Downers Grove, IL, writes
: I agree. I heard
Don Carty (of AA) say several times that the security system is silly,
particularly when security people x-ray the shoes of little old ladies.
His suggestion is to tie in the reservations system to a database of people that
states, the FBI, the CIA, Interpol, and allied intelligence agencies believe are
threats. Then, they can be thoroughly questioned and screened at check-in. He
also wants ID cards issued to travelers who pass an FBI background check, so
that they can go through less stringent screening.
I also heard
comments from a former head of El Al security. He said that the overkill at
checkpoints only discourages air travel. He also said that El Al security, as a
whole, won't work in the US, because the US system is too big. His solution,
until technology catches up, is intense questioning while waiting to check-in,
since there are always lines at U.S. airports. People should be
questioned, such as
- Where are
- If for
business, where is your client's office?
- If to see
grandchildren, how many and what are their names and ages?
- If for a
wedding, what are the names of the bride and groom, what is the name of
the name of the church, and where is the reception?
- If your
secretary made the reservation, what is her name and how long has she
worked for you.
- Did you
pay with a personal charge card or a corporate card?
You get the
picture. The passenger who is not a threat should have all of the answers. The
passenger who is a threat should get tripped up.
As for the issue of
connecting flights, part of the problem is that airlines will schedule tight
connections. I flew from Las Vegas to O'Hare via LAX. American gave me a
35-minute connection, which involved walking from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4. If
the O'Hare departure hadn't been delayed 20 minutes, I would have boarded with
less than 10 minutes to spare, and my bag may have been pulled, only to be
Until the baggage
is fully screened, do we need to add connection time? I don't know. But here's
my question. What happens if I make the connection, but the bag doesn't? That
happened to me flying from O'Hare to Halifax, Nova Scotia via Boston. I made the
BEX flight, but either American didn't get the bag transferred in time, or BEX
didn't get it out to the aircraft. Either way, what happens to the bag?
Technically, it can't go without me. But it can't go with me, either.
I could see a
terrorist purposely schedule a tight connection, see if the bag makes the
connection. If it didn't, then he could try the connection again with a bomb in
the checked bag.
Chicago writes : Personally, I now avoid air travel as much as
possible. Not because I am afraid of a hijacking, but because I do not wish to
deal with the glorified bouncers that call themselves "airport security".
Between my car and Amtrak I can get to any point in the continental U.S. in no
more than two days (I live in Chicago). On the balance of time, money, and
aggravation, air travel is the least desirable option.
Just a few more
points. For the last several months I have collected a dozen or so horror
stories about airport security, some of which actually pre-date 9-11. I will be
glad to send you some of them, if you like. Just to summarize, you are lucky if
shoes is all you have to take off, if you catch my drift... Not only that, you
can be arrested and kicked off the flight for even a whimper of a complaint.
They may as well put up a sign at the entrance to any airport: "Your
constitutional rights end here".
Another point: What
if the 9-11 hijackers had used belts to strangle the pilots instead of cutting
their throats? What would the knee-jerk reaction be then? How about if they had
been martial arts experts and had used their hands?
My opinion is that
FAA should completely take over airport security. Hopefully, this will mean a
uniform standard and, more importantly, a venue to resolve complaints, perhaps
something similar to what the U.S. Customs was forced to implement after some
lawsuits and Congressional investigation of several horror stories.
somewhere in Internet land writes : There is one other major flaw of
the bag matching. On Southwest, many of the flights are multiple stops on the
same flight. A person boards the plane with his carry on bag, gets off at
the first stop, but leaves his bag on the plane. He doesn't even need to
be ticketed to the final destination. There is no checking that the carry on
bags on the plane match the passengers who stay on the plane.
David replies :
At least in theory (if not reliably in practice) carry on luggage has all been
carefully Xrayed and screened. However, I'm the first to acknowledge that
any terrorist with only a minor amount of training could disguise a bomb inside
a computer case that would look normal to an Xray machine but which would be
powerful to take down a plane. Definitely a loophole.
A different Paul
from somewhere on the Internet writes : On your topic of illogic in
security procedures, I agree wholeheartedly. Additionally:
1. I do not
believe that there are real present threats still out there. If there were, we
would have heard from them by now. Would there not have been more attacks during
the “war” we are conducting in Afghanistan? I put that in quotes, because it is
really more of a pursuit and a police action. Using the word “war,” however,
keeps us all in line as supporters of the perception that there is a dire
policy of spending endlessly and instituting equally endless and point security
measures at airports is plain nonsense. There are tens of thousands of miles of
train track, of road, thousands of tunnels and bridges, where no amount of
security would prevent a planted charge or a parked explosive packed vehicle
from doing damage. My point is that even if airport security were effective, WE
are no more and less safe as a nation and as individuals now than on September
3. It is
clear to me that we are being fleeced – yet again – by the security and arms
industries and by the military. Billions and billions will be spent in response
to an attack by less than 20 people armed with box cutters. A shocked and
grieving nation is being taken for a huge ride.
I am offended as a
60,000 mile a year flyer who is subjected to the indignities of a burgeoning
police state and as a tax payer watching all our surpluses turn into deficits.
