We recently took a plane trip. One of us got selected for the enhanced pat down, which by the way, IS totally unacceptable. Heck, US forces treat Afghans at checkpoints in a war zone with more respect than TSA treats the American people with every day.
The funny thing is that despite the enhanced patdown, TSA missed a bladed utility tool that was inadvertantly left attached to a keychain. I hope you feel safer. Total security theater.
Frankly, I am no longer concerned about people hijacking the airplane. The "unorganized militia" developed a pretty effective countertactic on 9/11; the first plane crashed at 8:46 AM and Flight 93 went into a field in Pennsylvania less than 90 minutes later as passengers realized they were going to be turned into guided missiles. Every other would-be terrorist on airplanes has also been aggressively dealt with by the other passengers. So, the specter of commercial passenger airliners being used as guided missiles is pretty much past us.
The primary remaining threat to the airplane itself is some sort of bomb, and the terrorists seem to have some sort of obsession with blowing up civil airliners. None of the TSA nonsense we have now seems relevant to that threat. Frankly, as we've seen in Russia with attacks on crowded security checkpoint lines, the terrorists are evolving and reacting to hit softer targets. They aren't dumb.
So, this is my plan for better aviation security:
- Reinforce all cockpit doors. Relatively cheap and easy.
- Anyone with state, local, or federal law enforcement powers as well as the pilots can be armed as long as they comply with reasonable ammunition limitations (for example, frangible rounds like glaser safety slugs may make sense in an airplane).
- Anyone with a CCW can carry non-lethals (tasers, mace, etc) onto the aircraft so long as it is legal in both the state of departure and the final destination.
- Reduce lines at checkpoints to minimize targets by speeding screening and increasing "trusted agents." Anyone with law enforcement or military credentials goes in the EZ-Pass lane. So do people with CCWs (as it shows they have passed a background check and are, as far as society knows, trustworthy). If there are other credentials that demonstrate similar levels of background checks -- maybe teaching or professional licenses? -- should also be afforded such treatment. Screening can be rapidly speeded up by cutting out the "Rapiscan" full body scanners, enhanced pat downs, and other such invasions of privacy. A simple metal detector combined with intelligence-cued "extra screening" for suspected bad guys would probably do the trick.
- Refocus on explosives detection. That means lots of dogs; each bomb dog can only work an hour or so before losing focus so you'd need a bunch of them. It also means sniffer technology, which still remains somewhat unreliable. Randomized, unpredictable checks -- including at the gate of the plane or even on the plane itself -- rather than a single checkpoint to avoid or defeat will reduce the line (and thus the target) as well as make it harder for terrorists to plan.
Of course, it seems like the goal isn't to make us safer, so I doubt these ideas will get anywhere. Enjoy the security theater.
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