My hope is that the death of Osama bin Laden will be an opportunity to declare victory in the war on terror and return to trying to keep terrorism risk in perspective. The tawdry reality, delivered by Jane Aitoro of the Washington Business Journal, is that so far killing Bin Laden is just another reason to beef up security:
D.C-area companies that provide federal government with physical security services could see an increase in business following the death of Osama bin Laden Sunday, as agencies beef up protection at buildings that may serve as targets for retaliation by extremist groups. [...]
“This allows government to quickly and easily say ‘let’s add two more guys at this location for the next six weeks,’ without having to put out a whole separate solicitation,” said Rubin, who estimated that Paragon Systems holds about 45 federal contracts. “They changed the way we contract shortly after 9/11, so now they can have the added capability pretty much at a moment’s notice.”
Even winning battles in the war on terror is a reason to become more afraid, apparently. Meanwhile, an awful lot of this federal government building security strikes me as waste. It’s always worth keeping in mind the fundamentally low value of protecting random federal office buildings. Securing the White House helps protect unique national assets that in the absence of security would present a uniquely tempting target. But a man in Washington DC equipped with the means and desire to blow up an office building is going to find that it’s a whole big city full of office buildings he can blow up. My apartment is a block away from the building that used to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement and they had these ugly anti-bomb planters out on the sidewalk so you couldn’t blow the building up with a truck bomb. Well what happens when your would-be truck-bomber sees that? Does he blow up my apartment? Or the NPR headquarters one block to the west? Or drive two blocks south to attack the movie theater? Whatever it is that explains why we don’t have constant truck bomb attacks on the streets of Washington it has nothing to do with building security at second-tier federal agencies.