Craig Murto: How much security do we need?

Following the 9-11 attacks, security was beefed up everywhere, including at major sporting events.

Fans entering NASCAR events were often limited to see-through coolers and backpacks. The lines to get into the tracks were long and often slow. We were warned to get there early to make sure we got through security and to our seats on time.

But those measures were accepted as a necessary evil, the cost of enjoying our freedoms in a dangerous world.

These days a lot of those security measures have gone by the wayside. It seems we’re back to the days of management’s main concern to keep glass bottles out of the stands so rowdy, drunken fans can’t throw them.

More than 14 years without an incident may have lulled us into a sense of security.

Is it a false sense of security?

Last week a man appeared in a United Arab Emirates court and was charged with plotting a terror attack on the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

According to a number of published reports, Mohammed Al-Habashi Al-Hashemi has been in prison since Nov. 21, 2014, two days before the race.

In court he was charged with seven terror-related crimes, including plans to bomb the race circuit, an IKEA furniture store and a U.S. military base. It was claimed he joined ISIS and chose to work within the UAE, and that he also has ties with Al-Qaeda. He reportedly denied all the charges and claimed he was held in solitary confinement for six months after his arrest.

He was married to Alaa Bader Al-Hashemi, who was executed in July for murdering an American kindergarten teacher a year ago in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall. At the time of her trial, according to published reports, she claimed that her husband was an Islamic militant leader.

Mohammed’s next court appearance is expected to be Jan. 18.

Luckily the alleged attack on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix didn’t happen. Is it surprising that it was targeted by extremists? Probably not, as F1 is not a poor man’s sport and could be seen as an example of Western decadence.

Research provided no clues as to how UAE authorities caught this man. Chances are we’ll never know, as governments fighting terror can’t show all the cards in their hands if their fights are going to be successful. But one has to wonder how many other attacks, here and abroad, have been thwarted that we haven’t heard about.

We live in a dangerous world, one that seems more than willing to demonstrate daily that safety is only an illusion.

There’s a balance somewhere between security and freedom, and I don’t think we ever get it right. There’s a constant push and pull between the two, in all aspects of our society.

Society is still searching for the proper security measures at airports and on commercial flights. And there is debate over security cameras, such as those recently in the news in Front Royal. We may never know how much security is too much or too little until something happens. And even the best security won’t stop all those who seek to do harm.

Given that fans are searched for glass containers, racetracks may be a safer place to visit than shopping malls.
Certainly they’re not the softest targets for those who wish to do us harm. But it is shocking when you learn that the sport was targeted.

I don’t miss the days of clear plastic coolers and backpacks, and long lines to get through security at racetracks after 9-11. Tracks will always try to keep glass containers out of the stands, but are they looking for anything else? Keep your eyes open, and if you see something out of place, report it. I’m not advocating more security at racetracks or other major sporting events; I’m just asking whether what we have today is enough.
Thankfully it has been enough so far. The alleged planned attack on the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was thwarted. Perhaps many others have been as well.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.