I remember flying up to DC shortly after they turned the air traffic control system back on post-9/11. People here in Miami were weird about it — they treated it as a very dangerous thing to do. For some reason I didn’t feel threatened at all. That said, the experience at the airport, in which a great effort was made to search everything, and in the air, in which for the first time we told to stay in our seats for the last 30 minutes of the approach to DC, was decidedly off-putting. The atmosphere on the plane was oddly strained.
Now, once again I’m flying early Tuesday to the DC area (although actually landing at BWI and spending the day in Baltimore), right when the airport security staff are likely to be at their jumpiest. Who can blame them?
Still, I cannot help but think that the giant security apparatus, and the huge dead-weight costs of people going to the airport early and wasting time, is one of the clearest signs that that we are not, despite recent events, succeeding in the ‘war on terror’ because we are letting our choices and expenditures be defined by those who do not wish us well. Maybe we’d be better off trusting those metal cabin doors to protect us from hijacks, and accepting that even so there can be no perfect safety in a complicated world.
I’d take the risk, but I’m not the one who would have to explain it if something went wrong, and those who do have gigantic institutional incentives to be, and even more to be seen to be, risk-averse. Thus, the FBI openly is being transformed into a domestic intelligence agency, one charged with preventing rather then solving crimes. In a perfect world, of course, prevention is better than cure, and punishment is not even cure. But there is no way an FBI or any other public agency can seriously undertake this mission without, and there is no other word for it, spying on a lot of people. I think history has a few things to teach us about how that works out for societies as a rule, and I wonder how much we are heeding those lessons.
On Wednesday, I’ll be in DC visiting family and friends. On Thursday and Friday I’m going to the GIGANet Doubleheader. My part of the talking will be about IP numbers on Thursday, and about ICANN on Friday. There’s a written paper for the Friday talk.