Jan 5, 2010


In any way you care to define it, is the missing ingredient in airport security. We don't act on the information that we have and we make no attempt to gather intelligence on the ground. Instead, we implement all-or-nothing policies in the hopes that no one on the ground will have to think too hard.

Captain Underpants a) paid cash, b) bought a one-way ticket, c) carried no luggage; and d) traveled alone. Any one of these factors--coupled with his age and gender--should have been enough for some enterprising airport security worker to pull him aside for a little chat. And that doesn't even take into account his surname, religion or skin color.

That's the reason I don't like the notion of zeroing in on travelers from certain countries. Because once we've confirmed that the granny traveling with her extended family from Yemen has indeed had a hip replacement and that their infant's orifices are emitting only the usual substances, we can safely ignore the 21-year-old from London who's mumbling prayers under his breath and won't look anyone in the eye.

It may be impractical for us to fully implement the Israeli model given the sheer numbers of people who travel through our airports daily. But can't we do something with the information we have?

The Israelis make a point of talking to every passenger before he or she boards. When was the last time an airport security worker even looked at your face? They're too busy eying your purse as it goes through the scanner.

The Israelis single out people who buy one-way tickets and people who pay cash for their tickets. The 9/11 terrorists all bought one-way tickets to paradise.

In fact, terrorists have been and are still buying one-way tickets on planes they plan to bomb. That should tell us something. Because terrorists have to change their game plans when we figure out ways to circumvent those plans. The fact that the jihadis don't even bother to shell out the cost of a round-trip ticket nine years after 9/11 tells us that they know our security policies are stupid.

UPDATE: The sytem at work: Joan Rivers not allowed to board and milblogger Michael Yon handcuffed at gate.


Holmes said...

I absolutely agree!

And I think the udpate portion shows why it will never succeed, unfortunately- it's the same people. We have like 90,000 jobs and accompanying systems based on the notion of finding weapons, not terrorists. I don't think that system will translate at all into the Israeli model- which has been built up from the ground level beginning 30 years ago. By the time you've made it to the ticket counter there, you've already been screened twice, questioned several times using psychological profiling, and observed even more times.

I hope we can have such a system in place, I really do. But I think beginning to identify that some people are more dangerous than others was an important first step- one we have not really taken in 9 years since 9/11.

Holmes said...

Krauthammer made a similar point tonight on FNC.

Anonymous said...

Of course the Captain Underpants Affair wasn't actually a failure of U.S. airport security or an example of TSA incompetence, as he boarded the flight in Nigeria and went through security in Amsterdam.


Holmes said...


Who says the system doesn't work? :)

Paul said...

Airpoint Insecurity should be talked about by the pundits!

Holmes said...


Sorry to harp on this, but it is such an immediate/important/interesting topic. But Reynolds' notes the same problems I do, but still wouldn't support intermediate steps?