As you’ve no doubt noticed, the TSA’s new screening policies are creating quite an uproar. In reality, though, our post-9/11 airport security has always been remarkably stupid and inefficient.
With each new method of terrorist attack, we’ve been subjected to additional annoyances at the checkpoints. After the shoe bomber, we all had to waste time shucking our footwear. After another terrorist brought liquid explosive onto a plane, we were no longer allowed to pack our shampoo. Each time our enemies come up with a new idea, TSA officials run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to figure out how to beat it — and what usually results is more hassle for us. The x-rays and pat-downs are only the latest indignities.
As many people have argued repeatedly, it is futile to anticipate all the ways determined terrorists may try to bring down a plane. If you focus on the methods, you will always be stuck in the above cycle of reaction. We need to get real and start focusing on the people. We need to profile.
There are plenty of common sense protocols we can adopt that have absolutely nothing to do with race or ethnicity. We should, for example, focus more attention on adolescents and young adults, as terrorists generally fall into this age group. There is no need to grope toddlers or white-haired grannies. We should also focus on recent travel. If a passenger has recently visited Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, or any other location where terrorists tend to set up shop, they need to be pulled aside for further questioning. If a passenger paid for his ticket with cash, that’s another red flag. If a passenger paid for his ticket at the last minute, take notice. If a passenger bought a one-way ticket, definitely give him the third degree. Passengers in wheelchairs? They’re probably not terrorists. Strapping youths? Give them a second look.
Random screenings are completely unnecessary. We need to be smarter — and we definitely need to get over our fear that we’re going to upset a few very vocal and very whiny interest groups.