Why aren’t America’s psychics helping keep us safe?
As I’m sure you heard, a Nigerian suicide bomber tried to blow up Northwest flight 253, from Amsterdam to Detroit, on Christmas Day. He managed to get 80 grams of the high explosive PETN on board, though his plot was foiled by a faulty detonator and a fast-acting nearby passenger. Fingers are still pointing about who is to blame for the usual laundry list of security lapses. The story of course didn’t get as much press as it would have if the bomber had been successful, but it provides what I like to semi-sarcastically call a “teachable moment.”
There are thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of people who claim to have psychic powers. Some of them can be found in little storefront shops not far from where you may work or live. Some of them can be found on TV, such as convicted felon Sylvia Browne, James van Praagh, John Edward, Alison DuBois, Carla Baron, and others. But all of them have one thing in common: they claim to have specific, accurate information about things outside their immediate knowledge. Some say they can read minds or auras; others say they can predict future events.
Which brings us back to the would-be Christmas bomber. The biggest challenge to national security, by definition, is that there is no way to distinguish threats from non-threats, passengers from terrorists, false-positives from positives. Airport security must thoroughly screen every single passenger, from the wheelchair-bound grandmother to the harried businessman to the nose-picking toddler, because everyone must be suspect; anyone could be a potential threat. Psychics, if real, could change all that.
If what they say is true—if these people have the powers they claim, why are 99.99% of innocent airline passengers subjected to invasive screening, delays, and hassles, when a psychic should be able to identify the terrorists and direct the security resources toward those people?