ongoing assimilation of September 11 raises questions theoretical
and practical that touch on security. Most recently, we learn of
the impact of "security" on production. The imagination
had trained on obvious precautions, an extension of the idea of
searching boarding passengers for lethal weapons. We could readily
understand that that would mean checking in at the airline counter
a half-hour earlier, or even an hour earlier. What we are told is
that what goes by the name "just-in-time" management is
severely affected. Suppose you produce automobiles and offer the
purchaser the choice of different colors. Firebird Red is popular
right now so you order a hundred gallons of it. Will it be enough?
That depends on its continuing popularity. If it is popular next
week, why, we'll order another hundred gallons. They will arrive
Just In Time to apply to the incremental car ordered in Firebird
the paint won't now arrive just in time if the truck transporting
it is held up on the Canadian border for six hours. And it will
be more expensive, because the truckdriver's efficiency has been
cut by one-third, as he sits in an immobile truck, waiting in line.
What does this
tell us about the theory of security practices? What it tells us
right away, and easily, is that the cost of security extends beyond
the cost of the people hired to look into trucks crossing the border,
searching for explosives or vats of poison.
Does this inform
us as regards security policy? Of course it does, because reasonable
compromises need to be made. If we subjected everybody who wanted
to fly somewhere to a strip search, we could be very confident that
no weapons got aboard, and pretty confident that no passengers would
want to fly. What is a reasonable level of security?
I think back
to 1964, to J. Edgar Hoover appearing before the Warren Commission
investigating the assassination of President Kennedy. Kennedy was
shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. It was known that Oswald had been a Soviet
sympathizer who had considered emigrating to Russia. Why hadn't
Hoover, anticipating the journey to Dallas of Mr. Kennedy, detained
Oswald, keeping him away from the presidential itinerary? Hoover
replied that if he had had to search out everyone in Dallas whose
dependability was at the problematical level of Oswald's, he'd have
had to round up 150 people. If the president were going to Chicago,
Mr. Hoover said (the numbers here are from memory), he'd have needed
to detain 450 people and "the American people wouldn't
put up with it."
Let us, to
make more graphic the theoretical point, stipulate that at Security
Level 10, Oswald would be left alone. At Security Level 8, he'd
have been brought in. At Security Level 12, we are allowed to check
our baggage with the porter outside the airport. At Security Level
11, we have to take it in to the airport proper.
What we are
feeling our way towards is an adjustment to an appropriate level
of caution. At the plagued post office in Washington, Level 12 Security
in handling mail seems insufficient, because two human beings have
died. But what do we do if we lift the Security Level to 10? Bring
in dogs to sniff about before opening the mail sacks? Suppose the
emergency worsened, to the point where mail was rejected unless
it bore a sticker of some sort, tracing the bona fides of the mailer?
look at the current level of safety is certainly reassuring. And
statistical probes can be greatly illuminating in practice. Somebody
out in California a dozen years ago had a bright idea: 99.9 percent
of vehicles crossing San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge heading
north are, at some point, going to cross the San Francisco Bridge
heading south. So? Why not just let them go north unhindered by
a toll bridge and double the toll coming south? Result: the
same revenue, net, and half of the toll-takers let go to find other
Gate principle is, so to speak, actionable here. If permitting trucks
to cross the Canadian border with pre-September 11 security inspection
increases the flow of (just what are we looking for in those trucks?)
damaging materials to the point where we have a .000001 increase
in Oklahoma City-style bombs, have we acted reasonably?
Level can we live with? Just that one level higher that would have
tripped up Lee Harvey Oswald?
a higher Security Level than obtained on September 11. But Governor
Ridge should lay it out for us, and let us decide, as we do every
day in our own lives, what is the right corporate level of security.