School Bus Drivers to Foil Terrorist Plots

This is a great example of a movie-plot threat:

Already mindful of motorists with road rage and kids with weapons, bus drivers are being warned of far more grisly scenarios. Like this one: Terrorists monitor a punctual driver for weeks, then hijack a bus and load the friendly yellow vehicle with enough explosives to take down a building.

It's so bizarre it's comical.

But don't worry:

An alert school bus driver could foil that plan, security expert Jeffrey Beatty recently told a class of 250 of drivers in Norfolk, Va.

So we're funding counterterrorism training for school bus drivers:

Financed by the Homeland Security Department, school bus drivers are being trained to watch for potential terrorists, people who may be casing their routes or plotting to blow up their buses.

[...]

The new effort is part of Highway Watch, an industry safety program run by the American Trucking Associations and financed since 2003 with $50 million in homeland security money.

So far, tens of thousands of bus operators have been trained in places large and small, from Dallas and New York City to Kure Beach, N.C., Hopewell, Va., and Mount Pleasant, Texas.

The commentary borders on the surreal:

Kenneth Trump, a school safety consultant who tracks security trends, said being prepared is not being alarmist. "Denying and downplaying schools and school buses as potential terror targets here in the U.S.," Trump said, "would be foolish."

This is certainly a complete waste of money. Possibly it's even bad for security, as bus drivers have to divide their attention between real threats -- automobile accidents involving children -- and movie-plot terrorist threats. And there's the ever-creeping surveillance society:

"Today it's bus drivers, tomorrow it could be postal officials, and the next day, it could be, 'Why don't we have this program in place for the people who deliver the newspaper to the door?' " Rollins said. "We could quickly get into a society where we're all spying on each other. It may be well intentioned, but there is a concern of going a bit too far."

What should we do this with money instead? We should fund things that actually help defend against terrorism: intelligence, investigation, emergency response. Trying to correctly guess what the terrorists are planning is generally a waste of resources; investing in security countermeasures that will help regardless of what the terrorists are planning is much smarter.

Posted on February 21, 2006 at 9:07 AM • 104 Comments

Comments

RoyFebruary 21, 2006 9:30 AM

And at the same time, the Wacky House had been secretly plotting to give control of a number of our ports to a Middle East nation?

Alice, we found your Wonderland.

mpdFebruary 21, 2006 9:31 AM

Why is it that every threat involves terrorists hijacking something, then using it to blow something else up.

Why wouldn't it be effective to simply blow up random school buses? If the point of terrorism is to make you afraid to live your life normally, blowing up school buses would certainly do it for me if I had kids.

BobFebruary 21, 2006 9:35 AM

Of course we cannot consider the possibility that we have intel that shows terrorists might reuse the tactic of attacking a school bus. It has only been one of their most sucessful attacks.

And there is no doubt we know that there is no intel that hints that there may be activity to do this exact thing and that homeland security just pulled it out of a hat.

It could be a school bus, a fire truck, an ambulance or even a police car. It has been done before, it worked, no reason to think it won't be done again.

Mike SherwoodFebruary 21, 2006 9:55 AM

All of the current anti-terrorism efforts all have the effect of giving people a reason to live in fear. Paranoia may be a healthy and natural trait for security researchers, but not everyone has to see everything around them as a threat. The amount of time and money being spent on efforts like this is counter productive, because it's little more than "security theatre".

Anyone waiting at a public bus stop every day around the same time as the school bus goes by should be a suspect in this scenario. It's just too easy to find false positives with this kind of thinking. Any situation that encourages identifying false positives is going to miss a real threat because the investigations have to be superficial when there are so many. Also, the thinking that a class is going to turn school bus drivers into security experts is a bit naive. I think they'd be better off watching more TV. At least there they could learn that people like Gary Oldman are likely to be evil.

Being prepared is not being alarmist, but focusing on low probability scenarios is more about fear mongering than preparation. This is no different from some of the crackpot survivalist rants I've seen. Preparing yourself against an EMP burst without preparing for a house fire or burglary is one of the extreme positions that makes me laugh. There is a point where you have to acknowledge that you can't be prepared for everything. Preparing for the low probability threats first is a sign that there is something very wrong.

JoelFebruary 21, 2006 9:57 AM


This brings to mind a Ray Bradbury story "The Garbage Collector." It is about a man who learns that if a bomb hits the city, he will have to collect the dead in his truck. The title character must decide whether to quit his job and assuage his conscience or keep working to support his family. To Bradbury's credit, it's difficult to tell which crime is more outrageous --- the civic government viewing its citizenry as refuse or making its employees compromise their morals for family.

[story description from Amazon]

ZwackFebruary 21, 2006 10:00 AM

@cr:

My understanding was that Highway watch was simply telling truck drivers what information to collect when they saw something unusual and how to report it.

This is telling School Bus Drivers "you are a target, panic now"

Are non-school bus drivers being trained too? They're on the road more, cover a larger territory and are just as viable a target. Heck, if I was a terrorist I would rather blow up a few normal buses during rush hour in conspicuous locations. Say in the middle of bridges. Yes it doesn't have the instant emotional appeal of blowing up the innocents, but it is just as, perhaps even more disruptive.

And it also is a movie-plot threat.

Z.

Frank Ch. EiglerFebruary 21, 2006 10:13 AM

Bruce, much of what you consider "surreal" has actually happened. Schools and school buses have been terror targets.

You seem to be on a hair-trigger for every opportunity to name-call the administration.

Nell WaltonFebruary 21, 2006 10:18 AM

Most school bus drivers I've known have had to deal with terrorism on a daily basis - it was just ON the bus - not lurking in the bushes watching them drive by. $50 million for this program? Between this HSA program and the stuck-in-mud FEMA trailer fiasco in Arkansas I sleep well at night knowing my tax dollars are so wisely spent.

RSaundersFebruary 21, 2006 10:20 AM

If would be far less risky to buy a school bus than hijack one. You can buy it, drive it to your barn, and spend quality time loading it with explosives. If you hijack a bus, since they travel short local routes, somebody will be upset within an hour. They will complain to the bus company, and the police will start looking for the bus. Why subject yourself to the hassle?

This is the opposite of the trucker programs or the NYC Taxis on Patrol (ToP) program. Those programs take advantage of folks who are familiar with things that go on along the roads they work to report unusual observations. You get the benefit of more reports from folks who are on the road for many hours per day. Tip lines are always about people spying on each other, the only surprise is the number of times the neighbor says "He was such a nice quite man ...".

Andre LePlumeFebruary 21, 2006 10:23 AM

Dammit Bruce. Now you've alerted the terrorists. No doubt they will move to plan B, which involves becoming a cafeteria worker and spiking the turkey tetrazini with nerve gas. THAT is even more expensive to deal with!

Mike SherwoodFebruary 21, 2006 10:31 AM

@Frank

I was curious how many school busses there are in this country. I couldn't find a number, but according to the EPA, 24 million children ride the bus every day. If I take an estimate of 60 people per bus (I made it up - 60 may or may not be a reasonable average) that means there are 400,000 busses out there every day. That's 400,000 potential targets. That's far too many to reasonably expect training bus drivers to offer any reasonable degree of protection. It only takes random freak occurrences to get people's attention.

