Monday, January 21, 2008

Airport security is a farce

I travel a lot for work, always by air, so I've gotten use to the routines and indignities of modern air travel. Shoes off, jacket off, laptop out, coins and keys in the bin, no liquids, no tooth paste, no shaving cream, no nail clippers. I've got the routine down to a science, and can generally get through the checkpoint in a jiffy, unless I'm stuck behind a family of tourists.

That doesn't mean however that I don’t realize what a farce this whole system is, and how ridiculous it is I need to take off my shoes, or that I can't bring a bottle of Fresca onboard with me.

And this story on the CP ticker, although this wasn’t its intention, illustrates quite clearly that, when it comes to airport security, the government and security authorities are perpetuating a giant fraud:

Air travellers' losses are charities' gains

OTTAWA - Gary McCarthy, the operations manager of a foodbank distribution centre in the nation's capital, surveys the latest detritus from the war on terror with a practiced eye.

A jar of peanut butter, shaving cream, sunscreens, tubes of toothpaste - even a mickey of rum - nestle among four large cardboard boxes packed with items confiscated from travellers at Ottawa's international airport.

"Most of it has been opened," McCarthy said at the bustling food bank warehouse, which sends food and other goods to 128 member agencies in the region.


Now, I don’t have a problem with helping out the charities, let me make that clear. But let’s look at this whole thing for a minute. The reason why we’re not allowed to take much of this stuff on the plane, such as liquids and gels, is that the authorities say it could be a bomb. It might be explosives. It’s a potential security risk.

So, it this stuff is a potential security risk, if its potentially explosive, shouldn’t it be treated as such? Shouldn’t the bomb squad dispose of this stuff? Shouldn’t it be treated like hazardous material and disposed of properly, and not tossed in garbage bins for charities to rummage through and distribute or resell?

I’m glad the airports and CATSA want to give charities a helping-hand. However, if my Fresca is safe enough to donate to the homeless, why the hell are they seizing it from me in the first place?

Rather than implementing moronic policies to make the public FEEL safer, I'd rather the authorities actually implement policies that will MAKE us safer.

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Mark Groen said...

Poor people can't afford an attorney to sue for reckless endangerment either.

Mike said...

Bruce Scheier has called this "Security Theatre" for years and he is right.

In fact, this may make us less safe, because we would then assume that every liquid we come across inside a terminal or an airplane is safe. It makes us less safe because so many resource are spent hassling travelers rather than gathering specific intelligence or guarding against other attacks.

This is like putting up a single picket of a fence around your house and hoping the terrorists walk into it.

Bad Bad Bad security.

Tania said...

I just got back from a trip to Ottawa and commented about how ridiculous security measures are to the people at security.

I travel a fair bit and go through the whole process of laptop out, no liquids or gels, boots off (it's winter and it's easier than having to get the wand swept over me because of boots), etc., etc.

At YOW, the lady wanted to test my laptop for whatever reason and took my boarding pass from me. I asked, "what's the purpose of taking the boarding pass". Apparently it's so I don't run away. I said that's ridiculous. If my laptop poses a security risk and I'm running away, getting on a plane wouldn't be my plan.

She said it was for her safety, that she puts her life on the line everyday for me and this country. I looked at her hoping to see sarcasm. She was serious. I said, "Good Lord, people still believe that hype?!" And they do. The lady in front of me was older and listening in and said, "I remember when flying was so much fun, now it's become a chore." And for no real reason whatsoever. It's completely ridiculous that I can't take my suitcase for 2 day trips on the plane because I bring body wash, shampoo and face cream on board.

People keep talking about tax grabs and wasteful government spending and this is a prime example. At the airport in Regina there were 10 CATSA standing around a virtually empty airport. All to make sure I'm not bringing a water bottle on board the flight. Just to make me buy the $6 ones at starbucks (they don't have a starbucks in regina, but you get my point).

We've become such lemmings.