So you want to visit the Pentagon and see how America’s military works to protect you? Fine.
Just be prepared to accept the security requirements–both intelligent and stupid.
The common-sense requirements were outlined–and applauded–in the last post. Now for the truly stupid one.
A memo from the Public Affairs Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, dated February 2, 2012, offers this gem:
“Proper personal identification (ID) must be produced when requested by Pentagon Police prior to entering the Pentagon as follows.
- Ages 12 and under – ID not required.
- Ages 13 to 17 – One form of photo ID or a parent/guardian to vouch for them.
- Ages 18 and up – Two forms of ID: one form must be a government issued photo ID, the other may be a credit/debit card, U.S. passport, birth certificate, or another item with the individual’s name printed on it, excluding business cards.”
* * * * *
Let’s break all this down:
“Ages 12 and under – ID not required.” Strapping bombs to children was a favorite tactic of the Viet Cong. And Al Qaeda has not hesitated to make use of the same weapon. It’s not comforting to learn that our military is still looking at children as “babes of innocence” rather than as possible “bombs of convenience.”
“Ages 13 to 17 – One form of photo ID or a parent/guardian to vouch for them.” Great–so long as an adult says, “Yeah, he’s mine,” any teenager can gain entry to America’s most important military center. This includes those teens who resent the American military’s presence around the world.
“Ages 18 and up – Two forms of ID: one form must be a government issued photo ID, the other may be a credit/debit card, U.S. passport, birth certificate, or another item with the individual’s name printed on it.”
Knowing a person’s identity is useful–so long as you have a reliable database system to match it against. An example of this is the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
Since 1967, the NCIC has been America’s central database for tracking crime-related information. It’s linked with such information repositories as:
- Federal law enforcement agencies
- State law enforcement agencies
- Local law enforcement agencies
- Federal and state motor vehicle registration/licensing agencies.
The NCIC makes available a variety of personal and property records for law enforcement and security purposes, covering:
- Convicted sex offenders
- Criminal convictions
- Foreign fugitives
- Immigration violators
- Persons with active protection orders
- Persons with active arrest warrants
- Secret Service protective alerts
- Terrorist organizations and membership
- Violent gang organizations and membership
Behind this lies a simple but highly effective formula, which was best-expressed in the classic 1973 movie, The Day of the Jackal. An anonymous professional killer has been hired to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle.
At a government meeting called to thwart the plot, a top security expert says: “The first task is to give this man a name. With a name, we get a face, with a face a passport, with a passport an arrest.”
But if you don’t have a reliable database system to match an ID against, forcing people to “show me your ID” is worthless. What does “John Smith” mean to the average ill-paid security guard?
Even if the person is a wanted criminal, just looking at his ID card is worthless. Unless, of course, the person is so notorious as a criminal that his name is known to almost everyone: “My God, it’s Osama bin Laden!”
That’s presuming that the person is not only notorious but stupid enough to flaunt it. There is, after all, such a thing as a falsified ID.
If it seems impossible that any security official could be so stupid, consider this:
In 2010 a friend of mine decided to rent a P.O. box at his local Postal Service office. He was promptly told he would have to provide two pieces of identification, such as:
- A driver’s license or State ID card
- A passport
- A birth certificate
- A bill from a utility company, such as for phone or electric service.
- He lived only a few blocks from the post office where he was applying for a P.O. box.
- He had lived at the same apartment building for 22 years.
- The Postal Service had been delivering his mail there that entire time–sometimes knocking at his door to do so.
- When he came to its counter to retrieve mail that was otherwise un-deliverable, his showing a State ID card had been entirely enough.
But, to rent a P.O. box at that very same post office, he had to prove he wasn’t a terrorist. And one of the ways he was to do this was to show a utility bill.
What does paying money to an electric or gas company prove about anyone? Osama bin Laden was paying for utilities in a Pakistani house–and the Pakistanis didn’t say: “Hey, we can’t supply electricity to you–you’re a terrorist.”