December 30, 2009

If the terrorists don’t kill off the airlines, the TSA will

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:54

Radley Balko joins the chorus of protests about the latest set of how-stupid-can-you-get “security” rules from the TSA:

Seems to me that what this, Flight 93, and the Richard Reid incident have shown us is that the best line of defense against airplane-based terrorism is us. Alert, aware, informed passengers.

TSA, on the other hand, equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.

If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.

After my last business flight (the day of the Shoe Bomber’s transatlantic aircraft attempt), I’ve actively avoided commercial air travel. This latest set of Security Theatre set dressings merely extends the range I’ll be willing to drive rather than putting up with the flight — actually, the flight preparation, rather than the flight itself.

Update: Don’t know why I thought it was the Shoe Bomber . . . it was the would-be liquid bomb conspiracy that happened while I was in transit through Atlanta.


  1. The rules are stupid and ineffective, but using NWA253 as a data point for the “we are the best defence” argument is fallacious. NWA253 wasn’t saved because of alert passengers. It was saved because the would-be bomber was incompetent in both design and fabrication of his explosive device. The passengers actions did nothing to avert tragedy, they merely restrained him after an unsuccessful detonation.

    The best defence isn’t passenger vigilantism fuelled by fear and paranoia; it’s manpower-intensive behavioural profiling by security personnel both before and after the “official” airport security screening. Works for El Al; although admittedly they have a much smaller number of flights to screen.

    Comment by Chris Taylor — December 30, 2009 @ 22:38

  2. But encouraging passenger vigilantism is more fun than facing questions in congress about racial or religious bias among TSA employees.

    Comment by Nicholas — December 31, 2009 @ 10:13

  3. This is true.

    Comment by Chris Taylor — December 31, 2009 @ 21:24

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