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Three-Year-Olds and Airport Security:

Amos Guiora's op-ed on the failings of airport security prompted significant response, here and elsewhere. Among other things, readers debated whether his example of TSA subjecting a three-year-old to the explosive-detecting "blower" was a good example of poor prioritization and a failure to focus on resources on actual threats. In response to these comments, Amos e-mails the following:

In reading the numerous responses here (and on other blogs and websites), I have been struck by the clear sense of concern with respect to airport security. While we may disagree over methods implemented, the overwhelming expression is one of great concern. I share that concern.

As for the three-year-old child, I believe that what I observed illustrates the need for concern about current airport security. To clarify the situation, the child's mother had already passed through prior and was waiting on the other side but was not allowed to accompany her child inside the blower. The child was told to stand still in the blower, as this is required to guarantee an accurate read of explosive material, but you can imagine the effectiveness of this instruction to a three year old. This raises significant questions regarding the efficacy of subjecting the child to the test.

I advocate highly trained individuals carefully screening travelers predicated on the four step process measures articulated in the article (risk assessment, threat analysis, intelligence gathering and cost-benefit analysis of counter-terrorism). What I (and many others) have observed was "rote-based" screening predicated on a random check devoid of discretion.

My professional experience has taught me the absolute supremacy (in terms of importance) of intelligence information that is viable, reliable and corroborated. That little boy was not made to go through the blower because of "hot" intelligence; rather he was there because of a fundamental inability to discern real threats. The counter-terrorism policy that is represented by this particular incident (which is why it is important in guaging where we are six years after 9/11) is best described as "groping in the dark". That is the fundamental concern I sought to allay in asking both "where are we?" and "how do we move forward?"

UPDATE: Based upon some of the comments, I think it is worth clarifying that the "blower" is not designed to detect a bomb hidden on the passenger, but on whether the individual has been in contact with materials used for making bombs. Also, for those commenters who disagree with Amos, do you believe that random, rote screening is the best we can do? It might be. It might be the case, for example, that the TSA is incapable of replicating the screening approach adopted by Israeli security. Is such pessimism justified? Amos is not claiming that children and others should never be searched. Rather, his claim is that randomized screening of children is pointless and not cost-effective. To be sure, El Al security has uncovered efforts to hide bombs in the luggage of pregnant women, and the like, but Amos assures me that this was not due to randomized screening.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Three-Year-Olds and Airport Security:
  2. Have We Learned to Fight Terrorism?
mkbenenson (mail):
Terrorists are quite capable of bombing up a three year old.
9.11.2007 10:33am
Zacharias (mail):
Sorry, but to pass 4th Amendment muster, all passengers must be searched equally--kids don't get a pass. I knew a doctor who regularly smuggled hashish in the diaper of his baby.

Why should he get a pass and the non-breeder get searched?
9.11.2007 10:34am
Tracy Johnson (www):
I thought they learned that lesson in Vietnam, where a kid could walk up to you and blow up.
9.11.2007 10:37am
Archon (mail):
I just flew threw London Heathrow last week and noticed that only white men and women wearing business attire were being selected for secondary screening while being shuffled into a holding area to take a bus to the plane. I began to count the number of passengers being selected for secondary screening and kept track of their race. With about half passengers in the holding area 20 white people had been picked and only one black person had been selected.

I enquired to the young Indian security supervisor why he was only picking white people. At first, he protested and then I showed him my tally. He then became defensive and threatened to call airport police. Instead of challenging him, I sat back down.

One passenger, who I thought had been selected for additional screening, came up to me. He said that Arabs and Indians had been complaining to the government that they were being unfairly targetted for secondary screening, so now the government has an unwritten policy of only selecting white people in order to avoid discrimination charges.

So much for effective airport security in the UK.
9.11.2007 10:48am
uh clem (mail):
"groping in the dark" is an apt analogy.

