Airport security still sucks and the rules continue to be idiotic

Recently, my wife went on a trip and chose the old standard air-travel for getting where she was going. On the way to her destination, she had to throw away her yogurt she had brought to eat while waiting for the plane. On her way home, she had to throw away her 8-ounce toothpaste that she didn’t realize she’d left in her carry-on bag. Now I understand that she screwed up in both cases because it’s well known by now to any traveler that these things cannot be taken through security.

However, the rules are still idiotic and worthless, and we can do so much better with security by spending money on things that actually help – things like, oh, I don’t know, training screeners better so they don’t miss nearly 100% of all explosives taken through security by people trying to get prohibited items through security.

Government investigators smuggled liquid explosives and detonators past airport security, exposing a dangerous hole in the nation’s ability to keep these forbidden items off of airplanes, according to a report made public Wednesday.

. . .

On March 23, a TSA screener would not let one investigator through a checkpoint with a small, unlabeled bottle of shampoo, even though it was a legitimate carry-on item. But the same investigator was able to bring through a liquid component of bomb that would start a fire.

Thank goodness that investigator wouldn’t be able to terrorize the plane with clean hair and bubbles. That’s a much greater concern than liquid fire. The TSA hand-waves away the problem by emphasizing the multi-layer approach to security in airports and air travel.

“While people think about us in terms of the checkpoints and they see us as the checkpoints, there’s a lot more layers of security,” she [spokeswoman Ellen Howe] said. In addition to the checkpoints, the TSA uses different technologies and has officials who check the validity of documents and observe people’s behaviors throughout the airport. “Just because somebody gets through one layer doesn’t mean they’re going to get through all of the layers.”

And that’s actually damn good to know and comforting. But our money needs pumped into the less visible security measures. Currently, to get through with contraband a determined attacker needs training on not sticking out more than anything else. That alone will make passing through screening nearly guaranteed, yet so much money is going into screening efforts that have repeatedly been proven ineffective (I’ve covered some, but by no means all, such issues in the past, and won’t link them again here).

Here, I’ll throw in a freebie for would-be attackers. If you want to carry in prohibited liquids, buy yourself a beer belly flask to transport your explosives or drinks. As it is right now, screeners are miserable at catching illicit items which someone is trying to take on, but nearly perfect in catching harmless things like the drinks people are consuming as they walk through the screening checkpoints (hint: if they are actively drinking it, it is either harmless to the flight or they already have ingested what they need to use to bring the flight down).

From the screeners link just above, here is what Bruce Schneier has to say.

When I travel in Europe, I never have to take my laptop out of its case or my shoes off my feet. Those governments have had far more experience with terrorism than the U.S. government, and they know when passenger screening has reached the point of diminishing returns. (They also implemented checked-baggage security measures decades before the United States did — again recognizing the real threat.)

And if I were investing in security, I would invest in intelligence and investigation. The best time to combat terrorism is before the terrorist tries to get on an airplane. The best countermeasures have value regardless of the nature of the terrorist plot or the particular terrorist target.

In some ways, if we’re relying on airport screeners to prevent terrorism, it’s already too late. After all, we can’t keep weapons out of prisons. How can we ever hope to keep them out of airports?

Far more insightful and accurate than all the words I’ve thrown out arguing against the money-drain our government has in place now.

EDIT: Accidentally left out part of the Schneier quote.

[tags]Airport stupidity, Air travel, Getting explosives on planes[/tags]

3 thoughts on “Airport security still sucks and the rules continue to be idiotic”

  1. And then there’s the fact that a terrorist doesn’t need to blow up a plane to create terror. Detonating yourself while on line at the security checkpoint would do just as much to terrorize people, if not more.

    Theater. Security theater.

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