Security at the 9/11 WTC Memorial

There's a lot:

Advance tickets are required to enter this public, outdoor memorial. To book them, you’re obliged to provide your home address, email address, and phone number, and the full names of everyone in your party. It is “strongly recommended” that you print your tickets at home, which is where you must leave explosives, large bags, hand soap, glass bottles, rope, and bubbles. Also, "personal wheeled vehicles" not limited to bicycles, skateboards, and scooters, and anything else deemed inappropriate. Anyone age 13 or older must carry photo ID, to be displayed "when required and/or requested."

Once at the memorial you must go through a metal detector and your belongings must be X-rayed. Officers will inspect your ticket­that invulnerable document you nearly left on your printer -- at least five times. One will draw a blue line on it; 40 yards (and around a dozen security cameras) later, another officer will shout at you if your ticket and its blue line are not visible.

I'm one of the people commenting on whether this all makes sense.

I especially appreciated the last paragraph:

The Sept. 11 memorial’s designers hoped the plaza would be "a living part" of the city -- integrated into its fabric and usable "on a daily basis." I thought that sounded nice, so I asked Schneier one last question. Let’s say we dismantled all the security and let the Sept. 11 memorial be a memorial like any other: a place where citizens and travelers could visit spontaneously, on their own contemplative terms, day or night, subject only to capacity limits until the site is complete. What single measure would most guarantee their safety? I was thinking about cameras and a high-tech control center, "flower pot"-style vehicle barriers, maybe even snipers poised on nearby roofs. Schneier’s answer? Seat belts. On the drive to New York, or in your taxi downtown, buckle up, he warned. It’s dangerous out there.

Posted on September 11, 2012 at 6:45 AM • 59 Comments

Comments

HugoSeptember 11, 2012 6:58 AM

The people responsible for the security of the memorial have probably no clue what they are protecting it against. Security without a clear potential danger is useless.

Any terrorist that really wants to attack New York must be laughing out loud. Why bother to blow up some 'stupid' memorial while you can blow up an unprotected building across the street?

HugoSeptember 11, 2012 7:03 AM

"What's the security risk of having some *hand soap* with you?"
You could drop it by accident and somebody else might step on it, slip, break something and sue you. Of course, only in America that is :)

Eric TF BatSeptember 11, 2012 7:03 AM

Some relevant dictionary definitions:

Terrorist, noun: one who desires to inspire terror.

Win, verb: to achieve what one desires.

"If X happens, the terrorists will win", phrase: definition not available; found to be redundant.

StephenSeptember 11, 2012 7:10 AM

It seems to me we lost and they won. WE lost our freedom and they won the war to force us to be scared of everything. sad day in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Snarki, child of LokiSeptember 11, 2012 7:11 AM

Well, that memorial sounds FAR too dangerous for me to EVER visit.

Because I'm sure they'd force me to leave my "magic anti-tiger rock" at home.

The rest of you, enjoy your visit. Those who aren't mauled by tigers, that is.

Smee JenkinsSeptember 11, 2012 7:12 AM

A 9/11 memorial without security, I suspect would be perfectly safe for the same reason that planes are safe:

On planes, passengers will fight back if you're a terrorist. At a 9/11 memorial, if you try anything fishy, you'll get jumped by all the alert people around you.

HugoSeptember 11, 2012 7:14 AM

"sad day in the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Seems it ain't that land anymore. It's now the land of the subdued and home of the frightened.

PeterSeptember 11, 2012 7:24 AM

Those security procedures will be removed when construction of all the buildings is complete, and the memorial will be accessible from all sides. At least, that's what the pamphlet I got last week when I visited says.

I suspect this is due to the increased vulnerability of the buildings while in an incomplete state.

HugoSeptember 11, 2012 7:29 AM

"I suspect this is due to the increased vulnerability of the buildings while in an incomplete state."
Vulnerable to what?

mjlSeptember 11, 2012 7:37 AM

Actually, that is the PERFECT setting for the memorial, as it shows in technicolor what the 9/11 attacks have done to the country.

AlexSeptember 11, 2012 7:50 AM

@Peter. The rationale behind the "hand soap" ban is not the hand soap itself, but the "fact" that someone could conceal explosives as soap (a movie plot threat).

cassielSeptember 11, 2012 8:16 AM

I'm reminded of the American Embassy in London, which is ringed with security fences and checkpoints, so much so that it resembles a prison. While a degree of physical security makes sense (assuming some degree of danger from demonstrators and so on), one cannot enter the embassy with (for example) a mobile phone or a penknife. I'm allowed a mobile phone on a plane, so I'm completely lost as to the threat model in mind here; embassy buildings cannot easily be hijacked or crashed. Certainly, the visual impact is one of FEAR FEAR FEAR in large capital letters.

