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Fixing Security Issue Isn't Always the Right Answer 361

Posted by kdawson
from the lawyers-guns-and-money dept.
Trailrunner7 writes "In a column on Threatpost, Bruce Schneier writes that the recent security breach at Newark Airport shows that fixing a given security problem isn't always the right move. 'An unidentified man breached airport security at Newark Airport on Sunday, walking into the secured area through the exit, prompting an evacuation of a terminal and flight delays that continued into the next day. This problem isn't common, but it happens regularly. The result is always the same, and it's not obvious that fixing the problem is the right solution. American airports can do more to secure against this risk, but I'm reasonably sure it's not worth it. We could double the guards to reduce the risk of inattentiveness, and redesign the airports to make this kind of thing less likely, but that's an expensive solution to an already rare problem. As much as I don't like saying it, the smartest thing is probably to live with this occasional but major inconvenience.'"
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Fixing Security Issue Isn't Always the Right Answer

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  • A guy wanders in through the exit, and they evacuate the terminal?

    If it's really necessary to evacuate the terminal each time this happens, wouldn't it be cheaper to hire a guy to stand there to stop people from coming in?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you've read the article:

      "This kind of security breach is inevitable, simply because human guards are not perfect. Sometimes it's someone going in through the out door, unnoticed by a bored guard. Sometimes it's someone running through the checkpoint and getting lost in the crowd."

      • I have a friend that snuck into Estonia by going through the exit. Had an interesting time explaining on the way out how he got in :)

    • Seriously, if someone noticed him comming in, then confront him and send him right back the way he came; if he refuses escort him out of the area and press charges if he is truly unruly. Admit that 99.99% of the time it's going to be someone lost and/or looking for a family member and move on.

      • The problem is that the guard on the exit *didn't* notice. And the passenger who noticed wasn't allowed to go through the door, and let's face it, probably didn't relish taking the (admittedly small) chance that the person in question really was dangerous, so they found a security officer on their side of the exit to report the breach to. Of course, by then it was too late; they had video footage of the person who went through the door, but they couldn't find him. The problem wasn't that the door was unwatc
    • Re:Overreaction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:38PM (#30659228)
      Well, in a "sterile" security zone, one unapproved person can ruin everything. Even if you find him/her, they may have given an weapon to somebody else who was screened earlier and passed. Yep, you've got to clear out the zone, verify there's nothing hidden, then rescreen everybody.
      • Re:Overreaction (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:54PM (#30659474)

        Is it even possible to "verify there's nothing hidden"? You can hide a small knife, or small bit of C4, pretty much anywhere--- taped under a bar stool, in a potted plant, etc.

        • This is why there's a wait before the first person is let in. The staff in an airport are trained to look under every seat, etc.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vlm (69642)

            This is why there's a wait before the first person is let in. The staff in an airport are trained to look under every seat, etc.

            Unless, of course, his accomplice was one of the staff. How hard is it to get a job as a baggage handler, a flight attendant, a contracted guard, or those check in people? Probably not too hard. Or, someone else sneaks in with fake uniform and ID, then F around while holding the goods while everyone else in uniform is "searching the zone" then hand "it" back once regular travelers are returned and sneak back out, thus eliminating the job interview/background check/hiring phase.

            Also assumes they didn't sn

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PPH (736903)

      wouldn't it be cheaper to hire a guy to stand there to stop people from coming in?

      No, because the people who are capable of staying awake through an entire shift of this duty command very high salaries.

      A turnstile (as others have suggested) would be far cheaper. But it doesn't contribute to the security theater, so its not done.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MobyDisk (75490)

        So you are saying there is a market for menacing turnstyles that intimidate people who near them?

        Man: Walks toward turnstyle.
        Turnstyle: Don't even think about it.
        Man: Stops, looks at the turnstyle, confused.
        Turnstyle: I might be electrified. Did you think of that?
        Man: But... I am going through the right way!
        Turnstyle: How do you know I'm programmed to care?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tiberus (258517)

      Guess, that depends on how the problem occurred?!? What security measure failed and why? Is it as simple as someone just being human, lack of education?

