(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Security Theater Isn't Much Good When People Can Still Get Bombs On Planes

from the just-saying dept

Within the security community, there's been a lot of talk about "security theater" when it comes to the airline business. In the last few years, plenty of new security measures have been put in place -- but just because we can see or deal with new security measures (dump your liquids, everyone!), does it actually make us any safer. While there's been a ton of attention paid in the last week to a security researcher who showed just how easy it was for anyone to create their own boarding pass to get past the security check point, a much scarier story is sent in by Damon, who points out for all of the security changes, new technologies and new processes it doesn't do a damn bit of good if the TSA screeners let people with weapons through the checkpoint. That's exactly what happened at Newark airport, where a "secret shopper" (or should that be "secret bomber"?) test found that 20 out of 22 weapons got through the security clearing process. Now aren't you glad that you have to remove your shoes and can't bring a bottle of water on board any more? If we're serious about air travel security, then it's about time that we actually focused on security -- not play-acting to make people think that something's been done.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Sea Man, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 12:30pm

    Great, and I fly to Canada this weekend. Looks like the more xanax the merrier. At least I don't go through New Jersey.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Jo Mamma, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 12:38pm

    Terrorists suck

    I agree with you semen, I HATE newark airport with A PASSION.

    Also, I agree that we need better security, but I don't necessarily fault the TSA. I mainly fault the bitchy people that are constantly giving these people shit for doing their jobs. I really can't stand it when people endlessly gripe in airport lines -- it accomplishes nothing.

    However, at the end of the day, we live in a free society, and you can only have so much "security" in a free society. In fact, I like it that way. I believe it is important to take reasonable precautions, but the fact is, if someone wants to, they can kill you... period.

    Despite the fact that these guys can take out individual targets, they'll never be able to affect our society at large... only we can do that if we play into their fear mongering.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jo Mamma, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 12:45pm


    Oh, and I might mention that one of the main reasons we can't bring water on when there is heightened security is that the TSA used to have a policy that liquids can only be brought on board a plane if you first consumed them (then it was assumed you didn't have something overly lethal in your bottle).

    That was until ONE woman at ONE airport at ONE time was "forced" to drink her own breast milk to board the plane... after this incident, I believe the TSA banned all liquids when there is a high security alert.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Mousky, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 12:52pm

    Just another bureaucracy

    How much did nationalizing airport security cost the US government? How much does it cost the government to run airport security? How successful has government-run security been since 9/11? The TSA is just another poorly-run make-work government project.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    flyer, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 12:56pm

    never safe until

    Just ban everything. No carry on, and everyone flys naked. Mandatory cavity searches. THEN we'll be safe!

    It's just a pain. And it's all false. I honestly don't believe that I am any safer now than pre 9/11. And never will be.

    Well, until we all fly naked that is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 1:00pm

    no, if we fly naked, i feel i'll be raped, and be damaged for life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Constance Reader, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 1:24pm

    They brought uniforms to public schools...

    ...so I give it another year until the medical supply lobby gets Congress/Homeland Security to mandate that all passengers much change into scrubs before boarding the plane. TSA personnel vacuum seal your original clothing into plastic bags while you're in the changing booth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Mark, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 1:26pm

    Security theater is a massive waste of money. I refuse to put up with it. With a little work, I've been able to find alternatives to flying (driving, videoconferencing, etc). I haven't set foot inside an airport in years! Standing in line for hours to be treated like a criminal is for cattle, not for me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Meep Meep, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 1:27pm

    Ive never felt threatened on planes. The worst ive ever felt was 30min of pretty rough turbulence coming back from newark...
    Ive never been concerned with terrorists hijacking my flights, dunno why. Maybe i should join the paranoid people and never fly again...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    BenBishop (profile), Nov 1st, 2006 @ 1:30pm

    what is "security"?

    I just have problems with the whole airport security "fiasco"

    Is the intent to prevent another 9/11-style event? That wouldn't have happened on 9/12. The ability to take over the planes was the (wrong) assumption by the people in the planes that the hijackers were _hijacking_ the planes -- meaning they were going to take them as hostages and possibly kill them in small numbers to get their point across rather than killing them all at once while destroying a landmark. As of 9/12 no plane would have been susceptible to that since the passengers wouldn't have stood for it (evidence flight 93).