SBSeptember 11, 2012 8:17 AM

I am a born-and-bred New Yorker (though now living in Massachusetts), and was working in lower Manhattan in 2001. yet I have absolutely no desire to visit the 9/11 Memorial and to take part in the "security" charade involved in gaining access.

And this truly is all window dressing: none of these measure would prevent an attack right before the checkpoint, or on the street outside the entrance. Would not such an attack be as devastating emotionally as one inside the memorial?

The NYPD, in cahoots with DHS, have turned the area around Wall Street into a checkpoint-filled war zone.

jakobSeptember 11, 2012 8:18 AM

Maybe the security theatre is the memorial.
While the memorial itself symbolises the events of 9/11, the human activity around it symbolises the reaction to them. As such the whole security institution around the memorial seems to embody what happened to the USA after 9/11. I suggest the security measures are kept unchanged, so that future schoolchildren will get a first hand impression of this.

TSSeptember 11, 2012 8:29 AM

@Alex

"The rationale behind the "hand soap" ban is not the hand soap itself, but the "fact" that someone could conceal explosives as soap (a movie plot threat)."

No, the reason to ban soap is to prevent people from throwing the soap into the fountain. The restriction is not "hand soap", but "liquid soaps". Powdered soaps and bubbles are banned in the same sentence, so they're obviously targeting pranksters, not terrorists.

lazloSeptember 11, 2012 8:31 AM

I strongly suspect that the ban on hand soap has nothing to do with explosives, terrorists, or a threat to the health and lives of memorial visitors. The memorial has a huge fountain surrounding it, and hand soap + fountains = easy amusing vandalism.

DickLSeptember 11, 2012 8:38 AM

I visited the memorial during a business trip earlier this year and was greatly surprised by not being able to simply walk in off the street, as I was accoustomed to do at other memorials. The level of security requirements greatly diminished what I was anticiapating to be moving (spiritual?) experience. Definitely overkill!!

karrdeSeptember 11, 2012 8:53 AM

@Bruce,

You are right about the seat belts. Cars are dangerous.

(In the year 2001, ~42000 Americans died due to negligent/accidental events in automobiles. That annual death toll had remained fairly constant for most of the 90s and about half the 00s, before declining to ~30000/year in the late 00s. I'm sometimes amazed at the background level of death-by-auto-accident that is accepted as normal in the United States...)


As to the rest...I think @mjl and @Jakob have it. The security theater is an integral part of the memorial.

Admiral AkbarSeptember 11, 2012 9:19 AM

Peter: "I suspect this is due to the increased vulnerability of the buildings while in an incomplete state."


Anyone who has seen "Return of the Jedi" knows that once the Death Star II was completed, it would have been impossible to attack.

And as others have said, the Security Theater / Police State Tactics is the appropriate way to memorialize what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 : not to honor the dead, but to mourn our lost liberties.

NobodySpecialSeptember 11, 2012 9:21 AM

The people mocking the security obviously haven't considered the possibility that somebody could hijack the monument and crash it into an aeroplane.

In fact considering the seriousness of the case I think that your ticket should be inspected SIX times

anonymous passengerSeptember 11, 2012 9:32 AM

"Schneier’s answer? Seat belts. On the drive to New York, or in your taxi downtown, buckle up, he warned. It’s dangerous out there."

What happens if your taxi driver is a terrorist/car-bomber on a mission to drive into the nearby WTF memorial, and you can't jump out of the taxi because you're entangled in the seat belt?

anonymous hand washerSeptember 11, 2012 9:34 AM

The reason for the ban on soap is obvious.

What happens if you drop the soap and a TSA or DHS or other secureaucrat is standing behind you?

88September 11, 2012 9:35 AM

I visited the 9/11 Memorial. All the comically unnecessary security theater—the ticketing, the entrance, the ground patrols and NYPD presence—is all just a reminder of TSA's theater of the absurd.

Rather than remembering the 9/11 victims and soldiers KIA, my first thought after clearing the scanners and entering the memorial was "Schneier must have ridiculed this nonsense!" and spent part of my visit on a smartphone Googling this website.

After that I struck up a conversation with one of the NYPD watchers, asking him the purpose of the security and making a few pointed observations about its pointlessness. He acknowledged that it was mostly emotional.

No NY politician or DHS bureaucrat ever wants to answer questions about why they failed to do everything possible possible to secure the 9/11 site.

The only reasonable response to all this is to ridicule the politicians and bureaucrats.

Dave PageSeptember 11, 2012 9:37 AM

Remember the fuss about the "Ground Zero Mosque"? An attack anywhere within 5 blocks of this memorial would cause just as much furore as an attack at the memorial itself.

The RidiculerSeptember 11, 2012 9:46 AM

"The only reasonable response to all this is to ridicule the politicians and bureaucrats."

And the terrorists. Don't forget to ridicule the terrorists.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 11, 2012 10:15 AM

@ Peter A,

What's the security risk of having some *hand soap* with you?