I do wonder why we haven't seen some of the attacks on schools or public bombings that are all too common elsewhere. Is it too hard to get the right type of people into this country since we don't share a border with our enemies? Is it harder to recruit extremists to blow themselves up here? When it happens in other countries, is it usually the lone wacko type who wouldn't have the financial resources to get here? There's got to be some reason why we're not seeing more of these things here.

bFebruary 21, 2006 10:37 AM

The person who is always stood at the bus stop en-route better watch out..... The bus driver may be sending the FBI his way soon

RSaundersFebruary 21, 2006 10:50 AM

@ Mike

Not a bad guess. See:
http://www.fcps.org/dept/transportation/...

Number of public school buses: 450,000

Number of miles traveled by school buses annually: 4.3 billion

Number of children who ride school buses annually: 25 million

Number of school-age children killed annually in motor vehicle crashes during school travel hours: 800

Percentage of those school-age deaths involving school buses: 2 percent

Number of children killed annually in crashes involving school buses: 20

Number of children injured annually during school travel hours: 152,000

Percentage of those injuries that involve school bus accidents: 4 percent

Percentage of the nation's 40,000 annual motor vehicle deaths that are school-age children during school travel hours: 2 percent

I don't have their original NHTSA source. The most interesting factor is that with this many instances it's likely that many school buses have been involved in crimes, custody battles, and other events. It's the sort of anecdotal evidence that fuels these movie-plot programs.

neduFebruary 21, 2006 10:58 AM

I seem to recall more than one school bus driver referring to his passengers as "little terrorists." The threat is real.

danFebruary 21, 2006 10:59 AM

I don't understand what you are complaining about. This kind of training obviously works. Since the training started, have any school busses been highjacked and run into buildings? No

RoyFebruary 21, 2006 11:03 AM

This 'campaign' will die quietly, the money gone, and no one will notice.

With 400,000 school bus drivers, since virtually all reports will be false positives, and the rare -- if any -- true positive will be automatically mistaken for a false alarm, the cops will quickly routinely treat these as nuisance calls. At most they'll go through the motions; most of the time they'll just pencil-whip the case as 'report unfounded'.

TimFebruary 21, 2006 11:34 AM

@dan--I like your logic. It is like here at my house--every night, I scream out my door "get out of here, tigers!!" Since I have done this, I have not seen any tigers around my neighborhood. The fact that I live in the Chicago suburbs and this area has never had tigers is of no consequence...and neither is the fact that no tigers were around before I started my nightly scream.

ProbitasFebruary 21, 2006 11:44 AM

Highway Watch has some promising aspects, and is, at the end of the day, likely to be a worthwhile program. I am sure that their budget cycle works like any other
Step 1-Get some money
Step 2-Spend it as fast as you can
Step 3-Look for more, and create flimsy new areas in which to spend the money so you can justify your department's existence, grow your budget and increase your own importance within the organization.
Step 4-See step 1

Ed T.February 21, 2006 11:57 AM

@Those who say this is a real threat:

I understand that there are places where school buses are blown up by terrorists. I have even heard where some criminal hijacked a school bus. However, I have yet to hear of one being hijacked, loaded with hi-explosive, and driven into a building. As someone pointed out, it would be far easier to *buy* a bus, and take your sweet time loading it to the gills with C4, TNT, or fertilizer. Not as likely that one of the passengers would call mom and dad on the cell phone and report what was going on, that way.

-EdT.

Ed DaviesFebruary 21, 2006 12:00 PM

> Number of school-age children killed annually in motor vehicle crashes during school travel hours: 800

Therefore, number of school-age children killed since 9/11 in motor vehicle crashes during school travel hours: roughly 3500 compared with 3000 for that event. Which do the governments choose to spend billions on, counter-terrorism or road safety?

another_bruceFebruary 21, 2006 12:28 PM

a bizarre sense of self-importance and authority dawns on some people when they fancy themselves the protector of people around them perceived to be less able to protect themselves. remember all the nuts in "dr. strangelove"? there's fertile ground here for a "movie plot" mocking homeland security.

AGFebruary 21, 2006 12:58 PM

Paraphrasing Men In Black

"Thank you gentlemen, you programs are exacting the type of insightful, useful enterprise we have come to expect from years of government sponsored rework and design."

Joe PattersonFebruary 21, 2006 1:12 PM

@mpd

"Why is it that every threat involves terrorists hijacking something, then using it to blow something else up."

Ever watched much japanese anime? It's pretty impressive how much of it includes a large city being vaporized in a really big explosion. Same reason.

David DonahueFebruary 21, 2006 1:19 PM

This training in fact not an actual security project, its simply an opportunity to sell the school bus drivers on the importance of backing policies / politicians who endorse security agendas.

Nothing drives home a political argument quite like saying, "you (and your children passengers) could be killed, if it wasn't for us watching your back, and doing things like this training class".

Movies and movie-plots are written the way they are because they work to get people's attention and get them riled up and involved. As such it is not surprising that they work to sell political agendas as well as movie tickets. This is just yet another reason to hold a security theater show.

On an interesting note, these techniques also work to sell technical security devices and services, just look at the FUD released by the Anti-virus companies or think about the number of times you've had to implement policies that where pushed through to stop threats like Tom Cruise lowering himself on repelling gear through the ceiling grid into your server room but actually mitigated the threat of non-criminal intent insiders messing with stuff they shouldn't (i.e. a locked rack doors policy).

BusterFebruary 21, 2006 1:29 PM

@EdT

>As someone pointed out, it would be far easier to *buy* a bus, and take your sweet time loading it to the gills with C4, TNT, or fertilizer.

Or perhaps just rent a UHaul truck.

Or a motor-home/RV instead of a bus.


On the expenditure:

$50 million / 450,000 bus drivers = $111 / driver.

If we just gave all of them a $10/mo raise, it'd be about the same cost.


I have yet to hear of one being hijacked, loaded with hi-explosive,

and driven int Not as likely that one of the passengers would call mom and
dad on the cell phone and report what was going on, that way.

-EdT.

drewFebruary 21, 2006 1:31 PM

On the one hand, I can see where it's of benefit to have people trained to be alert to potential threat indicators or suspicious situations. I train security people on this and I think it's valuable for them.

School bus drivers, and school buses generally, are not themselves a high-value terrorist target. I can think of one reason why Highway Watch might have targeted them as an audience -- school bus drivers are required to be background checked, and thus are more likely to give reliable tips than J Random Public.

However, I have some real doubts about the back end -- the tip lines, hot lines, police dispatch centers, etc. -- which is where a sizable amount of the money needs to be spent. What good is a "hot tip" when it gets lost in the noise of so many false positives, or ignored completely?

Koray CanFebruary 21, 2006 1:59 PM

This kind of defence is economically not feasible at all! Let's assume that terrorists are indeed thinking of hijacking a school bus. According to the posts above, there are 400k school buses. So you spend your money protecting all these buses. And then the terrorists have a change of heart and hijack a greyhound bus (wasn't this in The Siege?), a university bus, or some other vehicle. Where did all that money go? If the terrorists have a busload of explosives in the US, you already lost the game.

