More Magical Thinking from the TSA

This was as inevitable as it is stupid:

"(S)everal airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item, and domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines. That was already the case in some airports Saturday, in the United States and overseas."

I will repeat a couple of points I've made before:
1) By the time the terrorist arrives at the airport, it's generally too late to stop him; therefore it is up to law enforcement officers, intelligence agents and the military to stop terrorists before they arrive at check-in;
2) Unless and until the TSA begins invasive body searches, most measures taken at security checkpoints in U.S. airports should be considered mere security theater. We now have instances of Muslim terrorists hiding bombs in their rectums, and, apparently, having bombs sewn into their underwear. While it is true that bomb-detection technology is always improving, so too are the methods of bomb-smuggling and manufacture used by terrorists.

On this latter point, I recognize, of course, that we won't soon, or ever, be experiencing cavity searches at American airports. So since the TSA will be prohibited, by law and custom, from actually searching passengers thoroughly (unless a pat-down includes the nether-regions, it's utterly useless), why bother with the rest of the security-checkpoint nonsense? As Bruce Schneier has pointed out, the only two innovations since 9/11 that seem to work against terrorists on planes are hardened cockpit doors (which are irrelevant if the terrorist is simply trying to blow up the plane) and the willingness of passengers to fight back, which is what worked in this most recent case. The rest is silliness that serves only to torture passengers with bladder issues and make air travel even more unpleasant than it already is.


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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