who's a danger, then?

In view of the reports about car bombs being found in London and the explosion at Glasgow airport, where "two Asian men" have been arrested, I reckoned this is as good a time as any to write about the security of public transport here in the USA.

No, I'm not going to provide a long-winded analysis of what can/should/cannot be done but just a few sketches from my trip from Washington DC to Berkeley CA:

ID checks are few and far between. I got my ticket (DC to Chicago) off a machine and, later, when the conductor checked it, he didn't ask for ID. This, however, seemed random selection as he did ask other people for ID.

For the Chicago-Portland (Empire Builder) part of the trip, we were made to line up as a conductor went along the line, checking our IDs and tickets. A few people (including one lady with her son. The son had a school ID card but apparently this was "not proper government-issued ID". Also, a couple of Spanish backpackers who appeared not to speak English very well but had, what seemed to me to be, proper EU identification) were pulled out of the line and told to stand aside. They were, later, allowed to join the line (no one else from Amtrak approached them when they had their own separate line. It just looked odd).

While all this was happening, a group of (older) people were exclaiming that there was a lounge for First-class ("Sleeping Car" though the terms were used interchangeably) passengers and how they hadn't known about it. There were about 10 of them, chatting and making jokes and suchlike. As the ticket and ID check progressed down the line, one of them--an elderly woman dressed rather like Queen Elizabeth in a pink skirt set and a hat--realised she didn't have her ID with her. She made loud exclamations about her forgetfulness, mentioned repeatedly her ID was in her "checked luggage" and was (it seemed to me) told that she could get on the train this time but not to do it again.*

As a few of my fellow terrorism scholars (ex-practitioners) would tell yous--terrorists can come in all shapes and sizes and colours. Just because someone's a little old lady more suited to play Miss Marple on BBC than your non-English speaking dodgy type, doesn't mean they should be allowed to flout the rules.

For the Portland-Sacramento part of the journey, we also had two lines but both just checked our tickets rather than tickets and ID's. There were no ticket checks on the train itself. So, theoretically, we could have had our tickets checked within the station and someone else could have taken our place during the distance from the station to the train.

Again, for the Sacramento-Berkeley trip, there was no ID check either. I presented my ticket, the conductor tore off a strip and handed the rest of it back to me. Done.

Contrast this with my (one and only, I have to admit) air journey within the USA--I flew from Washington to San Diego last year. During the "take shoes off and put your belongings into the machine" part, I was pulled aside and asked for ID. I showed my (Virginia-issued, caused no trouble anywhere) Drivers' ID. The woman asked me for my passport. Thankfully (since, as I wasn't planning on leaving the country, there was no reason for me to actually have my passport with me) I had my passport with me. After a few more minutes of questioning, I was allowed to go through.

Compare this, too, with stories of (most of) the women who flew in for the Workshop I attended just before I came to Berkeley--almost all of them, including one who had a United States "Green card"** mentioned they were pulled aside and questioned about their reasons for visiting, how long they were staying and what they planned to do when they left the United States. The longer questionings were reserved for people flying in from Britain (compared to the rest of Western Europe--there was no one from Eastern Europe at the Workshop) and Australia. Apparently these countries are U.S. allies in the Global War on Terror but that doesn't mean they aren't suspected of potentially nefarious deeds.

* I would like to point out that I was sat on a chair by the line, in hearing and seeing distance of what was going on but, really, there may be alternative interpretations of any/all of this. But, I saw what I saw (as the phrase goes).

** I think this confers Permanent Residence status on its holders. There's a separate line, at airports, for United States citizens and those holding green cards (those two groups being linked together)

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At 6/30/2007 9:08 PM, Anonymous Mister Wonderful said...


1. A new British Prime Minister takes Office amid growing British dissatisfaction with the War in IRAQ & the "War On Terror".

2. Then just days later, British Police & Scotland Yard 'SAVE-THE DAY' by diffusing two alleged CAR BOMBS in London, despite the fact that Al Qaida has never seemed to have had a problem detonating bombs in the U.K. or elsewhere???

3. British Authorities & Scotland Yard QUICKLY link the two 'alleged' Car Bombs to Al Qaida...

4. Now, and without any of the deadly trademark explosions that Al Qaida is well known for, an unpopular (in the U.K.) American Jeep Cherokee SUV crashes through an airport check-in counter area, supposedly slightly injuring 5 bystanders, but NOT KILLING ANYONE???

In the Glasgow Airport alleged TERROR ATTACK, it's as if the action had been 'lifted' from a Hollywood movie script, where after crashing his Jeep through some windows, as the Jeep burst into flames in a visually spectacular, but not ia deadly explosion (Special Effects?) then, and in 'TRUE DRAMATIC FASHION', an angry Arabic male runs jumps out of the flaming Jeeps and runs through the airport (while on fire - wearing a Nomex fire-retardant suit underneath his clothing???) screaming "Allah Aqbar" (God Is Great)!!!

While these incidents may play well at the box office, somehow these events don't seem to have the DEADLY fingerprint of Al Qaida, but more that of a new British Prime Minister hoping to have Brits RALLY AROUND him & the British FLAG, as well as bolstering support for an unpopular war!!!

Could this be the British equivalent of a "FIRE at the Reichstag", or what???

At 7/02/2007 6:52 PM, Blogger Priya said...

Mister Wondeful:

Fair enough and it appears major media are now picking up on the apparent clumsiness of the operation as well as on the lack of actual evidence given by the British government for its claims that the bombing was the work of al-Qaeda.

My (related) point was also about how the ethnic makeup of the alleged perpetrators will make travelling and moving around even more difficult for people of a similar type.


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