RvnPhnxFebruary 21, 2006 3:02 PM

@Ed Davies
Ahh........no. The official total for the actual "event" you make reference to: somewhere in the 1500-1800 range. Still not a number to laugh at, but let us all get our priorities straight.
Spending this money on automatic defribulators would have been more cost efficient--or for that matter, how about Advanced First Aid updates (on top of the basic CPR that many districts, but not all, already require of their bus drivers)? Maybe a simple primer on how to handle an MCI (multiple casualty incident), which is what you'll have in the much more common case of a bus actually ending up in a road-travel accident (and goes way beyond what any driver receives as traning now in any district I know of)?
See, no movie plots required--and the money goes to good use, even training the same people.

GPEFebruary 21, 2006 3:17 PM

It makes more sense to spend the money on developing logistics for leveraging what buses do best - moving people out of areas hit by man-made or natural disasters. Such a competent plan would have saved real lives in New Orleans. But then, think of all those poor security consultants who would be out of a job if they could only peddle their ideas to Hollywood?

DavidFebruary 21, 2006 3:18 PM

There's already a good movie plot for all this -- Terry Gilliam's _Brazil_. I happened to be watching it last night (for the first time in a long time) and I was astonished at its comic resonance with this sort of stuff.

As the sign in the movie, at the Ministry of Information, says, "suspicion breeds confidence."

Bruce SchneierFebruary 21, 2006 4:41 PM

"I thought you were promoting Highway Watch a couple of months ago?"

I thought Highway Watch was a bit hokey, but not actively damaging. This school bus program is different. It's too specific. It takes bus drivers minds off what needs to be their primary security concern: the kids. And it promotes fear and not security.

jammitFebruary 21, 2006 4:42 PM

Coming soon to a theater near you. Harrison Ford in "Bus Force One".
I keep getting the feeling that someone, somewhere is actually playing a practical joke. What's next? Bus marshals?

DanFebruary 21, 2006 7:45 PM

Unfortunately, the Bush regime has little interest in actually solving the terrorism problem, as the terrorists are the perfect "boogeyman" in their fascist grab for power. Little of what they have done, has done anything to significantly increase the security of the American people. In fact, much of what the Bush administration has done has worked to make the risks to the American people as a whole far greater.

ProbitasFebruary 21, 2006 8:47 PM

What about busloads of senior citizens?!?!?!? Who is protecting them?!?!?!? We need to spend money on that, too! Pronto!!!!!

And what about operators of carnival rides?!?!?! We must train them, as well. Couldn't somebody pack a Ferris wheel with TNT, loosen a couple of bolts, and presto! You have a Rolling Wheel of Death, coming soon to YOUR city!

Janet MaurantonioFebruary 21, 2006 9:26 PM

As an employee of Highway Watch I feel it necessary to address Bruce's comments. School bus drivers are a large segment of the transportation industry and as such have a significant presence on our roads. Given that HWW's mission is twofold, Safety and Security, it can only help to train as many individuals as possible. Yes, we offer instruction on possible security threats but not every scenario is "movie-plot." The same rationale that makes Highway Watch useful for our truck drivers and other transportation employees applies to school bus drivers. They are not being asked to become Keanu Reeves, only to be aware and to report suspicious activity if it presents itself in the course of their daily activities. Also, to contribute to the safety of our roads by reporting road hazards and unsafe conditions. We specifically discourage profiling of any type and to imply that the purpose of this program is nefarious at any level without respect to its benefits is irresponsible. I don't understand why you would write something so positive regarding Highway Watch and something so negative regarding something that is a natural extension of the program. Hopefully, Highway Watch will become the model for an effective domestic safety effort that is citizen driven. We are not encouraging paranoia, we are trying to provide a means of empowerment to the average citizen. I don't think that is an unreasonable mission by any means. In fact, it has already saved lives.

another_bruceFebruary 21, 2006 10:20 PM

@janet maurantonio
"they are not being asked to become keanu reeves, only to be aware and to report suspicious activity if it presents itself in the course of their daily activities..."
how do you define "suspicious activity"? in other similar programs, e.g. the post office's "under the eye of the eagle", suspicious activity is whatever makes the postal clerk suspicious. there's a reasonable objective benchmark. i can hear your bus drivers now "yow, a man in a turban just came out of the ihop!"
bus drivers have always been involved in local matters of road safety, e.g. car fires, livestock loose on the road, impaired drivers, what makes you think we need a federal program to help them do this? what makes you think you can train a bus driver to recognize and prevent the next al-qaeda attack? can you name one person your program has saved, as you alleged? finally, how many other well-connected but basically useless drones got featherbedded into this boondoggle besides you?

Ari HeikkinenFebruary 21, 2006 10:36 PM

"Possibly it's even bad for security, as bus drivers have to divide their attention between real threats -- automobile accidents involving children -- and movie-plot terrorist threats."

This is an excellent point.

Ari HeikkinenFebruary 21, 2006 11:02 PM

Just to add, the last paragraph also summarizes the whole thing. I mean, terrorists could blow up anything. They could blow up a bus, they could bring explosives to schools and detonate them there, they could steal a car, stuff it up with explosives and then ram it into a building. The possibilities are endless. It's impossible trying to protect against terrorists plots simply because there's infinite number of them. There's infinite number of even the most likely plots. It only works if you have access to a time machine and can look into the future to see upcoming terrorist plots before they happen. Otherwise it's a total waste of money.

B-ConFebruary 22, 2006 1:09 AM

$50 million is going to the highway watch program overall (according to the article), but how much is going to this specific division?

If the costs are not too high, I would be slower to critisize the effort. After all, a bus is a vehicle loaded with children, and automatically a vulnerable point. I think that the specific idea laid forth is absurd, but training bus drivers to be on the lookout in various ways is a good idea.

Nick LancasterFebruary 22, 2006 2:31 AM

Janet writes:

"Hopefully, Highway Watch will become the model for an effective domestic safety effort that is citizen driven. We are not encouraging paranoia, we are trying to provide a means of empowerment to the average citizen. I don't think that is an unreasonable mission by any means. In fact, it has already saved lives."

1. Where I live, folks are too busy futzing with their Blackberrys and laptops to pay attention to road conditions.

2. Secondly, what about a hijacked or re-purposed bus qualifies it as noteworthy/a threat? Is it the appearance of the bus driver? The fact that the bus is empty? That it's driving downtown?

3. "In fact, it has already saved lives." Is your meaning that HWW has, in fact, successfully prevented a terrorist attack, or that an alert driver has called in about hazardous road conditions and prevented a potential accident?

4. School bus drivers are, unfortunately, tasked to specific routes. The best place to hijack the bus is at the yard or shortly before its first pickup AND in a manner that can be socially engineered. That is, the bus won't be stopped by a band of Uzi-waving terrorists spread across the street, but by a 'motorist' stopped on a remote roadside, clearly in need of assistance (which is also a movie-plot tactic). The drama of staking out a bus route, hijacking the bus, controlling a bus load of kids WHILE stopping somewhere to pack the bus full of explosives is completely impractical. It creates a situation where far too many variables exist for successful execution - one kid gets away, someone sees you loading - your plan is shot.

Put a GPS transponder in the bus if you must. "Hmm, where's Bus 21-A going?"

