Through the past decade I've argued that the most depressing and insidious aspect of America's "security theater" response to the 9/11 attacks is its ratchet-like nature. You can always add new security measures, or more precisely things that give the appearance of increased safety. You have a very hard time ever taking them away.
TSA ... might not be willing to admit it, but they seem to have come to terms with two simple truths.The first is that a potentially deadly sharp object -- a knife, if you will -- can be improvised from virtually anything, including no shortage of materials found on airplanes. Even a child knows this....The second truth is that, from a terrorist's standpoint, the September 11th blueprint is no longer a useful strategy....Conventional wisdom holds that the attacks succeeded because 19 hijackers took advantage of a weakness in airport security by smuggling boxcutters onto jetliners. And conventional wisdom is wrong.What the men actually took advantage of was a weakness in our thinking, and our presumptions of what a hijacking was, and how one would be expected to unfold, based on the decades-long track record of hijackings.
"Now is not the time for reduced vigilance," he said in a statement, "or to place additional burdens on TSA agents who should be looking for dangerous items, not wasting time measuring the length of a knife blade."
"In the confined environment of an airplane, even a small blade in the hands of a terrorist can lead to disaster."
Patrick Smith makes the sanity-restoring counter point:
We need to get past the emotionally charged style of security-think that ultimately makes us less safe. These new measures are sensible, and meanwhile TSA can, or should, concentrate or more potent threats to safety -- your safety as well as mine -- such as bombs and explosives.
As does former TSA director Kip Hawley, here. Meanwhile politicians who give in to fraidy-cat reactions make it harder ever to evolve a sustainable security policy. That would be one in which we guard against the most catastrophic threats -- in the airlines' case, onboard explosions -- and concentrate on dangerous people -- while accepting other risks as the price of a free, non-police-state life. The politicians now fretting about the TSA have slowed the process of restoring normal free American life.
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