Patrick Joyce

January 13, 2008

Airline Security

I was catching up on some reading today and came across two sad commentaries on the current state of airline security in our country.

State of Airline Security

The first is an excellent essay on the stupidity of current “security” regulations and the apathy of the flying public. The conclusion:

How we got to this point is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of “security.” Conned and frightened, our nation demands not actual security, but security spectacle. And although a reasonable percentage of passengers, along with most security experts, would concur such theater serves no useful purpose, there has been surprisingly little outrage. In that regard, maybe we’ve gotten exactly the system we deserve.

I do have to take issue with one part of the otherwise excellent essay:

But of all the contradictions and self-defeating measures T.S.A. has come up with, possibly none is more blatantly ludicrous than the policy decreeing that pilots and flight attendants undergo the same x-ray and metal detector screening as passengers. What makes it ludicrous is that tens of thousands of other airport workers, from baggage loaders and fuelers to cabin cleaners and maintenance personnel, are subject only to occasional random screenings when they come to work.

Although a bit counterintuitive, It actually does make sense to screen airline pilots and flight attendants. The issue is not that you’re screening pilots, you’re screening people who look like pilots. If you stop screening pilots you introduce a ton of complexity in authenticating who actually is a pilot. And, inevitably, the more complex a system the more weaknesses will exist. Bruce Schneier has a much more thorough deconstruction of this myth than I ever could. I suggest you read it.

5-Year Old Terrorist Threats

A 5-year-old boy was detained as “security risk” because he had the same name of someone on the TSA “No-Fly” list. The TSA had to conduct a full search of their persons and belongings. When his mother went to pick him up and hug him and comfort him during the proceedings, she was told not to touch him because he was a national security risk.

The video is here. The TSA’s slavish adherence to procedure and regulation is not going to help them catch attackers who adapt and change their tactics. All this will do is anger and inconvenience citizens. Which, ironically, may do us good as this will be the only way to get some of these absurd regulations changed.

Airline Security is not security. We are not safer because we stand in line barefoot and have to throw out our toothpaste. It costs us a great deal in money, wasted time, and freedom. It diverts resources from activities such as intelligence and disaster recovery that could make us safer.

Refuse to be terrorized.

Both links via Bruce Schneier

More Articles on Software & Product Development

Agile With a Lowercase “a”
”Agile“ is an adjective. It is not a noun. It isn’t something you do, it is something you are.
How Do You End Up With A Great Product A Year From Now?
Nail the next two weeks. 26 times in a row.
Build it Twice
Resist the urge to abstract until you've learned what is general to a class of problems and what is specific to each problem.