Carl ThorpFebruary 22, 2006 3:36 AM

Whilst I dont have full details of the programme that has been initiated I think you have been a little to quick to criticise what appears to be a sensible awarness raising exercise - whether its cost are sensible is a different debate I dont have the facts to enter into.
As a UK citizen I well remember the years we lived with the constant, real and proven threat of terrorist attack. When I was a member of its armed forces I was taught simple but effective techniqies to protect myself from becoming a terrorist target. Most of these were around protecting my vehicle, monitoring for unusual activities on my routes to work etc. This did not detract in any way from my abilities to safely drive my vehicle. In fact it probably made me a better driver as it reinforced the need to observe what was happening round me at all times. So it should be simple matter of educating the drivers in what supicious activity to look out for and how to report it. Athough I must admit this would probabably be a little more difficult for a bus driver to determine as they have to keep to fixed routes, I had the advantage of being able to vary my routes which makes the identification of suspicious activity much simpler.
Having seen buses being targeted by terrorists in other parts of the world (and I am not going to enter into the rights and wrongs of these acts) then it would seem sensible to educate drivers and raise awarness of the problems they may face. Its not often you will find me complementing the US Government on their anti-terror stance but after all if the they did nothing and an attack happened, imagine the outcry.

Nick LancasterFebruary 22, 2006 4:45 AM

Carl:

As for '... if they did nothing and an attack happened, imagine the outcry' ... this is a fallacy called post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which has been invoked by the President and Vice President in their defense of the 'secret' spying program. (To wit, if we had that program - implemented after 9/11 - *prior* to 9/11, we could have stopped 9/11. Where's my flux capacitor?)

I would prefer something other than security voodoo to defend our country. To measure how effective this 'suspicious activity' scenario might be, at what point would a bus driver report the presence of an extra bus (presumably loaded with explosives) in front of the school? Yup, that's right - when they get there.

I mean, come on. A couple of cars are going to stop a bus full of kids, hijack the bus, pause long enough to load it chock-full of explosives, AND AVOID DETECTION while maintaining their schedule? I'd say that's pretty close to impossible, yet this is the scenario being presented as the reason for the program.

This is not to dismiss concerns or vulnerabilities pertaining to our children and a common means of transportation, but this whole thing sounds like someone has been watching too many episodes of '24'.

JakeSFebruary 22, 2006 8:03 AM

It does seem sensible to educate bus drivers, and indeed truck drivers and any other citizens who spend a lot of time out and about in public places, to notice 'things', to know what do do about them and to take 'appropriate action'. 'Things' means, ideally, anything that needs attention, from a potential terrorist to a lost child to someone collapsed on the sidewalk. 'Appropriate action' means, mostly, calling in a report to an agency that is equipped to respond appropriately to whatever is happening, and giving useful information to guide the agency's response.

The issue, surely, is what we want people to notice. Anything out of the ordinary, perhaps. Then what's out of the ordinary? This is where training is needed, so that there are sensible criteria for what to report - not simply leaving it to individuals' prejudices, such as "driving while black" (or nowadays, "driving while vaguely-Middle-Eastern-looking"); although the spectrum of potentially-reportable 'things' is so broad that there has to be scope for judgement and instinct and knowledge of local situations.

Then the report that's called in needs to be sensible enough, and accurate enough, to enable the agency to assess what sort of response is needed. Do they need to scramble a SWAT team with helicopter gunships, now-now-now, or do they need someone just to walk by quietly and check out what's going on? Training needed, again.

Then the procedures need to be exercised, regularly.

It all sounds rather like designing a security incident response process, doesn't it?

jayhFebruary 22, 2006 9:02 AM

>>When I was a member of its armed forces I was taught simple but effective techniqies to protect myself from becoming a terrorist target. Most of these were around protecting my vehicle,

Much of the issue is that people become actually convinced that they are accomplishing something by going through the elaborate rituals... when in fact, all that attention had no actual real effect on the world.

When I drive I worry about protecting my vehicle from collisions with others, not about terrorist attacks... priorities, man, priorities.

[Interesting, on time buses are considered a risk... I can see where this is going ]

jayhFebruary 22, 2006 9:04 AM

weird.. my previous post got totally truncated when posted... (NSA computers must be hiccupping)

Don't try to make sense of it.

WaitAMinuteFebruary 22, 2006 10:30 AM

@Janet Maurantonio

"Given that HWW's mission is twofold, Safety and Security, it can only help to train as many individuals as possible."
"Also, to contribute to the safety of our roads by reporting road hazards and unsafe conditions."
"Hopefully, Highway Watch will become the model for an effective domestic safety effort that is citizen driven."

Wait a minute. Is this an anti-terrorism campaign or just the latest "safety awareness" program. I don't mind focusing on making our highways and citizens safer from everyday hazards, but then let's just say this is a safety program not an anti-terrorism program. Let's just call a duck a duck.

Is this the future? Whenever a local agency wants some new funding, they dream up some crazy "movie plot" terrorist threat scenario, get some federal funding, then get soft on the actual "terror" issues by adding catch phrases like "twofold mission", "contributing to overall safety", etc. and end up spending the money for ordinary common sense types of routine training, the same they would have done if they had gotten the money from a typical federal source, like the DOT. Perhaps since the money came from DHS, they add a couple of token "anti-terror" bullet points to the training program for justification.

another_bruceFebruary 22, 2006 11:13 AM

@jakes
like janet maurantonio, you conflated matters of local purview (lost kids, people collapsed on sidewalks) with matters such as terrorism which are too complex to be handled entirely at the local level. we don't need to spend federal money training bus drivers to recognize lost kids or people collapsed on sidewalks, and i challenge your suggestion that bus drivers and other ordinary civilians can be trained to recognize potential terrorists (without rampant ethnic profiling). is there one single trait of a potential terrorist that you can identify for me that will be helpful when i go to the mall tomorrow, so that i might be able to save 100-200 members of my community as well as myself? if i see a swarthy guy with a small backpack, should i call it in? if i see a bbw with a spandex decolletage big enough to conceal ten pounds of plastique, should i call it in? what about people in trench coats? i wanna do the right thing here!

neduFebruary 22, 2006 11:40 AM

"is there one single trait of a potential terrorist that you can identify for me that will be helpful when i go to the mall tomorrow"

Yep. Whenever you see a group of kids, the boys are likely to be the terrorizers and the girls are likely to be the terrorizees.

SarcasticFebruary 22, 2006 11:47 AM

1. We need to hire an additional couple million air marshals and extend their mission to include schoolchildren's transportation safety. True, to pass as ordinary kids, the new AM's would necessarily be minors, but as a nation we need to accept there will be some losses due to friendly fire. (Recruiting will be helped by the fact that they would be eligible for retirement at an early age, and so will the license to bring guns to school.)

2. We need to secretly surveil the school bus drivers to identify which ones have been, or are being, recruited into terrorist cells.

3. We need to secretly surveil the mechanics who work on school buses so we can thwart their plots to secretly install bombs on school buses.

4. We need to secretly surveil the maintenance people charged with cleaning schoolbuses since they are the ideal agents for smuggling bombs or guns aboard.

I propose a Department of Hopeless Stupidity, which I will head, and I promise to work cheap. Just $500 billion, cash, in advance, please.

Herr NixlerFebruary 22, 2006 1:18 PM

Another fine idea from the folks at Homeland Security.

