Will We Get Serious About Aviation Security?

After $40 billion in spending, amateurs are still getting on planes with explosives.

Since its creation in 2004, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has spent $40 billion on aviation security. Yet an amateur terrorist succeeded in getting on board Northwest flight 253 with a well-known type of explosive concealed on his person.

Two egregious security failures allowed this to happen. First, despite an explicit warning from the terrorist’s father, his name did not get added to either of the TSA’s lists—the 4,000-name no-fly list or the 14,000-name selectee list. Had he been on the latter list, he would have been subjected to secondary screening at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, where a routine swabbing of his hands and/or carry-ons would likely have revealed traces of the PETN explosive.

But even if this trace-detection had not been carried out, the PETN which the terrorist concealed in his underwear would have been detected had he been required to pass through one of the 15 of millimeter-wave body-scanners now in use at Schiphol. But airport officials there maintain that they are not permitted to use these machines for U.S.-bound passengers (though TSA has disputed that).

Both failures reflect the flawed philosophy that underlies U.S. aviation security policy. For the most part, it continues to be fixated on keeping bad things—as opposed to bad people—off of airplanes. It also implicitly assumes every passenger is equally likely to be a terrorist, so every passenger must get equal treatment, except in extreme cases. That’s why it’s so hard to shift potential bad guys from the Department of Homeland Security’s much larger databases to TSA’s selectee and no-fly lists. As a libertarian, I agree that we should be very leery of forbidding people to fly without good reason. But requiring potentially high-risk travelers to undergo secondary screening (especially since we do some of this randomly, in any case) is hardly the end of the world.

In fact, shifting to a risk-based approach to aviation security would likely mean increased security and lower costs, both for the TSA and especially lower wasted-time costs for most travelers. Under a risk-based approach, air travelers would be divided into three groups: lower-risk, ordinary, and higher-risk. The three groups would be treated differently, for very good reason.

Lower-risk people would be those with active government-issued security clearances and anyone who joined a risk-based “trusted traveler” program by passing an FBI background check and getting a biometric ID card. These people would get streamlined processing at airports, similar to what existed pre-9/11. (Note that TSA’s sister agency within the Department of Homeland Security, Customs & Border Protection, operates a number of similar programs for U.S. citizens returning to this country, such as the recently expanded Global Entry program.)

 Higher-risk people would be those placed on an expanded selectee list and would be subjected to mandated secondary screening, including a body scan, backed up (if necessary) by a full body search. Now that terrorists have started hiding explosives in their underwear and body cavities, we have no alternative to these intrusive measures.

This risk-based approach would be significantly more effective than current practice in dealing with the increasingly serious threat of airborne suicide bombers. It should be supplemented by beefed-up control of access to planes and their cargo holds on the tarmac at airports, to thwart those who would place bombs on board without getting on board as passengers.

Fortunately, the Flight 253 bomber failed, due largely to his own incompetence. But unless we shift to a risk-based security policy, the next such attempt could well succeed.

Robert Poole is director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. He advised the White House and members of Congress on airport security issues following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Poole’s aviation security research and newsletters are archived here.

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  • ||

    an amateur terrorist

    Why this characterization? It seems like he was working with AQ, and pretty much fits the classic suicide bomber profile.

  • Flush Obama||

    I was going to ask the same thing. What a stupid characterization. I guess for reasons unknown, Poole has a need to whistle while walking past the grave yard.

  • Russ 2000||

    Maybe he called him amateur because he didn't succed.

    He advised the White House and members of Congress on airport security issues following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Robert Poole sounds like an amateur Libertarian. He certainly didn't succeed in getting any sensible security system in place. I wonder how much of this monumental fuck-up called the TSA was Poole's idea?

  • smartass sob||

    Robert Poole sounds like an amateur Libertarian.

    Except, of course, that he happens to be one of the founders of Reason Magazine.

  • ||

    QED

  • NeonCat||

    Well, he wasn't being paid, so he must be an amateur.

  • anonymous||

    If you want a terrorist attack done right, you need to use a suicide bomber with a lot of experience.

  • thumb's up||

    This doesn't sound too much like amateurs.

    http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/“al-qaeda-practises-beating-body-scanners”

  • ||

    As I recently read, Obama does not want to use the term 'War on Terror' or even agree that there is a concerted effort to terrorize America. So he gets toadies in the media (including Reason) to call him a fumbling, bumbling, lonely hearts little Nigerian boy who was mad at his Daddy. It was just a coincidence that he happened to be in Yemen recently...

  • ||

    As I recently read, Obama does not want to use the term 'War on Terror' or even agree that there is a concerted effort to terrorize America. So he gets toadies in the media (including Reason) to call him a fumbling, bumbling, lonely hearts little Nigerian boy who was mad at his Daddy. It was just a coincidence that he happened to be in Yemen recently...

  • ||

    I'm all for taking the terror hype down a few notches.

    Terrorism while horrible is NOT a big physical danger. It's all about creating "terror".

    Over-reacting to this (small) threat (compared to things like drunk driving and disease) is just helping the terrorists do their work.