    The airport security we are seeing _is_ theater. I was on one of the first flights out of Boston after 9/11 (it was October 1st!). They /insisted/ on no lighters be brought through the security check point. I landed in Pittsburgh, and there, in the concourse mall (on the plane side of their security check point), they were selling lighters. That was when I realized all they were doing was theater, and not even very good theater.

    Hand /every/ passenger who wants one a gun when they get on board; Nobody would dare try hijacking the plane after that (and there are bullets designed not to damage the airplane skin so as to make them "safe")

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jezsik, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 1:42pm

    Define "weapon" please

    20 weapons got through security? Big deal if that weapon is a frickin' nail file. Frankly, I wouldn't be too concerned if box cutters made it aboard either. We once assumed every hijacker wanted to live and, as passengers, were taught to comply. I doubt a hijacker today could pull off a 9-11 when everyone aboard knows what might be store for them. Go up against a guy with a machine gun? Sure, why not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Ron (profile), Nov 1st, 2006 @ 1:52pm

    Fly Naked

    Safer? Maybe. But, you would NOT want to have the woman who sat next me on a 14h frlight from Frankfurt, coughing all the time, hitting me with her two handbags, etc., to be naked as well.
    Now, if everyone were drugged into being unconscious ... that would be a good thing

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    notorious, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 2:00pm

    Screened for no reason

    The terrorists on 911 never took the box cutters through security, they got them from personnel in the "safe zone"

    I do not blame the TSA for enforcing the rules, but what frustrates me is the inconsistency in how they enforce them.

    I used to fly a lot, and now I fly less. Each time its a surprise on what these goons will make me do.

    The stuff that the terrorists will kill us with next time is not even being looked for by the TSA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Valor, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 2:14pm


    Actually, a lot of what TSA does is psychological and cultural. For most, the risk of getting caught is to high to try anything--which is why we ARE safer after 9/11. The mere presence of Police (or other authorities) ARE a deterrent to crime.

    Sure, there is always a chance that someone will smuggle an item onto a plane (or anywhere), since humans are fallible. This is just a fact of life. There are, however, things we can do to reduce the risk, which is what TSA has done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    ehrichweiss, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 2:42pm


    Valor: you ever feel the need to say "baaaaah!!"? Seriously, your fear is incredibly evident with all the rationalization(either that or you're a government plant)

    If you think that we are actually safer now than before 9/11, you aren't paying enough attention. Now we have increased risk of our own government terrorizing us if we get out of line and "violent acts" are now "acts of terrorism". Someone set off a bomb outside of Paypal headquarters, know what one of the first comments on it was? "It is the first terrorist act in 5 years". Uhh, yeah. Terrorism is less about the act and more about the mental impact it has, and funny you should mention the TSA's psychological impact. You are obviously feeling it since you're willing to give up freedom to feel a little security. Sorry, your only security comes from you, not the government.

    If that weren't enough, as someone has already pointed out, the way the terrorists are going to strike next are in ways that the Department of Homeland (in)Security and the like haven't begun to think of yet. It doesn't take much to see several of them either. Would you like to have DHS involved in your grocery shopping or returning items to the department store? Construction? Traffic? Public utilities? Trash collection? Pharmaceutical companies? The list can go on and on in ways we could all be susceptible that doesn't mean that most of us want to stand in line and be abuse for wanting to travel. The Constitution guarantees us the right to travel but these days that's been diminished to "privilege to travel with the proper paperwork and on condition you keep your mouth shut and never complain and do exactly as we say".

    I hate that so much that when I move to Hawai'i, I'm taking a boat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Stu, Nov 1st, 2006 @ 3:21pm

    right on target

    Jo Mamma was right on target when he said,
    "Despite the fact that these guys can take out individual targets, they'll never be able to affect our society at large... only we can do that if we play into their fear mongering."

    Let's not forget the meaning of terror - it is not bombs, it's fear, as in terrify.

    Now if we can only get the politicians to stop trying to terrify us . . .

    I know - let's all vote against the ones that try to terrify us into voting for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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