Right up there with painting BullsEyes on all the offshore oil pumping stations out here in the Gulf of Mexico.

Well not not really Bullseyes, just huge signs identifying them for would be bombers. I kid you not, they really did it!

RouninFebruary 22, 2006 3:12 PM

Bruce, seems like everything to you sounds like a movie-plot threat, when that's just what 9/11 turned out to be. It's called asymmetrical warfare.

This particular training sounds like a weird spin-off of behavior pattern recognition (BPR) taught by Rafi Ron's New Age Security Solutions.

http://www.csoonline.com/read/020106/...

Maybe it is his training. Does anyone know who the DHS contracted?

Nick LancasterFebruary 22, 2006 8:33 PM

@Rounin:

Despite the 'movie-plot' aspects of 9/11 - crashing passenger jets into buildings - if you look at the underlying factors, you can see how simple the execution was kept. Get onboard with a weapon, get into the cockpit, commandeer the plane.

But the school bus caper suggested by these folks is horribly complex and convoluted. The unorthodox attack (exploding bus) combined with the roundabout plan (monitor bus, hijack bus, load bus with explosives, drive bus and kiddies to school, go boom) is what makes this a true 'movie-plot' threat.

We're fighting folks like Osama bin Laden, not Rube al-Goldberg.

I, myself, prefer to think that if terrorists wished to blow up a school, they'd do so in the most direct and least error-prone manner. No pre-mission surveillance, no hijacking, no timetables, no hustling to load a bus full of explosives.

As the saying goes, if you're gonna do the big stuff, don't do the small stuff. Want to blow up the school? Fine, but don't put your operation at risk by shadowing buses, hinging the plan on a hijack attempt, further depending on being able to rapidly load explosives without detection, and so on.

Janet MaurantonioFebruary 22, 2006 9:56 PM

I personally find it sad that so many people are quick to parrot an uninformed opinion by someone who is supposed to be an objective expert in the security field. I have offered Bruce the opportunity to get detailed information on our program and he has not responded (BTW I am NOT in marketing).

Not only have we trained school bus drivers but we have local LAW ENFORCEMENT that both train our members and have taken training across this country. We simply pass on the same AWARENESS techniques used by military, federal and law enforcement agencies to every day citizens. These techniques were developed and are used by people with extensive federal law enforcement experience. They were not developed in a vacuum. We make no claims that any particular technique is foolproof. However, a little bit of simple knowledge could make a world of difference. On top of that, our program has been very valuable regarding the reporting of everyday safety issues that improves the quality of road conditions. The only people who have been duped are the ones who are mindlessly regurgitating Schneier's opinion rather than taking the time to find out for themselves whether the program has worth.

To everyone who posted objective comments, I thank you.

JamesFebruary 22, 2006 10:23 PM

"intelligence, investigation, emergency response. Trying to correctly guess what the terrorists are planning is generally a waste of resources; investing in security countermeasures that will help regardless of what the terrorists are planning is much smarter."

There are roughly three million people involved in the highway sector. It's these types of numbers that make programs like Amber Alert so useful... would anyone on this board question the value of that program? How is this one any different? It seems to me that THAT'S exactly what School Bus Watch is trying to do. Could the U.S. create a federal program that has the effectiveness of THREE MILLION pairs of eyes? I doubt it. Another_bruce would have you believe that a regular joe can't be given basic knowledge that would improve his ability to ascertain "suspicious" behavior... if that's the case, how are our law enforcement and troops trained? They aren't supermen with special magical knowledge... many people would be surprised to learn how many officers take personal, supplemental training to be more effective in facing threats. Do you think cops come out of law enforcement academies knowing EVERYTHING? No... in fact, many have been killed relying on the basic training they receive. The SMART ones continue to research and hone their skills PERSONALLY, whether through personal firearms, martial arts, combat or other training.

There is a line that should not be crossed for programs like this. As long as that line is respected the value of programs like this are immeasurable, even simply from a safety perspective. I personally think this program is useful and would like to see more programs that encourage people to play a role in this country's safety and security.

_JonFebruary 22, 2006 10:35 PM

After Isreal had a few schools attacked they allowed teachers to arm themselves.

It could be considered worthwhile to require school bus drivers to be trained, armed, and capable of defending their children.

Then again, the same could be said of schools.

Nick LancasterFebruary 23, 2006 4:12 AM


@Janet:

Bruce doesn't live here. My opinions as to the 'movie-plot' aspects of the scenario mentioned in the article are my own.

I would sooner accept the program on the grounds of improving highway safety - I routinely call in road hazards/unsafe drivers during the commute - rather than wave the terrorism prevention flag over it and claim that as the primary reason.

I consider it far more likely that an alert bus driver would spot a child abductor than a terrorist.

WaitAMinuteFebruary 23, 2006 9:49 AM

@Janet Maurantonio

I am with Bruce on this one. Your latest statement simply reinforces Bruce's point. That the DHS money is _not_ being spent to effectively and specifically deter _terrorism_.

From your statements, the DHS money seems to be helping you to fund a fine safety awareness program. Ok, but why are we using DHS anti-terrorism money for a safety program that should be funded by the DOT or other federal agencies.

Nowhere in your description do you mention anything about _anti-terrorist_ training for the bus drivers (and citizens). The original article states: "Financed by the Homeland Security Department, school bus drivers are being trained to watch for potential terrorists, people who may be casing their routes or plotting to blow up their buses."

Again, let's call a duck a duck. If you are looking for federal money to fund general safetey awareness, then fine, just say so, don't come up with some bizarre comical "movie-plot" threat scenario to get DHS anti-terroism money for this purpose.

Ari HeikkinenFebruary 23, 2006 2:28 PM

In my opinion, if you try to sell the general public "terrorist awareness" programs like these it'll only make things worse.

What they'll do is spread paranoia, make people see possible terrorists everywhere and more seriously, perhaps make people distracted from what they should be doing in the first place (like school bus drivers, driving kids safely to school).

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong if say employers of bus drivers make their drivers go thru a small course on the lines of "how to deal with emergency situations", but a massive federal program for "terrorist awareness" with taxpayers money simply sounds silly to me.

JamesFebruary 23, 2006 6:53 PM

@Ari

Ignorance is better? As long as the information is credible, we can't expect people to use basic common sense? So ignorance is bliss. But, with all the "anti-fear" mongering I've seen on this topic, I'm almost inclined to agree. Schneier's reference came from ONE article and was taken out of context and the bandwagon rolled up. Rather than approach this topic in any balanced fashion, most people just slammed this program out of hand. My inclination is to think Schneier is just pissed because it wasn't one of HIS grand ideas (as written in his "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World," only $25 plus a free Osama Bin Laden bobblehead, ORDER TODAY!) I checked out the website at Highwaywatch.com and, though somewhat alarmist, their purpose seemed at least reasonable, unlike MANY other government funded programs. And $50 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the 100+ BILLION that has been wasted in those quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq (where troops are dying EVERYDAY so oil companies can DOUBLE the price of vehicle and heating fuel... YAY!!!!) At lot more has been spent on a lot stupider. I'm sure that there are more legitimate reasons than "it's just stupid" to not like this program. But so far I haven't read any. Seems like Schneier was able to play many people on this blog in the EXACT same way except that, rather than play on your fear, he's playing on your desire to NOT BE AFRAID. But regardless, many people are jettisoning their common sense nontheless. Sorry folks, but manipulation is manipulation. I'd rather draw my own conclusions.