A better analogy might be groping with a blindfold on while being lit by a spotlight and shouting "HEY LOOK AT ME! I'M GROPING! DO YOU FEEL SAFE NOW?"
9.11.2007 10:51am
Anonperson (mail):
Hm...so it sounds like what Guiora is saying is not that searching a 3-year old is manifestly ridiculous, but rather that it illustrates a rote application of security policies. That we do have a rote application of security policies I do not disagree. But the answer just seems to be one of money. How much are we willing to pay to hire and produce smart, savvy, well-trained screeners?
9.11.2007 10:55am
Fco (www):
I think you're being too hard on the authorities. I'm sure there are plenty of wise individuals who can put effective screening methods into place. Your suggestion for risk assessment, threat analysis, intelligence gathering and cost-benefit analysis of counter-terrorism is a good one too. Unfortunately any discerning/screening methods eventually targets one class of passengers over others. And the ACLU's eyes turn into big green dollar signs.

I can't put all the blame on TSA authorities. Most of it goes to the PC advocates who indirectly DEMAND that the 3 year old and the 80 year old grandma be screened so no discrimination is apparent.
9.11.2007 10:58am
Stating the Obvious (mail):
In this context, consider Overblown by political scientist John Mueller. From Amazon:

Book Description
Why have there been no terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11? It is ridiculously easy for a single person with a bomb-filled backpack, or a single explosives-laden automobile, to launch an attack. So why hasn't it happened? The answer is surely not the Department of Homeland Security, which cannot stop terrorists from entering the country, legally or otherwise. It is surely not the Iraq war, which has stoked the hatred of Muslim extremists around the world and wasted many thousands of lives. Terrorist attacks have been regular events for many years -- usually killing handfuls of people, occasionally more than that.
Is it possible that there is a simple explanation for the peaceful American homefront? Is it possible that there are no al-Qaeda terrorists here? Is it possible that the war on terror has been a radical overreaction to a rare event? Consider: 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants have been subjected to fingerprinting and registration, and more than 5,000 foreign nationals have been imprisoned -- yet there has not been a single conviction for a terrorist crime in America. A handful of plots -- some deadly, some intercepted -- have plagued Europe and elsewhere, and even so, the death toll has been modest.

We have gone to war in two countries and killed tens of thousands of people. We have launched a massive domestic wiretapping program and created vast databases of information once considered private. Politicians and pundits have berated us about national security and patriotic duty, while encroaching our freedoms and sending thousands of young men off to die.

It is time to consider the hypothesis that dare not speak its name: we have wildly overreacted. Terrorism has been used by murderous groups for many decades, yet even including 9/11, the odds of an American being killed by international terrorism are microscopic. In general, international terrorism doesn't do much damage when considered in almost any reasonable context.

The capacity of al-Qaeda or of any similar group to do damage in the United States pales in comparison to the capacity other dedicated enemies, particularly international Communism, have possessed in the past. Lashing out at the terrorist threat is frequently an exercise in self-flagellation because it is usually more expensive than the terrorist attack itself and because it gives the terrorists exactly what they are looking for. Much, probably most, of the money and effort expended on counterterrorism since 2001 (and before, for that matter) has been wasted.

The terrorism industry and its allies in the White House and Congress have preyed on our fears and caused enormous damage. It is time to rethink the entire enterprise and spend much smaller amounts on only those things that do matter: intelligence, law enforcement, and disruption of radical groups overseas. Above all, it is time to stop playing into the terrorists' hands, by fear-mongering and helping spread terror itself.
9.11.2007 10:58am
Preferred Customer:
I have routinely had to remove my daughter's shoes and put them through the X-Ray. My daughter is 1. Her shoes are soft leather moccasins with no hard sole at all. The idea that someone could hide anything in these shoes, even if they wanted to, is simply insane. But the edict is "screen the shoes," so her shoes must come off.

