Two years later, nation still reviewing security

Two years of security changes still leave some people feeling unsafe, but some officials at the University and throughout Minneapolis continue to prepare for potential terror attacks.

“Sept. 11 (2001) caused national security everywhere to rethink their policies,” said Tom Vellenga, a national security policy expert at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Airports across the country enlisted the Transportation Security Administration to enforce rigorous new screening policies, which have transformed operations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, said Jeff Neibauer, commander of the patrol division for the airport police.

Changes including tighter restrictions for carry-on luggage, increased police visibility and patrols, and closer screening of passengers entering the gates have all made flying safer, Neibauer said.

Neibauer said passenger awareness has also been important. He said the airport has urged passengers to report suspicious activity and keep an eye on their own luggage.

“Most people have a renewed interest in security-related issues,” he said. “Our greatest strength is having everyone aware and with the same interest of security.”

He said most passengers understand the increased airport security and do not complain about long screening lines or new precautions.

Carlson School of Management employee Cary Jones said his flying experience has been positive.

“I’ve flown a lot since 9-11, and I’ve always felt safe,” he said.

But clear University safety changes are more elusive.

Facilities Management communications specialist Jennifer Rowe said following Sept. 11, the University made no extreme changes, but the attacks reminded officials of existing policies and forced them to think which policies needed revision.

She said the shock of Sept. 11 alone made security on campus tighter.

“We’re all in a state of heightened awareness,” Rowe said.

Greg Hestness, assistant vice president for public safety, said major safety projects are economically difficult.

“We have a commitment to improving security while living in a budgetary, realistic world,” Hestness said. “We want to keep all of our students safe.”

The existing University departments – including emergency management, public safety and central security – are constantly working on public safety policy, Hestness and Rowe said.

Vellenga said because the University is issuing e-mails on safety procedures, it is ensuring safety from terrorism.

But, he added, the University would not likely be a candidate for attacks.

Some are unconvinced heightened awareness and revised security policies are enough.

“People that nobody gave thought to before dropped out of the sky and killed 3,000 people,” said Marsha Freeman, senior fellow and public policy expert at the Humphrey Institute. “It’s hard to feel safe after that.”

University students also debate over the level of safety in the post- Sept. 11 world.

Charlie Moberg, a horticulture junior, said he has felt safer since Sept. 11.

“Sure, we’re safe because we’ve done something about it,” he said. “I’m not worried – now we know what can happen.”

The war on terror, however, has left others feeling more vulnerable.

Vellenga said the USA Patriot Act, passed in 2001, tightened up security in positive ways, but said it infringes on civil and personal liberties.

He said the United States is somewhat safer than before Sept. 11 but added safety might be an issue in the future.

“I worry in the long run we will be less safe,” he said. “We are making ourselves a target for Islamic terrorists by occupying Iraq.”

Other students share Vellenga’s concern, and see the new security measures as infringements of privacy and personal rights.

“We’ve given up personal liberties, absolutely. It’s a shame,” global studies junior Emily Souza said. “If people are willing to give up the basis of what Americans stand for out of fear, then they aren’t Americans and they don’t understand what this country is about.”

In the end, Vellenga and Hestness agreed that regardless of national legislation, awareness and education will be the key to improving safety and security on campus.

“Kids in college and high school are savvier,” Vellenga said. “They are taking languages and learning about international issues, all as a result of Sept. 11.”