More Security Theater

by on August 21, 2006 · 4 comments

This weekend I had the opportunity to experience the TSA’s new, even more secure airline security policies. And boy are they irritating.

You’re still not allowed to bring any “liquids or gels” on the airplane. That includes beverages you purchase after you’ve made it through the security checkpoint. How that has any impact on terrorism is beyond me, especially since you’re not searched again as you’re boarding the plane, so a terrorist would simply ignore the rule.

Oh, and it appears that the requirement to take your shoes off has been promoted from a strong suggestion to a requirement.

But that’s not the most irritating part. I normally carry on my suitcase so i don’t have to deal with baggage claim at the end of my flight. But since I was bringing shaving cream with me, I was forced to check my luggage. I also had some wrapped books that were going to be a birthday present for my father. The TSA helpfully searched my bag and unwrapped the presents, leaving the wrapping paper in a crumpled stack atop the presents.

That’s not the end of the world, of course, but it’s pretty aggravating. And it’s hard to see what it has to do with stopping terrorism. Presumably they have X-Ray machines and explosives detectors, either of which could have been used to verify that there were no bombs in those packages.

This is what happens when we turn over unlimited authority over a part of our lives to a vast, impersonal bureaucracy hundreds of miles away. You get unaccountable bureaucrats making essentially arbitrary decisions that affect the lives of millions of ordinary people. TSA officials, insulated by layer after layer of federal government bureaucracy, don’t get the kind of feedback that normally prevents institutions from imposing ridiculous and invasive requirements on those subject to their authority.

But because of peoples’ hysterical attitudes toward terrorism, the TSA’s decisions get very little scrutiny. Five years after September 11, it’s still considered inappropriate to suggest that at some point, imposing additional hassles on travelers isn’t justified by the infinitesimal amount it reduces the terrorist threat. Risk is a fact of life, and reducing all risks to zero isn’t a reasonable goal. We should be focusing on the greatest risk reduction for the least cost. The latest round of invasive security theater doesn’t fit the bill.

  • Steve R.

    You are absolutely correct.

    One of my pet security failures is the allowance for collapsible frame/handles for the wheeled carry-on luggage. Maybe I have seen one to many James Bond movies (where the good guys and the bad guys are able to make all sorts of lethal devices from assemplying simple parts conveniently lying around), but these metal frames pose more of an obvious security threat than many of the items currently prohibited.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    You are absolutely correct.

    One of my pet security failures is the allowance for collapsible frame/handles for the wheeled carry-on luggage. Maybe I have seen one to many James Bond movies (where the good guys and the bad guys are able to make all sorts of lethal devices from assemplying simple parts conveniently lying around), but these metal frames pose more of an obvious security threat than many of the items currently prohibited.

  • Steve R.

    Another pet security peeve. CNBC tonight (8/22/2006), “The Big Idea” program had an expose on fake ideas with the usual pundits. One of the shows reporters was able to make a fake ID and waltz through security. No news there, its incredibly easy to make fake IDs. The program then made a big point (implying greater security) about having a valid government ID. Considering the number of governments (City, County,State, Federal) in the United States, I wouldn’t know a valid ID from a fake one. Great Security Theater hype but no substance.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Another pet security peeve. CNBC tonight (8/22/2006), “The Big Idea” program had an expose on fake ideas with the usual pundits. One of the shows reporters was able to make a fake ID and waltz through security. No news there, its incredibly easy to make fake IDs. The program then made a big point (implying greater security) about having a valid government ID. Considering the number of governments (City, County,State, Federal) in the United States, I wouldn’t know a valid ID from a fake one. Great Security Theater hype but no substance.

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