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August 16, 2005

By now it should be no secret to anyone that I hate security checks at airports. I do not think they are anywhere close to meriting the inconvenience and cost of inspecting everything. John Tierney, a columnist at the NY Times seems to have a similar view, but makes some points I haven't really talked about. He speaks of the irony in the fact a terrorist would be much more effective blowing up a bomb at an airport by all the people in the security line, than by trying to smuggle a knife on to an airport. I find that a morbidly amusing point, but it is nonetheless a reality. As does Tierney, I bemoan the fact that the TSA has utterly failed to create rapid-check program for frequent travelers. True, they do have a program in place at certain airports for frequent travelers, but in my mind (and others that I've read about) it's basically meaningless. The only benefit that I know of is that those willing to submit to a background check are unlikely to get pulled aside for a random body screening. My idea of an effective program would consist of those who pass a check being able to pass through security rapidly without having to pull out their computers or removing their shoes and belts.It does appear that the TSA is considering loosening some rules, allowing some previously forbidden items like penknives and such, as well as permitting some travelers to pass through security easier (like congressmen and certain government-security-cleared people). Those changes would be very welcome in my mind and I can only hope for further expansion of those liberties.

Posted by charr at 8:06 PM
Reader Comments

But then all it will take for a terrorist is to become a frequent flier! Security starts ignoring a particular group, and it's only a matter of time before someone doesn't notice the guy with explosives cleverly packed into the lining of his carry-on...

Posted by anon at August 17, 2005 7:38 PM

But part of my argument is that that is unlikely to happen. A terrorist could more than likely go through a lot less trouble to kill a bunch of people.

Posted by Cameron at August 17, 2005 7:50 PM

Not only could a terrorist without a background become a frequent flier, but a terrorist to could see what sort of a background he has. another point to consider is that a first time terrorists, without a background on file, could get through. I think some terrorists do go through a lot of trouble to carefully arrange things. It isn't the dynamite lining the inside of a trench coat. All you have to look at is 9-11 to know that they make intricate plans

Posted by Megan at August 18, 2005 3:09 PM

Orlando Airport is trying out a program like this and our good friend Mr. Bruce Scheier has blogged about it. Basically he doesn't like it for several reasons.

Posted by Dave at August 19, 2005 1:13 AM

Megan, it's true that a terrorist could become a frequent flier, but that would be much harder than, say, blowing up a bomb in an airport. The chances of it happening in my mind are pretty slim. Also, applicants wouldn't be able to see his background (though perhaps know he'd been declined). I agree Al Qaeda plans well, but it's rare enough that I don't agree with the cost to frequent travelers.Dave, Bruce and the commenters make some good points, but like most ideas, they can be approached in multiple ways. One line says the only way to protect the aircraft and passengers is to fully search everyone. But despite the inconsistencies in doing so (like the wine bottle), there are other problems. I would say the idea is true, but too costly. I've used this analogy before, but think about railroad crossings. The govt could mandate barriers and guards at every railroad crossing in America. While it would undoubtedly save lives, the cost in money and time would be ridiculous. And that's probably where I differ from some people. To me, the cost of the hassle is not worth the risk of getting blown up.

Posted by Cameron at August 21, 2005 11:08 AM

What you're missing, however, is that creating a privileged no-search class of people is a greater security risk than simply continuing with random searches, and probably even more risky than simply cutting back on random searches. I don't think too many people think mandatory searches for everyone are reasonable.

Posted by Levi at August 22, 2005 2:17 PM

I don't think I said no-search, but I did say much-less searched. I guess I disagree that it's going to make things more risky. I can see logic in it, but I'm not convinced it's correct. Again, I'm willing to take the risk.Perhaps the question is how deep of a background check can you reasonably do? A lot of that depends on whether all the securiy agencies can get their act together by acting together and sharing info.

Posted by Cameron at August 22, 2005 5:03 PM

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