Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Airport security should be debated

While the fuss last week about the full-body scanners and the enhanced pat-downs by the TSA was interesting, it only hinted at the real story. And that's the question of whether we are actually safer from the huge increase in security procedures that have been implemented in airports in the wake of 9/11.

For my part, I don't think we are safer. We are vastly more inconvenienced, but not safer. And definitely not when you consider how much money has been spent on the new measures - and continues to be spent. Someone is making a lot of money, but it's not making us safer.

Recently, the New York Times ran a debate about the issue in their opinion pages as part of their Room For Debate series. In the excerpt I've noted below, security technologist Bruce Schneier is one of the panelists in a debate that asks "Do Body Scanners Make Us Safer?"

Here's the link to Schneier's article.

I've referred to Schneier's work in previous posts. I think he brings a common sense approach to the question, backed up by solid research. And I believe that the push back against what's going on is going to continue - even if some are arguing that Americans are going to just suck it up anyway. We'll see.

Here's my favorite quote from the piece:
Exactly two things have made airplane travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers they need to fight back. Everything else has been a waste of money. Add screening of checked bags and airport workers and we're done. Take all the rest of the money and spend it on investigation and intelligence.
That point is taken up by another of the panelists, Rafi Sela, an Israeli airport security consultant, who points out that Israel, arguably the country with the best airport security, does not use scanners. In fact, security line-ups in that country are virtually non-existent.

Here's the link to his article in the debate.

There are other articles, with other points of view. It's a debate worth having in public and I hope that more people start looking at this issue with a critical eye.

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