As others have indicated it's "liquid soap" but I've been told that actually it's "all bottled hand cleaners".

Now it's known that some soap preperations are both flamable and sticky, sufficiently so that you could write a message on something with it and then make the writing burn and thus "burn your message in". One such preperation is called "dry shampoo" and consists of soap flakes "disolved" in either or alcohol and has been around for well over eighty or so years. But originally it used to be made with Petrol Spirit as this realy killed of hair lice and other scalp problems, but at the end of the 1800's they realised that it had quite distinct problems (persistant flamability and cancer being just a couple). You can "make your own" dry shampoo quite easily with "Sterno" or "canned heat" and soap flakes but I would not advise it.

Further more some medical hand cleaners are little more than alcohol a colourant scent and an agent to make drinking it unsafe, thus you could use it as a quite effective accelerant. You could also using a little pocket lint a book of matches and a slow burning tabbaco product like a cigarette to make a time delayed fire bomb with no metal or other parts that would show up as suspicious on the average search...

mikeashSeptember 11, 2012 10:18 AM

All this stuff makes for a pretty appropriate memorial given the security insanity that followed the event it memorializes, although I doubt that's the message the organizers are trying to send.

JobuSeptember 11, 2012 10:21 AM

Guys - please keep in mind the memorial is in the middle of an active construction site. I hate security theater as much as anyone but this is a little different. When the construction is over the memorial will, I think, be completely open

SaulSeptember 11, 2012 10:42 AM

>> Guys - please keep in mind the memorial is in the middle of an active construction site.

Jobu, are memorial visitors then given hardhats?

The memorial is in the same 16-acre site where the World Trade Center stood. The memorial itself is not a construction site.

Peter A.September 11, 2012 11:24 AM

@lazlo: I've seen the photos of the fountains. They are huge. I just wonder how much soap is needed to even marginally affect them - and how to empty one's bottle into it surreptitiously. The place is full of guards apparently.

@Clive: the rules posted on the official website indeed prohibit "liquid soap" and "bubbles" (no mention of medical disinfectants). Event if @lazlo is right, what about solid soap? It will happily dissolve in the pools, too, and is easier to toss into the fountain, although less effective for the prank than liquid one.

More to @Clive: there's a lot of dangerous liquids out there and one can make quite a lot of "fun" with them, but I don't see a reason why some should be banned from one open public place and not from the other, like a nearby Manhattan street.

nycmanSeptember 11, 2012 12:46 PM

Some say this is a memorial to security theater. But isn't this really a memorial to post 9/11 sheeple? Except for those close to the victims, why are there so many people lining up and willingly submitting to such procedures? Unlike air travel, I cannot think of a practical reason to go down to the memorial (I live in NYC) and go through such abuse. From reports, you are herded in, must keep moving, and once you get in, less than 15 minutes you are pushed out. Don't even think of quiet contemplation. It has become a sad tourist trap.

GGSeptember 11, 2012 12:49 PM

It's a beautiful day in the City
A beautiful day to prevent some terror
Would you be my?
Could you be my?
Would you be my Sniper?

Let's make make the most of this secure day
And thank the TSA while we pray
For a land of the free
and a home of the brave

LenSeptember 11, 2012 1:13 PM

It's a hole. With running water. Sure, it's a nice hole, and the running water is nice to look at but... it's running water.

KathleenSeptember 11, 2012 2:13 PM

This is a great article. It's understandable that no scissors are permitted at the Statue of Liberty. Someone might highjack it and fly it into a building.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 11, 2012 3:47 PM

@ Peter A,

...but I don't see a reason why some should be banned from one open public place and not from the other, ...

And you've hit the nub of the problem fair and square, all things being equal it shouldn't, which almost immediatly leads to the question of "why in this case?" to which I suspect the only answer is "because they can".

And it's the main reason why I'm never likely to visit the USA ever again, "land of the free" it ain't (not that the UK is any better, it's actualy worse in many ways, it's just less obviously in your face and in some cases due to EU membership actually illegal).

AnonySeptember 11, 2012 4:03 PM

The Americans are going through a phase. Like anyone who has been traumatized, they over-react in fear to insignificant threats. Let them be. They'll figure it out eventually.

In the meantime, they create jobs (TSA) for unskilled people who hurt the most in the current economy. And they give us something to bitch and moan about together.

Yeah, it's stupid, but also human.

brittanySeptember 11, 2012 5:19 PM

To those who keep asking my hand soap must be kept home, it is because people can demo the soap into the fountain/ water creations and cause the empire thing to be shut down to be filtered out. Happens around my home in private fountains and development fountains where the soap bubbles can even interfere with traffic

DanSeptember 11, 2012 7:52 PM

@Len - Yes it's a hole in the ground, to commemorate the attacks. So there's a legitimate risk that terrorists will surreptitiously construct a skyscraper on the site.

irwinSeptember 11, 2012 9:15 PM

Guys - please keep in mind the memorial is in the middle of an active construction site
Wait, they're only protecting the middle of the construction site?

