Wary Washington

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Officers with machine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs are patrolling the capital's subway system in the wake of the London bombings. News accounts are quoting a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security as saying that it "does not have any intelligence indicating this type of attack is planned in the United States." AP now reports that 40 are known dead in London.

UPDATE: Homeland Secuity has "asked authorities in major cities to increase their vigilance over major transportation systems."

NEXT: London Attacked

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  1. Ooooh… I get it! The color code thing only works when they put a gun in your face! I feel a lot more concerned about terrorism now. I’m glad they let me know when I’m in danger. Hooray for perpetual war.

  2. Reminds me of a favorite Cato quote. After 9/11 the military placed a tank in front of the Miami airport, “as if the next attack would come in the form of an Al-Qaeda armored column”.

    But of course officials were just “doing something”, which is always better than nothing, right?

  3. Officers with machine guns

    Did they pay the $200 transfer tax for thos machine guns?

  4. Ironchef,

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me when it becomes a good idea for a 19 year old National Guardsman to fire an automatic rifle in an airport terminal.

  5. Ironchef,

    If putting a tank in front of an airport makes the populous a little more at ease, regardless of how stupid, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Are you thinking that there is a shortage of tanks, or that they decided to do this in leiu of some other measure? Doubtful.

  6. If putting a tank in front of an airport makes the populous a little more at ease,….

    joe, I suspect the same reasoning goes into putting kids with M-16s in airports. Only those who think about it see what a really stupid idea it was. Anyone who travelled to Europe in the 90s was already accustomed to machinegun armed kids, they’ve been responding to terrorism a lot longer than we have.

    I think it was Reason founder Bob Poole who suggested a much better use of the Guardsmen would have been to have them patrol the boundary fences of the airports. After a couple of trips to Orlando International I had to agree with him.

  7. I know the first time I saw a cop with a machinegun in the Frankfurt airport I thought “What the fuck is he gonna do with that, and under what circumstances will he use it?” But apparently someone in charge thought it was a good idea. And maybe it is considering what happened at the Paris airport and elsewhere. Deterrence is something and a machinegun is a deterrent.

  8. “If you can’t catch criminals, criminalize the people you can catch.”

  9. I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me when it becomes a good idea for a 19 year old National Guardsman to fire an automatic rifle in an airport terminal.

    It doesn’t. Which is why those guardsmen’s rifles were all unloaded.

  10. Officers with machine guns

    Did they pay the $200 transfer tax for thos machine guns?

    Transfers to law enforcement agencies on an ATF Form 5 are tax-free.

    As to what an officer is going to do with a machinegun, good question. The benefit of an automatic weapon is not that you can lay down a curtain of fire guaranteed to hit your target (in fact you’re more likely to miss if you hose the area down), but in their ability to get two or three rounds on target VERY rapidly. Studies have shown that rapid shocks to the nervous syem such as multiple bullet strikes are far more effective than a single hit. This is not an effect of increased tissue damage, but an effect of rapid repetition of shock to the system. Most automatic weapons issued to police departments are set up to allow burst fire (two- or three-round bursts), however, a well-trained and skilled operator can get short bursts without needing a mechanical limiter.

    As to whether police agencies should have automatic weapons: I think the police are getting far too militarized in this country for our own good.

  11. Willfellow,

    The tank itself obviously represents many things: strength, power, and government responsiveness. Granted I’m sure the tank wasn’t needed elsewhere, and the money spent getting it there was no worse than the usual government waste. But it reeks of desire of our officials to be seen as “doing something”, no matter how inappropriate the response. Either the tank should always be there, or it should never be there.

    Joe,

    The same reasons that an (intNN) year old (charANYBODY) should fire a gun in (charANYPLACE):
    – when fired upon, or attacked with “deadly force”
    – when someone threatens another with “deadly force”

  12. But apparently someone in charge thought it was a good idea. And maybe it is considering what happened at the Paris airport and elsewhere. Deterrence is something and a machinegun is a deterrent.

    Stop talking with a semblance of reason. There was a terrorist attack! Use this opportunity to start up some inane debate because you’ve got a grudge!

  13. News accounts are quoting a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security as saying that it “does not have any intelligence indicating this type of attack is planned in the United States.”

    I wonder – did they have any intelligence indicating that type of attack would be carried out in London? If so, how did the attack manage to proceed? i.e. what part of the system failed? If there was no intelligence about London, why should we feel comforted that there is no intelligence about attacks in the US?

  14. Ironchef,

    Your two reasons explain why it would be a good idea to have security personnel in the airport capable of taking people down.

    But in a crowded airport terminal, why were they given M-16s, rather than truncheons and sidearms? The extra capability of the automatic rifle – the ability to put large numbers of bullets in the air, and hit targets from a great distance – doesn’t seem to actually gain us anything in terms of making the people in the airport safer.

    It looks a lot more like “doing something.”

  15. The NIH Metro station was shut down today. Somebody saw a suspicious package. So I took the bus. I met a very nice postdoc while waiting, but the only seats available to us were next to a smelly homeless guy who saw my Santa Barbara t-shirt and grabbed my arm and started telling me about his friend who went to college in SB for a couple days but then got arrested for public intoxication and then got raped in the county jail.

    Thankfully his stop was before mine.

  16. Ha, ha, ha! Welcome to the glorious East, Thoreau!

  17. db at July 7, 2005 12:32 PM

    Excellent comment.

    There are several horror stories around about cops being issued surplus M-16s under a DOD program. Inadequate training and all.

    Local police depts and sherriffs love the program tho. They get tanks and helos and all kinds of shit.

    About my apprehensions about the German kid in Frankfurt. Sure I know what the plan might have been but I wasn’t sure he would really know what to do if some determined Red Brigades/Bader Meinhoff/Black September nutcases tried something. I know other Americans who abslutely freaked out at the sight of such a heavily armed cop. And we’re supposed to be the gun nutz.

  18. Thankfully his stop was before mine.

    Where’d he get off, the White Flint Mall?

  19. Douglas-

    Somewhere around there.

  20. Hank Dietle’s! If it’s still there, I raise my glass in praise!

    Gotta love a West Virginia-style bar still making a go of it across the street from White Flint Mall.

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