Wednesday, March 24, 2004

9/11 revisited

I am watching the 9/11 congressional hearings this morning and I have to say I am not impressed. Then again, as my roommate Brian says, the whole idea seems flawed.

What could have prevented the September 11th attacks? Brian suggested to me either more secure cockpit doors or even a rule to always keep the doors locked could have prevented the hijackers from gaining control of the planes. But in a normal hijacking, it is likely that no one on the plane will be hurt if the hijackers' demands are met. So if a terrorist says to open the door or he will kill someone, you open the door. Making cockpit doors secure would only be a policy option in cases where the hijackers intend to kill everyone on the plane, no matter what happens (as was the case on September 11th).

Is it reasonable to expect that
- someone would have imagined this new kind of hijacking?
- a contingency plan could have been agreed on to deal with it?
- the pilots of those four planes would have correctly discerned that morning that they were victims of this new kind of terror?
- they would have been so confident of their judgement that they would allow terrorists to kill hostages rather than open the door?

Even militaries, whose job it is to anticipate and defend, generally learn of and respond to new threats only when tragedy reveals the danger. There are so many threats that never materialize. Only in hindsight do we know which we should have paid more attention to.


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