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Sunday, December 27, 2009
By Steven L. Taylor

It would appear that, as one might expect, the governmental response to the attempted attack on the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines Flight has been a bunch of new rules that wouldn’t have have stopped the attack in the first place, via the NYT:  New Restrictions Quickly Added for Air Passengers:

The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.

The airlines have joined in as well:

several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item, and domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines. That was already the case in some airports Saturday, in the United States and overseas.

As someone planning an overseas trip a few months from now, I can hardly wait.  Especially if by “personal item” is meant no book, no iPods, no nothing.  I would note that the fellow who attempted the attack wasn’t sitting there with the bomb materials on his lap waiting for the right moment.  Further, as many have noted in various places that I have read this morning, if the terrorists know about the one hour rule, surely they can shift their nefarious plots to any moment in time prior to T-minus 60, yes? And every time I contemplate that rule, I am taken back to a fateful return trip a Christmas trip out West in the early 1990s when I contacted an illness the day we were flying home and had to make a numerous trips to the potty on the return flight.  I don’t recall my stomach being especially responsive to the clock.

The post titles of various responses to these moves paint an accurate picture:

James Joyner:  TSA Making Flying More Miserable

Steve Bainbridge:  TSA: The Stupid Agency

Radley Balko:  TSA: Dumb as Ever

James rightly observes:

We’re simply going to make people miserable for no apparent reason.  There have been precisely three attempts over the last eight years to commit acts of terrorism aboard commercial aircraft.  All of them clownishly inept and easily thwarted by the passengers.   How many tens of thousands of flights have been incident free?  And, yet, we’re going to make hundreds of thousands of people endure transcontinental flights without reading materials or the ability to use the restroom?

The numbers here are worth focusing upon—not just the number of attempts, but that number relative to the number of flights as well as the success rate.

Radley note (along the lines of my posts from the other day):

Seems to me that what this, Flight 93, and the Richard Reid incident have shown us is that the best line of defense against airplane-based terrorism is us. Alert, aware, informed passengers.

TSA, on the other hand, equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.

Steve asks:  “When are we going to rebel and demand a sensible set of precautions?”

A valid question, but one wonders what the public can actually do.  If one has to fly one has no options and if one complains too loudly at the airport one might fins oneself a guest of TSA.

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3 Responses to “Responding to the Terrorist Attempt”

  1. Ratoe Says:

    I fly all the time (6 times a month) and, quite frankly, I find the TSA procedures reasonable and relatively efficient.

    I have never missed a flight due to security screening and find no real problem in having my luggage screened.

    When all of these people complain, I am wondering what their solution is? Not to have any screening at airports? They act as if there is NO deterrent in the screening system.

    While terrorists will undoubtedly try and find some cracks in the security apparatus, if the screening procedures were minimal I would actually more scared of your run-of-the-mill nutball coming on a flight with a gun or knife to wreak havoc.

    It is impossible to quell all risk, but given the fact that air travel has the potential to be extremely dangerous I think current security measures are reasonable.

    It seems that people who criticize the TSA are probably looking at the agency’s role within the whole flight experience-overcrowded planes, tight seats, nickel-and-diming airlines, bad customer service.

    The latter problems with flying, of course, have nothing to do with security and are the product of airlines’ pursuit of profit margins.

    Flying is quite a pain, but more because of airline behavior than because of security screening.

  2. Steven L. Taylor Says:

    Flying is quite a pain, but more because of airline behavior than because of security screening.

    I think that’s fair.

    The griping comes from things like Richard Reid=we all have to take our shoes off or the 9/11 terrorists had 1-way tickets so my mother in her 60s gets special screening because she had a one-way ticket (a true story).

    I think that most critics (certainly myself) think that screening is necessary and is a deterrent but that not only is there no perfect deterrent, but that knee-jerk reactions to an incident (i.e., no bathroom trips an hour before landing, no personal items an hour before landing, etc.) are unwarranted over-reactions.

  3. The Gitmo Connection to the Underwear Bomber | The Moderate Voice Says:

    [...] Responding to the Terrorist Attempt [...]

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