NEARLY 2 MILLION tourists, many from overseas, descend on Liberty Island each year to commune with that green icon of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty. Most of them will actually get to see the monument--as long they put out their cigarettes, hand over any contraband coffees or pastries purchased at the Liberty Island Cafe, and maneuver their way through an extensive security gauntlet. In 20o7 the path to Liberty runs past a battalion of armed guards.
Visiting in October, I was greeted by hours-long security lines at two sets of metal detectors--one gauntlet to board a ferry to Liberty Island, another feeding into two EntryScan bomb/narcotics sniffing machines near the actual statue. A scrolling marquee along the bottom of a TV monitor illuminated the motto of the New York City Security State: "See something, say something. "Just in case the imminent threat of terrorist attack wasn't clear, plaques indicated that the statue's monument base closed for almost three years after the September 11 attacks.
The statue interior, including the crown, is still off limits. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to reopen it-evidence, clearly, of a pre-9/11 mind-set. Then again, Code Orange apparently has been the norm on Liberty Island for almost a century. A 1918 poster, prominently displayed in the base museum, depicts German planes blowing Lady Liberty's head into the water, her torch hand torn off jaggedly, as though she were a bit-part actress in Hostel.
You can still catch a glimpse of the interior, though. Our noble protectors have installed a clear window in the observation deck's inner sanctum upon which the lady's feet rest, allowing tourists to at least look at the metallic innards that they used to be able to climb seven years ago. Yes, Liberty now has a glass ceiling. Progress! Security!
During my visit, a group of elderly World War II vets festooned with embroidered patches reading "POW" and "Combat Wounded Veteran" were struggling to get through a secondary screening in a tent outside the statue. "No exceptions to the secondary security screening," a burly officer growled as the EntryScan 3 puffed in the background....