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Life in 9/12 America: does the quest for “absolute safety” from terrorism undermine long-term security?




Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents screen passengers at Los Angeles International Airport on May 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents screen passengers at Los Angeles International Airport on May 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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In our first part of a week-long series examining the decade since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 we look at the quest for “absolute safety” in the wake of the biggest attacks on American soil in the history of the country.

Understandably in the years since 9/11 the public and political leadership have demanded action and urgency in building up a robust defense against future terror attacks. Government agencies were reorganized, huge amounts of money and resources were put into action, large security projects were moved quickly from conception to implementation in an effort to protect the country as quickly as possible. As our guest, RAND scientist Brian Jackson writes in his chapter of the new compilation The Long Shadow of 9/11: America's Response to Terrorism, “Fear drove action, and political rhetoric frequently stoked rather than cooled the flames of urgency.” But short term concerns and fears are usually not the best circumstances under which long-term, complicated decisions should be made—from the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, that brought together various disparate security arms of the government, to the screening strategies of the Transportation Security Administration (also a brand new agency formed after 9/11), there’s been a lot of waste and questionable policy decisions made in the name of absolute safety in the decade since 9/11. We examine the responses to 9/11 and ask if another 10 years of distance might cool emotions enough to craft more thoughtful anti-terrorism policies in the future.

Guest:

Brian Jackson, senior physical scientist at RAND focusing on homeland security & terrorism preparedness