Former DHS Secretary Says We Can Make Airports Safer From Terrorists By Rearranging Security Checkpoints

from the another-security-theater-script-rewrite-in-the-works dept

Another terrorist attack somewhere in the world* has provoked another round of punditry from former government officials on how to protect America from future attacks. Over the coming weeks, there will be no shortage of stupid ideas, useless ideas and pointless discussions about “heightened security” at any place people gather.

*”World” = Western Europe only

None of it will matter. Security has never really been scaled back anywhere since the 9/11 attacks — certainly not to the levels seen prior to September 2001. There’s only so much security anyone can actually provide but endless off-Broadway productions of security theater to be explored.

Michael Chertoff — head of the Chertoff Group and former Homeland Security secretary — spoke to CBS This Morning about what might need to be done to make airports more secure. Chertoff is right about one thing: TSA checkpoints create a tempting target of massed humans — all waiting for their chance to be probed, scanned and groped by government employees.

“Well I have to say this is something I’ve spoken to people about for some time. The actual portion of the airport before the checkpoint is not really controlled by the federal government, it’s controlled by the local authorities. And it has increasingly become vulnerable, because as people wait to go through security they actually congregate there.”

I’m not sure the local boys will appreciate this dig at their security skills. But Chertoff’s “solution” is just a literal expansion of federal government territory.

“And so now there’s an effort I think on the part of TSA to start to move the airports into pushing the security envelope back. We’ve seen some of that in terms of not allowing you to park in front of the terminal, but I think we’re going to have to step that up.”

So… move the target. Instead of being deep inside the airport, it will be closer to the entrance. As Gawker’s Alex Pareene notes, at some point you can’t push the envelope back any further. And there’s no expansion point that will magically protect fliers from terrorist attacks.

Ah. Of course. We’ll “push the security envelope back.” The old checkpoints created crowds, sure, but once we move the security checkpoints back, just a bit bit further (to just before you enter the airport, I guess), it will be much safer for everyone, at least once everyone gets past the new checkpoints. Maybe eventually we can push the security envelope back to before you get in your car to go to the airport—your garage door, maybe?

Push people closer to the entrance. Make them more vulnerable to car bombs/larger groups of attackers. Push the envelope all the way out to the connecting roads. Same problem but with the added bonus of intrusive vehicle searches for everyone heading to the airport, whether they’re planning to fly or not. There’s no point where traveler safety suddenly spikes. Every nudge of the envelope opens as many attack vectors as it shuts down.

That’s the ridiculousness of the TSA. It has done almost nothing to make flying safer. The only thing anyone can say for sure is that the TSA has made flying more annoying.

Maybe they’ll move the checkpoints. Maybe they won’t. Airplanes aren’t the target. People are. And people are everywhere. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can’t save all of the people all of the time, but you can make most of them miserable most of the time. That’s how the DHS works. Actions must always be followed by reactions specifically tailored to address the parameters of the last attack or perceived threat. Somehow, we’ll be safer by staying one step behind and ceding control to the government.

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Comments on “Former DHS Secretary Says We Can Make Airports Safer From Terrorists By Rearranging Security Checkpoints”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But TSA has "officers" now.


Military officers are commissioned by the government.

Law enforcement officers have to go through an academy and be credentialed to be considered an officer.

The TSA is neither military nor law enforcement. TSA is more akin to private security. In my area private security employees must be credentialed by the state police, but the qualifications are far lower than for law enforcement. A private security employee may call themselves an officer but they are no way close to being an officer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If politics are any kind of lesson… why yes… you can in fact keep the ship from sinking by rearranging the furniture.

For example… every person running for President is nothing more than rearrange furniture. Each one is Anti-American in their own special way and NON of them are pro liberty. Rand Paul was the closest option but people care less about liberty than they do other more important things like the lunch menu.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is NO SOLUTION!!!

At the end of the day… there is a limited amount of steps you can take without shitting on liberty to prevent terrorism.

If you think removing that liberty to catch a terrorist is worth it then let me tell you this… you deserve neither liberty or security!

Welcome to multiculturalism, more explosions… I mean lessons to come as long as we keep the borders open so that anyone can walk in.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: There is NO SOLUTION!!!

Welcome to multiculturalism, more explosions… I mean lessons to come as long as we keep the borders open so that anyone can walk in.

Most of the terrorism in the US has been from people who lived here all along, not people who came over a border to commit an attack. It’s just that the most famous attack was of the latter variety.

Anonymous Coward says:

“What we really need, is a pre-TSA TSA, and an additional TSA before that! In fact, we should have the TSA start visiting people at their homes to search their homes and vehicles before allowing them to travel to the pre-TSA-TSA checkpoint at the half way point between their airport and their homes. Actually, let’s just set those checkpoints up on roads everywhere and check everyone, just in case they might be thinking about flying that day!”

Anonmylous says:

No need for curbside checking

When they can simply require passengers to report to a Genuine TSA Security Check In a couple of days before their flight. Located away from the airport, these check ins will consist of a large installation of highly secured buildings with small rooms that have either bars or large bomb-proof glass windows so agents can keep an eye on passengers at all times. Clothing will provided for passengers to wear during their stay consisting of one-piece jumpsuits in bright colors. Passengers will be ferried to their flights by TSA agents prior to flight time via special buses with anti-grenade screens and bars on all the windows. They’ll be the only ones allowed to enter the airport via the front entrance, checkpoints at all public entryways to the airport itself will assure this.

But if you work at the airport no worries, you’ll be able to come and go as you please. After all, the airlines need YOU!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Perhaps...

if we stopped blowing up people’s families with our remote control airplanes people would be less inclined to blow us up.