    So let's call it what it is! A horrible act that has a statistically minuscule chance of happening.

    I think we Americans need to grow a pair.

  • ||

    "Michael Rothschild, a former business professor at the University of Wisconsin, worked out a couple of plausible scenarios. For example, he figured that if terrorists were to destroy entirely one of America's 40,000 shopping malls per week, your chances of being there at the wrong time would be about one in one million or more. Rothschild also estimated that if terrorists hijacked and crashed one of America's 18,000 commercial flights per week that your chance of being on the crashed plane would be one in 135,000."

    http://tinyurl.com/ya5exx2

  • LarryA||

    Lower-risk people would be those with active government-issued security clearances and anyone who joined a risk-based “trusted traveler” program by passing an FBI background check and getting a biometric ID card.

    You mean like concealed handgun licensees? I’d love to hear the reaction to that suggestion.

  • Russ 2000||

    What kind of fool comes up with a plan that was already proven ineffective weeks ago as a great new idea? The I-forget-his-name-already asshole at the military base in Texas would have had total security clearance in this plan.

    The ironic thing is that in that Texas case AND in the current one there was plenty of advance warning that went ignored/glossed over that would NOT have been had we not flooded the system with useless information by scanning everybody. Poole's idea does NOTHING to prevent false positives and false negatives, it is the same shit in a different package.

  • Flush Obama||

    "Robert Poole is director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. He advised the White House and members of Congress on airport security issues following the September 11, 2001 attacks."

    You're doing a heck of a job, Pooley.

  • ||

    The last two sentences in paragraph four are contradictory. As a libertarian, Mr. Poole already knows that such amorphous phrases as "requiring potentially high risk travellers" is an open invitation to tyranny and misery and incompetence.

    In addition, as a libertarian, Mr. Poole already knows that gutting all government mandated "security" measures is not the end of the world.

  • Old Mexican||

    Lower-risk people would be those with active government-issued security clearances and anyone who joined a risk-based “trusted traveler” program by passing an FBI background check and getting a biometric ID card.

    No opportunity for government-sponsored blackmail through this system, noooooo...

  • Russ 2000||

    So al qaeda just sends new recruits immediately into the low-risk "trusted traveler" system and THEN trains them in terrorism.

    Oh, I'm sure Poole would have constant re-review/re-admittance provisions in the trusted traveller program; which totally defeats its purpose as it would wind up being the exact same system that what we already have.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Russ,

    So Al Qaeda just sends new recruits immediately into the low-risk "trusted traveler" system and THEN trains them in terrorism.

    Of course. Such childish deterrents created by the Great Minds at the Department of Vaterland Security are pretty useless in the face of human ingenuity.

    But I argue that such measures are really NOT meant to deter terrorists but to keep The People in submission, under the guise of more security.

  • Russ 2000||

    I wasn't disagreeing with you, I was pointing out that some George Ryan-inspired blackmail is the least of the problems with the ineffectiveness of the proposal.

  • Old Mexican||

    Russ, I wasn't disagreeing with you - I was merely adding to the conversation, that's all.

  • LarryA||

    First, despite an explicit warning from the terrorist’s father, his name did not get added to either of the TSA’s lists—the 4,000-name no-fly list or the 14,000-name selectee list.

    Classic government Not Invented Here response. “TSA intelligence is much more sophisticated and knows lots more about this person than his father does.”

  • ||

    Best course is to imitate a Country who has to do it right, Israel. Theirs is highly risked based, I'm told.

  • Tacos mmm...||

    El Al works on a small enough scale to make such things as armored holds and baggage decompression practical; not to mention large scale background checks and personal interviews with each passenger. There are things you can do practically with less than 40 planes that you can't do with tens of thousands.

  • peachy||

    It's not just El Al, though - every passenger going through Ben Gurion, regardless of airline, goes through the complete screening. (Even when flying on a US diplomatic passport.)

  • Tacos mmm...||

    Bruce Schneier makes much more sense here and here

    Under a risk-based approach, air travelers would be divided into three groups: lower-risk, ordinary, and higher-risk. The three groups would be treated differently, for very good reason.

    All well and good, but it skips the hard part, which is HOW to stratify people on 1) a large scale in 2) in a way that can't be gamed. I would argue that any stratification system creates structural weaknesses ripe for exploitation (attach bombs to white, pregnant women with US passports).

  • iowahawk||

    What's so hard?

    Tier 1: U.S. born passport holder, minimum of 10k miles / year flying for minimum 10 years.

    Tier 3: foreign resident / visa holder.

    Tier 2: everybody else.

    Tier 1 gets the privilege of speedy walk-through security check; no shoe removal, no 3-oz ziplock bag bullshit.

    Tier 2 gets current screening procedure.

    Tier 3 gets enhanced screening.

    Not much different than different grades of drivers licenses; commercial operator, motorcycle, restricted hours, etc.

  • WTF?||

    Tier 1: U.S. born passport holder, minimum of 10k miles / year flying for minimum 10 years.

    Tier 3: foreign resident / visa holder.

    Tier 2: everybody else.

