A nice, secure feeling

I flew to Florida this weekend. When I was in Vietnam, I had the same experience as Matt: I took my shoes off, dropped them in the bin, and started to remove my belt, only to have a horrified security scanner ask me what the heck I thought I was doing. I can only presume she thought the rest of my clothes were quickly to follow.

After going through American security again, my main thought is: the terrorists have already won. It's not clear that any of these measures make us safer, as Bruce Schneier points out:

I think we should ratchet passenger screening down to pre-9/11 levels. I like seeing positive bag matching. That’s something that was done in Europe for decades. The U.S. airlines screamed and screamed and refused to do it, and now they are.

Really, I would take all the extra money for airport security and have well-trained guards, both uniformed and plainclothes, walking through the airports looking for suspicious people. That’s what I would do. And I would just give back the rest of the money. If we secure our airport and the terrorists go bomb shopping malls, we’ve wasted our money. I dislike security measures that require us to guess the plot correctly because if you guess wrong, it’s a waste of money. And it’s not even a fair game. It’s not like we pick our security, they pick their plot, we see who wins. The game is we pick our security, they look at our security, and then they pick their plot. The way to spend money on security – airport security, and security in general — is intelligence investigation and emergency response. These are the things that will be effective regardless of what the terrorists are planning.

What it does do is waste time, turn us into sheep--and give the world the impression that the government is "doing something". It's a perfect illustration of Bryan Caplan's favorite logical fallacy:

  1. Something must be done
  2. This is something
  3. Therefore, this must be done

I will say that the ladies in Fort Walton who searched my knapsack four times in order to discover the errant bottle of nailpolish that had wedged itself in the bottom of the laptop compartment were the nicest airport security people I've ever encountered. It's a pity they can't have more productive jobs.