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"The Jewel Box [Is] Out on the Front Lawn"

From an entry on DefenseTech.org:

In Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, diamond-nabber Bill Mason notes notes a strange security trend: people will spend big bucks to have a whole host ultra-sophisticated locks on their front doors -- but they'll put something flimsy on the back door, or leave the windows unlocked altogether.

That's what came to mind as I read James Fallows' homeland defense story in the current Atlantic Monthly. The Transportation Security Administration is spending $4 billion -- 80 percent of its budget -- on airport screening. Making sure grandma takes off her Mary Janes before she gets on the plane. That leaves, Fallows notes, "well under $1 billion for everything except airlines: roads, bridges, subways, tunnels, railroads, ports, and other facilities through which most of the nation's people and commerce move."

Kinda reminds you of Mason's back door, hunh? Except the analogy doesn't quite hold together. It'd probably be more accurate to say that, while the Bush administration is making sure America's front door is tripled-locked, it has left the jewel box out on the front lawn.

From President Bush to Senator Kerry to just about every homeland security guru in between, all these guys agree that "loose nukes" -- the 30,000 atomic warheads from the former Soviet arsenal -- are the worst threat to our nation imaginable. But, as Fallows notes, the U.S. seems to be "in no apparent hurry" to make sure these weapons are "safely locked away."

I would never have guessed that the TSA is spending 80 percent of its budget on airport screening. No wonder John Kerry kept talking about unscreened cargo containers during the debates.


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