    That is essentially the system that is already in place!

  • edna||

    no, not really. i'd certainly qualify as tier 1 and i haven't noticed any preferential security treatment.

  • not edna||

    "i'd certainly qualify as tier 1"

    enough said.

  • Kroneborge||

    +1

  • DBN||

    Because if you have a tiered system, you can target your attacks to take advantage of them. For example, forging a tier I ID, or slipping a bomb into a bag of a tier I person. Random screening prevents this kind of targeting. If you can't screen everyone intensively, it's better to screen randomly.

  • ||

    "For example, forging a tier I ID, or slipping a bomb into a bag of a tier I person."

    If forging an acceptable ID were that easy, I suspect AQ would already be doing more of it.

  • ||

    Your system is basically the one we have now. Since few people qualify for your "Tier 1", it doesn't really help speed things up with security (most travelers are not frequent travelers). This leaves two tiers of people which are basically what we have already. Foreigners already get extra measures, and if you have an Arabic sounding name, you somehow MIRACULOUSLY get the 'random screening' more than 'random' really would be. I have seen my Muslim friends time and again pulled aside when we travel.

  • ||

    "Your system is basically the one we have now."

    Except not even slightly.

    "I have seen my Muslim friends time and again pulled aside when we travel."

    Along with babies and grandmothers.

    For random screening to be the primary mechanism of providing security is misdirected effort; it should be a minor element.

  • ||

    Last time I flew there was a family in front of me which included and 85 year old (or so) grandmother who wore special braces on her legs and special shoes so that she could walk. Since she could not go through that idiotic ritual of removing her shoes and sending the through the scanner several agents took her aside and sat her down so that they could remove and inspect her shoes and braces just in case she was secreting away explosives in them. Can't be too careful!!! I will do anything to avoid flying anymore.

  • Robert||

    We make judgments about people all the time. Persons are even put to death on the basis of legal judgments. If we accept the risks of mistakes there -- and surely some do occur -- we can accept the lesser risk of incorrectly judging persons re air travel.

  • iowahawk||

    Another approach is the wisdom of crowds: let the passengers on a flight self-screen.

    You could run it like a fraternity pledge; give everybody a blackball, and allow them to vote other people off the plane. Get blackballed by three other passengers and bam, you're off the flight.

    I'm joking. Kinda.

  • Rich||

    Interesting. I'll have to ponder a bit more, but I might fly on such an airline, given (of course) reasonable advertised compensation for being voted off.

  • anonymous||

    It would address issues other than terrorism (people with horrible children, fatties, smelly people, etc.), so there's that. But airlines wouldn't like the loss of revenue, so the people who voted would have to compensate the airline for it to work.

    On the other hand, it seems like terrorists could exploit it just by having a suspicious-acting decoy who gets like 50 blackballs (and is completely clear of any sort of explosives or contraband) while the actual terrorist goes relatively unnoticed.

  • Old Mexican||

    [D]espite an explicit warning from the terrorist’s father, his name did not get added to either of the TSA’s lists — the 4,000-name no-fly list or the 14,000-name selectee list.


    That's because those lists were not really meant to stop terrorists but to harass normal citizens with same names and to keep the credulous sheeple believing that the Gun-Vermin-int is here to "protect you."

    Other tangential consequences of the lists are entirely coincidental, like actually stopping terrorists from boarding planes.
  • Robert||

    Such lists couldn't be to harrass persons deliberately, judging by some of the names on the list. They couldn't also be for credulous people, because you wouldn't even know about the list unless you turn up on it and try to fly.

  • Old Mexican||

    Such lists couldn't be to harass persons deliberately, judging by some of the names on the list. They couldn't also be for credulous people, because you wouldn't even know about the list unless you turn up on it and try to fly.

    No harassment here:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10725741/

    The lists are well known thanks to the major fubar's like the one I link above. However, the purported reason for the list can only serve to appease the credulous and stupid, since it is obvious in light of recent events that these lists are pretty useless.

  • PoliTech||

    "Now that terrorists have started hiding explosives in their underwear and body cavities, we have no alternative to these intrusive measures."

    I'll just drive or take a train. Overseas? Maybe I'll try taking a boat.

    Not that I'm ashamed of my hot bod in the scanner, its just that I reserve showing off that sweet sweet thang to my better half!

  • Show me the money!||

    "an amateur terrorist" I guess that is similar to an amateur athlete. Once he/she goes pro then they can receive sponsorship. Of course, he/she would have to stay out of "Tiger" trouble or risk forfeiting their money deals.

  • Fluffy||

    OK, I don't think it's too much of a "libertarian purity test" to ask that people who describe themselves as libertarians refrain from endorsing a petty Gestapo system like the Trusted Traveler ID scam.

    You basically just endorsed a system whereby people "approved" by our scummy state will be whisked through and past abusive and humiliating security procedures, while the common run of citizen gets to endure them.

    Tell me this, ass-wipe: Do you think people active in, say, the marijuana legalization movement, will get handed security clearances and Trusted Traveler ID's? No?

