As we've heard the various plots outlined here this afternoon, it is clear that we have to be one step ahead of the terrorists. And it's obvious that we are not always in that situation, as evidenced by the last three plots that would--could have been successful.Mr. Pistole referred again and again to terrorist threats as driving the need for the procedures they use to "secure" airports and planes. And we're afraid of that perceived threat. Why is that though? In this article from Reason, back in 2006 (before the scanners and pat downs were in place), the author lays out the odds of dying by various everyday occurrences (on a yearly basis) and compares them to terrorism on a plane:
- Car crash: 1 in 6,500
- Murder: 1 in 16,500
- Crossing the street: 1 in 48,500
- Drowning: 1 in 88,000
- Airplane crash: 1 in 400,000
One could certainly make the argument that it is the government's taking of over of airline security that has kept Americans safe. This doesn't really wash, either, though. There have been three major attempts to hijack and destroy airplanes since 2001: the shoe bomb attempt, the liquid bomb (out of the U.K.) attempt, and the underwear bombing attempt. The TSA didn't even have a chance to catch these plots because all of these flights originated outside of the U.S where the TSA doesn't control security. The TSA can't take any credit for stopping any of these plots. The passengers, themselves, stopped two of them, and good intelligence work stopped the other.
Our liberty continues to erode here at home, in the name of safety, though, while the threat of someone coming in from overseas continues. Well why not institute the same policies here as overseas? Here is another quote from Mr. Pistole during his hearing:
That being the case, I think everybody who gets on a flight wants to ensure and be assured that everybody else around them has been properly screened and, oh, by the way, everybody else on that flight wants to make sure that I have been properly screened or you have been properly screened.What does "properly screened" really mean? For instance, while I was waiting to speak with a supervisor at the San Diego airport this last week, I observed approximately 80% of travelers being sped through the metal detectors without any kind of secondary screening (i.e. a pat down). I even observed a man set off the metal detector, be sent back, allowed to walk through again and then continue on his way after failing to alarm the metal detector a second time. People need to take a good hard look at airport security as managed by the TSA. It is a lot of show and not a lot of security. The fact that 80% of people are allowed to pass unmolested (pardon the use of the word) through the metal detector means that there is a 4 in 5 chance that someone like the shoe or underwear bombers would be able to get on a plane. What is the conclusion that should be drawn here? Again, terrorism isn't that common, just terrorizing.
Understand that I am not advocating removing all security from an airport. We need to realize that once a plot has advanced to getting whatever dangerous weapon is being used onto the plane, it's already too late, though. If would-be terrorists are able to evade the FBI, CIA, etc. why does anyone think that the TSA is going to catch them? And even if the TSA does catch them, why wouldn't they just set off their device in the airport, itself. Doing so would achieve the exact same effect. Our efforts need to be focused on good detective work before plots advance to this stage.