Jeremy BraytonFebruary 24, 2006 12:25 PM

The better movie would be this one: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103112/

The only exception being it happens at the school, a prep school, so there's not really any buses (that I remember).

@James
Bruce is merely reporting about taxpayer money spent on ANTI-TERRORISM when it is funding nothing more than a SAFETY AWARENESS system. If you need such a system and can't get funding through normal channels like DOT, DON'T do something like this. Yes, every government agency needs more money for the budget. Some of that is their own stupidity ($10k toilets anyone?) but some of that need is actually real. Rather than find ways to lie, cheat, and steal a budget increase why not "play fair" and ask nicely for your handout like all the other good children? If our government can't behave nicely when asking for money, what hope do any of us have when there's a real need? At some point it'll just be taken (then again some could argue this is exactly what taxes are for).

Anyways the point is if you need a program for highway safety, the country will gladly support and pay for it. If you mask said program with "anti-terrorism" propaganda, how the hell do you expect us to believe you when you REALLY need the money next time? You'll be falling on deaf ears.

Janet MaurantonioFebruary 24, 2006 3:23 PM

@another_Bruce

FYI - I am not affiliated with Maestro in anyway. That person is not me. Another assumption on your part.

Nick LancasterFebruary 24, 2006 4:43 PM

@James:

If flushing $100+ billion down the drain for ground action in Afghanistan and Iraq is money ill-spent, then the terrorism problem is not the dire fight for democracy and freedom (and sectarian politics!) that is being sold, but a screw-up of colossal proportions based on OTHER goals (like your cited oil prices) ... and a program pitched as helping prevent terrorists from hijacking school buses is equally fraudulent.

Who is more free, the citizen who acknowledges terrorism as a possibility, or the citizen who desperately grasps at cameras, surveillance, distributed spying programs, military adventurism abroad, and accepts the bland assurances of an unchecked executive?

This 'terrorists under the bed' paradigm that keeps getting thrown on the table is little more than McCarthyism with a fresh coat of slime.

JamesFebruary 26, 2006 2:45 PM

"Who is more free, the citizen who acknowledges terrorism as a possibility..."

That's exactly what School Bus Watch is about. Letting people know that terrorism is a POSSIBILITY and giving them the tools to make a difference.

Nick LancasterFebruary 26, 2006 4:39 PM

@ James:

Acknowledging something as a possibility does not require ceding all reason to fear of that same outcome.

I live in the SF Bay Area - earthquake country - and lived through Loma Prieta. An earthquake is a possibility, but I don't avoid bridges because they might fall, or move to the midwest because I'm afraid of the next Big One. Our family has taken *sensible* precautions - not pie-in-the-sky fantasies and what-ifs, which is how the SBW program comes off with its 'terrorists could be following YOU!' approach.

I do not believe that preaching to fear and encouraging this 'terrorists hiding all over' nonsense makes our country any stronger or any safer, and I think a dose of level-headed thinking will do more for us than the amateur spy hour that is SBW.

AnonymousFebruary 26, 2006 11:00 PM

American terrorists back in the 1970's followed a school bus in the Chowchilla California region and hijacked it along with the school kids and driver. All were imprisoned in an underground hole for a few days,until they could claw their way out of the place. The suspects were caught,tried and convicted.were young Americans, so imagine what foreign terrorists could manufacture. This is a true story, and anyone living near Chowchilla, to Pleasanton California for years, knows of the story.

Check6CharlieMarch 14, 2006 8:20 PM

I work for a major police dept. 3 years ago I did a security survey of a school bus storage lot. I asked how long it would take for the lot supervisor to determine that a school bus was missing. She said Maybe 3days! Now that's scary! after the survey was completed I sent it to the school district and my HQ. I caught holly hell! I was told never to conduct a security survey on County owned property. I was also barred from the bus lot. I developed a terrorism presentation for bus drivers at about the same time. Wrote a letter to the Bus supervisors offering the training they never responded. all this was well before Highway watch. How many of us would question a school bus pulling up at a local school, how many of us know how easy it would be to take out several schools at one time. Imagine the consequences! Its not being paranoid, we need to win through education and awareness! We got to convince these people that we are in danger and must be prepared to counter it!

AnonymousMarch 14, 2006 8:47 PM

We got to convince these people that we are in danger and must be prepared to counter it!

That statement may be kinda strong! We need to educate Bus drivers and Citizens that a potential danger does exist and that we must learn how to spot it and report it asap.

Check6CharlieMarch 14, 2006 8:48 PM

We got to convince these people that we are in danger and must be prepared to counter it!

That statement may be kinda strong! We need to educate Bus drivers and Citizens that a potential danger does exist and that we must learn how to spot it and report it asap.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 14, 2006 08:47 PM

BrendenMarch 15, 2006 7:49 AM

There is absolutely nothing we can do to stop all possible attack routes. I'm waiting for a terrorist with a bomb strapped to his body to blow it up in a airport security check line. That'd take out dozens of people (if not a lot more), could destroy a lot of expensive equipment, and would disrupt the airport for days.

There is no limit to the creativity of motivated people.

ElrodMarch 15, 2006 1:05 PM

There is an intersection in my town near a school where people are required to stop at a stop sign. People regularly roll through this intersection without stopping, so several parents now take turns sitting near the stop sign on school days watching the traffic. People who don't stop at the stop sign get reported to the police, not as potential terrorists, but as lawbreakers who put their kids in danger.

Since this intersection is near several school bus routes, shall these parents now be reported to Homewellian Security as potential terrorists?

How absurd.

Andrew SullivanMarch 15, 2006 2:43 PM

Not only is this a movie-plot threat, it was practically the plot of a book that, I assumed when I read it, was intended to become a movie. Not too bad a book, though I thought the ending sorta cheesed out. I now recommend avoiding reading it in airports, lest you be arrested! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0446605417/...

MLAMarch 16, 2006 7:58 AM

Off-topic but maybe interesting: To the post which asked why we haven't seen more of the simple terrorist attacks common elsewhere (luggage bombs, car bombs etc). Yes, it is more difficult for a MidEastern-looking bad guy to get into the US than, say, Britain. But I think the real reason for no further attacks is so obvious that everyone misses it: 9/11 was immensely successful beyond Bin Laden's dreams. It has done colossal damage to the US economy and image (largely thanks to the US Govt's reaction, of course) ... did Bin Laden guess that blowing up the Twin Towers would, five years later, leave the US spending a billion a week on a pointless war? From the terrorist perspective, there's no point launching further attacks, while the payoff from the first one continues to roll in.

MikeRMarch 31, 2006 6:50 PM

@Janet:

Here is an every day citizen (OK, also working in computer security) who is willing to undergo your training and evaluate it objectively as a safety and/or counter-terrorism measure, whichever applies.

