Airport security

Current airport security is a joke that is simply designed to make passengers feel safer without actually doing much to actually make them safer.  Jeffrey Goldberg has a great article in the Atlantic pointing out just how flawed and wasteful the current approach is.  Some highlights:

A no-fly list would be a good idea if it worked; Bruce
Schnei­er's homemade boarding passes were about to prove that it
doesn't. Schnei­er is the TSA's most relentless, and effective, critic;
the TSA director, Kip Hawley, told me he respects Schnei­er's opinions,
though Schnei­er quite clearly makes his life miserable. The whole system is designed to catch stupid terrorists, Schnei­er
told me. A smart terrorist, he says, won't try to bring a knife aboard
a plane, as I had been doing; he'll make his own, in the airplane

Schnei­er and I walked to the security checkpoint. Counter­terrorism
in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better, he said. Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit
doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers. This
assumes, of course, that al-Qaeda will target airplanes for hijacking,
or target aviation at all. We defend against what the terrorists did
last week, Schnei­er said. He believes that the country would be just
as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11
levels. Spend the rest of your money on intelligence, investigations,
and emergency response.

As it stands, the system is designed to only catch stupid terrorists.  I love this exchange following a description of how to get around ID requirements:

What if you don't know how to steal a credit card?

Then you're a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you, he said.

What if you don't know how to download a PDF of an actual boarding pass and alter it on a home computer?

Then you're a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you.

I couldn't believe that what Schneier was saying was true in the
national debate over the no-fly list, it is seldom, if ever, mentioned
that the no-fly list doesn't work. It's true, he said. The gap blows the whole system out of the water.

Anyway, read the whole thing for the amazing list of items Goldberg smuggles through security, both secretly and openly (e.g., a Hezbollah flag in his luggage).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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