on threats to airplanes

I’ve just returned from a trip to Atlanta. The reason for the trip was an annual conference, and my plans were made in July. Naturally, then, TSA’s new enhanced procedures were not in my thinking when made arrangements, and though several people seem to quickly fall back on the claim that if you don’t like it you don’t have to fly, in my case that would have meant writing off over $600.  I don’t like what I’ve seen reported, and I would have put up with it if need be b/c of my commitments, but it would have been the last time.

My experience in security wasn’t any different from earlier this year, however, which surprised me a bit, especially flying out of an airport as busy as Atlanta’s. So it’s hard for me to comment on the new policies, since I didn’t experience them in action. However, the overall approach seems futile to me. The notion that time and expense needs to be increased to give enhanced screening to every single individual flying domestically in the U.S. is misguided. Common sense threat assessment could streamline travel for the vast majority of passengers without violating civil rights of any demographic group, and at the same time maintain the sense of assurance people need that flying will be free from terrorist activity.

Charles Krauthammer sums it up well when he writes that “everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; three-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives, when everyone — everyone — knows that none of these people is a threat.” My sense of security is not bolstered at all from knowing that toddlers are being given extra scrutiny. In fact, that worries me, since that means resources are being diverted that could be devoted to useful security. I’d feel better if I had the sense that the bulk of time and attention was going to activities likely to catch terrorists rather than activities that obviously have no real benefit.

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