06 January 2006

Airports and security

I'm sitting at the airport right now - I can really deal with this wireless hotspot thing. Anyway, we got here early enough that getting through security was a breeze. OK, so you have to give your life history to the security folks and submit to a body cavity search, but it really could have been worse.

I was reminded of one thing while we were going through, though, and that's the total and complete exclusion of common sense from the security screening process - particularly when it comes to who to pick for secondary screening. In case you're wondering, I'm not going to advocate for racial profiling, or anything like it. I think it's reasonable to assume that a terrorist could look like pretty much anyone, and I don't think there's any good reason to assume that the next attack (if any) will come from people who look arabic.

But sometimes it would be nice to see some common sense enter the process, if only a little bit. When we (a white family of four) went through security, the person in front of us (also white) was selected for the "secondary screening" patdown. I am aware that a terrorist could look like anyone, but this guy really just didn't seem to fit. I don't know what it was about him that cued me to this. It might have been that he was a very average looking middle-aged white dude. It might have been how tired he looked, or how well mannered. Mostly, though, I think it was the uniform.

Perhaps I'm wrong about this, and maybe nobody should be given a pass. But somehow, it just seems unreasonable to pull a soldier-wearing DCUs and clearly just out of the sandbox-for secondary security screening. Somehow, there's got to be room for common sense in the system somewhere.


ArtK said...

It's sad, too, how inconsistent and porous the system is. I've known people to go through screening with Swiss Army knives and never be stopped.

I travel a fair amount and carefully plan my wardrobe for the least trouble -- very little metal and some lightweight shoes. About one out of 10 screening stations will require the shoes, while the rest let me wear them through. One screener (in Hawai'i, no less) "suggested" that I take my shoes off. I was almost in a pissy enough mood to ask him what would happen if I didn't feel like taking his "suggestion." Or lecturing him that if he's in charge, he needs to act like it, not try some false politeness.

d. dunford said...

Bro, I've given this some thought...and while I am appreciative of the service that so many have given to others, unless you can guarantee me that, in dealing with the military, you are dealing with a completely crime-free population (and can also guarantee the mental stability of every member of said population), then they should be subject to the same rules. Sorry. That's how life is now.

I've begun to justify air-screening not as a terrorism preventative, but instead as a crime preventative. It's not foolproof, but hey, it's definitively random. That's a start, at least.

Lifewish said...

Actually I'd tend to completely support the "screen anyone regardless of appearance" thing. What gets me is all the other ways in which the system is blatantly designed to make people feel better rather than actually helping prevent terrorism. Bruce Schneier's weblog is good for this stuff.

Anonymous said...

So -- you're advocating a simple, easy way for terrorists to bypass our security? Leaving aside the issue of real soldiers who might be "turned", there's the problem that uniforms aren't hard to come by, and that forging orders isn't hard either.