A school bus driverApril 8, 2006 3:16 PM

So we go to our annual recertification meeting to dicuss school bus safety and we get this thrown in our faces. Though we certainly agree that there are security threats to be aware of now, we are placed in a position where we are now acting as government agents. What we were told at this meeting is now we should be checking our buses too for any signs of tampering such as a bag left on the bus, checking the battery box for explosives, the undercarriage for anything stuck to it, etc. etc. If that is the case we as bus drivers should be getting a little more in our paychecks for the job a Bomb Squad would be doing. With everything else we are responsible for on our buses, this is probably that last straw for some drivers that think this is just too much for them. When parents find out that we are now checking for anything suspicious on and off our buses there will be a lot less students riding our buses. I know for a fact that there is no security at alot of these bus yards at night so anyone can get to these buses and do what they want. And I don't think they will put bombs or whatever in plain sight so we can find them and then to declare the bus safe to drive!

Another school bus driverJune 3, 2006 3:03 PM

Here is something new for school bus drivers to deal with. In my school district, our company is telling us that police will be doing a sidewalk spot-check of school bus drivers at our schools, wherein they will board our buses and ask us for our license and medical certification card.
How's that for a waste of the taxpayer's money!
It does seem we are becoming a police state. Americans are rolling over and playing dead for their Constitutional rights and freedoms whenever they hear the word terrorist.
Meanwhile our sons and daughters are dying in foreign lands to protect same.
An ugly and horrific irony.

Another school bus driverJune 3, 2006 3:03 PM

Here is something new for school bus drivers to deal with. In my school district, our company is telling us that police will be doing a sidewalk spot-check of school bus drivers at our schools, wherein they will board our buses and ask us for our license and medical certification card.
How's that for a waste of the taxpayer's money!
There's a question of infringement here isn't there?
It does seem we are becoming a police state. Americans are rolling over and playing dead for their Constitutional rights and freedoms whenever they hear the word terrorist.
Meanwhile our sons and daughters are dying in foreign lands to protect same.
An ugly and horrific irony.

John WhelanJune 4, 2006 3:15 AM

Our new buses are coming with security cameras to foil any attempts of wrong doing by disloyal students. Some of our drivers are thinking 'invasion of privacy'.
I'm glad I just work on them!

ToddFebruary 1, 2007 3:45 PM

I really don't see the big deal about spending money to train school bus drivers about terrorism on school busses. I mean come on!!! School bus drivers are only carrying our most precious cargo...OUR KIDS!!! You know...America's future!!

I think when it comes to the safety of our kids riding school busses, EVERY measure should be taken to ensure their safety and if that means spending money for our bus drivers to get trained for terrorists, then so be it.

No I don't think that we should go as far as spending money to teach our local newspaper boy/girl how to look out for terrorists, but when it comes to school's and school busses, I think it's just. As a school bus driver you need to be aware...YOU ARE PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN AND WHEN THEY ARE ON A SCHOOL BUS, THEY ARE THE DRIVER'S CHILDREN AND THE DRIVER SHOULD HAVE THE TRAINING.

Quit being retarded people.

Laughing at PropagandaMarch 17, 2007 6:41 AM

LMAO at this story. On September 11, 2001 Vice President Cheney was playing his war games and left Washington D.C. completely vulnerable to attack. Cheney let the Pentagon get hit and we're training bus drivers on how to spot terrorists! I'm laughing so hard my sides hurt! LMAO at the United States government and their fear mongering and propaganda!

mickey loves shiny thingsMarch 17, 2007 8:54 AM

Oh brother. Look, terrorists could do ANY number of things. They could get jobs as schoolteachers and then blow the whole school up. They could get jobs in your office building and blow IT up. The point is that we can't possibly think of everything they COULD do, and besides, isn't the president always saying that ALL of the terrorists went to Iraq? That's why we are fighting over there, so we "don't have to fight them here"? Which is it? Are they here or there? If they are here anyway, why bother killing our soldiers overseas? let them stay here and watch our schoolbuses.

Pied Piper BushMarch 17, 2007 11:09 AM

Hello Mickey loves shiny things. President Bush here. Heh heh. You are right about the Iraq war. I remember that story about the guy who played that fiddle or flute or washboard or whatever the insturment was and he lead all of them snakes or prairie dogs or lice...whatever vermin they were away by playing a tune on his tuba and them crotch crickets all followed him to another planet or country, or whatever. I thought that was a riveting, page turner of a story and I thought I'd instigate that idea with them evil turrists. They followed all our big shiny guns and tanks to Iraq. If I was a turrist, I would too, because like you Mickey, I love shiny things.

Love,

President George Shiny Things Bush

TexasbusdriverMarch 18, 2007 11:48 PM

I am a school bus driver in Texas, and yes we recently participated in the Highway Watch 'saftey' course. It wasn't worth $50mil. We are required by our district to Pre and Post trip our buses every day already inside and out...for maitenance etc. During the 'training' I pre-tripped my bus like always, and found the 'bomb'...AFTER my turn was over and I was SITTING on the bus steps during the next persons turn...that is the first time I have ever sat on the steps there. Point is if someone wanted to plant something on a bus there are tons of places that no one would see it unless you were doing repairs to that particular area...and as far as noticing people on and around my route and stops, and alerting someone I already do that (transportation base)because of our ordinary everyday parents/family members, criminals, and pervs. of all sexes, ages, and races. To close my soapbox I agree with the writer who said to pay the $ directly to the drivers because of all we already do everyday I drive 71 elementary (preK-5th grade) children to and from school with them behind my back...talking to each other and to me...I have to watch them carefully so that they will sit down, face forward, in their seats, not hit one another, throw things at each other or out the windows ,or destroy the bus...all the while Driving the 71 passenger bus in heavy traffic with people who generally can't see a large bright yellow school bus with flashing amber, and red lights or can see it and want to cut in front of it, around it or just run it off the road. Not to mention all of the district, state, and federal paperwork we (each driver)have to keep up with and turn in during the year. Maybe that's why we are always short of drivers...

True DatMarch 19, 2007 6:53 AM

>>>LMAO at this story. On September 11, 2001 Vice President Cheney was playing his war games and left Washington D.C. completely vulnerable to attack. Cheney let the Pentagon get hit and we're training bus drivers on how to spot terrorists! I'm laughing so hard my sides hurt! LMAO at the United States government and their fear mongering and propaganda!

Posted by: Laughing at Propaganda at March 17, 2007 06:41 AM


NORAD Stand-Down
The Prevention of Interceptions of the Commandeered Planes
It is standard operating procedure (SOP) to scramble jet fighters whenever a jetliner goes off course or radio contact with it is lost. Between September 2000 and June 2001, interceptors were scrambled 67 times. 1 In the year 2000 jets were scrambled 129 times.

There are several elements involved in domestic air defense. The air traffic control system continuously monitors air traffic and notifies NORAD of any deviations of any aircraft from their flight-paths or loss of radio contact. NORAD monitors air and space traffic continuously and is prepared to react immediately to threats and emergencies. It has the authority to order units from the Air National Guard, the Air Force, or other armed services to scramble fighters in pursuit of jetliners in trouble.

Routine interception procedures were not followed on September 11th, 2001.
****************************
Why there was NOT a "stand down" order:
explaining the "failure" of the Trillion Dollar Air Force to defend its headquarters

One of the first anomalies that many people noticed immediately after 9/11 was the inexplicable non-reaction of the military air defense system to the hijackings.

