GAO confirms airport security is a joke

The Government Accountability Office recently released a report confirming what many of us already know: airport security — specifically the practices put into place by the TSA — are totally worthless when it comes to stopping real terror threats.

The GAO managed to sneak bomb making materials into 19 airports totally undetected, even when the TSA apparently notified itself that the government agency was going to be conducting these tests: “Release of the GAO report follows a hearing Wednesday in which Hawley vehemently denied that screeners had been tipped off about covert security tests, even as lawmakers brandished an e-mail from TSA headquarters that not only warned employees of testing, but described the methods and appearance of those conducting the probes.

Begin brain dump…

For several years I’ve been carrying a small knife on my key chain. Many times when I travel I forget that I have it on me and it ends up in my backpack with the rest of my keys and electronics when I go through the scanning process. Not once have I ever been questioned about it. The state of knives on planes is a little vague: According to the TSA’s website, knives are still banned, however a sign at SFO I saw last week said that knives were permitted as long as the blade was under 4″. Either way: the fact that I can bring a knife onto a plane time after time (legitimately or accidentally) just makes the whole system seem like a joke. You can’t bring a box cutter onto a plane, but you can bring a knife on board no problem?

The current airport security process is a waste of time, energy and money. It’s costing the economy billions, $94B by some estimates. Not to mention we’re only protecting planes, not the airport terminals themselves. Every time I fly I think of a dozen ways someone could terrorize the airport without even having to go through the security.

My current favorite terrorist plot involves the security screening itself. Everyone has to take their shoes off, (which in itself startles me that people don’t find this disgusting–I personally don’t, but in this germaphobe society you would think more people would refuse), so why not attack there? There are lots of chemical and/or biological agents you could quietly release at that time.. ringworm, e-coli, ticks, parasitic fungi (athlete’s foot), etc. Could you imagine if someone broke open a canister of African ticks in the security line? Oh, the (project) mayhem.

I don’t claim to be smart enough to know what the solution is to the airport security problem, but I know that the way the TSA is going about it is definitely not the answer. More security is not the answer either. I think it boils down to fear mediation: The TSA needs to find a new way to calm the publics fears of terrorism without actually inconveniencing anyone. They could hang posters with statistics of air travel safety: “Relax! Your odds of being involved in a terrorist plot today are 1 in 5,351,000,000 — You have better odds of dying due to motion sickness.” (And you could have dimenhydrinate manufacturers pay for the posters!)

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