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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Over-reacting or Good Policy?

Today, new TSA restrictions go into effect, prohibiting one more item from being carried on to aircraft in the United States. That item? Lighters.

Their reasoning almost makes sense. Remember Richard Reid? He tried to light a shoe bomb with matches. Logic then dictates that if he'd have a lighter, then he would have been able to light the bomb. Well, yeah... but... maybe he couldn't light the bomb because he was an idiot and was messing with the matches for too long. And since you can still carry on safety matches, if a would-be shoe bomber practices his lighting technique a little bit more, then you've still got a problem.

I guess I'm not really upset over the lighter ban (I'm not a smoker- what do I care, right?) My concern is over the knee jerk reaction our government has toward airline safety. It's panicky, and it rarely makes sense. Airlines had to re-do their menues because they can no longer have metal utensils, but you can carry on metal knitting needles with no problem. You can't carry on a Leatherman tool (or any other kind of tool unless it's in an eyeglass repair kit) but you can take on ball point pens (ask any martial arts expert how deadly those can be in the right hands).
When we were at London's Gatwick airport, I had an interesting (very brief) exchange with one of the security personnel. We were in line to go through security, so I got out my laptop (set on standby, of course) and got ready to show it to the guy at the metal detector. When I got up there and started to open it, the guy just looked at me and said, "American, right?" I nodded. "Put the laptop away. We don't worry about things like that. We've been doing this a while longer than you have."

That made me think. Yes, we'd been living in a dream world up until 9/11. No one could touch us, right? So... when the unthinkable happened, did we look to those with experience? Did we call El Al and ask about their security? Did we talk to our allies, the British, and ask about their safety measures?

My plan? (You knew I had a plan, right?) Inact logical restrictions (99% of what the TSA is doing is good, I guess...) Draw on the knowledge of our friends. Don't worry about being politically correct- the little old lady in the wheel chair is probably not smuggling in explosives in her girdle. It's not racial profiling if the vast majority of the people who are out to attack us are part of one particular demographic (sorry, Sam!) And relax a little. I don't mean our standards... I mean that having high strung people in charge (both at security check points and within the heirarchy) doesn't help anyone.

Oh, yeah... one more thing. Order boxes of TSA stamped safety matches. Seriously. You're gonna have plane-loads full of antsy smokers otherwise. Put them in the smoking areas inside the terminal. It's the least you can do.

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