The failed terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 shows just how bad our air security is and not a system that “worked” as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to spin on CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday morning. She back-tracked the next day by saying what she said had been taken out of context. Nonsense. It showed just how broken the system is and how luck coupled with an incompetent would-be terrorist saved all those lives.
I fly a lot. An awful lot. Rare is the week that I am not on a plane somewhere. And frankly I am sick of having to play the game knowing that security at our airports in North America is little more than an illusion designed to make the travelling public feel like the authorities are doing something to protect us from those who would attack our very way of life.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the TSA in the US and CATSA in Canada began a series of ridiculous procedures that served no actual security result. But they certainly inconvenience the travelling public. And, I should probably say that at least the TSA has the veneer of competence. Not so much for CATSA.
I can’t count how many times I have had my laptop randomly selected for and EDT (Explosive Detection Test) done with a swab or having been randomly selected for a physical search, a pat down head to toe after I had cleared the magnetometer screening. This picture says it all:
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be using metal detectors. Nor am I suggesting that elderly folks should not be subject to screening. What I am saying is that we should not be focussing 100 % of our attention on 100% of travellers. It isn’t hard to figure out what our enemy looks like or, and most especially, what he acts like.
The Israelis have been using Predictive Profiling for years and have done so with remarkable success. They do not waste time ensuring everyone is treated the same. They know they are under a constant threat and proceed accordingly.
Notice I didn’t say Racial Profiling. The 19 9/11 lunatics and the Christmas Day Pantybomber, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, do not look the same relative to racial profiling which is at best, politically problematic and at worst, ineffective.
Predictive Profiling is based upon knowing how the terrorists behave and focus their efforts on how they work not who they are. In other words, to be effective it is more important for airport security to find the bomber not focus on finding the bomb.
This is done by training security staff to engage folks in conversation and asking open questions designed to keep them off balance and highlight behaviours that are suspicious. Then those suspicious individuals are put under further scrutiny. The average traveller is allowed to proceed normally.
But this requires leadership and common sense. Something not apparent in the TSA or Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the Pantybomber episode. Making people sit in their seats for the final hour of their flights is plain stupid. As is limiting access to laptops and iPods in that final hour before landing.
Equally, physically searching every passenger at the boarding gate borders on insanity. It is ridiculous to spend all that time, effort and energy and inconvenience the whole of the travelling public because the TSA and DHS will not use Predictive Profiling in the security process because of the political connotations of the term Racial Profiling.
Knowing who the enemy is and how they behave is the first line of defence but only if the information is used at the first point of contact, the airports used to enter the country and move around within it. Ignoring the incredibly obvious for fear of offending someone who may be a threat is offensive to all of us. One need only look at the massacre at Ft. Hood to see where that can end up.
Security need not be overly complicated. But it does need to be thorough. And thorough has nothing to do with physically searching everyone getting on a plane. That’s plain stupid. Which is how Janet Napolitano looked on CNN. Which in itself, may explain rather a lot.
Leo KnightRead Full Article