Monday, May 2, 2005

Uncovered: The Terrorism-Chowder Connection

Ask yourself this question: "Are old men standing in knee-deep mud and digging for clams A) a possible terrorist threat, or B) a defense against terrorism?" I'm not sure which one is least plausible, but in the last four years, the Boston area has seen both. 

Some of the most productive clam-digging mudflats in the area lie on the sides of Logan International Airport bounded by Boston Harbor, providing a livelihood for dozens of people. After two flights out of Logan were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 (not, mind you, by clam-diggers), various measures were taken to improve security at the airport, including banning clam-diggers from the flats. Eventually, a 500-foot-wide perimeter was set up around the airport, then altered to contain a 250-foot "warning zone" and a 250-foot "arrest zone."

Meanwhile, the clam-diggers were out of work. They petitioned their legislators, and after 14 months of their livelihood being disrupted (much to the delight of their bivalve prey, who were presumably happy as clams about all this protection), a transportation bond bill passed containing a measure that granted them an exemption allowing them to enter the security zone, provided they were first fingerprinted and background-checked (at a cost to the clam-diggers of over $100 each), and given anti-terrorism training.

Now, the clam-diggers look for clams, but are also expected to report anything suspicious that might indicate terrorist activity. They wear special brightly colored vests and ID badges issued by the airport, are checked on regularly by airport security, and to make matters even more interesting, are being loaned GPS-equipped cell phones by the Transportation Security Administration to help them contact authorities in the event that any of the clams turn out to be terrorists.

So it's a happy ending for everyone, except the terrorists and their fearsome allies... the clams.

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