Just in time for the holiday travel season, Vanity Fair’s Charles C. Mann took a trip through airport security with security expert Bruce Schneier. Mann used a fake boarding pass that he printed at home with a little bit of Photoshopping and some coaching from Schneier; it worked.
In fact, there are only three security measures that are effective, and they’re all already in place. They are “locking and reinforcing the cockpit doors, so terrorists can’t break in, positive baggage matching”—ensuring that people can’t put luggage on planes, and then not board them —“and teaching the passengers to fight back. The rest is security theater.”
It’s also time to allow passengers to keep their shoes on:
Taking off your shoes is next to useless. “It’s like saying, Last time the terrorists wore red shirts, so now we’re going to ban red shirts,” Schneier says. If the T.S.A. focuses on shoes, terrorists will put their explosives elsewhere. “Focusing on specific threats like shoe bombs or snow-globe bombs simply induces the bad guys to do something else. You end up spending a lot on the screening and you haven’t reduced the total threat.”
Schneier goes on to show, point-by-point, why almost every aspect of TSA’s security apparatus is spectacularly ineffective. Body scanners, behavioral detection officers, air marshals, and all the rest are the kind of big-budget production that doesn’t actually produce much in the way of increased safety. Fortunately, terrorism is rare; we are still safe.
Read the whole thing. And when you’re done, pick up a copy of Schneier’s book, Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.
Millions of Americans are taking to the skies to spend time with their families over Thanksgiving. Many of them will be carrying leftovers on their return trips. Fortunately, the TSA is fully prepared to defend the airways against terrorist turkeys and rogue desserts. Here is a list of food and other holiday-themed items that run afoul of the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule:
Cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy, jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, salad dressing, salsa, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.
That means you’ll have to put them in checked baggage if you have a decent amount. They are far too dangerous to bring on the plane in a carry-on.
There are also specific guidelines for pies and cakes:
Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.
I feel safer already.
TSA officials recently performed a bomb drill at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and didn’t tell anyone about it in advance. Local police surrounded a TSA-employed “bomber” with guns drawn before someone finally told them it was only a drill. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
A spokeswoman says that TSA will “ensure the correct procedures will be followed in the future.”
Time will tell.
Apparently its stroller failed an explosives screening. Surprisingly, no explosives were found during extra screening, including what a TSA official describes as a “modified pat-down” of the suspicious infant.
… this one was too good not to share.
Original version here.
This picture is its own argument for disbanding the TSA. Better to put security under the charge of people who actually have an incentive to maximize safety and minimize intrusiveness — airports and airlines. The TSA takes the opposite approach, as shown above. Original picture here.