First, there were hijacked planes which were flown into buildings housing the financial center of our country as well as the Pentagon; the result was heightened security in airports despite having already dropped the ball. Next came the shoe bomber who was stopped by attentive passengers; the result here was screening for explosive devices in the shoes of every passenger boarding a plane. Shoe screening has been an inconvenience to air travelers while no known explosive footwear have been detected since. Then there was the liquid explosive plot consisting of 3 men on a flight from the UK to the US; this time liquids were banned except in quantities in 100mL bottles and fitting in a 1 quart bag . Again, no further liquid bomb plot has been revealed by any government, and the criticism that the many 100mL bottles can still hold explosive liquid that could potentially be grouped together for a catastrophic blast.
This past Christmas a powder-based explosive was attempted to be detonated during the last hour of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit by a Nigerian man; Like the shoe bomb plot, this attacker messed up the detonation and some fast acting passengers stopped the fire that had started. Screening failed. The bomb failed. Thanks to some good luck, nobody died. The solution this time around? Keeping passengers seated in the last hour of flight and without access to carry-ons. Because the bomber this time tried to detonate the bomb during the last hour. Does anyone really think this will prevent future attempts of terrorism? Every attempt has brought new methods, and each response simply inconveniences passengers. Ok, so now the last hour of flight means no getting out of your seat. That means the next time around the bomber will just trigger the weapon during the first hour of flight. Or the second hour. Or the third. This elaborate dance of government security making adjustments, and terrorist groups changing their tactics hasn’t led to a more secure society. Just one of greater hassle to travelers and increased paranoia among passengers about their safety as well as support of racial profiling due to the similar religious and ethnic backgrounds of the attackers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a Bakersfield airport was shut down after “hazardous materials” were found in luggage. This hazard was detected to be TNT. Turns out there were really several Gatorade bottles filled with honey. Apparently the owner is a gardener and the detected chemicals that caused the alarm may have been from his gardening. So ultimately, many passengers were delayed, lots of money was wasted, and all because some security equipment detected, incorrectly, explosives from bottles containing honey. Now there are claims sprouting up from several people (claims that have been made many times before) that the screening technology is faulty in the highly expensive equipment that was purchased by the government to stop bombs from penetrating security. Where are the standards which the government should have held the companies from which they purchased the equipment? Are there any real incentives for the government to be honest with the people in regards to the level of security that is useful? Why not tell the public about the attempts that are stopped by security? That way those clever politicians in Washington can claim transparency as well as effective security. The reason the government wouldn’t want to release this information? Because there aren’t enough stories of prevented attacks to make the many cases of harassment and inconvenience worthwhile. Thus, we get to bankroll the annoyance that is airport security, ineffective though it may be, and are told by our elected officials that we should either be happy at our security or angry at wasteful spending and should replace the TSA before they unionize. Nonsense in, nonsense out.