In his April 25th Opinion column, “Run and let run,” Jared Fogel takes issue with the ban on backpacks at the Boston Marathon this year. Fogel believes that “…potential terrorists would likely find new ways to attack other than using backpacks; thus, this preventative measure would become meaningless in the long-run.”
Fogel is correct that terrorists have proven adaptable to changing security conditions. In an extreme example of this, one suicide bomber, Abdullah Al-Asiri, evaded security and attempted to kill a Saudi security minister by detonating one pound of explosives hidden in his rectum in 2009. (The attack failed to kill the minister, by the way.)
But Fogel is mistaken in saying that banning backpacks “would become meaningless in the long run.” Constantly shifting security measures are considered a best practice among terrorism analysts precisely because they tend to thwart terrorist attacks in the short-term and force the bad guys to change tactics over the long-term. To my knowledge, no security official in Boston thinks seriously that banning backpacks will totally guarantee the safety of marathon participants and spectators. For now, though, the ban sharply reduces the possibility of more bombs hidden in backpacks being placed at the marathon finish line. An imperfect solution, yes — but it is a step in the right direction.
Austen D. Givens
former Cavalier Daily Opinion Columnist
co-author of “The Business of Counterterrorism: Public-Private Partnerships in Homeland Security”