  • ||

    Fluffy, just curious, are you refering to Bob Poole as an "ass-wipe?" I have met him at two LP national conventions. Although he found my advocacy of liberty a wee bit truculent, I found him to be dignified and respectful.

  • Russ 2000||

    Libertymike, now that an LP member has proposed a more intrusive government with more power, we have no alternative to the epithet "ASS-WIPE."

  • thumb's up||

    Poole's a tool. Nice though that he's a dignified and respectful tool.

    Nonetheless, advocacy of liberty = truculent = tool... or if you prefer Ass-wipe. Same same.

  • Death Panelist||

    This just in: Reason contributor pines for more warrantless searches.

  • Upstater85||

    It seems reasonable to perhaps monitor the travel of certain "high risk" individuals (even potentially targeting certain groups), but we have had the unfortunate lesson that say the FBI or other gov't agencies can and do fail when it comes to security risks - often because of the PC-environment they function in.

  • Tony||

    People killed in the US by terrorism in the last 10 years: 2,752.

    People killed in the US by lack of health insurance in one year: 45,000 (American Journal of Public Health)

  • Tacos mmm...||

    I have to say, the latter number is bound to be a bit fuzzier than the first.

  • Tony||

    Fuzzy doesn't mean zero.

  • Mr. ?||

    Exact numbers, please, Tony.

    AND names.

  • ||

    Fuzzy means relative to coutries that have government run systems rather than our current 47% government paid system.

    Unfortuneately, being being an antisocial troll isn't medically curable...(grow up!)

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Tony never can pass up an opportunity to whore for socialized health care.

  • Tony||

    Hey I'm even for socialized terrorist detection, and terrorism is practically nonexistent as a threat to American lives when compared to lacking health insurance.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    *yawn* More of your horseshit, Tony? You are such a slut for big government.

  • ||

    You seem to be confused about the difference between health care and health insurance. No one has died due to lack of health insurance, but people have died due to lack of health care, often by their own choice.

  • Tony||

    The study specifically determined deaths associated with a lack of insurance. Those deaths that wouldn't have happened with universal coverage. But, of course let's not be silly, that's not nearly as important a cause as spending a billion dollars hunting explosive undergarments.

  • Rimfax||

    Tony,

    You forgot to mention:

    People killed by Marxist policies: 150 million and counting....

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Tony doesn't care about that. Marxist policies are good things in his book.

  • Tony||

    I would say psychopathic right-wing tyrants are slightly more responsible than an economic theory.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    People killed in the US by lack of health insurance in one year: 45,000 (American Journal of Public Health)

    That's a lot of people being shot to death after answering "no" to the question: "Do you have health insurance?" I better say "yes" next time lest I end up in that statistic.

    Or, what did you mean by "killed"? The verb implies purposeful action.

  • iowahawk||

    You could always verify it through public records. Go down to the courthouse and count up the number of death certificates with "CAUSE OF DEATH: LACK OF HEALTH INSURANCE"

  • Old Mexican||

    Score!!

    +1

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Death panels, OM! Now it makes sense! The death panelists are the ones killing people without health insurance!

  • ||

    People with health insurance killed by government licensed doctors misdiagnosing the problem or misprescribing the medication: Unknown but based on malpractice insurance rates probably more than one.

  • ||

    People killed in the US by lack of health insurance in one year

    So you are comparing people who make choices which result in their and their children's own death to people killed by terrorism?

    I think you mean to use the word died not killed. Your remarks are breathtaking in their inanity.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Said remarks also have zero relation to air-travel security, but that doesn't stop Tony.

    I'm surprised Chad hasn't shown up to compare deaths by global warming to terrorist acts... meh, the day is young.

  • Tony||

    Who said anything about people making choices? You're just assuming something out of thin air in order to justify ignoring people not fortunate enough to be able to afford health insurance. Heard it all before. Poor people are poor because they're morally inferior, I know.

    Died, killed, what's the difference to the victim? This number represents people whose death was associated with a lack of health insurance. All I'm saying is that if you're in favor of a huge government apparatus to combat a cause of American deaths that number just above 2,000 in 10 years, surely you can't object to some apparatus if it helps save 45,000 a year? Or should our government operate according to react only to what scares lizard-brained conservatives?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    How are these people being killed, Tony? And which metropolitan police homicide squad is investigating these murders?

  • Stan Marsh||

    Oh, my God... lack of government health care killed Kenny! You bastards!!!

  • g4m3th3ory||

    No one can die for lack of health insurance, but they could possibly die from lack of healthcare.

    And additional government intrusion into health care will reduce the aggregate level of health availability through the normal inefficiencies which naturally comes from centralized bureaucratic control.

    Pretending otherwise or pretending to not know that government planning has failed much more often and in much more heinous ways than the free market could ever accomplish, is simply silly.

  • Tony||

    The study estimated the number of people who died from reasons associated with a lack of health insurance. Surely the number dying from lack of care in general is higher.

    It's not pretending when I don't believe your boilerplate libertarian axioms aren't true, since they are quite obviously, factually untrue. The whole point is to expand health insurance coverage to those who don't have it. That means doing better than the market in achieving that goal. All you have as an argument is a lame stereotype of government bureaucrats.