      We seem much too willing to spend too much time and money to solve problems where the cost-benefit ratio is all wrong. I want to be safe but, I want to live my life. I would like a bit more life at the cost of a bit less safety. I don't feel safer, I just feel annoyed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eudaemon (320983)

      I walked through that exit on Sunday - Continental @ Newark and there's a bored guard and a sign that reads if you pass this sign, you have to go through security again. JFK has a slightly different system where there's a huge (large enough to accommodate a person and their luggage) rotating glass door. No idea if it has a turnstile mode or if it can pushed from either side.
      Which one is really better? Not sure but the guard @ JFK seems to be paying attention anyway. Isn't a full height turnstile

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      a guy from Slovakia had a bomb on a plane and nobody even noticed :) http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/fury-over-slovakia-smuggling-explosive-on-flight-440837.html)

    • Re:Overreaction (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @04:12PM (#30659716)

      I don't know what the answer is, but "terrorists" could have a field day with this. Imagine a group of a guys going through security the wrong way at a dozen major airports nationwide. The resulting delay due to evacuating everybody, screening the facility, and then rescreening everybody would result in millions if not billions of dollars worth of time and money lost. It is basically impossible to prevent this, the risks are low (this particular guy didn't get caught, and even if you do get caught you'll be out of jail in a short while), and the impact is potentially huge - majorly inconveniencing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people for half a day or more (not to mention all the lost time and money I spoke of earlier). I think this would be much more effective than any previous terrorist incidents, particularly if they did it regularly every couple of months or so.

      • by vlm (69642)

        I don't know what the answer is, but "terrorists" could have a field day with this.

        Yeah, but not like you were thinking

        Terrorists love concentrated targets right?

        There is not much traffic thru the doors on average so they're not much of a target, right?

        But your accomplices just "forced" the authorities to shove the entire freaking contents of the airport thru the out doors as fast as they can because of the "threat" that got past security?

        And the out doors and your OTHER accomplices are way outside the security perimeter?

        Shots ring out, kaboom, mayhem, etc, then stampede panic leading to

      • by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @04:59PM (#30660494) Homepage Journal

        Good thing you got modded up - I wish you'd posted this logged in, because it's a good point.

        We've gone so far overboard on security that our own security responses often exceed the costs that an actual attack would impose.

        One dude, maybe a thousand dollar fine/couple days in the clink, can shut an airport down for much of a day, costing millions. Classic asymetrical warfare.

        Heck, the terrorists have already switched from attacking the secure areas to attacking the approach to the secure area. Ever seen the queue to get into the secure airport area? I have a nasty imagination. Just take a suicide bomber, no need for a plane ticket, and have him approach the security area like he's got a ticket and is going to board. Then detonate when in a particularly crowded spot. Heck, he could even have a fairly massive 'carry-on' filled with explosives.

        Then again - if I was a terrorist I wouldn't be looking at transportation right now. That's where we're looking. I'd look elsewhere for my targets.

    • It's even cheaper to just face reality and understand that anyone who really wants to bypass security can do so.

      That's the results of hundreds of tests, repeated ad nauseum, at all major US airports. The evidence is incontrovertible. We need to stop pretending that airport security has any useful function other than controlling the aftermath of an incident.

      And stop pretending terrorist activity is more common than normal incidents like equipment malfunction, disease, thievery, etc. that we don't react to s

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      They do hire a guy, they just manage to hire morons.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      They already do that, but it happens anyway. Human failings.

      But I completely agree with the opinion piece. The reaction to 9-11 is overblown and simply useless against real threats.

      I rather liken the problem to typical philosophies associated with disease and prevention. Some people believe that avoiding bacteria and virii at all costs is the best solution. But the result of this strategy is that even though fewer bad things get through, when they do get through, the body is completely unprepared to han

  • Why don't we take a page from other controlled-access systems and install some basic turnstiles-like gates? (With appropriate modifications so that they're not a major hassle for travelers). That would easily prevent casual, accidental intrusion, and make deliberate intrusion a little more difficult.
    • by dfsmith (960400) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:40PM (#30659276) Homepage Journal
      Or waterslides! You can't climb back up those.
      • That's actually a much more plausible suggestion then turnstiles, and fun. No one would object to the added security of waterslides! Think of the children! They'd love it!
      • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @04:09PM (#30659674) Homepage
        Take away the "water" and you have a modest proposal which is just this side of plausible (and hilarious to boot). Want to leave the secure zone? Go down this slide! You can slide your luggage down the luggage chute, next to the passenger chute - no worse treatment than it would get if it were checked. For the elderly or wheelchair-bound, have a staffed elevator. (Bonus: revenue from tips!) And no one's going to run through that one when they're not supposed to.
        • The elevator is actually a good idea. Press to go down. Elevator returns to the top automatically. Ultrasonic, infra red and weight sensors verify that the elevator is empty before it goes back up.

