The Illusion of Security
How many people do you know with a burglar alarm in their home? Now think about how many people have one of those home security signs in their window or on their lawn. Most of you probably came up with two different numbers. Many homeowners figure that the cheaper solution of a $5 sign will deter enough people to justify not spending hundreds or thousands on a system along with the requisite monthly fees. It gives the appearance of security without any of the expense. So goes the federal approach to domestic security, except we’re paying security system prices for the lawn sign. We are being given the appearance of security with fancy screening machines, onerous rules, and a color-coded warning system that has only ever used two of the five colors.
None of this, however, appears to have done a single thing to actually thwart any plot. Remember the shoe bomber? He was taken down by passengers and airline staff. The same thing happened with what is now being called The Underwear Bomber. In fact, we’re doing the job of keeping ourselves safe. September 11 was a game-changer, but only because passengers changed their mindset from “cooperate and you’re be fine” to “fight like hell”. Unless we’re planning on strip-searching everyone that gets on a plane (complete with cavity searches) and chaining them to their seats, we just can’t prevent a dedicated crazy from getting some sort of weapon on a plane and attempting to use it.
The problem isn’t that we should expect better screening procedures in airports. No, by the time we’re doing that, we’ve already failed miserably. It’s like bug-bombing your house repeatedly while refusing to shut the screen door. Every time a mosquito shows up, you use more dangerous methods of getting rid of them instead of the simple and obvious solution. The comparison to a mosquito is apt; you are 21 times as likely to get killed by a lightning strike as you are to die in a terrorist attack on a plane as there have been so few attempts even made.
Why, then, are we wasting billions of dollars and billions of traveler hours on such an infinitesimally small threat? And why aren’t we spending dollars on closing the door instead of flooding the house with poison? The TSA has already tacitly admitted that it is a failure with new proposed guidelines that prevent you from using portable electronics, leaving your seat, or accessing your carry-on luggage for the last hour of a flight, as if these would somehow prevent someone from blowing up the plane within minutes of takeoff. Gizmodo’s Joel Johnson nailed it:
The TSA is saying clearly that they can’t prevent terrorists from getting explosives on airplanes, but by god, they’ll make sure those planes explode only when the TSA says it’s okay.
If the TSA is saying in so many words that they can’t keep us safe, then it’s time to kick them to the curb and figure out who will. Forcing me to repurchase my toiletries or pay $25 to check a bag, to show up at airports insanely early because you can never predict just how long you’ll be standing there, and hold my bladder for an hour is only doing one thing: cheesing me off.