  • ||

    Tony, what are the chances of you ever realizing how many people the FDA and the rest of the government kill by driving the cost of health care up?

    Government is a problem masquerading as a solution.

    -jcr

  • Tacos mmm...||

    Lower-risk people would be those with active government-issued security clearances and anyone who joined a risk-based “trusted traveler” program by passing an FBI background check and getting a biometric ID card.

    Great. So now all I have to do is forge my credentials, and I can carry my bomb on board without harrassment while Ranjit Singh gets rectalled in the next room for looking swarthy.

  • ||

    "Now that terrorists have started hiding explosives in their underwear and body cavities, we have no alternative to these intrusive measures."

    What the fuck?

  • ||

    Practical problems abound with Mr. Poole's suggestions. Considerations of liberty aside, now. Those who are travelling from Islamic nations - don't quibble about the definition, make up a sensible one - don't get to come into the U.S. any more via commerical air. That means everyone, not just teen-agers who might have been recruited as bombers, including diplomats, students .. everyone. All Muslims in the U.S. presently who are not U.S. citizens get taken to the airport nearest their present location and sent back to their home nations. Will that place them in danger from the present government of those nations? Too bad. Organizations funded by Saudi and any other Islamic nation get shut down. Their staffs get deported if they're not U.S. citizens whether Muslim or not. CAIR and similar organizations no longer have access to government, military or any other institution of the U.S. Those organizations lose their corporate charters - NGO, non-profit, whatever - and the folks who work with or for them get deported if not U.S. citizens. Any U.S. citizens who fit one or another of these categories lose any security clearances they presently hold. New ones possible, but not until a genuine check made by non-Muslim investigators is conducted. No Muslims in the armed forces; sorry, no more Fort Hoods. When, as and if individual Muslims pass security checks each by non-Muslims with no input allowed from Muslims, hire them back by the government.

    Not consistent with libertarian ideals? Probably not, but being dead makes it really difficult to act consistently with libertarian ideals also.

    Gradually, as is warranted by their individual actions and the results of security investigations conducted by non-Muslims with no input from Muslim sources allowed, let U.S.-citizen Muslims back into government and the services. Next major attack? Ship them all out to Muslim nations or put them into internment camps. We did that to Japanese and Japanese-Americans who had never done a single act of espionage or sabotage - terror in "modern" terms - against the U.S. and kept them there for nearly seven years. Why not do the same to folks who avowedly want to kill us or subjegate us to Islamic law? I can't think of a single reason.

  • Kroneborge||

    What was that old quote about trading liberty for safety again?

  • ||

    "Not consistent with libertarian ideals? Probably not, but being dead makes it really difficult to act consistently with libertarian ideals also."

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com.....error.html

    In summary: You're retarded.

  • DBN||

    Yeah, and you could also lower the homocide rate by sending all black men to Africa. Point being?

    Asshole.

  • ||

    DBN, I'm flattered beyond words that both you and isildur have taken time out from your busy holidays to frame and post cogent and well-articulated reasons why the ideas in my comment are wrong.

    Kroneborge at least makes an allusion to an argument contra what I wrote. You two can only insult and in your case, DBN, offer one false analogy. Thank you for reinforcing my view of the caliber of discussion in these online post-and-comment sites.

  • ||

    And yet, for all your five dollar words, you didn't respond to the link I posted, or how it completely undermines the central thesis of your argument (that we have to 'do something' or there is a reasonable risk we'll end up dead).

    So you're a scaremonger.

    And also retarded.

  • ||

    isildur: Assuming for the sake of the argument that the statistics in the linked article are correct, it fails as a counter-factual or even as analogy. There is a significant difference between death from what might loosely be labelled "natural causes" - e.g., lightning - and from intentional attacks upon common carriers, cities and other occupied areas. Lightning and other natural causes pay no attention to our actions; only evasion or avoidance seem to be effective. Intentional attacks are encouraged by failing to respond forcefully to them. This is especially true in assymetrical warfare - guerilla or terrorist if you prefer - where one side's conventional military forces far outweigh the others. When people are trying to kill members of our society and those people are readily identifiable by their appearance or by the avowed religion, it seems a practical approach to use those characteristics to identify them. Following that, remove them from our nation, to make their attempts at death and destruction less likely to succeed.

    Is that sufficient response to the link you posted?

    Adding "scaremonger" and repeating "retarded" isn't an argument, despite your implicit re-statement of your borrowed (via the link) counter-factual. Your clever disparagement - "...your five dollar words" - is likewise of no use, being only a different form of the other insults, if a bit less obvious.

  • ||

    "Lightning and other natural causes pay no attention to our actions..."

    Ok, so you really *are* retarded. Now I know, so I'll go slowly.

    Natural disasters pay no attention to our actions? Then why, pray tell, do we earthquake-proof buildings in Los Angeles? Why do we construct storm shelters in Tornado Alley? Why do we build levees in Louisiana? Why are we cautioned against going out into large, flat areas during storms?