Lynne from Reno
writes : Your article was particularly relevant after an incident I
witnessed at Oakland Airport yesterday. Lines at security were moving fairly
quickly (if you can call an 8-10 minute wait 'quickly') until the screening
personnel in their infinite wisdom pulled a lady out of line for additional
The lady selected
was probably 75 years old and totally blind. The ineptitude of the screening
personnel was evident as the lady was being jostled to and fro, wanded, patted,
etc. She appeared to be somewhat frightened and disoriented. Their thorough
screening of this lady took about 10 minutes, backed up the entire security line
and caused many looks of bewilderment among those waiting in line.
As a frequent flyer
I’m not sure “who” current security measures are intended to reassure, but they
only cause me to consider alternate means of travel.
somewhere on the internet writes : There continue to be hysterical
responses to September 11. Politicians because they want to appear to be taking
action to prevent another September 11 have been taking action based on
hysteria. Securing the cockpit door is an example of a hysterical response.
The cockpit door
was designed to be kicked out. Installing a steel bar across the door still
allows the top or bottom to kicked out. This was demonstrated on a recent United
flight to South America.
Vigilance has been
converted to hysteria. The continuing call for vigilance is by politicians
practicing SYA - SAVE YOUR ASS. If there is another September 11, politicians
will claim they were being watchful.
is being brought to us by a government unable to prevent September 11. The
typical airline passenger has a better chance of winning the California Lottery,
without buying a Lotto ticket, than ever being involved with a terrorist. Common
sense was a casualty of September 11, too.
David replies :
I agree with much of what you say, but I think that securing cockpit doors is an
excellent idea. Apparently just putting a bar across the door is an
imperfect implementation of this idea, however! :)
Towaco, NJ, writes : The traveling public will tolerate a lot for the
sake of security but may soon balk when these security checks become ridiculous.
My wife and I watched an (unfortunate) middle aged lady, selected at random from
a group of waiting passengers at a gate location at RDU, receive a pat down
search from a female equipped not with a wand by with a pair of rubber gloves.
The pat down was done in full view of all waiting passengers. I'm sure the other
passengers, forced to watch, were as embarrassed as the 'suspect' herself. Don't
you think the so called security individual could have used a private and secure
area for that type of search?
somewhere on the internet writes : Why not let the airlines decide the
level of security they want to impose? The more security, the higher the cost of
the ticket. The ticket buying passenger can then decide which airline to fly
based on price and destination. Would that not be a novel idea? Caveat emptor!
Jimm from Baltimore
writes : Here are some other observations.
Let's remember that many of the pre 9-11 security measures were instituted after
the TWA 800 crash. And that turned out not to be a terrorist plot at all !
Another loop hole, is with the hand checking of checked bags at the ticket
counter. I saw this at Spokane airport (Horizon counter) just last week. Suppose
I have two checked bags (one with a bomb) and I am concerned about getting
picked for hand search. So I keep my checked bags off the scale until I am told
I am going to have to be hand checked or not. The ticket agent doesn't place the
printed bag tag on the bag until after the hand search (to prevent mistakes).
So if I get
selected I switch the bomb bag with my accomplice (perhaps on the same flight or
not). The bomb bag doesn't get checked so it can be used later. AND - If I don't
get selected, then the bomb bag goes on.
One Way Tickets
An agent again told me that round trip ticketed passengers don't normally get
selected for hand screening. Would I really be so dumb as to get a one-way
ticket to save a couple hundred bucks and raise a red flag.
The single bar on the door did apparently slow the attacker enough that he was
overpowered by the co-captain. Aren't we glad they didn't have a gun. The axe
seems to have made a dent in the situation.
And now we (the
flying public) are paying $$$ directly for this poor implemented security !
One other thing -
Is there any chance that the 9-11 plane that crashed in PA on the way to DC
crashed due to cell phone usage by passengers ? And not due to the passengers
overpowering the terrorists.
Raleigh Durham writes : I have so many stupid stories about security
that I have no time to communicate them to people. For instance:
I was first in line at RDU for my first class seat on a Delta flight to CVG at
0620. The gate agent, who knows me well, said to me: "Will, we always search the
first person in line, so go over there and get searched." I looked at her in
astonishment and said that was the dumbest, most PREDICTABLE thing I'd ever
heard. Any would-be mischief-maker, I pointed out, could easily avoid being
searched by making certain never to be first in line to board at Delta. No
matter - I was searched.
But wait, this
story gets even better: I had already been selected for a random search at the
security point, and the SAME GUY who'd searched my bags the first time was at
the gate now to search people for this particular flight. When he saw it was me,
and remembered going through my stuff just a half hour earlier, he looked at me
with a sigh, shook his head, and searched my bags again anyway. He quietly told
me he'd lose his job if he didn't, even though it was incredibly stupid and a
waste of our time to do so. We both smiled at being forced actors in the same
Your rants, my
rants, Joe Brancatelli's, and everyone else's aren't often enough or loud enough
to overcome the unmitigated lunacy and hypocrisy of the current situation. The
Mad Hatter's tea party in Alice In Wonderland was a somber academic symposium by
What do you think?.
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Copyright 2001 by David M