False Sense of Security

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2002-09-12) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

This morning, when I came in to work at NIH (the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, MD), everyone was on alert. Well, really, we've been on alert since a year ago. Right after the terrorist attacks, NIH went on super-high-ultra-alert, and was performing car and bag searches on everyone, every day. I had to get a new ID badge, and get a special pass for my car, so they would let me pass without the 3rd degree. Eventually, the ordeal to get to work for me, as an employee, was reduced to a manageable degree— flash your badge at the gate, drive in, flash your badge at the door, and that's it.

Until yesterday.

I wasn't here yesterday, but when I came in today, cars were once again subject to random searches, and now apparently two forms of ID are required to get anywhere. Since I park in a garage under one of the buildings, my car was also hand-searched today instead of the usual wipe of my steering wheel with a special cloth that lets them tell if I've been near explosives lately. They had me pop the hood and the trunk, and they opened my glove box. The thing is… they didn't really look.

That's why I'm pissed off about this whole resurgence in so-called vigilance. So, someone higher up decreed that security must be stepped up because an arbitrary period of time has passed since the terrorist attacks last year. Out of fear of inept copy-catters, I suppose, since I would think anyone smart enough to plan an effective terrorist attack would not plan to do so on the one day out of the year when we're most reminded of them, and most aware and suspicious.

Anyway, beyond faulty reasoning, the way the increased security is being implemented is effectively just for show. The way the guards searched my car, I could have had massive amounts of explosives or weaponry in there, moderately well hidden, and they never would have known. No bomb-snifffing dogs. No high-tech handi-wipe. Hell, I could have just had it inside my bright red backback, which no one bothered to search at any point. The two forms of ID is also a joke. Sure, it'll stop the casual scam artist (or the guy who left his wallet in the car), but anyone with any intelligence and a decent inkjet printer at home could, in about an hour, build a fake ID that would completely fool the tired glances that they're given at any point along the chain.

That's why I'm pissed. Why waste my time with these added secrity measures if they're not effective? Maybe they are just for show, to make some people feel safer. Me? I don't feel safer. I feel maybe I should start charging time for my day as soon as my car hits the backup from the check in gate. Maybe then at least I won't feel like I'm getting ripped off.