Unfortunately – although this idea plays well it isn’t true.

Firstly – exactly when did BELGIUM do any of this.

Secondly not everyone who has been attacked by the US has responded with terrorism.

Thirdly the US was first attacked by these people in the days of Thomas Jefferson.

Fourthly – if you still don’t believe me read this.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Follow the Money

This makes me wonder who is in need of a raise. Is it the government contractor who needs to show their shareholders an increase in profit, quarter over quarter? Or is it a politician facing increased competition from another candidate who needs the government contractors to get more money to siphon into their campaign war chest?

Hmm, both of those scenarios include government contractors…?

TheUglyOne (profile) says:

Perfect Model

People may not want to admit it but the security apparatus at Israeli airports should be a model for other international airports. Anyone wonder why they don’t have this happen? This would necessarily include profiling and behavioral analysis. The system is broken in the US considering TSA allows 67 out of 70 weapons or explosives through inspection.

Anonymous Coward says:

Population Control

Try to remember the TSA or Homeland has a stated goal (protect the people) and an actual goal (protect the corporations – Control the people).
Eventually (6 minutes into the future) TSA will be empowered to protect (control) population centers (big cities with airports). So entering or leaving a population center (20 to 50 miles from the city limits) will require that you show your travel papers and be subject to search.

mb (profile) says:

Re: Narita

I agree. Having flown through Narita a few times and overnighted in Tokyo, I was amazed. There were no delays at check-in, check-out or any other check. The people were astoundingly helpful and polite, and incredibly reasonable.

There is absolutely no reason for the type of behaviour elicited by the TSA, except that it is a reflection of the general American way. Americans are rude and ignorant. It is their cultural legacy from top to bottom.

AnonCow says:

a.) Unless additional resources are available, there will always be a security chokepoint where a large number of people will be waiting to clear security.

b.) Expanding the security envelope has zero impact on point a. or could possibly increase the number of people gathered at those chokepoints.

c.) Expanding the security envelope could actually make the security chokepoints MORE vulnerable because they are pushed to outer perimeter of the airport property which makes them more easily accessed.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Can push it quite a ways...

So… move the target. Instead of being deep inside the airport, it will be closer to the entrance. As Gawker’s Alex Pareene notes, at some point you can’t push the envelope back any further.

True, strictly speaking. But you can push it back quite a ways from where it is right now. For example, TSA could send a team of 20 jackbooted and trigger happy agents to your house at 4 AM before your flight. Inspect your car, inspect your bags, inspect your house…and then they could push the proctoscopes they brought along, quite a ways up your a$$ just ensure you’re really, truly not hiding anything. Then they could load you and your family into straight-jackets and then into a paddy wagon for your trip to the airport.

That would probably keep everyone safe.

I think we can all be sure this is what Michael Chertoff has in mind as he enthuses about pushing back the boundaries.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing will happen

Nothing will change. We’ll talk about what can change. We’ll make proposals. We’ll hold inquiries. We’ll blame Snowden. We’ll blame encryption. We’ll blame Trump. We’ll blame the moon phases.

Because in the end, it is far easier to spout hot air, make proclamations and blame others than it is to do anything real and meaningful.

pr says:

I’ve always thought that the only truly safe thing was to have everyone travel Hannibal Lecter style, in a straight jacket and mask. Passengers should report to a warehouse far from the airport to be strapped to a restraining frame, then gets bussed over to the airport for boarding.

If it saves one life it’s worth it. And boarding would be much more efficient. For one thing, everyone would board in the proper order. There’s not much that pisses me off more than when assholes with “Zone 3” boarding passes show up when Zone 2 is boarding and the gate agent doesn’t wrestle them to the ground and beat them senseless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Michael Chertoff might seem crazy, but he’s crazy like a fox. Rest assured that his security recommendations will include imploring (if not forcing) airports to buy equipment and services from a company that just happens to be paying big money to Chertoff. Just like those human x-ray scanners that were forced upon and later yanked from airports over health concerns.

Bin Ladin made Michael Chertoff a multi-millionaire, and this professional fearmonger and war profiteer stands to get even richer upon the next terrorist attack.

Richard (profile) says:

What really works

I don’t think that the stupidity of some of the suggestions made should blind us to the fact that there are things we can do about this. We need to remember two things.

1: The vast majority of passengers are NOT any kind of threat even if they happen to be carrying liquids or Victorinox Knives- so maybe subjecting everyone to time consuming searches is simply creating an extra target for attack.

2: There is no security system that is 100% watertight so if an attack succeeds it doesn’t necessarily mean that security was inadequate – it may just mean that we were unlucky. Sometime the correct response might be no response.

There are other agencies at work around airports who understand these two principles very well. I am referring to customs (Who seem to be able to operate happily while most people simply walk through the green channel) and the air-accident investigators (CAA/FAA) who know well that effective safety is always a compromise between conflicting pressures.

I seem to remember seeing somewhere an experiment in airport security where randomised checking was used – and proved to be more effective, cheaper and less disruptive than the previous systems.

Personanongrata says:

For Your Own Good

Former DHS Secretary Says We Can Make Airports Safer From Terrorists By Rearranging Security Checkpoints

Michael Chertoff is right, first comes fear and loathing 24/7/365 followed by a short ride in a cattle car then it is to the showers for some state sanctioned cleansing and finally off to the ovens before reaching your final destination – the meat grinder where you are striped of your citizenship and rendered a consumer whose sole justification for existing, in the eyes of the state, is to be surveilled and exploited for profit.

The surest way to end the terrorist threat is to stop listening to people like Michael Chertoff whose entire “rice bowl” has been filled with offerings reaped from the harvest sown by the creation of US national security state in 1947.

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