Security in a Post-Osama World
Did you know it’s hard to get people to talk about security?
Whether it’s at a corner store or the Texas Capitol, it’s something most people refuse to give specifics on because they don’t want to tip the bad guys off.
But in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s capture, there is a lot of news – with not a lot of specifics – about security being stepped up amidst fears of retaliation against Americans for the capture of the Al Qaeda luminary/Public Enemy No. 1.
The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs (the fine folks at embassies around the world) released a travel alert late Sunday night warning people traveling abroad to limit their travel outside of homes or hotels if they are in areas where the “recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan” might cause tensions. It’s interesting to note that this is a WORLDWIDE travel alert, when other travel alerts generally apply to specific countries. I read that as an understanding that it’s time to use your best judgment if you or your loved ones are overseas – pay attention to what is going on around you and remember that terrorism can happen just about anywhere.
They also advise to keep in contact with loved ones overseas, and consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (ie, register with your nearest embassy) just in case.
However, while the travel alert is in place, the Department of Homeland Security has not released an alert through the National Terrorism Advisory System. (That’s the system that in January replaced the color codes you remember for numerous airport visits: “The threat advisory is currently orange.") The reason there is not yellow/orange/red equivalent threat announcement is because the NTAS assumes a “heightened stance of vigilance” normally.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano released a statement this morning on both the security situation, and why there is no Homeland Security alert in place:
“The death of Osama bin Laden is an important success not only for the United States, but the entire world. Our efforts to combat terrorism, however, do not fixate on one individual, and we remain completely focused on protecting our nation against violent extremism of all kinds … our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond.”
Jim Halbrook with the City of Austin’s aviation department said they have not been notified of any changes to the travel process, so as of right now it’s business as usual at Austin Bergstrom-International Airport. We’ll keep an eye on it to make sure nothing changes, but if you’re flying, you should be good.
Elsewhere locally …
- The Texas Department of Public Safety manages security at the Texas Capitol. In line with DPS policy, spokeswoman Tila Mange would not comment on specific security measures (such as the security screenings that visitors to the Capitol now face).
“I can say that we constantly monitor events here and abroad and we’re taking all proactive and appropriate measures. We don’t discuss specific security measures at the Capitol. There are things we’re doing that you can see, and things we’re doing that are not visible to the general public,” Mange said.
- The University of Texas's international office says they've put information online and sent it to students abroad, but they aren't anticipating any changes to the study abroad programs because of the worldwide travel alert.
Are you seeing any heightened security at local landmarks or the universities?