The New York Times tells us about a sad — and silly — decision in the ever-sillier fight for homeland security:
Four years ago, when the federal General Services Administration unveiled its plans for a new border-crossing station here in northeastern New York State, the design was presented as part of the agency’s campaign to raise the dismal standards of government architecture. Even many in the famously fractious architectural community celebrated the complex — particularly its main building, emblazoned with glossy yellow, 21-foot-high letters spelling “United States” — as a rare project the government could point to with pride.Pride, indeed! What could be better than taking an obvious entry point into the country and giving it the dual use of entry point and work of architectural art. Cool!
Of course, there’s a “but”:
Yet three weeks ago, less than a month after the station opened, workers began prying the big yellow letters off the building’s facade on orders from Customs and Border Protection. The plan is to dismantle the rest of the sign this week.
“At the end of the day, I think they were somewhat surprised at how bold and how bright it was,” said Les Shepherd, the chief architect of the General Services Administration, referring to the customs agency’s sudden turnaround.
“There were security concerns,” said Kelly Ivahnenko, a spokeswoman for the customs agency. “The sign could be a huge target and attract undue attention. Anything that would place our officers at risk we need to avoid.”
The Times correctly notes that what Customs and Border Protection are doing “is a depressing, if not wholly unpredictable, example of how the lingering trauma of 9/11 can make it difficult for government bureaucracies to make rational decisions. It reflects a tendency to focus on worst-case scenarios to the exclusion of common sense[.]”
Exclusion of common sense, indeed; that is the crux of it. This is not a secret building. It isn’t something trying to disguise itself as something else. We’re not trying to pretend that, say, some CIA office is really a dry-cleaning shop.
This is a major entry point into the United States, well known by all and used by many. Why on Earth should it not say “UNITED STATES” in large, yellow letters? How can anyone with any sense think that increases the threat? Anyone who should want to attack a border crossing knows where and what this is, regardless. And if there were any doubt, well, the Times helpfully includes a map to show us the location.
This has to be the “Ishtar” of Security Theatre — showing it at its worst, and most stupid.