Fortress America : On the Frontlines of Homeland Security?An Inside Look at the Coming Surveillance State
Heavily armed guards at the entrances to malls and restaurants. Citizens deemed "suspicious" taken away without formal charges or legal counsel. Would a "safe" America even look like America anymore One of the few journalists to penetrate the new counter terror initiative, Matthew Brzezinski offers an insider's look at the new technology, laws, tactics, and persistent vulnerabilities of the post-9/11 era. The result is this startling, sometimes controversial look at what it will take to achieve genuine homeland security and what it may be like to live inside Fortress America Is this what a safe America will look like • Cameras at airport ticket counters that can tell if you are stressed • Satellites and surveillance equipment that can see through the walls of your home • Computer programs capable of spotting abnormal behavior • National ID "smart" cards encoding your personal, financial, and medical information required for electronic police spot checks In the aftermath of September 11, a massive effort has been launched to protect us from another terrorist attack.
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September 27, 2005
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Excerpt from Fortress America by Matthew Brzezinski
Baltimore Harbor, November 2002
WATCH YOUR STEP," SAID SERGEANT GEORGE MCCLASKEY. The police launch strained against its tether, grinding on the tires and rubber padding that had been slung along the dock. It was an old craft, dating back to the 1960s, and much weathered. The blue paint on its patched hull was faded. Its gunwales were pockmarked from countless collisions, and soot from its old diesel engine caked the icy stern. But its partially enclosed wheelhouse offered some protection from the biting wind. "Hope you're wearing long underwear," cracked McClaskey, as the deck shuddered and the launch slipped its moorings.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor spread out before us. On the south side, below the grassy slopes of Federal Hill Park, the marina slips were filled with white, gleaming motor yachts, and halyards and shackles beat noisily on the aluminum masts of expensive sailboats. In the innermost center, against the backdrop of the convention center and the retro brick baseball stadium beyond, floated the big charter boats and wooden skipjacks that took vacationers out on day cruises. And to the north, beneath the skyline, loomed the marine tourist attractions that anchored the Pratt Street Pavilions: a vintage submarine, painted gray and black with red shark's teeth on the bow, and a full-size replica of a Civil Warýera frigate, the USS Constellation.
"That," said Sergeant McClaskey, craning his football player's neck toward a water taxi landing next to the Constellation, "is where I'd strike if I were a terrorist." I followed his gaze to the landing. Other than a few angry seagulls squabbling on the bulkhead, the place was deserted. But in summer, up to a quarter of a million people congregated on the Inner Harbor's piers and brightly painted promenades each weekend, catching a show at the waterside amphitheater, dining on crabcakes after an Orioles game, or taking the kids to see the dolphins at the National Aquarium.
"If I wanted to create a big bang," McClaskey continued, "I'd pack a small boat with explosives"ýrelatively easy-to-find nitrate fertilizers or dynamite, he later elaborated, plus plenty of nails, screws, and other building materials that can double as shrapnelý"and crash it right here." The police launch slowed to an idle, sinking back into its own wake. For a moment we drifted, and I stared at McClaskey. Cops weren't supposed to say things like that, to plot like al Qaeda. At least, they never had before. But McClaskey wasn't being irresponsible or tipping off terrorists to what they probably already long knew. (After all, for any organization that could have dreamed up 9/11, smashing a boat into a wharf was the creative equivalent of child's play.) No, McClaskey was on the right track. He was adapting to the times. Imagining terrorist scenarios was part of any public safety official's job description post-9/11.
The launch bobbed in the choppy waters. McClaskey paused long enough for me to envision the gruesome consequences of a strike on the pier. "It'd be a catastrophe," he finally declared. "It would take forty-eight hours just for the tide to flush out the bodies from under the boardwalk."
This nautical factoid he had learned from experience, from nearly twenty years on the force fishing out dead drug dealers, drowning victims, and the occasional jumper from the Fort McHenry Bridge. But the big Irishman made it clear with an uncharacteristic sigh that his new counterterrorism assignment was truly uncharted territory. In the war on terror, he and most of his fellow officers were mere rookies, suddenly forced to play catch-up to the rest of the world. "Before 9/11," he said, "it never even occurred to us to consider the waterfront as a source of danger." Now perceived dangers lurked around every wharf. "Look at that barge," he added, nodding toward a tug hauling a barge full of diesel fuel off in the distance. "A beautiful weapon."