and border patrol officers have not stopped untold numbers of migrant workers - and anyone else - from crossing the desert.
At the nation's ports, hundreds of millions of dollars is being spent on radiation detection and other scanning equipment to search for smuggled weapons. Yet any semi-smart terrorist, security experts have repeatedly told Congress, would simply charter a boat and carry a nuclear weapon to one of thousands of landings on the nation's coast with only seagulls on guard.
"We should not be focusing our efforts on preventing an attack 10 meters or 10 minutes before the attack," Colonel Larsen said.
Supporters of barrier-based defense certainly have their arguments. These measures could dissuade an attacker. And if not, they might be valuable in an investigation, just as the eerie video images released on Friday of the four newest bombing suspects in London demonstrate. And while a bomb set off at a subway station entrance may kill just as many riders as one in a subway car, the act of inspecting bags may make transit riders feel safer.
"The public wants to feel safe, as well as be safe," said William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, on New York's inspection effort. "This has a benefit of perception in addition to the actual benefit in security."
His group is calling for a $6 billion in federal funds over the next three years on mass transit security.
But Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary, has defended the tilt toward aviation security. "The truth of the matter is that a fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people," he has said. "A bomb in a subway car may kill 30."
The emphasis, he said, must be on trying to prevent or respond to the most catastrophic attacks, like a nuclear bomb or a biological weapon. "We have to make sure we are candid with people about the limit of our security system," Mr. Chertoff said in an interview earlier this month.
Congress will most likely increase anti-terrorism spending for mass transit before it takes final action on the Homeland Security budget this year, although by how much remains unclear. And New York - which has doubled the number of police officers patrolling the subway system since the first London bombings, at a cost of about $1.9 million a week in overtime - will for an undetermined amount of time continue to check commuters' bags.
But the questions will remain, as they still do in London, about how much added security these dollars invested in creating an urban fortress will buy. (7.24.2005, Eric Lipton) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/weekinreview/24lipton.html?_r=1
"To Achieve World
Government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism,
their loyalty to family traditions and national identification" Brock Chisholm - Director of the World Health Organization
"A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it's going to get." Ian Williams Goddard
The fact is that "political correctness" is all about creating uniformity. Individualism is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the New World Order. They want a public that is predictable and conditioned to do as it's told without asking questions.
"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." Thomas Jefferson