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Security Theater

September 2, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments


The Atlantic’s James Fallows has written frequently about the idiocy of the TSA’s airport security procedures, an idiocy best summarized by the phrase “security theater.” (See for instance his post from last January and the links contained therein. See also the Atlantic article in last November’s issue by Fallows’ colleague Jeffrey Goldberg.)

In Fallows’ latest post on this theme, from yesterday, he links to and quotes from last week’s “Ask the Pilot” column in Salon by Patrick Smith. Here’s one small excerpt from Smith:

There is a level of inherent risk that we simply must learn to accept. But, if we are going to have an airport security apparatus, and if we are going to devote millions of tax dollars to the cause of thwarting attacks, can we please do it smartly and at least improve our odds?

Am I the only one who finds it maddening, and even a little scary, that we can’t get this right? Is it not a national disgrace that TSA should spend its time confiscating butter knives from uniformed pilots rather than focusing on deadly threats with a long historical precedent?

I followed Smith’s “confiscating butter knives” link and found myself at one of his columns from last summer, which I urge you to read. The butter knife story is both hilarious and maddening. One taste (but read it all):

After removing the knife, she holds it upward with two fingers and stares at me coldly. Her pose is like that of an angry schoolteacher about to berate a child for bringing some forbidden object to class.

“You ain’t takin’ this through,” she says. “No knives. You can’t bring a knife through here.”

It takes a moment for me to realize that she’s serious. “I’m … but … it’s …”

“Sorry.” She throws it into a bin and starts to walk away.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “That’s airline silverware.”

“Don’t matter what it is. You can’t bring knives through here.”

“Ma’am, that’s an airline knife. It’s the knife they give you on the plane.”

Categories: Government, Stupidity, Travel
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