Sunday, December 27, 2009

React And Soothe

As more details come out about the man who tried to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit, it's interesting to see what security measures have been implemented and will be implemented in response.

As to the immediate response:

Federal authorities have called on airlines and airports around the world to tighten security measures, including frisking all passengers headed to the U.S., performing additional searches and limiting passenger movements during the latter part of a flight.


The new guidelines limit on-board activities by passengers and crew members while in U.S. airspace. Among other things, passengers must remain in their seats during the last hour of flight and cannot have access to their carry-on items or place any personal belongings in their laps.

That's all well and good, but notice that this man tried to use the same explosive material (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) that Richard Reid, to whom we owe our barefooted screening procedures, tried to use. So rather than screen for or detect PETN we remove our shoes. After all, there's no place else you could hide PETN. Until now.

When police discovered a plot involving the manufacture of triacetone triperoxide on aircraft in order to destroy them, rather than consider how unlikely the plan would succeed, we were restricted to three ounce limits for liquids and gels.

However, you'll find there are exceptions for which no terrorist would dare use for their nefarious purposes.

To ensure the health and welfare of certain air travelers there are no limits on the amounts of the following liquids, gels and aerosols you may carry through a security checkpoint:

* Baby formula and breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling;
* All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including KY jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes;
* Liquids including water, juice, or liquid nutrition or gels for passengers with a disability or medical condition;
* Life-support and life-sustaining liquids such as bone marrow, blood products, and transplant organs;
* Items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline solution, or other liquids; and,
* Gels or frozen liquids needed to cool disability or medically related items used by persons with disabilities or medical conditions.

Put a black hat on and the possibilities are mind boggling which makes it a seemingly impossible task for those in the prevention business. Hence the security theater we are forced to play our part in every time we fly.

Some passenger reactions were also in the L.A. Times article.

The new measures were noticed Saturday by Diane Sen, 23, and Neill Dass, 24, of Portland, Ore., who spent their honeymoon in Fiji. Before boarding their overseas flight to LAX, they said, they were screened three times and saw extra staff and dogs patrolling Nadi International Airport.

Sen said she did not mind the additional scrutiny and the thorough search of her carry-on bag. "The more we have, the better we feel," she said.

And that is precisely the point of security theater.

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