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In The Washington Times, Robert Poole argues that airline security should focus less on peoples' beverages, make-up, and assorted fluids, and more on the people themselves.

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  1. Robert Poole is exactly correct. Unfortunately, if we concentrate our efforts on “high risk” travelers and stop doing extra checks on grandmas and U.S. Senators we might check a few more Muslims than grandmas and we could never have that. As long as we are unwilling to admit publicly that some people (young males, Muslims, those here on visas from countries known to support terrorism, etc..) are more likely than other people (grandma, Senators, those with security clearances, ordinary business travelers etc..) to be terrorists, we will continue to waste millions on airport security to obtain negligible results. Right now the best protection against another 9-11 is the fact that the passengers would not go along with any highjacker but would resist.

  2. Remaining travelers would be flagged as high-risk and undergo strict screening and questioning by trained officers. This group would be determined by various watch lists and security factors, which should not be public knowledge.

    Secret lists? And you’re automatically on one unless the gov’t either has sufficient (!) information on you, or you voluntarily submit to a background check? This is a civil libertarian nightmare. Conceivably, it would be a short leap to a defacto requirement to submit to a gov’t background check if you want to fly without getting constantly hassled.

  3. …or you could just get hassled every time you travel anyway while Hamid boards the plane unscathed with 2 lbs of C4 stuffed up his ass…

    I feel ya Elvis, but the fact is we’re pretty much already there and we aren’t getting a lick of real security for it. As Mr. Poole points out, Israel (the most opt to be bombed nation on the planet) has effectively secured their air travel. Now if they could figure out how to sort out those busses and shopping malls…

  4. “Conceivably, it would be a short leap to a defacto requirement to submit to a gov’t background check if you want to fly without getting constantly hassled.”

    It is not even a short leap. Pick your poison here. Do you want to risk being hassled every time you fly, or just sign up for a frequent flyer list and not be hassled at all? I am sympathetic to the idea that you should never be hassled or give any information to the government. Since that is not going to happen, I would like to have a way to avoid security.

  5. It’s a known fact that religious fanatics and other extremists are never frequent business travelers.

    Got it.

    I’m tentatively okay with a frequent-traveler program that simply allows passengers to pay more in order to get on a shorter security line, but subjecting someone to any less scrutiny because they passed a background check in the past strikes my simply as providing a roadmap of vulerabilities to exploit to would-be terrorists.

  6. I think we’re going to end up with either

    A) Israeli styled profiling to prevent air terror attacks or
    B) more people taking trains as the TSA continues to become more and more paranoid.

  7. Lost in Translation-

    It’s all part of the master plan to make Amtrak profitable.

  8. thoreau,

    Much like the movie “The Producers” where the guys running the play can only make money if the show is a complete flop, I’m afraid if people actually started riding Amtrak trains in earnest, the loss of government subsidies would probably bankrupt the company before it could actually turn around its miserable finances.

  9. I’ll second that…as long as Amtrak is in charge, the chances that it will be a common form of travel are virtually 0.

  10. I used to travel regularly for my job, and had about an 85% rate of being selected for “extra scrutiny.” After I bought my fist registered machinegun, for which I had to submit to a rigorous federal background check, the rate went to about 0%.

    I wonder if this is a coincidence.

  11. There was a time when there were no women suicide bombers. There was a time when nobody thought that a Latino or a Jamaican could become an Islamist terrorist. There was a time when nobody imagined a well-off kid from Marin County would join the Taliban.

    And now we are supposed to believe that the terrorists will never be able to find someone with a respectable business record and no paper trail connecting him to the terrorists?! *As soon as it is learned that such people get lesser scrutiny* you can bet that the terrorists will find someone fitting that description…

  12. Good article.

    Secret lists? …. This is a civil libertarian nightmare.

    And terrorists are a libertarian’s nightmare. Let’s just all say it together now: terrorism sucks moose, field mice, iguanas, and all manner of wild creatures upon the earth.

    Every concept exists in a context. A free nation, in the traditional sense, cannot exist in the context of terrorism. I don’t recall that we had terrorists in 1776.

    So while I also feel the pain of what we’ve lost, there’s a stark fact we must all face: terrorism will not be wiped out until our survelliance technology reaches the level of _1984_. And even then, there will still be the odd ball Winston running around.

    I’m not looking forward to where this is all going to end up.

  13. *As soon as it is learned that such people get lesser scrutiny* you can bet that the terrorists will find someone fitting that description…

    Maybe but I doubt it, even if it is just a great big numbers game. You know, it’s like sales work, you just gotta keep asking for customers. How many Arabs are willing to become Suicide Bandits per Million (SBM, a brand new metric).

    The idea of letting certain people through with less scrutiny makes a lot of sense, to cut down the size of the haystack. There are going to be pools of people where the SBM is so small that you just can’t recruit anybody. Just like, there are vast segments of the population that simply aren’t going to buy a yatch.

  14. As long as we are unwilling to admit publicly that some people (young males, Muslims, those here on visas from countries known to support terrorism, etc..) are more likely than other people (grandma, Senators, those with security clearances, ordinary business travelers etc..) to be terrorists, we will continue to waste millions

    Yup.

    But, but, don’t you remember Timothy McVeigh? We can’t be wasting our time on special lists for Muslims (% of US airline terrorist attacks committed by Muslims: 100). Not when there’s been that one Tim.

    The Republicans can’t see anything in terms other than black and white. They spend all their time trying to make everything look like a spade.

    The Democrats can’t admit that there is such a thing as a spade, and they spend all their time trying to tell you that a spade is really just a figment of your imagination.

    Rational voices are far and few in this wilderness.

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