The war on terror before 9/11

With US Airways going out the door, we thought we would revive one of our fond memories, as reported in 1999:

 The Progressive Review’s editor, Sam Smith, was detained at Washington National Airport for a half hour as five US Airways security officials, 3 police officers, and one bomb-sniffing dog attempted to determine if he was, as they suspected, a terrorist. Total evidence for the suspicion came from a defective high tech security machine. In the end, the bomb-sniffing dog nosed about the computer, licked the hard drive and quickly returned without complaint to K-9 officer Jim Cox.

Before departure, Cox boarded the plane to get my Social Security number for his report and apologized for the incident saying that it was US Air’s security force and not National Airport police that had instigated it. After writing to US Air I got an actual apology from a vice president, perhaps the last American to do so in the history of the war on terror.

When I went to the Kansas City airport for my return flight, I explained to the security woman that my computer had set off warnings in the machine in Washington. She waved me on, saying, “Oh they probably just don’t feed their dogs.”

One of the interesting things about this is that what we think of as anti-terrorist air security began not following 9/11 but after the 1996 crash of TWA 800. Yet two years after the FBI had declared there was no terrorist involvement, the TWA 800 security measures remained unaltered and would expand with time.

If you believe the official story, therefore, the airport aspect of the war on terror really got underway thanks to an incident that never happened. Of course, as we would learn with increasing frequency during the years that followed, what the government told you about such matters was not always true.

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