Rethinking Airport Security – Alternatives to the TSA
Despite what some people seem to think these days, airport security is nothing new. Neither is going through portals that reveal stuff you’ve got stashed on your person (though today’s “portals” are a little more revealing than they used to be), pat-downs and luggage searches. All of these things have dominated airport security for some time, and despite the wrath that is surging over their inefficiency, there’s a problem. And what’s that, you say?
Well, the problem is that it is virtually impossible to judge the efficiency of security measures. This is also why security is seen as a “black hole”, sucking money out while putting none back in. How do you measure the amount of security breaches that haven’t happened? It’s an everlasting problem for any security professional, and it’s an everlasting problem for anyone setting up the next budget for any business, organization or other venture that need security measures.
The other problem that pops up, besides the accounting side of things, is that it’s almost impossible to justify security measures, new or old, towards the public, especially without revealing information that the “powers that be” have deemed to be sensitive, secret or just uncertain enough. It stands to reason that if you don’t state your reasons for having something, or wanting something, then your chances of getting the things that you need will be slim, and you might even see things that you need be taken away from you. That’s not a good thing.
Justifying security needs and measures has been a closed-doors affair for a long time when it comes to airport, aviation and transportation security. This is the main problem today, when the TSA is being hounded for “government sanctioned sexual assaults” on private citizens, and even children. There has been a lot of writing on the flaws of current airport security, for example by such self-proclaimed security experts as Bruce Schneier, but little has been said about alternatives to the current model.
There is an apparent unwillingness to “go out on the limb” and suggest something that might actually cause these “experts” to be humiliated if their methods aren’t immediately widely accepted, or even proven to be inefficient. That is also why the current situation exists – there are no viable alternatives being presented.
Fear is also what fuelled the massive security restirictions and measures that we see in today’s airports and transportation systems. It’s not strange, it’s not unnatural, but one might say that some of them are severely misguided none the less. Fear is what the terrorists want (fear, as some might know, can also be described as “terror”. Hence “terrorist”) and it’s what they strive for in making the attacks that we are all trying to guard against. Please note the use of the words “we all”. No one (except the terrorists, as discussed) wants the terrorists to be able to carry out attacks, and only the tiniest fraction of each given population sympathises or backs a radical approach to political matters.
This is what needs to be employed in airport security. Far more than 99 percent of the passengers going through any given airport terminal in the world, getting on any given flight from any given place to another in the world, do not want to come down again in tiny burning pieces. That is what we need to employ in order to be safe today, and to root out both the organized terrorists, be they international or “home grown” and the so-called “lone wolf”, operating on their own causes.
There’s been a lot of criticism over the fact that airport security today treats everyone that comes through it as potential criminals, potential threats and potential terrorists. This is a miscalculation due to fear. In order for a security system to work, one needs to focus on the threat, and that is not being done when it comes to airport and aviation security. The focus is so spread out that any potential threat will likely not be detected in time to prevent “an event” as they so nicely put it.
According to some “experts”, we should rely only on investigation and intelligence in order to stop the terrorists and other evil-doers from completing their goals, but this is also a miscalculation. The need for a combination of intelligence, investigation and physical measures (like security checkpoints). Discarding one for the sake of the other could (and probably would) be disastrous.
So what about the checkpoints? Something must be done, right?
The current escalation of security measures goes nowhere, other than to the alienation and disgruntlement of the public – i.e. the very ones we are all trying to protect. This is, again, a miscalculation and a mistake. Not taking into account the vast, vast majority of passengers’ will to fight back, and not to mention survive and their desire of an uneventful journey in addition to their loyalty to both themselves and generally anything but the terrorists makes them an asset, not a threat.
As we’ve said before, the general public should be given information, be prioritized and to a certain extent trusted. If that happens, then the system will work because of the users, not despite them. Any breach in the pattern will be noticed a lot sooner, and will in many cases be remedied by the public as well, not out of animosity to the pattern breaker, but out of loyalty to themselves. And in some cases, the former too, of course.
Trusting the public is a scary thought for those who are in charge of security measures in public today. The thought, however, is well worth considering.