Also ridiculous is the inconsistent application of the "no liquids" policy. At airports X and Z, screeners let through a baby bottle full of water (for the "non-breeders" out there, infant formula cannot generally be pre-mixed without being refrigerated, so a long plane trip requires one or two baby bottles of water along with some powder to mix in with it when the baby starts to melt down). At airport Y, the screeners categorically refused to let any amount of water in a baby bottle through, even after we offered to let them smell it (how many dangerous/explosive chemicals smell like water, i.e. like nothing?) and gave some to the baby. Why? Who knows. Airports X and Z, FWIW, are airports in NY and DC. Airport Y is an airport in a city in the midwest.
9.11.2007 11:05am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
As Zacharias properly notes, even infants can be used by their parents to smuggle contraband. Similarly, even the stereotypical little old grandma in the wheelchair can be used to sneak guns or bombs on board... perhaps even without her knowledge. If you give them an entirely free pass from screening, then those seeking to subvert the security measures will begin to target them, just as drug dealers trying to smuggle dope out of places like Thailand will hide them in innocent-seeming objects and try to get tourists to smuggle them out, unawares.

On the whole, I'm sure there's more room for discretion by trained professionals. The problem is, as already noted, money, and people willing to do the job. How many truly trained professionals will be willing to do this kind of work for the wages paid? Perhaps they should be recruiting from retired FBI agents and the like. It's a physically undemanding job, so it would be ideal for trained men and women who can no longer work in the field because of age or physical impairment.
9.11.2007 11:12am
PaulD:
There is an interesting interview of the head of TSA by a security expert here.

The gist is that they say that they are developing and implementing procedures other than rote screening, but they are continuing the rote screening on top of it. The point being that what you see when you go through airport security may not be all that there is.

Having worked as a security screener, I can tell you that the pressure to fall back on the appearance of randomness is intense. Most people that you pick out of a line (black or white) are going to assume that they have been selected for some inappropriate or insulting reason, unless you can justify it as random, and a significant percentage of them will become extremely emotional and argumentative in ways that make it impossible to keep the flow of people moving smoothly. Add to this the insight that terrorists may be trained to make just that sort of scene in order to create a distraction for others. The forward face of airport security will always be either "we're doing this to everyone, no exceptions" or "we're doing this on an entirely random basis."
9.11.2007 11:23am
Randy R. (mail):
There seems to be an assumption that terrorists are always middle eastern looking. Of the three people that were arrested in Germany for attempting to blow up a huge bomb, two were Germans, not muslims. They were converts to Islam. Therefore, racial profiling probably isn't going to catch the terrorists.

Even among middle easterners, many have light skin and don't wear beards (or could shave them). Where do Italians and Greeks fit in? Many have dark skin and could pass for a "traditional terrorist." Should they be subject to advanced searches but not anyone who looks Swedish?

And speaking of "traditional terrorists" (If there are any), before 9/11, our image of terrorists were that they were Irish or Basque separatists who used violence to further their political aims, and Timothy McVeigh. Before that, we had people in the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Italian Red Guard who also used violence and death to acheive some stupid aims, not to mention those strange people who skyjacked airplanes to cuba in the 70s. Almost all of these people were light skinned. (Hell, I don't recall a single terrorist in recent memory who was black -- so I guess all black people and Africans should be whisked on by.)

But I guess we should just ignore all light skinned people because they look more like us, and we should give them all a pass at the airport. It will make us whites feel very good.
9.11.2007 11:53am
abb3w:
It occurs to me that one of the problems with the TSA is that the head has not read the Evil Overlord's list. This may be a violation of Rule 12. (Rule 17 is the main problem for this administration, but I digress.)

Anonperson: But the answer just seems to be one of money. How much are we willing to pay to hire and produce smart, savvy, well-trained screeners?

Actually, it's one of economics. How much marginal value is gained by the use of smart, savvy, well-trained screeners, and is there any other application of the money needed to obtain them that would yield a higher return?

PaulD: The gist is that they say that they are developing and implementing procedures other than rote screening, but they are continuing the rote screening on top of it. The point being that what you see when you go through airport security may not be all that there is.

Much like a stage magician performing a trick, perhaps? "Observe, Terrorists and Terroristas, there is no sign of an intelligent mind anywhere at work here; nothing up your sleeves, right?" Hmmm! It's a short term approach (since it relies on security through obscurity), but less stupid than government usually musters (diversions like Operation Mincemeat aside).
9.11.2007 12:07pm
abb3w:
Randy R.: Of the three people that were arrested in Germany for attempting to blow up a huge bomb, two were Germans, not muslims. They were converts to Islam.

