This is a curious proposal from Bruce Schneier, computer security and cryptography expert, published last month in the New York Daily News:
Securing the Washington Monument from terrorism has turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there’s no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.Within the federal government, the Washington Monument has given its name to a particular budget tactic. According to legend, years ago Park Service managers would submit a budget to Congress with no money for opening the monument at the height of the tourist season. Those managers could therefore use their testimony to the budget committees to advocate for funds for less visible things (which may or may not have been necessary), knowing that Congress would add enough funds to keep the monument open or face public complaints.
An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They’re afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism—or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity—they will be branded as “soft on terror.” And they’re afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they’re right, but what has happened to leaders who aren’t afraid? What has happened to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?
An empty Washington Monument would symbolize our lawmakers’ inability to take that kind of stand—and their inability to truly lead.
Schneier seems to be trying a non-budgetary form of the “Washington Monument Ploy,” using public access to that site as a way to force the government and the nation (i.e., us) to consider what workable security means. Schneier is known within the computer-security field for formulating concepts like “security theater” and “failing well.”