Standing in the security line at JFK this morning, I witnessed a site commonly seen - someone in a uniform believing their attire gives them power - to control, be bossy, be rude. And it never ceases to annoy the hell out of me. I'm sure, as it is with any job, there's some stress involved. And it's probably boring as hell doing the same task over and over again, while standing on your feet. But I'm not all that sympathetic. It' s not a day at the spa for those traveling either.
Don't get me wrong - I'm all for safety. And certainly have no problem being that lemming, following the flock, stripping down to my bare feet, removing all the other gear, going through the hassle of shuffling and reshuffling all the gear, IF it actually made us safer. But from all I've read, many (if not most) of these rules and procedures seem to be more about making us feel safer - than actually making us safer. And that I'm not for - at all.
It seems to be generally agreed upon by security experts that our security strategy is ineffective. It was a system designed 40 some odd years ago to protect us from the lone individual carrying a gun with the intent to hijack the plane to South America. Clearly, our threat today is far from that simple.
Terrorists are aptly named as their mission is to terrorize, with their suicidal tendencies being the most frightening. And our system just wasn't designed to handle this. Our approach to dealing is reactionary - adding on rules and procedures once someone breaches security and makes the news. Liquid the new threat - limit the amount of liquid we can carry-on. Shoes a problem, take them off. Unfortunately, none of these changes statistically affects our safety.
The fact is, right now there isn't any widely deployed technology that can handle the threat of terrorism. Body scans, all the rage now, are just enraging civil liberty proponents. In the long run, if deployed, it will be millions of dollars spent, without changing the facts. Every new technology or restriction just forces the terrorist to figure out a work around - it doesn't stop their resolve - just their methods. The inconvenience is only for us, it doesn't discourage them.
Bruce Schneier, a security technologist, says: the new flying restrictions are little more than "security theatre." He says, we've always known you can strap eplosive material to your body with a a metal triggering device and get it on the plane. You need to stop terrorists before they get to the airport. He argues much of what we do, doesn't make us safer - and mostly is misspent money. Essentially saying that the real money should be spent on police work, collecting intel, not on the charades at the gate.
Having said that, based on the tremendous size of our system and the number of flights that take off and land daily, it is probably somewhat a miracle - or dumb luck - that there aren't more threats or successes. Someone must be doing something right - whether at security checkpoints or through good investigation work (more likely) before the real danger arrives at the airport.
As my father used to talk about the real nuclear threat that existed in the world - scarring the crap out of the much younger versions of my sister, brother and me - he did provide the caveat that it actually isn't so easy to build a nuclear bomb. And the same is true for blowing up a plane. Thankfully. It's some comfort, but not much.
I'm all about transparency. We're all adults. Well, those of us that are. I don't want "security theatre." I want to know the truth. And I want our government to spend money on a security strategy that will actually make us safer, not one that just makes us think we are. No, I'm not thrilled about having to get to the airport 90 minutes before a flight. Or the hassle of the bottle limits and the stripping down and re-dressing. Or the incredibly rude, sometimes inept - and at worst, ineffective airport security. And yes, it's true, this post was driven by my annoyance at security this morning. But, like anyone else, I'd deal if it all actually helped. It just pisses me off that I don't believe it does.