"Muslim" isn't quite the word you want, since it refers to any practitioner of Islam. The phrase "ethnicity commonly associated with Islam" would be more exact; "Arab" perhaps, although Pashtuns and Iranian Persians would doubtless be offended.
9.11.2007 12:16pm
PaulD:
Randy,

I think you are setting up a bit of a straw man by reducing this to racial profiling. The argument is, for example, that we should not waste time and money screening three year olds (and ninety-five year olds), when we know that terrorists are statistically going to be in a much tighter age range.

You are right to point out, however, that once you make your focus known, a rational terrorist will look for a way around it. Recruitment of attractive young women to evade male-focused security screening being the classic example.
9.11.2007 12:18pm
Adeez (mail):
Stating the Obvious: why do you and Mueller both hate America so much?
9.11.2007 12:23pm
Elliot Reed:
While agree that it seems silly to screen three-year-olds with the same probability as everyone else, I certainly do not buy the implication that we should never single them out for heightened screening. Surely terrorists are capable of hiding bombs or weapons on a small child, and a policy like "don't screen small children" would be an invitation to the use of such strategies. Though I do agree that different screening techniques are necessary; anything that depends on separating a child from caretaking adults and expecting it to stand still is going to be an exercise in futility.
9.11.2007 12:29pm
Spitzer:
Contrary to some of the commenters' assumptions, there is no 4th Amendment bar to searching only those passengers who give TSA officials a reasonable suspicion that they may be terrorists. TSA may be chary about "profiling" accusations, but police officers have the (Terry stop) authority to exercise their professional judgment to determine whether a person is acting in a manner that arouses reasonable suspicion. Moreover, "reasonable expectations of privacy" are significantly less in an airport environment than in, say, an automobile, and so the decision to conduct a search based on particular (not random) factors cannot be analogized to something akin to DUI roadblocks. Finally, in the absence of well-settled constitutional precedent to the contrary, it seems unlikely that a Section 1983 lawsuit could overcome the TSA officers' qualified immunity. Therefore, the most likely punishment for exceeding Terry stop authority would be to suppress the evidence at a subsequent criminal proceeding. Assuming that the principal purpose of TSA is not to arrest terrorists but to prevent airline catastrophe, the TSA should be willing to risk an adverse suppression ruling. Besides, someone found with unlawful equipment, even if the evidence is suppressed, will find themselves watched by the intelligence services quite closely, ameliorating the loss of criminal charges.
9.11.2007 12:31pm
Brett Bellmore:

Why have there been no terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11?


Because some people inexplicably don't consider anthrax filled envelopes mailed to public officials to be terrorist attacks? To name just one example.
9.11.2007 12:39pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that the problem is searching some but not others based on profiles, but rather biasing the odds up or down that they are going to be given extra screening based on some profiling. You can't afford to skip checking all babies or grandmothers, but it is also not realistic to check them as often as the 9/11 demographic (middle eastern male in his late teens or twenties, esp. if other Moslem cues are present such as beard, broken down backs of shoes, chanting portions of the Koran, etc.).

I think that a lot of people would feel safer if they believed that people fitting this 9/11 demographic were being given extra screening at maybe twice the average rate. But at present, because of the sensitivity towards racial and ethnic profiling, a lot of people believe that instead of being screened at twice the average rate, it is at a lower rate, or maybe not at all.

I personally don't travel enough any more to really be bothered by a bit of extra screening. But not too long after 9/11 I took three segments instead of two go get from SLC to PHX one day to maintain my UAL Premier Executive status. And amazingly, I was gate checked on all three segments. Twice it was because I was one of the first to board, and the other, because I was the last to board. That is when I realized that it was more for show than for effect.
9.11.2007 12:51pm
whit:
just for the record, there is at least one case of a drug smuggler (to show you the lengths people will go to) who smuggled cocaine INSIDE the abdominal cavity of a dog. cut the dog open, put the cocaine in. sewed the dog up.
9.11.2007 12:52pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):

Also, for those commenters who disagree with Amos, do you believe that random, rote screening is the best we can do?

