Airport Policy and Security Newsletter #1

Topics include: baggage screening.
As everyone takes stock of where we are on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack, I want to be sure that you did not miss the commentary below from today's Wall Street Journal. These excerpts from Scott McCartney's "The Middle Seat" column reinforce the conclusions of Reason's July 2002 policy study #298 on baggage screening. Here's what he wrote:
    "By April next year, cockpits will be secured by bulletproof, bomb-proof doors . . . . All that means the security circus in airport lobbies should really be focused on bombs that could destroy a plane. That's where the potential danger is, and where the security effort is struggling the most.

    "A deadline to scan all checked baggage for bombs by Dec. 31 is a looming nightmare for travelers. Congress has ordered that billions be spent on machines that are unreliable and slow. Lots and lots of false-positive readings will require thousands and thousands of bags to be opened and hand-searched, simply because the machine can't distinguish between a fruitcake and a bomb.

    "The technology isn't yet up to the challenge, but Congress has bought it anyway. It's a huge mistake. Airports ought to be required to use more proven methods, such as residue swiping, bomb-sniffing dogs, random searches, and yes, more aggressive profiling, to deter terrorists. Instead, these bomb-scanning machines threaten to cripple air travel. Passengers at some airports may need to arrive three hours before departure if they are checking bags . . . .

    "What needs to happen? Congress needs to get smart about the Dec. 31 deadline and let the Transportation Security Administration deploy methods that work right now, and bank some of the billions earmarked for bomb-scanning machines until the next generation of technology is ready to go."

Robert Poole is Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy





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