Letters from the Issue of July 25, 2002

Why is "airport security" such a maddeningly frustrating oxymoron?

What's that Little Bird Doing in My Soup?

Ummm...the backstroke? Mike Clary has written a great report on the situation surrounding the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and Everglades restoration ("God's Eye on the Sparrow," July 18). Those federal agencies and private groups comprising the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force should be asked to include in their Coordinating Success document a plan for how they will relocate this bird to its original habitat.

If they cannot do this, then we cannot restore the Everglades. Any layman can see this by looking at the topographic maps and the water depths the Department of the Interior wants for the Everglades, including the water-conservation areas. It will not work.

L.J. Moller
Pembroke Pines

Don't Let the Nun's Habit Fool You

That broad just might be an al Qaeda sleeper: After reading Chuck Strouse's "Mindless Security, 2002" (July 18), I wondered if I should stop bellyaching about being frisked and my underwear mauled four different times while flying between Atlanta and Green Bay, Wisconsin.

I am a five foot, three inch, sixty-ish female of slight build. During one of my searches I noticed that next to me a nun had surrendered her luggage for a similar rifling. When I finally made it to the plane and asked the stewardess to whom I could write in protest, she began telling me her tale of woe about being searched. Then the pilot came out of the cockpit and told me his tale of woe. Does anybody feel one bit safer because the federal government is making sure there is no senior citizen carrying a nail file at 35,000 feet?

On my flight they also protected passengers from a nun carrying a small Swiss Army knife with those tiny scissors, but they allowed a (burly male) passenger carrying a military-strength umbrella, another male carrying a large wooden easel, and any number of people with wheelies, which surely have much more potential as weapons.

I don't believe for a minute that frisking me is about security. It's about the federal government telling citizens they'd better march quietly in step -- and definitely not carry a nail file.

Susan Ohanian
Charlotte, Vermont

The Terror of Security

Idiotic airport inspections will backfire big time: I read with interest Chuck Strouse's article about airport security measures. I am from the United Kingdom, where we have extensive experience dealing with the terrorist threat. Some of the examples he cited -- the Swedish businessman, the student, the man with the Publix knives -- aptly demonstrate the well-known fact that heightened security measures only affect the innocent. The consequences for those people demonstrate a complete failure of the system.

Time wasted on innocent people is time averted from the real threats. Security is a delicate business and relies on the cooperation of the public to ensure its effectiveness. If authorities are using their powers mindlessly, chasing the wrong threat, that balance will slip in the wrong direction and a justly irritated public will, ironically, create the perfect climate for another terrorist atrocity.

Let me explain. In a free society terrorism is free too, and therefore can never be eradicated. Any promise to a public that it can be is either disingenuous or foolishly naive. A terrorist will always find a way. They appraise the current weaknesses and exploit them accordingly. Several months ago that allowed them to stroll onto planes with knives. That option is unavailable at present, so they will look for other means or avenues of entry. It takes initiative and guile, which they possess in potent measure.

The only answer is to allow life to go on. If innocent people live in fear of petty officials abusing their authority, then terrorism has won. If lines at check-ins last longer than ever before, terrorism has won. If people are afraid of the erratic nature of paranoid security personnel, then terrorism is at work.

The wider question of solving the threat of terrorism is a political, not an operational, problem. Communication is the only way to resolve this issue. As terrorism is the voice of unrepresented people, it is that gap which needs bridging, as countless similar disputes have demonstrated in other struggles around the world.

James Fletcher
United Kingdom

Miami's Little Engine that Could

Chugging along with engineer Johnny at the throttle: Kirk Nielsen's article about Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton was insightful ("Mission Man," Kirk Nielsen, July 11). In truth, however, "Mission Impossible" is more like it. Talking softly and carrying a big stick just doesn't work anymore. Commissioner Winton knows that talking the talk and walking the walk might come close to getting results, but it is not enough.

It is his willingness to follow through, even to the point of irritating and offending others, that says much about his can-do approach to good government. I say hurrah for being a different type of public official, one who knows that the "public" comes before the "official."

Thank goodness city staffers have no option but to take and return his phone calls. With more favorable New Times articles like this one, maybe others will want a seat onboard Johnny's Good Government Train.

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