I disagree with Amos, but also with this statement --
we need to use smarts in security screening, but random, rote screening also needs to be a part of what we do, as a guard against a thinking adversary reverse-engineering the criteria used for non-random screening.
9.11.2007 1:03pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
One reason we don't know about terrorist attacks is that Mel Gibson got drunk one fine day, thus relieving the media of talking about the attack on the Jewish community center which left half a dozen women shot and one dead.
The DC snipers were, only reluctantly, admitted to be Muslim and desiring to kill for the faith.
And an attack which is thwarted is still an attack.

Remember that we interned Japanese Americans "who hadn't done anything"? No attacks. Not even thwarted attacks. Now, a thwarted attack is considered a non-event with no lessons.
9.11.2007 1:04pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
There is an important reason for rote things -- it turns out that doing *only* focused stuff means that you will make big mistakes. Let me give an analogy from my work of forensic pathology. When I perform an autopsy, I follow a script and do my work in a very standardized manner. Why? Because if I work in a stream-of-consciousness method I will focus on the obvious stuff and forget the "trivial" stuff -- until that one case where the "trivial" stuff happens to be the important evidence in a crime, but it's too late and I didn't look. So, when I do an autopsy, I do things in a systematic, stepwise manner so that even if the "real" injury is that gunshot wound to the head, I will *still* remember to look between the toes (and maybe pick up that bit of trace evidence that I would have otherwise missed). The classic diagnostic error for any of the visual-based specialties (pathology, radiology, etc) is to point one's attention at the "important" lesion and forget to examine everything else enough.

Just as it might seem silly to spend time looking between the toes in a gunshot wound case, it might seem silly to perform low-yield procedures when screening for threat. However, it is *exactly* those low-yield kind of things that are targets for exploitation by folk who want to do harm. You only want to screen adult males? Then folk will start using females. You want to screen only adult males and females? Then folk will start using kids. That is the pattern that has been followed in suicide bombing in the Middle East. Your choice is either to go ahead and perform the low-yield procedures proactively and hope to catch or dissuade the exploitation of that vulnerability, or to wait until it is no longer a low-yield area by demonstration of a successful attack.

Should rote things be the *only* tool? Of course not. In forensic pathology, *extra* steps other than the rote basic examination are determined by positive findings and decisions about probability of positive results. Similarly, in screening, *extra* steps should be based on probability of positive results. However, that is in addition to the standardized "rote" applications, not *instead* of it.
9.11.2007 1:10pm
Elliot Reed:
ou can't afford to skip checking all babies or grandmothers, but it is also not realistic to check them as often as the 9/11 demographic (middle eastern male in his late teens or twenties, esp. if other Moslem cues are present such as beard, broken down backs of shoes, chanting portions of the Koran, etc.)
I'm not sure what the 9/11 terrorists were wearing, but they were taking advantage of the fact that we completely failed to anticipate that type of attack. But if one of your major criteria is whether someone's dress/hair looks stereotypically Arabic/Muslim you're creating a giant security hole. All a terrorist would need to do is shave, wear a suit, and shut up: not very hard things to do.
9.11.2007 1:11pm
David M (mail) (www):
Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/11/2007
A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
Today highlighting 9/11 posts, along with other must read info from around the net.
9.11.2007 1:30pm
A.C.:
Whenever I have seen these blowers in use, they have been used for everyone. Has anyone ever seen them used for random checks on just some people?
9.11.2007 1:35pm
Brian K (mail):
AC

I have...but only a long time ago when they were just beginning to roll them out. I assumed they didn't have the capacity to check everyone.
9.11.2007 1:51pm
PaulD:
William Oliver,

Good defense of rote procedure. A more nuanced argument against what the screeners are doing, though, is that they tend to focus their rote procedures on known techniques from prior attempts - shoes, liquids, etc. The argument that this is politically motivated (it would look bad if we let a shoe bomb get through, because we are on notice of that technique) and distracts resources that might be better focused elsewhere.