BerndSeptember 12, 2012 1:59 AM

The security at the memorial is not protecting it, instead it is part of it. It's a kind of performance art.

ChristianOSeptember 12, 2012 2:00 AM

This is modern art to its finest!

The security installation is the art that makes the memorial bring you to remember it all!

I think the one that came up with this is a genious!

KristianSeptember 12, 2012 9:25 AM

Well said everyone. "Seat belts" - love it.

I wonder where all the people live who don't put up with government nonsense. Certainly not in any country I've heard of. Face it, we're all sheep.

Vince V. GoghSeptember 12, 2012 9:30 AM

The symbolism is perfect. The hole in the ground representing the bottomless pit of Security Theater, the water representing money.....

David WSeptember 12, 2012 10:32 AM

Seems like need the pre-registering etc. when it suits them. My fiancé and I were in New York for a holiday this summer and we didn't realise we had to go through this whole business of registering as we hadn't checked before we went on the day.

Anyhow, we turned up and asked nicely what we needed to do and the man on the barrier just gave us two tickets and waved us through into the security line.

Michael BradySeptember 12, 2012 10:41 AM

Another paragraph from this excellent essay:

"In terms of balancing America’s most cherished values, no other American memorial marking a terrorist act has struck anything like the “balance” New York has. The Oklahoma City memorial, the Flight 93 memorial, even the Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon: None require advance names, photo ID, or airport-style security, let alone all three. The outdoor Oklahoma City memorial—open 24/7 year-round—seems more concerned with helping visitors find nearby doggie daycare than burdening them with byzantine rules and regulations. Abroad, access to highly urban memorials in freedom-loving countries better acquainted with terrorism—Spain, the United Kingdom—is unfettered. Neither the memorial to the London July 7, 2005, attacks nor the Madrid station bombing memorial require preregistration, ID, or security checks."

I thought we would eventually get over this sucker punch, instead we've made September 11th a national holiday and ground zero into a police state theme park. We have sacrificed the lives of 6,000 military personnel (and maimed tens of of thousands), spent two trillion dollars (and counting), cheered while the alphabet agencies told the Congress precisely where to gut-rip the Constitution, and we now stand patiently in line while the TSA gropes our grandmothers and looks at naked pictures of our children. All that's left is to send AQ GeeDub's banner that said "Mission Accomplished!"

peter cSeptember 12, 2012 12:32 PM

About 10 years ago I was in Philadelphia and thought I would stop by and see the Liberty Bell, a national monument to the US gaining its liberty from Great Britain. I decided not to when I saw the security to see this icon of liberty was a bad as getting on a plane.
Oh, the irony...

Tony M. NyphotSeptember 12, 2012 1:01 PM

«About 10 years ago I was in Philadelphia and thought I would stop by and see the Liberty Bell, a national monument to the US gaining its liberty from Great Britain. I decided not to when I saw the security to see this icon of liberty was a bad as getting on a plane.»

The next step will be a giant foot squashing over the visitors while playing out loud the Liberty Bell march. It will be repressive, but at least also pythonesque.

Another KevinSeptember 12, 2012 5:07 PM

So, if I were to take a 13-year-old to see the site, I'd have to get her a passport? I don't see any other way for a child that age to have 'government-issued photo ID,' particularly if she attends a school where the children are not required to wear badges. I think such schools are still allowed to exist in places.

Dave KeaysSeptember 17, 2012 8:15 PM

The overkill on security at the memorial would have made sense when the threat was new. But now the extra caution is overwhelmed by the perception of impotency it brings. The NSA is hurting America more than helping because we Americans look like a scared animal backed into a corner.

Part of me does wonder if the negative claims about the security at airports are real. The US border patrol at the Mexico border isn't as draconian as the headlines claim. However, the Latinos in the area do have a different perception.

Erik V. OlsonSeptember 18, 2012 12:22 PM

It's a hole. With running water. Sure, it's a nice hole, and the running water is nice to look at but... it's running water.

The holes represent what's missing -- the towers and those who were in them. The waterfalls basically drown out the sound of the city and reflect the fall.

The names around the pools aren't in alphabetical order. They're grouped by where you were -- in what tower, on what floor, with what unit. They're grouped by who you were with, your co-workers, your mates, your fellow passengers.

I think it's quite evocative, much as the Vietnam and OKC memorials. They show the loss. I would have kept the Towers of Light, but given all of the bad designs I saw, this one, it looks pretty compelling. It doesn't celebrate. It remembers what, and who, are gone, and lets the viewer decide what it means to them.

Of course, all of that is ruined by the security theatre.

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