Tales from Suburban Bohemia: Security Measures
This post originally appeared on Stumpy Moose on 8 November, 2001, and was migrated to PraguePig.com on 16 December, 2018.
My current employer, The Prague Post, is American owned and has an editorial staff of mostly American journalists. It’s a small newspaper but it’s a symbol of the United States in Prague, which makes it a plausible target for terrorists.
It’s not a threat that seems to alarm anyone I work with but precautions have been taken.
The Prague Post nameplate, for instance, was taken down from the street outside our office shortly after September 11th.
We still list our address in the paper, but I suppose it deters any terrorists who happen to be passing by. And, since our building is mainly residential, our more nervous neighbours are probably happier that their home is no longer marked out as a den of American cultural imperialism, ripe for attack.
We’ve also had a large locked metal security door installed, which together with the missing sign, makes it almost impossible for visitors to reach our office.
It’s inconvenient but that’s preferable to life at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFE/RL is funded by the American government and its programming includes broadcasts to several Middle East hotspots, making it a prime terrorist target.
Czech soldiers and armoured cars defend its headquarters, at the top of Wenceslas Square, just a short walk from the Post’s offices. I’ve also seen an e-mail sent by the RFE/RL human resources department to all staff, advising them, in all seriousness, to have an up-to-date last will and testament.
Anthrax is another cause for concern. The Czech people responded to anthrax with rare vigour, reporting hundreds of suspicious packages per day at the height of the panic. None have tested positive for anthrax, so far, and there seems to have been an element of mass hysteria to the reaction.
The panic isn’t entirely groundless though. The Communist regime was involved in all kinds of dirty business and on October 26th USA Today named the Czech Republic as a possible source of the anthrax used in the American campaign. And anthrax seems to have been discovered at the American embassy at Vilnius in Lithuania, which isn’t a million miles away.
Perhaps the most alarming recent news story though was the discovery of an anti-tank missile launcher in a field near Prague’s Ruzyne airport.
The weapon was armed and operational, and though it didn’t have the range to take out an aeroplane flying overhead, experts say it could have been used against a plane taxiing on the runway.
The bazooka was from the Interior Ministry’s stockpiles but over two weeks later the authorities are unable to say exactly how it got there. There’s now speculation in the press that the bazooka was going to be used to take out an Israeli passenger plane.
I think we’ll be keeping the blue door locked for some time to come.