Frankly, though, I suspect that the real purpose of most of the rote procedures is to give an opportunity to slow the line down and observe the ways in which people react to the screening process.
9.11.2007 2:06pm
Aultimer:

randomized screening of children is pointless and not cost-effective

It's simply incorrect that such screening is "pointless". It may well not be cost-effective, and it may be near pointless to have children run through the blower if they're subject to ordinary random search, but maintaining random screening of children takes away one a group of tactics an attacker might otherwise use.


Why have there been no terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11?


Maybe because the candidates (correctly) believe that an attack in the U.S. is inevitably a suicide mission, which drastically reduces the pool. The change of success for suicide attack is huge, but balanced by the paucity of volunteers. Roadside IEDs in Iraq (with a low risk of capture/casualty to the bomber) are common attacks as compared to airplane hijackings.
9.11.2007 2:10pm
rhodeymark (mail):
You want to see Toronto from the pod in the CN Tower? Get blown. Man, woman, child.
Adeez, great question. StO &Mueller, riddle me this: why such a long time in between WTC attack #1 &9/11?
9.11.2007 2:58pm
TheRadicalModerate (mail) (www):
I find myself in the unenviable position of being a TSA apologist in this one case.

Please remember that the principal mission of TSA is not to find bad guys. It's to deter attacks.

The reason you randomly screen 3-year-olds for bomb residue is because it produces a statistically sound, measurable probability of detecting an attack attempt. You expect would-be attackers to observe your behavior, measure the probability, and decide that the risk of detection isn't worth the chance of success. If you allow your screeners discretion, their "common sense" can lead to systematic holes in your security that are exploitable. Security people the world over are trained to be humorless and inflexible for the same reason.

Please don't construe defense of this one particular incident as approval of TSA methods. Just remember that the mind-set is valid, even if the bureaucracy is questionable.
9.11.2007 3:11pm
V:
Adeez: Why do you hate reading and thinking so much? (unless, of course, your post was a joke, in which case it was funny.)

Rhodeymark: Not because of the great FBI work, obviously. Probably because terrorist fanatics are, in a world of 6 billion people, few and far between. This is NOT to say they don't exist. It is NOT to say we shouldn't react. It is to say we shouldn't OVERreact. If every year in the United States, a few hundred people died from terrorist attacks (and averaged over the last generation, it is less than that), it would be a deathtoll rivaling that of people dying in their bathtubs. Something should be done, no doubt, but ANY rational cost-benefit analysis must conclude GROSS over-reaction on the part of our govt. Of course, they have every incentive to over-react. By scaring the public, they get more funds, more influence, more power. This is simple public choice.

For those not sure, keep in mind this thread is devoted to screening 3 year olds for lethal explosive residue. Everyone boarding a common mode of transportation has to partially undress in public (shoes, belts). Simple liquids cannot be personally transported in more than minimal amounts. How can anyone think we're NOT overreacting. Has the very concept of "sense of proportionality" been lost?
9.11.2007 3:17pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
V. I think there are two responses to your view, with particular attention to, say, bathtubs. First, people die in bathtubs as a result of their own actions. They either choose to die there--in suicide situations--or they choose to do dangerous things there, especially if they have a heart issue and the water is too hot, or something, or they slip and fall. Nobody is trying to do that to them. If somebody were sneaking around using the bathtub as a killing venue, we'd probably have a different reaction.

The other issue is that the terrorists will do considerably more to us as they can. It has been said that, sometime later in the day, as many as 50,000 people would have been in the WTC. There were not that many at the hour of the attack. Had the planes hit lower, trapping more people. This was nt an attack with planned for 3000 people and no more. It was for as many as they could possibly get, plus the capitol and the Pentagon. We lucked out, which is not something we can plan on.
9.11.2007 3:58pm
Cincinnatus (mail):
"You are right to point out, however, that once you make your focus known, a rational terrorist will look for a way around it. Recruitment of attractive young women to evade male-focused security screening being the classic example."

I'd prefer to put them through the trouble of finding a young redhead that will blow herself up. As of right now, the next hijacker will breeze through security based his ME appearance. Do you want their job to be easy, or to be hard?
9.11.2007 4:56pm
Cincinnatus (mail):
"You are right to point out, however, that once you make your focus known, a rational terrorist will look for a way around it. Recruitment of attractive young women to evade male-focused security screening being the classic example."

I'd prefer to put them through the trouble of finding a young redhead that will blow herself up. As of right now, the next hijacker will breeze through security based his ME appearance. Do you want their job to be easy, or to be hard?
9.11.2007 4:56pm
cathyf:
Richard, the fact that there were so few people in the towers when the planes hit is a rather odd artifact of how our air travel system works. The planes were effective because they had big fuel tanks and full fuel tanks. A commuter jet wouldn't have carried enough fuel to bring down the towers. A jumbo jet at the end of its trip rather than the beginning wouldn't have had enough fuel left to bring down the towers.

The artifact is that on the eastern seaboard, jumbo jets depart for the west first thing in the morning, and head east after dinner. Most of the departures at, say, 10am, are smaller planes. If our air transport system worked differently (and that it doesn't is a matter of a series of historical accidents having nothing to do with the desires of islamofascists) then they could have hijacked large jets with full fuel tanks at that would have hit at about 11am, and there would have been tens of thousands of casualties.

We lucked out indeed...
9.11.2007 5:11pm
Elliot Reed:
As of right now, the next hijacker will breeze through security based his ME appearance.
I presume you mean "based on", and that's bullshit. What is your evidence that Middle-Eastern-looking people are systematically given less screening than others? Nobody else gets to "breeze through security" these days except maybe first class passengers.
9.11.2007 5:32pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Traveling through the Madrid airport in 1999, I had an idea. Recruit half a dozen attractive young women with BIG---suitcases.

Nobody else will get a look.
9.11.2007 5:52pm
Earnest Iconoclast (mail) (www):
The original article was about asking a three year old to stand alone in the blower and stand still. The article was not about running the three year old through the metal detector or checking his shoes or doing any of the other types of checks.

This is a very silly thing to do. A three year old was probably not assembling bombs. If they really want to screen small children in the blower, then let the parent go in with them and hold them. Screen them both at the same time. It may not be as effective, but it's all playing the odds and this is better than nothing.

Fortunately, my kids are older now and probably would be able to comply. But when my son was three, getting him to stand alone in a big blower box while scary men stand around him and lots of strange grumpy people stand in line would have been very difficult.

Our security procedures should account for the fact that small children are not adults and don't always follow directions designed for adults.

If you really want to screen them, give them a detector built into a colorful toy. They'll rub their hands all over it and probably stick it in their mouth. You'll get all kinds of samples.

Oh, and "Stating the Obvious"... there have been attacks and there have been convictions of terrorists in the US.

EI
9.11.2007 6:14pm
The Drill SGT:
seems to me that TSA procedures ignore the simple solution that secures the public and speeds processing.


Have mom, pick up the three Y/O and carry him into the blower. Both get screened.
after all you are moving air around them to detect nitrates etal. doesnt matter if the mom is added to the mix.
9.11.2007 6:33pm
LM (mail):
It sounds like the El Al screeners are closer in skills, training and mission to our Customs Officers than TSA personel. Could we find, recruit and afford a TSA-sized corps of that caliber? If so we should. Then we should let them do their job with nothing short of Constitutionally required constraints.

As a swarthy, Middle Eastern looking Jew, I became accustomed to regular "random" pre-board selection for heightened scrutiny and searches. Since the edict came down to stop profiling, I haven't been searched once. I think we were safer the other way.
9.11.2007 7:22pm
cathyf:
As of right now, the next hijacker will breeze through security based his ME appearance.
I think that you've been spending too much time with the tinfoil hat brigade. My husband has an "ME appearance" -- 4 grandparents from southern Italy. He (and whomever is travelling with him) is always picked out for the "random" search. It's been that way for 20 years. (He flew through Amsterdam 10 days before the Lockerbie bombing, and yes, security was very very interested in him.)

