Prominent security figure Bruce Schneier has a suggestion for how to best deal with terrorism fears and the Washington Monument: Close it to visitors entirely.
The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there’s no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.
Obviously this is a suggestion on par with Jonathan Swift’s 18th century suggestion that the Irish deal with their economic problems by selling their children as food – not serious, but rather a swipe at screwed-up cultural priorities. In Schneier’s case he’s attacking what he sees as a refusal of our security apparatus to accept reasonable trade-offs and recognize the side-effects and new vulnerabilities our choices create.
Schneier doesn’t mention it in this essay – though I’ve seen it in others he has written – but one of the things that always concerns me about our security choices here is how often they take a wide-open area like the Archive steps and instead funnel people into a tight cluster of lines… which present even better targets for attackers. The Washington Monument is probably an exception here, given how snug it is inside, but exactly what difference does it make if we have an attack on a few dozen people inside rather than a hundred clustered in a waiting area?
By the way, Schneier acknowledges that he’s riffing on a suggestion made with less hyperbole by the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott.