What Happened To The Expected Boom In Airport Security Tech?

from the the-gov't-doesn't-do-innovation dept

After 9/11, there was a lot of talk about how there was going to be a new boom in the airport security technology sector. People expected that investment would go into that field and we’d be seeing a lot of new innovative technologies to keep us all safer. Yet, here we are, over six years later, and there’s very little in the way of new technologies hitting the market. Jim Harper points out that part of the problem is that the TSA, as a big gov’t operation, has little incentive to improve security. Instead, he suggests, if the airlines themselves were responsible for security and liable for security failures, we’d suddenly see a lot more innovation.

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Comments on “What Happened To The Expected Boom In Airport Security Tech?”

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methylamine says:

It's all show, anyway; get real

Recent tests show TSA is “the bomb” (ick, pun) when detecting dangerous shampoos and toothpaste…but completely miss disassembled handguns.

A giant boondoggle purportedly making people feel safer on the already-safest form of travel. What a joke.

I fear being struck by lightning more than being victimized by terrorists.

Anonymous jerk says:

No doubt this comment will get me on a watch list.

IMO, all forms of security are not 100% foolproof. The entire point of security, be it a home alarm, or the TSA, is to make a terrorist, or thief, for that matter, say ‘Hmm… This would be awful darn hard to break into/smuggle a weapon onto. Maybe I should go rob the Doe family down the street, I’ve heard they leave their door unlocked’. Security is a deterant, nothing more. Sure, Fort Knox has never been robbed. But I’d bet gold against sawdust that if someone wanted in there bad enough, and had the funds, they would find a way.

OldSchoolScreener says:

Been There Done That - No Point to Go Back

When I was younger I worked as a security screener. I have huge respect for the job those folks do (whether private or TSA). With that said, there’s no evidence that making the airlines responsible for security would make any difference. The reason is, before 9/11 it was the airlines who contracted out the screening services to EXTREMELY low paid, non-motivated individuals who got at most an 8 hour class and a piss test before being put in charge of ensuring your safety. Back then we were paid $4.19/hr with no chance of raise or promotion to management. So if we scrap the TSA (Which we should DO – since governmental agencies rarely help a situation) we cannot simply go back to the old method of allowing the airlines to contract the security of airplanes/checkpoints and airports to the lowest bidder. Been there – done that.

The Swiss Cheese Monster says:

Re: Been There Done That - No Point to Go Back

I can see your point here. It doesn’t really matter who runs the security, if there is a failure, whoever failed will point the blame to somebody or something else.

And terrorism is such a rare event, you would have to think it worth the risk of low security fees because the chance of something both going wrong and the airline actually having to pay for the fault isn’t very likely.

Michael Evans (profile) says:

Pretty much the most security I can think of is having the line split up based on gender and age (the very old and young going with special assistants). You’d be required to undress to a single layer of clothing (socks, underwear, t-shirt), be X-rayed, everything else scanned separately. A generic sniff in your area for radiation sources and explosive residue, or other unstable organic compounds. Then you’d have a moment to clean your self back up and proceed.

Oh, you’d also have to do this for everyone.

Anything less, please quit wasting my time and let me carry on my shampoo from home, waterbottles for the southern deserts of north america, etc. I promise, if I see some nut trying to get in to the cockpit, I’ll help the crowd ‘restrain’ them properly.

Michael Long (user link) says:

TSA Bureaucracy

Worse, the TSA is a bureaucracy that has to continually show that it’s “doing something’. Witness the recent trials regarding removing ALL electronics, cords, cables, etc., from carry-on’s.

Still think things would be more efficient with no carry-on luggage, just a single handbag/briefcase/backpack per person and everything else checked. Would speed up security, boarding, and disembarking. Planes would spend less time and the gates and waiting for all the idiots to find an overhead bin big enough for their coats, purses, gifts, briefcases, garment bags, and wheelies. (Sometimes you hit the trifecta and find someone with all of those things, plus a stroller, diaper bag, and three kids.)

And then waiting at the other end for them to pull it all back down again.

Charlie says:

Re: TSA Bureaucracy

I travel occasionally with my 3 year old and my disabled wife. We take a long time, and carry extra carry ons because we can’t be without certain items for too long.

We are also forced to find places to reduce to keep things doable. We also wait until everyone else is off the plane and this helps avoid the hold up for others. Part of this is necessity (the wheel chair is usually stowed in the cargo area, and carrying someone down the isle (or using an isle chair) requires a bit of space), and out of courtesy.

BlueBearr says:

Yeah, right

if the airlines themselves were responsible for security and liable for security failures, we’d suddenly see a lot more innovation.

Yeah, right. What we would see is people purchasing a ticket, packing, driving to the airport and then being faced with a EULA that absolves the airline of all responsibility.

“By flying with Regional Cut Rate you agree that you hereby agree to indemnify or hold blameless Regional Cut Rate, its employees and agents of any responsibility for the consequences of any terrorist attack…”

OldSchoolScreener says:

Re: Yeah, right

While that wasn’t the case when airlines were responsible for security “back in the day”, with the way corporate America has totally corrupted our political system’s ability to use common sense, you are 100% correct. They would propose and I’m sure the FAA would allow, language in a binding agreement with passengers that would guarantee that they would not be liable for a terrorist attack/hijacking and it would be printed on the back of your ticket in super small print. You would agree to it by purchasing the ticket, they wouldn’t tell you about it and the lawyer who dreamt it all up would get a promotion.

The lawyers will be the death of us all…

Darrell Young (user link) says:

Safer Flight...

Todd Beamer said it all when he took on the terrorists of Flight 93 when he was heard saying – “Lets Roll”. He had the courage to take matters into his own hands when that aircraft, crew and airline could not. I will forever honor this man as a true hero.

Our society in the 50 States today allow qualified individuals the right keep a concealed weapon on their person. We are trusted in all sorts of places. Sadly, not on school campuses (recall Virginia Tech?) and not on operational aircraft (recall 911?).

I contend that with proper and additional training, most carry conceal holders (ALL have zero criminal records) should be allowed to carry on board an aircraft. When the hijackers of Flight 93 pursued their interests to the very end, they left us with no choice but to overreact to any threat in the future. They proved that seamingly sane individuals with an agenda of death can succeed. Something has to change or another catastrophe like this could occur again. Likewise, something needs to change on school campuses because as long as you advertise “gun free zones”, you encourage killers to shop for victims among the land of the gun-less.

Less than 1% of the County I live in holds a concealed handgun permit. Even less than that carry on a routine basis. We’re out there and though often not tested, I think most would react appropriately to a threat. I know for sure I wouldn’t miss in drawing down on ANY traveller that theatened me or the aircraft I was flying on with deadly accuracy. I would not hesitate to save lives and I know others equally qualifed as myself would do the same.

The answer is clear, forget hiring more (too expensive?) air marshalls and allow the already ready CCL permit holders the extended priveledge of carrying on board aircraft. I would gladly submit to additional training at my own expense as well as use the same equipment (ammo, guns, etc) that current air marshalls use. I would do this for free. To all the nay sayers of this idea, I would ask, “how are you in any more danger knowing I already carry in the malls, restaurants and on the streets of my City?”. Ted Kennedy’s car has killed more people than my gun.

Don’t be afraid flying America, CCL permit holders are not dangerous poeple. If you think so, check out the statistics on any of us going beserk. I think you’ll find your next neighbor much more dangerous than any of us. We have to be background checked extensively at the local, State and National level. Our finger prints are taken and stringent laws control our very movements. If I move and don’t update my address in the CCL system, I lose my priviledges. If I commit a crime, the law is more harsh on me because of my permit. The legal community watches me more closely than others so believe me, you are safe with us.

Justin Lapsley (profile) says:

CCL? No.

Are we really as safe? Just because you have a CCL doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily in the best mental health. It doesn’t mean that you’ve been properly trained, as the police have, to react in what’s really a combat situation. It doesn’t even mean that you can necessarily aim your gun with any amount of accuracy, much less, keep your head in a stressful situation.

When you’re at ~40,000 feet, the consequences of missing your target become a lot more severe. With hundreds of people packed in like sardines, and with ~40,000 feet to the ground, never mind medical help if the plane is even able to land safely.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with a civilian having a gun on a plane, but a CCL isn’t good enough in my opinion. I’d like to to have far more training, and refreshers, police and retired police/military get my nod. Some soft of mental health certification, on a regular basis. And regular tests for accuracy.

You want to carry a gun onto a place, which is itself is an unnatural way to travel, then I don’t think that I’m asking too much.

TX CHL Instructor (profile) says:

Re: CCL? Absolutely.