So before you lily-white folks all go deciding that the folks with the "ME appearance" are all getting a pass at security, maybe you should try asking around to see if they are?
9.11.2007 7:35pm
TJIT (mail):
Running the 3 year old through the blower and the rest of the security kabuki would not bother me if I thought the TSA was getting the basic stuff done correctly.

I don't think they are.

Feel Safer?

TSA inspectors also have found lapses at other airports around the country, including Newark Liberty International Airport, where last October screeners failed to detect bombs and guns in luggage, and last month at two airports in Houston, where seven employees were found to have either expired security badges or no credentials at all.
9.11.2007 7:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
Maybe we should all just take trains and buses instead. Trains could be made faster, and there is far more leg room. They use less fuel, too. They could also bring back first class train service, with all the silver utensiles, and good food. You might even find a future partner!

(Although the "mile high club" might have to be rephrased).
9.11.2007 7:56pm
Public_Defender (mail):

It might be the case, for example, that the TSA is incapable of replicating the screening approach adopted by Israeli security. Is such pessimism justified?


It's a good thing that Israel's use of profiling has worked so well that the country has no problem with ethnic or religious strife.
9.11.2007 8:47pm
glangston (mail):
Regularly I hear people talking about Israeli airport security, and asking why we can't do the same in the U.S. The short answer is: scale. Israel has 11 million airline passengers a year; there are close to 700 million in the U.S. Israel has seven airports; the U.S. has over 400 "primary" airports -- and who knows how many others. Things that can work there just don't scale to the U.S.

Bruce Schneier, Crypto-Security Guy
9.11.2007 8:59pm
wb (mail):
Re: 3-year olds. I've actually witnessed TSA in Denver subject a screaming 3-year to 10 minutes of attempting to put him through the blower. The kid was terrified and the inspec tors insistance made this increasingly worse. So what does that security kabuke accomplish. If you explain that one away, I have another that I witnessed - the pilot being subjected to a secondary search before entering the plane. And you wonder why the TSA is known as The Shoes-off Agency.
9.12.2007 12:07am
V:
Brett Bilmore:Why have there been no terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11? Because some people inexplicably don't consider anthrax filled envelopes mailed to public officials to be terrorist attacks?
----
So I take it you don't see anthrax deliveries to Congressmen as a public good? (No. Really!! You can slow down government by sending anthrax even as I do so, so it is non-rivalrous; your sending anthrax doesn't prevent me from sending anthrax, so it is non-excludable...)

:-)
9.12.2007 2:42am
LM (mail):

So before you lily-white folks all go deciding that the folks with the "ME appearance" are all getting a pass at security, maybe you should try asking around to see if they are?

As I said in my comment immediately before yours, my "ME appearance" got me routinely "random" searched for years. A few years ago I suddenly started getting routinely waved through.

To be clear, I'm a lifelong liberal. I opposed the Iraq War. I'm pro-choice and anti-death penalty. I favor single payer health care, public education, high marginal tax rates, affirmative action, the Fairness Doctrine and most of the other trappings of big, activist government that mark me to the likes of Hannity, Levin, et al, as a Stalinist.

Despite all that, absent more finely calibrated security measures I believed that profiling people who looked like me was a modest, sensible precaution. I just took it for granted, I made allowances for it in my schedule, and I submitted cheerfully to the minor inconvenience. Why anyone would think we shouldn't permit such incidental encroachment on the liberty of those of us who happen to resemble most of the people who have hijacked, bombed and flown our commercial airliners into skyscrapers is beyond me.
9.12.2007 5:01am
abb3w:
Randy R.: Trains could be made faster, and there is far more leg room. [...] (Although the "mile high club" might have to be rephrased).

Lest Denver become a major tourist rail hub for no readily apparent reason? Try the "Supersonic Club". HTH; HAND.
9.12.2007 10:54am