    But leaving aside natural disasters, and considering only man-made disasters, you are many orders of magnitude more likely to die in an automobile accident on your way home from the airport than you are to die on the plane ride itself -- from *any* cause of death due to air travel, not just terrorist action.

    Proposing to effectively suspend liberty in response to a vanishingly small likelihood of death is absurd. It's as though you proposed banning protests because of the consequences at Kent State.

  • ||

    No thanks - I hope you are joking.

    Libertarion ideas? How about inconsistent with common sense and practicality?

    I live in Anchorage, so here is our state's experience with "camps": Alaskan Aleuts also were put into interment camps during WWII (the same executive order). Most of the camps didn't have enough food and heat. About 10% of the "campers" died from hunger, illness, and cold. Of course since the government had burned their homes (for no good reason), things didn't immediately once the war was over...

    Generally, putting people in camps leads to excess mortality, bad publicity, and seriously pisses off people who become motivated to kill you. (Just ask an Isreali or Palistinian about camps.)

    Personally, I'm much more threatened by bears ("rarr!!!"), pirates (harrr!!!), and (w)reckless drivers ("rrr...crash!!!!") than terrorists ("Die infidel.. POP!!! ..Oh shit I set my gonads on fire!").

  • ||

    Oosik: Interesting; I hadn't known that the Aluets were interned in Alaska in the war. In the case of Muslims, I doubt that internment would produce more bad publicity for the U.S. than the propaganda released on a daily basis from both the media of the Arab world as well as from many of the academics in the U.S. Most of the motivation for the terror attacks seems to be pre-existing relative to any of our efforts. So I doubt that much more actual malice would be generated by any policy adopted by the U.S. I'm afraid that, to me, it appears that nothing less than the adoption of Islamic religious law in place of what we have, etc etc, in short kneeling at their feet, is likely to change their behavior for the better.

  • ||

    "Interesting; I hadn't known that the Aleuts were interned in Alaska in the war."

    Actually, reading the article, they weren't "interned," they were evacuated. Of course, in some ways, it might have been better if they had been interned, given that the Japanese-Americans got put into reasonably well constructed camps which were mostly in decent climates, whereas the Aleuts got dumped into any old hole in the ground (in the case of the gold mine, literally) in friggin' Alaska. I'll grant, however, that prejudice probably had a lot to do with both situations. In particular, there does seem to have been theft from the Aleuts just like there was from the Japanese.

  • ||

    Ike: Is muslim terror really such a serious threat?

    Terror attacks make great media fodder, but relative to other threats, such as drunk drivers, they just don't matter. Asprin (and related NSAIDs) kill more Americans through stomach bleeding in 3-4 months than terrorists have in the last 20 years. Hell, even swimming pools are more dangerous than muslim terrorists...

    Besides, even if many Muslims don't like us, 99.9999% are not yet motivated enough to attack us. Putting people in camps would cetainly change that. Deportations and putting people in camps only works if you can get all of them, and then never (for generations) let them out. Even if it was legal and moral, I wouldn't want to pay for it.

    This all begs the question regarding our home grown Christian radicals? There are certainly a few nuts willing to kill abortionists. Greens? The una-bomber wasn't the only violent, radical enviromentalist. How many other groups do we deport, spy on, or lock up?

    Your proposed solution (although well meant) would turn a minor problem into an existential crisis.

  • ||

    Ike, can we stop spending trillions of dollars defending them from each other first?

  • ||

    Yes, there's a lot of things our government could do that would have a positive effect on terrorism. Unfortunately, our President and his administration seem to be interested more in appeasement and tribute rather than defense. Bowing to the Saudi king isn't usually considered a show of determination to defend one's country.

  • Fluffy||

    Here's one:

    I'm a white affluent atheist who doesn't show up on any list. And if I had been around when the Japanese internment had occurred, I would have committed an act of terrorism in response. If I could have gotten to FDR, any of the majority SCOTUS justices who upheld his order, or any of the California officials who carried it out, or any of the vultures who scooped up the properties of Japanese Americans and fucking killed them, I would have happily done so.

    Your security measures only enhance your security if they don't lead to civil war, bro.

  • ||

    I appreciate and commend your sentiment, Fluffy, but I doubt that would have in fact occurred as you assert. If you had been a white affluent atheist in 1940, you would have gone along with the Executive Order just like all the others. One doesn't become affluent by living a life swimming against the social currents in one's homeland. Neither does one, after a lifetime of conforming to those social conventions, suddenly "get religion" and violently oppose the acts of the men you - very likely - would have assisted into public office. By the way, guess who the California State Attorney General was who carried the order out there? The same chap who was later Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Earl Warren. A close look probably would reveal that other later-day liberal heroes were instruments of the internment as well. *sigh*

  • ||

    Interesting anecdote about Warren.

    I'd say it merely confirms that many liberal icons are actually pigs....

  • Rich||

    There are things you can do practically with less than 40 planes that you can't do with tens of thousands.

    Seems we might reach the point where we can try them.

  • BS Detector||

    Now that terrorists have started hiding explosives in their underwear and body cavities, we have no alternative to these intrusive measures.