      • by Skater (41976)
        I'm thinking a moving walkway that goes quickly enough that even a fast runner wouldn't be able to cross it the wrong way. Bonus: at the end, the travelers get thrown toward the baggage carousels.
    • by jgtg32a (1173373)

      Luggage and turnstiles don't mix, hell you could just have door that don't have handles on one side and have written on the glass do not enter.

      • by residieu (577863)
        Make the airlines remove the ridiculous charges on checked baggage, and then ban all carryon luggage that can't fit under the seat. If you can fit it under the seat, you can easily carry it over the turnstile.
        • by AGMW (594303)
          Nothing to be carried as hand luggage unless there's a medical need for it! There's an end to a HUGE amount of carry-on luggage screening right there! The time saved can be used to more thoroughly check the people and their exploding shoes and undercrackers.

          Some of the cheaper airlines might not be happy as it's gonna slow down their turnaround, but maybe the airports can just get better at getting luggage in and out of the hold!

          • by nelsonal (549144)
            I've never understood why the charge is on bagged luggage (which seems to be handled very efficiently) rather than carry on luggage (which greatly slows turn time and annoys most of the other passengers).
      • by FooAtWFU (699187)
        The point isn't the turning-bar-configuration per se, it's the fact that you're trying to control access with a modicum of hardware (instead of with people). Something like BART / the DC Metro (which have the folding (/ \) configuration) would be spiffy - have two gates in a lane, and enough room between them for a luggage cart or a couple giant suitcases.

        The "glass door" configuration is a simple implementation of this, and would be fine for small airports, but it could suffer at very busy airports as pe

    • Because going through turnstiles with luggage sucks.

    • by MiniMike (234881)
      Turnstiles wouldn't work. How about requiring exit by passing over a moving walkway? It would constrict the flow of people to a narrower area, making it difficult to go against the flow. Luggage, even wheelchairs, would be easy to pass through, and there's less space for the guard to scan. If sensors detected anyone going the wrong way, the speed of the belt could be adjusted (increased) to keep them out. De-planed passengers would also get to the baggage claim quicker that way...
  • Why is airport security a tight wall in one direction, and a totally open path the opposite way? Shouldn't there be a gate that opens if you're exiting the airport, and creates a barrier if you are coming in from the wrong side?
    • If you just use a door that only opens from one side, an intruder (accidental or otherwise) can easily go through after someone else opens the door, but before the door closes. You need a rotating full height gate that only turns one direction to fully prevent problems. Those sorts of gates are common in places where they're practical (NYC subway system for instance). But in an airport, everyone is toting around luggage of non-trivial size. You'd need to increase the size of the turnstile dramatically to al
      • by xrayspx (13127)
        In most airports that I've been through, you leave the terminal to reach baggage claim. Therefore the luggage that people will have with them when exiting through a rotating door-gate would have to be "trivial in size", since it would have to fit in an overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. Big luggage comes later, after leaving the "secure" gate area.
        • I have a small-to-middling duffel, as well as a small rolling case. Both fit in the overhead trivially (and I don't even have to stick them in sideways to do so, I'm not a total dick). In order to fit one through an NYC turnstile, I have to hug them to my chest and push forward at half speed or less, both because I want to avoid catching on anything (it's a real pain if the strap catches on the prongs) and because it's hard to push when your hands are holding the luggage. It's usually not a huge deal, becau
        • by FooAtWFU (699187)
          Why rotate when you can do it airlock-style?
        • by pnewhook (788591)

          In most airports that I've been through, you leave the terminal to reach baggage claim.

          Not the ones here in Canada, but you do have to leave the gate area to get you luggage. To get back to the gates you would have to go back through security.

      • Door A only opens when the airlock is empty and door B is closed. Door B only opens when door A is closed and people are in the airlock. Various cheap sensors determine whether the airlock has items in it. Human observer is a fall-back.

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:44PM (#30659330) Homepage

    Passengers book flight online, and program their flight int an RFID tags.
    Passengers enter the airport naked, and in small groups. No worldly possessions will be allowed.
    Muslims are winnowed at this stage.
    (The last mile must be walked to the terminal because of the dragons teeth protecting the airport from demo-trucks.)

