Posts Tagged “transportation security administration”

Trapped. 298/365The very same day I post about the scam which is daylight saving time, comes an event in my home state of Connecticut, which shines a massive floodlight on yet another scam: The supposed “security” meant to protect us from terrorist attacks. The venerable Hartford Courant provides this incredibly brief story on the incident (WebCite cached article):

State police say a harmless snowglobe in a carryon bag caused a partial evacuation at Bradley International Airport.

State police Lt. J. Paul Vance says a Transportation Security Administration worker spotted something that looked suspicious while screening bags and alerted state police shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday.

Vance says Terminal A was evacuated as a precaution but was reopened about 45 minutes later, after authorities determined the snowglobe did not contain explosives and was not a danger.

Full disclosure: I live near Bradley and have been there many times. What you may not know about it is that an evacuation of Terminal A is NOT a “partial” evacuation. It is a “full” evacuation. That’s because, as of this summer, ALL passenger flights go in and out of BDL though Terminal A. That’s right, Terminal A is pretty much the entire airport! The “old airport,” Terminal B, has been closed for months … and for a couple of years prior to that, only one airline used it, that being American Airlines.

I almost cannot believe the Courant purposely downplayed this event by using this wording — but they did. It’s inexcusable, but not surprising.

The cold hard fact is that airport security is nothing more than “security theater,” intended to make travelers feel as though they’re safe, when they’re not.

Second point of full disclosure: I happened to be traveling during the holidays in 2009, when a young man from Africa shoved explosives in his shorts and tried to set them off on a flight into Detroit (cached article). My return trip included extra security measures ostensibly designed to deal with that (cached). However, I can attest that, had I also packed explosives in my shorts, not one of the “extra” measures they implemented, would have even come close to finding it. All TSA did was add time and complexity to everyone’s travel, without adding so much as a micron of actual, extra “security.”

As CNN’s article on that event shows, the government actually had had all the information it needed to have prevented that young man from getting on the airplane … but they chose to do nothing about it.

And that, Gentle Reader, is what makes all the “security theater” a meaningless exercise. Real “security” means not letting the terrorists anywhere near an airport in the first place. The measures taken to — supposedly — detect weapons and explosives in the airports, are useless, if a terrorist is sufficiently driven to slip it through.

Although “security theater” is most noticed in airports and in aviation, it does crop up in other places too, such as in large-city mass transit systems. The same principle applies to all settings, though: True security lies in keeping terrorists out of public venues entirely, not in dealing with them once they’ve already arrived.

At any rate, authorities tend to go overboard when faced with “suspicious” packages and devices. They say it’s due to being “cautious,” because — it is said — IF the “suspicious” item turns out to truly have been dangerous, but no action had been taken, and someone was hurt or killed, there’d be hell to pay. While this is true, it’s also a fallacious false dilemma. There IS a large middle ground of possible choices between these two extremes; various shades of action that span the continuum between doing nothing and shutting down an entire airport. For example, there’s cordoning off the immediate vicinity of the device, calling in the bomb squad, and carting it away safely, but with everyone kept at a safe distance, with most people able to continue with their business. (Bradley’s Terminal A is a very large building, so there’s plenty of room to work with, if officials wanted.)

The reason that this sort of discreet measure is never taken, is because officials don’t want to use discreet measures: They want everything they do to be seen, to be seen BIG, and to be as noticeable as possible, so that everyone knows they’re doing their jobs. Quietly controlling the situation and removing the device with a minimum of trouble, is the opposite of that, and therefore is unacceptable.

The problem with idiotic hypersecurity debacles such as the snowglobe that closed Bradley International is not merely that they’re laughable or inconveniences for travelers. There are very real costs involved in closing airport terminals. Planes, for example, cannot fly in or out of them; this means airlines must incur the costs of shuffling airplanes and travelers around. Concessionaires cannot sell to empty terminals; this means a loss of business for them. I could go on, but won’t bother … you get the picture.

The “security theater” which has become a national obsession since September 11, 2001 is indeed a scam and a joke … but you need not just take my word for it. Folks much more expert on the matter than I, have weighed in, and they agree. See e.g. this 60 Minutes report on it (cached), as well as this report by The Atlantic (cached).

It’s a sad day when a mere snowglobe … someone’s harmless souvenir … can cripple an entire international airport. Unfortunately this kind of pathetic, laughable sham happens all the time in the US. But it shouldn’t. It’s a scam Americans should no longer tolerate.

Photo credit: Tenineight.

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