The Death Of The Airlines

CNN is already reporting one Congressman’s claim that the days of carry-on luggage are over on American aircraft. Already the oil markets have predicted lower-than-usual usage of oil by airlines.

The problem with banning all liquids on flights, making people take off their shoes, etc., is that those strategies essentially throw out the baby with the bath lotion. A security strategy that makes being shoved into a cattle car with wings even more arduous will make it easier to spot terrorists – they’ll be the only ones crazy enough to fly.

Realistically, the security measures put in place in the time since September 11, 2001 aren’t all that effective. Richard Reid nearly took down an aircraft with a shoe bomb. The plotters of the liquid bomb attacks weren’t foiled by airport screenings, but by good detective work on the part of Scotland Yard, MI5, the Pakistanis, and a whole host of others.

The current trend in airport security is to create the illusion of security for the most part. Al-Qaeda constantly studies our air transport systems, and someone with an all-access pass at the airport can defeat nearly every security measure we have in place – and one of the individuals arrested in London had such a pass. Ultimately the current measures we have in place can forstall an attack by a method we know about in advance – they can’t protect against everything.

The real answer is politically incorrect: we need to profile. So far the threat comes predominantly from young Arab and Central Asian males. Security resources are finite. We can’t search everyone. So why do we continue to search old ladies and young mothers? If an Arab male is 10 times more likely to be a terrorist than a 32-year-old blonde female, does it makes sense to search disproportionately more blondes? As politically incorrect as this is, airlines like El Al have dealt with the issues of terrorism and hijackings for decades, and their screening procedures are designed to provide real security.

Air travel has revolutionized the world, and has become affordable for all. But if we want to continue to reap those rewards, we can’t have a security system that doesn’t use resources efficiently. Yes, terrorists can recruit others who don’t fit the terrorist profile, but so far they’ve not yet done so. A defensive posture only makes things more difficult for all

Airport screenings are defensive measures, and while defensive measures can be valuable, they’re no substitute for a good offense. The best way to stop a terrorist plot is to stop it long before the terrorists arrive at the airport. That requires a vigorous combination of intelligence gathering – using such techniques as data mining and wiretaps – and a willingness to use the data gathered in a rational way.

If we don’t take a more rational approach to security, the situation will only get worse. A security scheme that makes passenger flight so annoying to be not worth the trouble is hardly a viable proposition. Unless we’re willing to more logically use our limited security resources to focus on the biggest threat areas, we’re simply wasting a large amount of time and money.

One thought on “The Death Of The Airlines

  1. Of course, no carry on luggage would be truly inconvenient. OTOH, I might make trips I hadn’t planned on just to witness the heartburn being suffered by all those idiots I’ve travelled with in the past who thought it was cute to try to stuff a steamer trunk into the overhead compartment.

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