It has been standard operating procedures for decades to immediately intercept off course planes that do not respond to communications from air traffic controllers. When the Air Force "scrambles" a fighter plane to intercept, they usually reach the plane in question in minutes. The Air Force plane will then fly next to the non-responsive plane, and rock their wings -- a way to say "follow me" to a nearby airport (if the plane merely has lost its radio equipment). If the intercepted plane refuses to respond, there is a graduated series of actions the Air Force can use -- firing tracer bullets in front of the plane, even shooting it down if it is a threat. This is analogous to police pulling motorists over for having their lights out - every driver in the US knows that when a police car behind them turns on their siren, they are supposed to pull over, just like every pilot knows that when an Air Force fighter plane pulls beside them, they are supposed to follow their orders, too. If the light bulb has merely burned out, the motorist will get a warning, but the police have a graduated series of responses they can employ if the driver is not merely having a mechanical problem (ie. they have just robbed a bank and are driving with the lights off to avoid being seen).

The airspace over the northeastern US is among the busiest on the planet. It is home to the nation's political, military and financial headquarters, the largest population concentrations, and key strategic facilities. A jumbo jet in this area suddenly changing direction and altitude, and refusing to respond to air traffic controllers would be as dangerous as a truck on a busy rush-hour freeway driving the wrong way at full speed. When planes go off course in this busy environment, instant reactions make the difference between life and death -- which is why NORAD (North American Air Defense) practices these kinds of scenarios, and instantly scrambles fighters when there is any hint of a problem.

Ted the bus driverMarch 20, 2007 11:02 AM

first time I've ever read your words, and it'll sure as sh*t be the last.
In short? You're an idiot. Wait, read on........
So bus drivers can't pay attention to anything but the road they're on?? So bus drivers are sooooooooooooo retarded that if they alter their attention for a nano-second, the bus and the kids will surely suffer a hideous fate??
Unfortunately, for you to understand this threat, it will require something you have just illustrated yourself incapable of. Thought.

They want the buses, and more specifically, the kids, for hostages. Hostages in bulk. Hostages in bulk so as to bring the american government, and the american people, to its knees. But being a kumbayah singing moron, you think that they would NEVER do anything like that.
Histoically, their "targets" are defenseless, and the moreso, the better.
Like most of the kumbayah singing morons, even "after the fact" won't really change your perverted view.

Stop writing, you have nothing of value to read.

WendyMarch 21, 2007 10:15 PM

I am a school bus driver in Portland, Oregon. I was alarmed last year to see our newest driver trainee was of Arab descent. He seems to be a very nice man, but Americans can never be too careful when it comes to our children. I do not believe that he is a terrorist, that is not what I am saying here. We, as bus drivers, need to know every danger facing our young passengers at all times. I cannot believe that people would think our government is being delusional in its concerns. Nonsense! Every American citizen has an obligation to protect one another. Whether you like the current administration or not, America came under attack on our own soil. It CAN happen again, and when we are all least expecting it-AGAIN. I, as a school bus driver, will most definitely be watching for suspicious activity, and I can guarantee you that we can handle the small, additional responsibility. We are well trained, or we would not be transporting YOUR children everyday.

Bush hates ConstitutionMarch 22, 2007 6:22 AM

If I saw Bush anywhere near a school bus, I would be scared and I would report him.

Bri_GearyApril 14, 2007 9:51 AM

Plane Lands In Cleveland; Bomb Feared Aboard

Reported by: 9News Staff
Web produced by: Liz Foreman
9/11/01 11:43:57 AM

A Boeing 767 out of Boston made an emergency landing Tuesday at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport due to concerns that it may have a bomb aboard, said Mayor Michael R. White.

White said the plane had been moved to a secure area of the airport, and was evacuated.

United identified the plane as Flight 93. The airline did say how many people were aboard the flight.

United said it was also "deeply concerned" about another flight, Flight 175, a Boeing 767, which was bound from Boston to Los Angeles.

On behalf of the airline CEO James Goodwin said: "The thoughts of everyone at United are with the passengers and crew of these flights. Our prayers are also with everyone on the ground who may have been involved.

"United is working with all the relevant authorities, including the FBI, to obtain further information on these flights," he said.

dwyer53aMay 3, 2007 9:50 AM

Many people balk that Clinton didn't serve during Viet Nam and I agree that he should have but that STILL doesn't excuse Rudy Guiliani's son, President Bush's children, or his brother Jeb's children from serving. Former President George H.W. Bush has 17 grandchildren and 10 or more of those grandchildren are eligible to enlist and fight in Iraq, but they haven't. So many American citizens, and now even Veterans who have served, and soldiers who are currently serving in Iraq are against the war. Imagine the boost of morale, and patriotism it would give the country if the Bush and Guiliani children honored their parents and country by enlisting in the Military and serving in Iraq. The Bush and Guiliani children would probably also inspire more young people to enlist! Republicans are the moral party. Democrats are not. I have every confidence that the Guiliani and Bush children will enlist and join the fight in Iraq. The Bush and Guiliani children will prove what the Republicans are made of. Just wait and see! I guarantee it.

BWMay 24, 2007 2:29 PM

Give me a break.

I suppose it would be more exciting for a terrorist to actually gain access to a bus and cause harm to 60 students -- possibly more?

For those of you who somehow think this program differs from Highway Watch, well you're wrong. I'm certified to teach School Bus Watch and it is not to tell drivers to panic.

It simply teaches them what to watch for. They are already driving more miles every day than most of you drive in your entire lifetimes -- they already report everything from students not at the bus stop to suspicious activity. Why not give them a vehicle to report that to an organization that can actually (and thoroughly) investigate?

Personally, I'd rather err on the side of caution.

This whole issue of homeland security is not a political issue. I think we'd ALL prefer if our family, friends and communities remained untouched by the effects of terrorist activities. School bus drivers are a big part of our communities -- the eyes and ears. Let's use those resources wisely.

Thundering Peepee NoisesMay 24, 2007 4:14 PM

I agree with the above poster (BW) wholeheartedly.

Thunder Peepee Johnson

Parent and Bus driverAugust 16, 2007 7:20 PM

Yes I agree, we shouldn't panic and live our lives worrying about terrorist attacks. Because as soon as we do that the terrorrist has accomplished what he or she came here for. That is simply to ruin our lives so we might live in fear. People wake up and realize that you could die just walking out your front door. It doesn't hurt however to have a plan in case of emergency as such on a bus. Which my school district is finally planning. I live in Eagle point, Oregon but work for Central Point. And they just discovered a terrorist camp in Bly, Oregon, in Klamath falls. One 1/2 hours away from me. Needless to say Iam giving a little spill to my kids on my bus this year about what to do and not to do in a case like so. Although it is hard because they are special needs kids. Just remember everyone that today is all you have so live it like it is your last, love and learn , and laugh and live. For freedom is what the US is all about, why stop living now. God Bless you all, hope to see you all in heaven. No worries Mom and Bus Driver

LAURAApril 1, 2008 8:42 AM

Forget the highjacking. At our school they wouldn't even have to do that. We have approx. 70 busses parked on the lot between us and an high school everyday all day. Is this safe? To me it seems like 70 bombs way to close to 2 schools. The busses should be stored somewhere else.

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