    Passengers are rendered unconscious using anaesthetic gas.
    Robotic staff, load the unconscious passengers into special crates that deal with feeding and excretion.
    Passengers are hooked up to neutral interface, and last years crappy films are played directly into their minds.

    In case of emergency, all crates have auto-ejectors. First-class passenger crates have parachutes.

    • by SomeJoel (1061138) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:48PM (#30659382)

      Passengers are hooked up to neutral interface

      It was a good idea until this part. I think the interfaces should be highly opinionated.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        It was a good idea until this part. I think the interfaces should be highly opinionated.

        I strongly disagree!

      • by sconeu (64226)

        What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Passengers... program their flight into RFID tags. Passengers enter the airport naked... Great -- so where am I supposed to carry my RFID tags? Up my ass?!? I can't -- it's already full of explosives!
    • Well I think part of the point here is that there's no "perfect security". It all has trade-offs in terms of cost, accessibility, and even opening new security holes.

      For example, if you put a bunch of robots in charge and have no people present, that means that there's no one monitoring the robots. If a robot is hacked, it could do absolutely anything. Not having a single conscious person on the flight means that if a terrorist somehow gets on, no one will be there to take him down. Or there's this:

      In case of emergency, all crates have auto-ejectors.

      Tha

    • by CDS (143158)
      That's all well and good, until they run out of lemon-scented napkins.
  • Sorry folks but the US airport system was designed for a time when there was no threat of terrorism and planes were basically just a fast Greyhound solution. Having a single Exit (as is common at most European airports) which means a single guard can stop people entering means that its extremely rare to have this happen at a European airport. This is the "advantage" of having airports that are primarily designed for international travel and so the exit is where customs also resides.

    Crap security, appallin

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      He didn't say it would be hard to fix, he said it probably isn't worth spending loads of money on a small problem.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      Sorry, but European-style airports really wouldn't have fixed this. I like European airports better because they look and work exactly like any other airport in the world but they have less of a security theatre and are easier and faster to process through.

      Actually, for US-bound planes most airports in Europe (except for the really big ones like BRU, AMS and CDG) have to implement a make-shift corridor for American-style #ITA security screenings. If you ever have the opportunity to go to eg. Crete or an ex-

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Sorry folks but the US airport system was designed for a time when there was no threat of terrorism

      There is still little REAL threat of terrorism. One taser-armed sky marshall per plane and good cockpit doors could replace all the expensive security theater and actually make you safer, instead of making you think you're safer.

      Plus, your odds of dying in a plane crash caused by equipment failure or human error are vastly higher than your odds of dying at the hands of terrorists.

  • by blcamp (211756) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:49PM (#30659404) Homepage

    Just ban everyone from airplanes altogether. Problem solved.

    (It seems as if we're heading down that road, really...)

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:49PM (#30659406)

    The fact that a routine error can cause major institution like an airport to grind to a halt is a sign that its operating procedure needs to be revised. It's stupid to just live with it when there are alternatives

    For example, there's been a lot of recent talk about updating our airport screening to look more like Israel's [thestar.com], where they've been thinking about terrorism a bit harder and longer than we have. I'm sure there are other alternatives too. However, remember that the point of terrorism is to cause fear and economic loss to industrialized countries, and to bait us into a self-destructive overreaction. By that standard, they guy who walked through the wrong gate pulled off a pretty impressive piece of terrorism, at basically no real risk to himself. You don't want to enshrine a system where this sort of exploit is possible, or else every group with a quibble can hold an airport hostage.

    • Thank you for the link. It was fascinating. I have heard about Israels calm, rational security, but didn't know the details...

    • by SoTerrified (660807) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @04:44PM (#30660206)

      The Israeli system mostly works because of one thing... Racial/cultural profiling. Oh, they'll tell you they look in people's eyes for signs of evasion or shiftiness, but if you watch for a short while, you'll notice that the 'random' people they pull out for further screening have certain things in common...

      And you know what. I'm not sure it's a bad thing. Let's be blunt, for all our political correctness, the vast majority of bombers do have certain cultural commonalities. No system is perfect, but if you can focus more attention to the highest risks, you get a more efficient system. That's why their system works. Speaking for myself, as someone who is pretty much the opposite of what they are looking for, I walked through security in minutes. Is it fair? Well, no, but it's hard to argue with the results. A location that is FAR more likely to suffer from terrorist attack is safer and much more efficient at protecting themselves than those of us in North America.

      • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @05:27PM (#30660940)

        Um, you do now that casualty-wise, in the US over the last 20 years, a large percentage of Terrorism Victims are from White Militia members, right? Between Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, and The guy at the Atlanta Olympics... (which only killed one person, and indirectly...)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Simetrical (1047518)

          Um, you do now that casualty-wise, in the US over the last 20 years, a large percentage of Terrorism Victims are from White Militia members, right? Between Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, and The guy at the Atlanta Olympics... (which only killed one person, and indirectly...)

          Have you gotten up to 2,973 killed by white militia members, and more than 6,000 wounded? Because that's how many people some Arab Muslims killed in one day a few years back. I think it's safe to say that Arab Muslims are a bigger terrorism threat than white militia members right now. (Although both are of course much smaller threats than, say, getting killed in a car accident.)

    • by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @04:44PM (#30660230)
      I agree. As a non-American, and a Muslim at that, I am regularly surprised and somewhat amused at the reaction of the US every time an air port security breach happened. I mean, stop and take a step back to look at the whole picture. Here we have the most powerful nation on Earth, with enough nukes to glass every major city on the planet and with aircraft carriers whose jets out number most third world nation's air forces, being afraid of people getting lost or with their pants on fire. I think al-qaeda or whoever they really are, very quickly realized that they don't even have to try very hard to send the US into a fear-over reaction-panic infinite loop, hence the "pants on fire" "bomber" (I don't even think that this term applied to him). By provoking the US to attempt to cover every possibility, eventually all its resources will be stretched thin while at the same time, innocent people will get caught in the net, increasing the noise to signal ratio not to mention animosity towards the US. Go ahead and adopt stricter screening procedures all you want, especially from Israel, that shining beacon of democracy and equality. It will only add to one more reason why people won't want to go the US. History (China, Japan etc.) has shown what happens to countries when they turn turtle and shut their borders.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Or better yet, just move* out of the USA and somewhere into Europe.

        Looks nicer over there, and better services for tax garnished.

        *speaking as a citizen of USA, specifically Indiana.

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:54PM (#30659482) Homepage Journal

    We've had airport security for decades. When did it start? Early seventies? The only time we needed airport security to work, it didn't. Why do we have to shut down an entire airport because one hapless person entered the wrong room? It's a terrible over-reaction, making us all look like wusses. It's like seeing people freak out because they see a spider. Big deal. Take the spider outside, end of story. No evancualtions. No freak-outs. No delays.

    The thing is, the last time we had a real incident, at Christmas, the guy managed to get on and do everything necessary to kill a few hundered people. Only the incompetence of the bomb maker saved the plane and the guy burned his nuts.

    So what did we do? Throw him in jail. Get him lawyered up so he won't talk, and THEN our illustrious Czar of Homeland Security gets up and says, "The system worked."

    WTF????? Just WHAT about the system worked? What is she smoking?

    It did NOT work. It was epic fail. With all these regulatons, with all this taking your shoes off, go through the detectors, 3 oz of liquid max, the delays, evacuations, and freak outs over nothing, the system still is epic fail.

    • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @04:10PM (#30659696)
      Not only that, but I heard a radio phone in show today where a TSA spokesman was asked why we never hear reports of successes. The response was that the TSA had been successful thousands of times in preventing people from traveling. Is that the sole purpose of the TSA, to find plausible reasons to prevent or delay people from traveling ? If their measure of success is the number of people that they prevent from reaching their destination, then they are Al Qaeda's greatest asset.
    • In all your hatred at the current administration, did you stop and think that maybe, just maybe, we don't have federal agents at the Amsterdam airport? We do not do the security at foreign airports. Perhaps,in your fox news repeating Vitrol, that got lost. But it was an international flight, from a foreign, soverign nation.