    Robert Poole hates us for our freedoms.

  • Old Mexican||

    Had he been on the latter list, he would have been subjected to secondary screening at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, where a routine swabbing of his hands and/or carry-ons would likely have revealed traces of the PETN explosive.

    And if my grandmother had wheels, she would be a bicycle.

    C'mon, the guy's own father called the authorities on him because he clearly was afraid he would something stupid - yet nothing happened!

    So now everybody else must suffer intrusive searches and lengthy waits at the airport because the Department of Vaterland Security could not do its purported job for a change?

  • TP||

    Soon enough, it will be as difficult to get on an airplane as it is to legally purchase a handgun in NJ.

  • Der Fuhrer||

    According to an unscientific CNN poll, 71% of Americans have no problem undergoing full body scans in order to board airplanes. Well, you know how those commies are...

    According to the Moral Majority over at FoxNews, "56% don't mind losing privacy if it stops terrorism."

    This country is completely fucked, no two ways about it. Can we just get it over with already?

  • Old Mexican||

    According to the Moral Majority over at FoxNews, "56% don't mind losing privacy if it stops terrorism."


    Like I said - the terrorists won. Now Americans will *know* what it feels like to liv under the same kind of tyrannical, police regime they have to suffer in their own countries from America-backed governments.

  • adam||

    Yeah, I'm to the point where the situation is hopeless. The tide is too strong, and too many cracks in the dike. Let the majority finish screwing themselves over, and then start over. Atlas Shrugged style.

  • ||

    I still like Penn Jillette's idea of allowing airlines to set their own security levels, and having fliers choose which level they're most comfortable with. The safest? "Bacon And A Kiss Airlines," where, before being allowed to board, you have to eat a couple slices of bacon, and then kiss a member of the same sex on the mouth.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    AND pet a puppy held by a cute Jewish chick.

    Hell... sign me up. I like bacon.

  • monkeys||

    Could I kiss the Jewish chick instead?
    I like that.

  • Easy||

    I just saw the full body scan technology that will be in airports starting in March of '10. Maybe we could line up some radiologists at the gate and get a checkup with our flights. It's the healthcare answer we need!

  • ||

    Tony, have you ever seen "lack of health insurance" listed as a cause of death on a death certificate? Neither has anyone else. You're just another Marxist trying to scare people into voting for Commiecare.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    +1

  • Tony||

    I gave you the source of the study. You're free to use the Google and read about their methodology. But nice try avoiding having to make an argument.

  • ||

    Maybe Mr. Poole should reflect...

    Why not let the airlines and their insurance companies figure out how to provide security?

    If some passengers want the extra security of flying "cavity search air" that is fine. Others may be willing to sacrifice some of the theater for convenence. Let carriers provide whatever level customers demand. (I suspect that most people will go with something like the pre-9/11 security, but to each their own.)

    We now have the worst of all possible sysstems. The current government run system is a joke, expensive, and annoying.

    Two years ago I unintentionally walked through security 5 times with a 2" long bullet in the lining of a coat pocket. Security x-ray techs didn't notice until the 6th time. Why? According to the TSA tech, bullets are one of things that they have trouble detecting in X-ray machines.

    They are really good at sniffing out 6 oz. toothpaste rolls... Thanks Uncle Sam, my dentist loves you.

  • dantealiegri||

    I'd like to point out that being screened before you get on an airplane isn't a warrantless search. You aren't being forced.

    Second off, I think the letting of each airline set their own security level to be a really good idea, however, I don't think it is realistically achievable. It would require airlines to separate each airline, which would be prohibitively expensive, if even possible, and it would also fubar things when flights were delayed, as they couldn't simply move gates around, so there would be nasty backups and people sitting on runways.

    Additionally, the categorization of fliers is probably a good thing, it is just a question of how to do it. I would personally like a large number of options, so I could choose how much information I was willing to trade for less hassle at the airport.

    I'm not sure who I would trust less with that information though - the government or a company, but I would want it to apply to all airports I went through. Possibly structured like how credit scores are done by different agencies.

  • ||

    It may be "voluntary" but if you live outside the lower 48, there are not alot of good options.

    Anchorage to Seattle is 3 hours by air and three days by car. Since many medical specialists are not available in my home state (Alaska), someday I will be able to choose between a "voluntary" airport search and voluntary expiration.

    As a practical matter most airlines (if left to themselves) would certainly settle on a limited number of security standards. Remember there are three private groups interested in security: Carriers, Passengers, and Insurance Companies.

    Getting rid to the TSA screeners, would reduce the theatrical elements and allow real innovations. Some of those might be thing we can't even imagine at this point...

  • ||

    I was working as a consultant, and traveling a lot, when 9/11 occurred, and I've been asking myself ever since why TSA has resolutely refused to adopt a risk-based approach to airport security screening. On 9/11, I was a member of several airline frequent flyer programs, and an "elite" member of two of them. Half a dozen airlines had records of my travels going back to 1987. It should have been easy enough to use that information to qualify me for a "trusted traveler" program. After all, if in several hundred thousand miles of airline travel I had never tried to detonate a "crotch bomb", it would seem unlikely that I might suddenly decide to do so in the future.

