Is Airport Security Worth the Hassle? Con

Sean McGeer

Everyone who has ever gone through an airport has experienced the stringent security measures enacted there. These measures are often written off as annoying menial tasks, but but they are put in place to protect the citizens of the United States from terrorist threats. Should airport security be increased?

Nobody will ever forget the horrific events of 9/11.  The actions of 19 terrorists caused thousands of deaths and launched a costly war in Afghanistan.  That day unified our country in grief.  Terrorism is a grave threat and should not be taken lightly.

However, this is exactly what the TSA has managed to do.  We are forced to remove shoes and bag liquids.  It is truly a unique accomplishment to turn one of the scariest threats against the United States and its citizens into a petty annoyance.

And security is mainly a petty annoyance.  Security did not stop the Shoe Bomber or the Underwear Bomber from smuggling explosives into the passenger cabin of an airplane.  It is doubtful that security would have prevented the Liquid Bombers from taking their explosives on the plane if they had gotten the chance to screen them.  Most recently, security failed as a Chinese graduate student went through a security checkpoint at Newark International without being checked, causing a massive security scare.  Furthermore, TSA cameras were inoperable at the time of the incident.  Fortunately, he was simply trying to say goodbye to his departing girlfriend.

Of course, these actions resulted in increased security measures.  The Shoe Bomber forced us to remove our shoes, and the Liquid Bombers forced us to put small bottles of liquids and gels into sandwich bags if we wanted to carry them on.

This is a reactionary policy.  An attack is attempted, it is foiled, and new policies are created to ensure that the same strategy cannot be used again.  However, we are preventing yesterday’s attack and forcing those who wish pain upon us to act with a little more creativity.

A more proactive approach is necessary.  However, it is unclear how to proceed with these approaches.  A body-scanning system which sees through clothes is already in place in the UK, but leads to problems with civil rights and child pornography laws.  Blurriness was initially proposed around the genitals, but now the Underwear Bomber demonstrated the efficacy of that area for the concealment of explosives.

Another proposal concerns the conscious racial profiling of Arab men and women for increased security such as pat-downs, handheld metal detector use, and biological tests on carry-on luggage.  However, we don’t consciously racially profile.  We unfortunately do so unconsciously, but we will not create a near-fascist policy to alienate a sizable and still growing hunk of the world population.  Race is not something you can change, and you cannot judge based on it, no matter how grave the threat is.  If we do so, we lose the moral high ground and the struggle against terrorism.

Solutions?  Smarter, simpler, more streamlined airport security.  Do not force us to remove laptops.  Do not force us to bag up our liquids or to take off our shoes.  Do not racially profile.  Do not force us to strip virtually.  We need to put more Air Marshals on planes.  We need to continue to detect terrorist rings operating within the US or UK, as we did with the Liquid Bombers.  We need to continue to empower civilians riding on planes—civilian action was the only way the Shoe and Underwear Bombers failed, and a civilian witness was the reason that the Chinese graduate student who breached security was noticed.  We need to continue our campaign on terrorist rings abroad, such as the hunt for Al-Qaeda.

If we pursue such policies, we will hurt terrorists, keep ourselves safer, and keep the moral high ground.  In this way, we will cease to create terrorists as we would with openly racist policies and we will continue to make the world a safer place.  In this way, we will have nicer, safer flights, and we will cease to trivialize the threat against us.