      The system worked as best it can. Bruce Schneiner (how is that last name spelled anyways!) says the only 2 things to come out of 9/11 with regards to airport security, is re-inforced

  • I've got it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skelly33 (891182) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:54PM (#30659486)
    One of those moving walk ways that moves only in the direction of the exit and completely fills the width of the exit corridor. When someone is detected trying to walk the opposite direction, it can speed up a little and wake up the guard who is posted - because there is always already a guard posted. This would be less obstructive than a turnstile door/gate which is a pain to pass luggage, wheelchairs, children's strollers, etc. through.
    • by AGMW (594303)
      Nice one ... and the added benefit of actually speeding up all the slowcoach muppets as they leave the airport through what is almost always a choke point!
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @03:56PM (#30659500)
    "Fixing security issues isn't always the right answer." Haven't I heard this before... from Microsoft?
  • Although I agree the investment is probably not worth it at most airports, at places like the big 3 in NYC, O'Hare, Boston, etc, it would be fairly easy to put a "peoplemover" at the exit to the concourse. I.e. get on the moving belt, ride out of the exit door. To "accidentally" go the wrong way would be HIGHLY unlikely. They already have these things all over the airports, just install a few (side by side?) at the exits. Let the guards and cameras sit there and watch. Hell, a camera could use motion detect
  • The solution to wrong-way passenger traffic is known - big one-way powered three-leaf revolving doors. [hortondoors.com] LAX has had those for decades. They're just very large revolving doors, big enough for several people or a cart, which rotate slowly and are powered by weak motors. But if somebody enters the wrong side, they stop moving, and if necessary back up a little to let the bozo out. Sometimes somebody gets trapped and alarms go off, although this takes some effort.

    There are other revolving-door arrangements

    • by AGMW (594303)
      A couple/few big revolving doors for those who have to travel with so much luggage and maybe some express turnstiles either side for those who travel light.
  • Sep 11 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nsayer (86181) <nsayer.kfu@com> on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @04:23PM (#30659836) Homepage

    I take it a step further.

    The security theater that has been implemented since 2001 has raised the cost (in dollars, time and convenience) of air travel enough to divert enough travelers to the nations highways that I posit that we as a nation have suffered more death and injury than had we reacted to the Sep 11 attacks by literally doing nothing at all.

    We kill more people on the roads annually than more than 15 such attacks would have done.

    Meanwhile, UBL's grand master plan stopped working even before the last airplane was grounded that day - the passengers found out that the rules (give hijackers what they want and you get out alive) had changed and the last plane did not make its target. And because everybody knows the new rules of engagement, that plan will never work again - regardless of any changes (or lack thereof) in government policy.

    There are exactly 3 things necessary for airport security:

    1. Make sure that no luggage gets on the plane without its associated passenger (you can't blow up the plane without going along for the ride).

    2. Metal detectors to keep guns out. The alternative is allowing anybody to carry, thus insuring the entire plane will wind up swiss cheese if any funny business starts. That's a less than positive outcome, IMHO.

    3. Lock and bar the cockpit doors for the flight's duration.

    And for extra credit

    4. Research applying the military's UAV technology to the air transport system. If enough improvements can be made in assuring positive aircraft control, there's no reason the flight deck as we know it needs to exist on the plane at all.

  • Whatever your opinion ont he safety at airports, if we could double the guards at the exits/entrances and it *could* help with people like myself who aren't always paying attention to where their feet are taking them, then by all means lets employ some people and bring down our unemployment numbers a bit :)

  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @05:55PM (#30661314) Journal

    Back in the 80's I was working for an oil company and had to catch a flight to a different city to make a determination on a potentially contaminated batch of jet fuel. This was to a very small fuel terminal that did not necessarily have the right equipment to capture a sample of fuel. What I was dragging along with me was some sampling and analysis gear. Being in a hurry, since this was going to be a flight to an airport, to do work on airport property, catch a flight back the same day, I hand-carried my gear along.

    Here is how the conversation went at security screening;

    "Miss, what is this thing in the box?"

    "Oh, that's a test bomb"

    -- you can imagine what happened next, needless to say I was NOT catching that flight and United would not reschedule me on ANY flights for several days. ---

    What I had was a "bacon test bomb" http://www.koehlerinstrument.com/products/K27700.html [koehlerinstrument.com] it was packed in a wooden crate that I was hand-carrying on-board the aircraft. It is just a shiny steel cylinder, about the size of a thermos container but has a funky plunger assembly inside and a length of coiled up line to lower it into the tank.

    It is used to grab a sample off of the bottom of a storage tank so I could in turn, run flash-point tests on a 50,000 BBL tank of aviation fuel. The airline was rejecting the batch, claiming that it was contaminated with gasoline (bad, bad thing for jet aircraft).

    Since then I have learned to give pause when speaking to security screeners

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