No more breezing past the security desk at work, casually waving your ID card. No more e-tickets or curbside check-ins at airports. No more coolers at ballgames. Even the Goodyear blimp, the weekend eye in the sky hovering above sporting events, is grounded.
That's only the opening chapter of the national mobilization against terrorism. On the docket in Washington and state legislatures around the country are new anti-terrorism proposals that include the expansion of electronic surveillance authority and stronger search and seizure powers for law enforcement.
The sacrifice of personal convenience is moving into the territory of civil liberties, raising the question of how much Americans will forfeit to achieve a new balance between long-enjoyed freedoms and security from the menace of terrorism. Several public opinion surveys conducted in the week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks suggest a tolerance--with limits--for sacrifice.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, for instance, said 78 percent would support reducing some privacy protections, including those that restrict government searches and wiretapping. A Gallup poll said most Americans will put up with the inconvenience of checking in up to three hours before flights.
"America will have to get used to it," said Ingrid Barnes, a university administrator from Tuckahoe, N.Y. "We have no choice but to get used to it."
Looking down the road, public opinion polls even reflect support for a national identity card, long anathema to civil libertarians and most Americans.
For now, though, security efforts are based heavily in manpower and precautions that are restricting access to public areas. In Los Angeles, security has been stepped up at Dodger Stadium, as it has at most athletic venues, said Derrick Hall, senior vice president for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Specially trained dogs now check every corner of the stadium for explosives before each game. Backpacks and oversize bags have been banned, and more police and security staff have been added. Cars may not be parked within 100 yards of the stadium, and ID badges are being more closely scrutinized. Blimps and small planes trailing banners are no longer allowed to fly over during games.
Stricter precautions are being taken at other national tourist landmarks, including Mt. Rushmore, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Philadelphia's Independence Hall and Disney World.
At Seattle's Space Needle, workers are checking every backpack, purse and gift.
"Three weeks ago, that would have been unacceptable," said Dean Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Space Needle Corporation in Seattle. "But most guests now are grateful. `Search me, please!' is the comment we're getting from a lot of people."
Hotels lock down
After the terrorist attacks, management transformed the Waldorf Towers and the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York into a fortified block of midtown Manhattan. Under normal circumstances, there were seven ways to get into and out of the hotels. Now there are two, as much checkpoints as entrances.
Purses and briefcases are checked by hand or passed through a machine. Reservations at hotel restaurants are required to enter the building. Guests must show their room keys before they can enter the hotel. Hotel employees must show ID before they are allowed into elevators.
Beefing up security "just seems like the prudent thing to do for the time being," said Shelley Clark, spokeswoman for the Waldorf-Astoria and the Waldorf Towers.
How long people will tolerate the measures is anyone's guess.
"I don't think people will bristle at the added measures," said Thomas Morgan, a construction worker in downtown Los Angeles. "We have a very big problem on our hands and Americans will do whatever it takes to deal with it."
Americans, according to the Gallup poll, do have their limits. They are not willing to allow police to stop people for random searches, nor do they support making it easier for authorities to read mail and e-mail. However, 58 percent said they would back additional airport security checks of Arabs, even if they were American citizens.
Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, said there is no question that the public level of acceptance of much tighter security has changed. "What would not have been acceptable two weeks ago they are now willing to consider. It is wartime footing," Newport said. "The devil, though, is in the details."
It is not clear where the support for increased security will lead, nor is it known how long this public tolerance will last. Support for measures that seem imperative in the wake of the terrorist attacks may not hold up three months from now. As Newport said, "everything has kind of changed."
Law changes sought
Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft wants the law regarding phone taps to be widened, allowing surveillance to be directed at individuals rather than specific phone numbers. Changes in telecommunications--particularly the huge growth in the number of cell phones--made old rules obsolete, Ashcroft said. Ashcroft also is pressing for new search powers for police as part of the administration's anti-terrorism package.
Former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois said he would advise Congress and the White House to move slowly.
"When it comes to basic civil liberties and laws regarding wiretapping and holding immigrants indefinitely, I think we have to move cautiously because once you give up these freedoms, even after the initial danger disappears, you don't get those freedoms back," Simon said.
"In times of stress we sometimes do things that we later regret," he said.
During times of conflict the nation has produced a blemished record on the protection of civil liberties. President Abraham Lincoln allowed people to be held without being charged with a crime. President Woodrow Wilson targeted dissidents and immigrants who he believed were advocating Bolshevik-inspired anarchy. President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the internment of Japanese-Americans. Loyalty oaths became common amid the growing communist worries during the administration of President Harry Truman. Courts, whose rulings effectively bowed to the government's desire to protect security, rejected most legal challenges to those moves.
Diverse voices unify
With that in mind, an unusually diverse political coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Conservative Union and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum last week urged U.S. leaders to "resist the temptation . . . that anything that may be called anti-terrorist will necessarily provide greater security."
The terrorism crisis has spawned an increasing debate over steps that should be taken through legislation and technology. Some of the proposed solutions are drawn from heavy airport security measures in Europe, where terrorism has been a problem for decades.
Andreas Carleton-Smith, vice president of North American operations for London-based Control Risks Group, said that generally law-enforcement officials should be given greater leeway in their work against terrorists. He said U.S. cities might come to imitate measures taken in London and cities in Northern Ireland.
"They can put a ring of steel around those cities," he said, referring to the cordon that police can throw around cities when there is a terrorist threat.
Carleton-Smith said these actions cause huge disruptions in traffic and anger commuters who encounter long delays. "But beside each of those checkpoints they have signs that say, `Don't blame us, blame the terrorists,'" he said.
"People, I think, will put up with the measures because they seem relevant to the situation right now," Carleton-Smith said. "Down the road people may start to get annoyed."
Bill Randle, chairman of the Smart Card Alliance, a technology industry trade group, said airports could resolve many problems by embracing ID cards imbedded with a computer chip. The card would contain personal information, such as a fingerprint, that could be checked against records kept by the U.S. government, state motor vehicles departments and others.
"That kind of system could be implemented within a six-month time period at a much lower cost that some of the other measures being talked about," Randle said. "We don't have to be hunkered down and worried about terrorists for the next 10 years."
Carleton-Smith said he has his doubts about new technology solutions. "There are those kinds of technical products out there, but I don't know if we are going to see wide use of such things. These are suicide bombers, and smart cards are not going to stop suicide bombers."
`Whatever it takes'
Gary Hart, co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, a bipartisan panel appointed to study the nation's readiness to withstand attacks, said public reaction to security efforts is going to depend on government response.
"My sense of the American people is that they're resilient, that if the rules make sense . . . people will do whatever it takes," said Hart, a former U.S. senator from Colorado.
"Now if it slips over into nonsense, that's when Americans kind of dig in their heels. But who's to know when that happens?" he said. "If the president's rhetoric is right about this being a war and if I'm right about there being other attacks then, yes, we're going to have to change lifestyle up to a point that's reasonable."
Tribune staff reporters Karen Brandon in San Diego, Vincent J. Schodolski in Los Angeles, Dan Mihalopoulos in New York, Frank James in Washington and special correspondent Jane Adams in San Francisco contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times