    A "trusted traveler" program would make everyone's life not only safer but easier. I've never seen statistics on this, but it seems likely to me that a large percentage of total airline trips are taken by a relatively small group of frequent travelers (of which I was one). Identify these people as trusted, allow them to bypass most screening, and you've greatly reduced the workload of TSA screeners -- so they can concentrate on the infrequent travelers buying tickets with cash, and checking no luggage.

  • ||

    """A "trusted traveler" program would make everyone's life not only safer but easier.""

    A terrorist could blackmail or trick a "trusted traveler" to do something for them. It does nothing but provide false security.

    The fallacy is that we can actually asign a risk category to people in a meaningful way.

  • dantealiegri||

    I'm not sure the methods to trick/blackmail a trusted traveler would not work on someone working for the TSA, or someone working at an airport.

  • ||

    It would. Seems to work on active duty military personnel too, which is why I once had to attend a class about the subject. But back then we were fearing the Russians would turn us into the country we've pretty much become.

  • ||

    There is no way scanning technology will provide security. You do not need to be McGiver or James Bond. Anyone with even modest mechanical skills and a smidgen of creativity can defeat these instruments. Happens all the time and full body scans are like putting some duct tape on the hole in the Titanic when the entire keel and bottom was ripped out.

    The only way to use technology is to find and track the terrorists and keep them off planes.

  • ||

    JaNo needs to hire the airport security chick from Spinal Tap. She had no problem detecting 6.5 inches wrapped in foil.

  • ||

    So a guy walks onto a plane with a bomb, red flags left and right, and no passport. This is a month after Obama tells us we need 30,000 more troops for a ten year war to eradicate 100 al Qaeda in the entire country; a week after the US bombs Yemen with cruise missiles along with Saudi Arabia free of media coverage; and four days before the Patriot Act's most unconstitutional powers are set to expire. Oh, and despite the "security breach," no Americans die.

    Seems rather convenient for the US government...

  • Dave Krueger||

    The suggestions in this article make way too much sense. The TSA wouldn't be able to understand them.

    You're assuming the TSA is interested in security which is a lot like saying the NEA is interested in students or that red light cameras are there to make streets safer.

  • puppy pen||

    The issue is that intelligence agencies in different countries need to share information with other agencies. Security has been stepped up over the past few years yet this incident still happens. We need to identify and target the training camps.

  • ||

    Please don't call yourself a libertarian and then go on to write an article such as this. You do the rest of us a severe disservice.

  • Estiban||

    Jeez, yeah. Poole sure has gone over to the dark side. And unfortunately, I'm sure he didn't even ask himself, "should I recommend we eliminate the TSA, or increase its powers?" Very sad.

  • ||

    Robert, don't take this the wrong way, but are you fucking stupid? The government has continuously demonstrated its incompetence to provide aviation security, and you propose a hare-brained ID scheme?

    The 9/11 perps weren't travelling incognito. Their passports were valid and they had credit cards. There is no shortage of perps with squeaky-clean records to carry out the attacks.

    If we want safety in the air, then we should get the government out of the security theater business, and let the airlines and their insurance underwriters deal with taking appropriate measures.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Considering that the odds of being in a plane that is a target of a terrorist attack (successful or not) is 1 in 10,408,947, which means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning, shouldn't we be expending our limited resources on greater risks? Like a cure for cancer, safer cars, better health care or a war on lightening?

    Yes, let's please get serious and cut the pandering. We don't need to be terrorized by our own people. Let's be the home of the brave again.

    Source:

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com.....error.html

  • ||

    Corrected source link for above post:

    http://tinyurl.com/yzvdwqh

  • Iowa Chris||

    Good thing we have the "libertarians" at Reason to advocate that a giant government bureaucracy get tough and protect all of us shivering, scarred sheep. Wouldn't the libertarian solution to the TSA's ineptitude be abolition (considering the TSA is funded by robbery called "taxation" it is not exactly a shining example of a peaceful libertarian organization respectful of private property). Reason sucks and they should drop the term libertarian. I have never seen a libertarian position presented by Reason that isn't watered down with constant concessions to statist positions.

  • ||

    I just saw Michael Chertoff on TV saying we NEED to buy billions of dollars of new X-ray equipment.

    Even though the odds of these kinds of attacks are lower than being hit by lightening.

    But he's a consultant now working for the company who makes the X-ray machines, so....

    Terrorizing Americans has become a marketing tactic.

  • Lucas||

    Is this serious? We should expand the government's control over the aviation industry?

    It may shock you all to learn that trying to be "respectable" to the statists has basically made this magazine, well, statist.

    With libertarians like this...

  • Chris Baker||

    I think this article proves that Poole is about as libertarian as Alan Greenspan is. He doesn't care about freeom at all.

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  • Sky Schiphol Taxi||

    I cant believe that Schiphol has a low level security. It's one of the best airports in the world and how come terrorist can get on planes with explosives?

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