There has been a lot of talk about airport security in the old blog world in recent days. I have tossed around a few opinions myself in posts and comments elsewhere. I am not a security expert. I am not an airline expert. I will venture I have flown commercial more than the average person. I have long ago lost count count, but let me say in the last 15 years I have flown way more than 600 flights. At one point I enjoyed Chairman's Preferred/Platinum status (for about four years straight). For those of you not familiar with frequent flier programs that means I walked to the gate and automatically got a seat in First Class, at no extra charge, and other fliers got bumped back to coach. I had free membership at the exclusive airline lounges and clubs. That status was given to me because I routinely flew 100 or more segments a year. You do the math. For those of you who flunked third grade -- there are 52 weeks in a year, and I had three weeks vacation.
I have been to almost every major airport in the nation and many in Europe. I have been to the small airports where, in the old days, the person who took your ticket and checked your bags also ran the security checkpoint and loaded your bags on the plane -- all before pulling the chocks and wanding the pilot from the terminal. I have experienced it all. Today, I still fly an average of one or two round-trips a month. I would posit myself as an experienced traveler.
I really have no issues with undergoing security at airports. To be honest, I have no desire to be part of a religious fanatics suicide plan. Diving straight down to the unforgiving ground from thirty thousand feet or becoming part of a missile hitting a building has little appeal to me. But I have little patience for the stupid, feel good security measures.
In the days after the Unibomber we were routinely stopped and asked if we had guns or bombs or explosives in our bag. If I did, would I admit it? What was the point?
After 9/11 the TSA instituted a number of senseless regulations. The airport rent-a cops are fanatics about cars parking next to the terminal for more than a minute or two. A nutjob hell-bent of placing a car bomb next to the terminal needs no more than a few seconds. He could drive the car and detonate it a la the Beirut Marine Barracks/Riyadh, etc. Or he could just walk away from the car. It would take a few minutes for a security force to recognize the car was abandoned and that is all it would take to blow the car remotely or with a timer. I am not a terrorist, but if I can figure this out... So my point is this measure is symbolic rather than a practical security step.
I have already talked a little about the ID check chokepoint. This step slows every airport security checkpoint. A would-be terrorist knows this ID will be checked, so wouldn't all but the most incompetent bomber make sure his ID matched the ticket? I have to check my ticket to see how my name appears. My Driver's Licence has only my middle initial, my passport has my full middle name. The ticket must match exactly, or else I cannot fly. The 9/11 hijackers all had valid IDs. We know who they were. The shoe bomber had a valid ID, so did the attempted Christmas bomber from last year. Many times the TSA ID checker matches the ticket to the ID, but not the face to the ID, so what is the point? How about a spot check of IDs, random checks instead, so the one incompetent bomber intent on earning his virgins gets caught? Has the checking of IDs caught a single would-be terrorist? Again symbolism of actual security.
Now we face the full body scanners and pat-downs. We are patting down three year olds, but considering not checking women in burkas. Last time I checked, it was members of the faith that favors full-body coverings for the females of the sect, not little kids, blowing up planes and driving them into skyscrapers. We might as well face reality. If a person is so determined to blow up a plane he is willing to strap a bomb to his child, he is going to find a way eventually. We cannot know if the hot chick's implants are PET or silicone or saline. We cannot know if a suicide murderer has swallowed the ingredients are planted a bomb up his rectum.
We do not allow tourists to climb to the top of Lady Liberty without a background check and waiting list. We will let any Tom, Dick, or Mohamed climb to the top of the pedestal. Wouldn't a bomb planted under the statue's feet will blow it up as surely as one planted in her armpit? Wouldn't a round fired from an RPG in a speedboat have a similar effect? So what is the point?
I am not suggesting we roll over and accept we cannot win. I am saying we should install real measures, not feel-good symbolism like checking every one's ID. If putting TSA hands on my junk means we all will fly safe, then by all means grope away. Just make sure you grope everyone. Oh, and let us be honest. Every act of terrorism in the skies for the past 15 years has been committed by Muslim males between the ages of 19 and 40. Perhaps admitting that fact that is the best place to start with real security.