By Dave Lindorff
The deliberate suicide crash bombing by a domestic terrorist pilot of a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas has exposed a grave failure of the Homeland Security Department to protect us Americans from the threat posed by the virtually unregulated use in this country of small aircraft.
Just about anyone can own and fly a small plane, and these, as we have now seen, are readily adaptable into kamikazi missiles capable of destroying large buildings.
If Homeland Security won't act, then it is up to Congress to move quickly to tighten up security and control over small planes. We need to insist that anyone seeking a pilot's license first submit to a full screening by the FBI. No one with a criminal record of any kind should be permited to fly or ride in a small plane. The same should be true with regard to all foreigners. Since it's not possible to do a full check of the background of persons from other countries, only US citizens should be able to obtain and fly small aircraft within US airspace.
All civil air pilots and their passengers should be required to pass through meal detectors before entering an airfield. We don't want them carrying hand grenades or other weapons onto their planes. Planes should also be subject to full searches by specially trained government inspectors before takeoff to be sure they have not been packed with explosives.
But that's not enough. We should ban all small aircraft from flying within a mile of any urban areas, and the military should be given authority to take down any plane that violates that rule. The Airforce should be ordered to have fighters, armed with loaded machine guns, in the air at all times, ready to be called into action if a small plane appears to be on a threatening flight path.
America cannot lower its guard.
After a would-be terrorist tried to take down a commercial plane over the Atlantic by hiding explosives in his shoe, Homeland Security responded appropriately by requiring all air travelers, from old men in wheelchairs to infants in booties, to remove their shoes and have them run through an Xray machine. When a terrorist wannabe tried to concoct an explosive from two jars of chemicals he had brought on board a plane, Homeland Security appropriately responded by banning toothpaste and all other liquid or semiliquid substances from carry-on bags--even women's pancake makeup and lipstick. More recently, when terrorists developed the insidious underwear bomb, first used last December, Homeland Security responded with a plan to introduce backscatter Xray machines at all airports, which can see under people's clothes.
These measures were fine as far as they go, but how can we now do less than crack down on the virtually unmonitored use of small planes in this country?
Of course, while we're at it, we need to consider the much bigger problem of the widespread access to cars and trucks, which are equally capable of being made into four-wheeled bombs. If a deranged man can use a plane to take out an IRS building, how long will it be before another equally deranged man or woman who fails a driver's test decides to take out a motor vehicle office?
There is only one solution. We need to crack down heavily on who can obtain a driver's license. Probably the best solution would be to require anyone seeking a drivers licence to first undergo psychological screening. Nobody found to have anger management difficulties, or any history of violent or aggressive behavior, should be allowed to own or drive a vehicle. (One good screening technique would be to slow down service at motor vehicle offices even more, and then to bar anyone who shows signs of impatience or anger from obtaining a license.)
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not in favor of going overboard here. I'm certainly not suggesting that we start doing something draconian or unconstitutional like limiting gun sales, or preventing people from buying machine guns or bazookas or anything like that. That would be unAmerican. But we do need to crack down on the ability of terrorists, foreign or domestic, to get ahold of moving vehicles--airborne or ground-based--which in the wrong hands could be used to threaten Americans with mayhem.
The Austin IRS building attack was a wake-up call.
It's time to act to keep Americans safe!
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-area journalist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net