As you all probably know, today a small Cessna craft caused a security scare in Washington. Fortunately, it was only a student pilot that had become lost, in an innocent mistake. However, the reaction to this incident provides interesting information on our current state of mind on security issues.
What stands out to me in this incident was how over-all organized everything was. No one was panicking, no one was screaming, people merely left the buildings and came back in a few minutes later. Just like a school fire drill.
A couple of Supreme Court Justices were hanging out in a sub-basement garage. Everyone has accustomed themselves to the idea of terrorist threats, and now it’s old hat. This is good. The last time something like this happened it was close to Reagan’s funeral, and the town was packed with dignitaries.
Although this incident shows how well prepared people in Washington and other threat areas are mentally, it also shows how vulnerable our physical defenses are.
The plane was not shot down. This is certainly a good thing, and as it turns out the Air Force made the right choice. I’m very glad that those two men are still around, and a civilian craft shot down over Washington would have been very bad.
However, what circumstances will lead us to shoot down a craft? The plane was three miles from the White House when it was finally intercepted and forced to land. How long is that at cruising speed? If those people had been terrorists, could they have dive-bombed the White House before the Air Force pilots grew impatient in this high-stakes game of ‘chicken’? There needs to be an established zone, a radius around the White House, where planes that are not changing course or making radio contact will be shot down. Otherwise, as I heard someone comment on cable news, terrorists may be tempted to throw out half a dozen small civilian craft, and see what they can get through.
Cross-posted to Leoniceno’s Corner