As many who were traveling by airline recently can tell you, the act of a disillusioned individual can create havoc for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
On Sept. 26, disgruntled employee Brian Howard set a fire at the Chicago air-traffic control facility and then tried to kill himself. While Howard, who had ranted on social media about “lazy and useless government workers” and the government’s “immoral and unethical acts” was unsuccessful in his suicide attempt, he succeeded in disrupting hundreds of flights out of O’Hare and Midway airports over the next several days. O’Hare is the second-busiest U.S. air hub.
Flights were rerouted, delayed and canceled, putting a major kink in business dealings across the country, causing consternation for travelers and their families, and adding another dimension to concerns over air travel safety and dependability.
While the Chicago air travel debacle unfolded, the nation was still squirming over security breaches at the White House, where on Sept. 19 a man named Omar Gonzalez scaled the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue and got deep into the executive mansion before being stopped by security. Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, was a U.S. military veteran of Iraq and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the aftermath of the Gonzalez scare, several other breaches of U.S. government security came to light, including an armed private security guard being allowed to travel in an elevator with President Obama, who was never informed of the incident.
The Chicago air-traffic control facility fire and security shortfalls at the White House might not seem, at first blush, to have much in common. But episodes as disparate as these all contribute to the sinking feeling that Americans — from the president down to the common man and woman on the street — are not safe.
If a lunatic air-traffic control employee in Chicago and a troubled military veteran operating alone and without complex plans can breach security, then think what an organized terrorist group could do.
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned after the depth of the organization’s failures became apparent. And officials at the Chicago air-control facility have vowed to review and reinforce security measures.
Such leadership changes and assurances ring hollow in a world where any crack in national security can have ramifications that threaten our government and our people.