Since statistics have been kept in Texas (1994), CHL holders are only 25% as likely to miss the target as licensed law enforcement. That is because they tend to practice more. Here in Plano, I asked two officers (Plano’s Finest!), on two separate occasions, a simple question (“What type of ammunition do you carry in your duty weapon?”), and got the same answer from both (“I don’t know; whatever the department issues.”). Nobody graduates from my CHL classes who doesn’t know what kind of ammo he or she carries.

Like Mr. Young, I would be willing to undertake any required training and qualification tests needed to carry on board commercial aircraft at my own expense. I would be willing to equip myself with whatever type of weapon and ammunition is required at my own expense.

And, if I was not able to meet the qualifications, I would simply abide by that. Even if I can’t be armed, if anybody tries to hijack an aircraft that I am on, I will either neutralize the the perp, or die in the attempt, because there is NO OTHER MORALLY ACCEPTABLE CHOICE.

BTW, why do you think those young men from Arabia hijacked an American plane, and not an Israeli plane? A1: Israeli pilots are armed. A2: Terrorists and other criminals prefer ‘soft’ targets.

Does the 2nd Amendment actually mean anything, or should we just scrap the whole document?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: CCL? Absolutely.

“Even if I can’t be armed, if anybody tries to hijack an aircraft that I am on, I will either neutralize the the perp, or die in the attempt, because there is NO OTHER MORALLY ACCEPTABLE CHOICE.”

Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down there. No.

Let’s assume the hijacking is 9/11 style, intended to kill everyone on the plane and then some on the ground. Then your statement stands.

Now let’s take the alternate, FAR more common case that the hijackers just want to fly to some foreign country and issue demands in exchange for hostages. THAT does NOT warrant killing someone over. The only acceptable reason to take a human life is to prevent other lives from being taken.

Darrell Young (user link) says:

Re: CCL? No.

I respect the tenor of this thread. Thanks for keeping it civil. As to training, I believe I said I would undergo whatever was needed. If it can be shown that you have any mental defects, you don’t get a license to carry concealed. They already look into that. You don’t go see a shrink, but you can’t have anything in your past that would somehow compromise the State or its people.

Remember, we’re trying to come up with ways to make air travel safer up to and including dealing with another 911 type hijacking. The World Trade Center crash was a success. They accomplished what they started out to do. Doesn’t that mean it could be tried again?

As I said previously, proper training, strong mental background, correct ammo and we should be included in the group considered for this position.

As to accuracy, LEO’s train because its required. Many and probably most recreationally shoot. The most accurate style of shooting is probably IDPA. Real life scenarios are used and a range officer accompanies everyone while they shoot. A good friend of mine is probably one of the most accomplished of these shooters and has beaten out numerous LEO’s here in Texas. He puts two to the chest and one to the head almost every time from a holstered start. He’s scary fast with his Kimber. I would trust this man with my life. He owns a Harley repair shop and looks a little scary, but trust me, you’d want him on your flight armed.

We take CCL seriously here in Texas. As to looking out for others, we take that seriously too. Our law enforcement community rewards our willingness to do so with (very often) walks on tickets. Ask any CCH if this has happened to them.

Justin Lapsley (profile) says:

I can see how knowing what type of ammunition you have in your gun could make a difference in how it’s used at that altitude, a hollow point being much less likely to continue on to do ‘undesired’ damage to other passengers or the plane after hitting the initial target. If it’s true that civilians with permits are better shots than our law enforcement is on average, I see that as being a major problem in itself.

But you think anyone and everyone with a Concealed Weapons permit should be allowed to board a plane armed? That’s pretty stupid. I want there to be MANY more obstacles in someone’s way before they are in a position to put 300 people’s lives at risk.

A CCL/CHL is a start, but lets think up another license that will allow you cowboys to protect the rest of us. And Mr.Instructor, you sound far too willing to give your life. A man does what he has to do, but try not to sound like you’re looking forward to the opportunity?

Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone that thinks that handguns on planes in the hands of citizens is a good idea needs to consider this. Sure, CCL is only 25% less likely to miss its target. OK, look at trained professionals. Look at the cops. Why do you think that when something goes down, the police fire 100 rounds? Hitting something with a handgun isn’t easy. I was a pistol expert in the Marines and we qualified from 15 yards. Considering bullet holes in an airplane probably isn’t a good thing, guns on airplanes isn’t a very good idea.

Securing the cockpit is the answer. No one in, no one out. There are easy ways to just take down an airliner, hell, someone sitting in the bush near the airport could pump .50 cal rounds through the cockpit during takeoff or landing, pretty sure that would cause the plane to crash and no missle defenses would help.

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