Monday, December 28, 2009

Stupid Security Theater


That didn't take long:
DALLAS – Airline officials say in-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown.
At the captain's discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight, two industry officials briefed on the situation said Monday.

It was a stupid rule to begin with.

Airline travel has just gotten substantially suckier thanks to our ridiculous Transportation Security Administration:

"Among other things, during the final hour of flights, customers must remain seated, will not be allowed to access carry-on baggage or have personal belongings or other items on their laps," the airline said.

Look, in the interest of safer air travel, I will accept pat-downs and more scrutiny of my carry-on bags. But this “remain seated for the last hour of flight with nothing in your lap” bullshit is the last straw.

What does the “last” hour of flight have to do with anything? Just because the foiled Detroit attack took place in the “last” hour of flight, do you think they all have to be that way? Why not the first hour of flight? The second? How arbitrary and ridiculous. Al Qaeda is laughing their asses off at us.

Second of all, anyone who has ever traveled with children knows you simply cannot keep them locked in their seat for a full hour, no trips to the bathroom, no access to personal belongings, no toys, no games, hell not even a blanket. Good luck with that. Oh, and I’m sure the flight crews will have a grand ol’ time wiping urine off the seats.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s ridiculous that our safety screening is based on foiled terrorist plots? Richard Reed failed to light his shoes on fire so now we all take our shoes off at security. Some other terrorists failed to mix liquids into an explosive, so now you can’t take liquids through security. And now we have to stay out of the bathroom and twiddle our thumbs for an hour.

As I wrote last year when an eager TSA employee in Dallas stole took labeled my niece’s Christmas gift contraband:

Thank God the Maxwell Smart of terrorists didn't have an exploding pen, or we'd all have our writing implements confiscated at security.

It seems to me there’s a better way to do this. Telling me I can’t read a freaking magazine for the last hour of flight or take a pee after you’ve plied me with ginger ale for two hours doesn’t seem to be the right approach. I’d rather we figured out how someone on the terror watch list was able to board an aircraft with a bomb strapped to his balls, when I can’t even get a damn bottle of Dasani past security.

Y’all ever think of that?

No, Janet Napolitano, our system did not work.

How about a little extra pat-down to the guy on our terror watch list who was denied an entry visa to the United Kingdom last spring? I realize hindsight is 20/20 and I don’t know all of the ins and outs of airline security but it seems like treating every single person like a potential terrorist accomplishes nothing, when there are actual, concrete things we should be doing to make air travel safer.

In my post last year I linked to this “Ask The Pilot” column, in which a pilot had this to say about airport security:

What we need is a TSA willing to concede that the real nuts and bolts of keeping terrorists away from planes take place well out of view. We need to immediately rescind most of the rules restricting sharp objects and liquids, with a return to basic screening for firearms and bombs. With respect to the latter, the emphasis should be put squarely on improved anti-explosives screening of all luggage and cargo.

And although the attacks of 2001 took place on U.S. soil, the greater threats are at airports abroad. American carriers now operate throughout Asia, South America, Africa and beyond, where they remain potentially high-profile targets for extremist groups or rogue terrorists. Here we are confiscating scissors from somebody's grandmother in Indianapolis when most of our security in foreign countries is outsourced to local authorities. How about relocating some of our domestic manpower overseas to help prevent a bombing or shoot-down?

All of those things would be nice. How about those new liquid-explosive screening devices soon to be available in the EU? Can we get some of those in the U.S., please?

I’m tired of these ridiculous security rules designed to give the appearance that we are doing something when in fact we are doing nothing at all. If we're going to have terror watch lists, for crying out loud, use them.