The latest security restrictions in place in airports and on airlines are simply ridiculous.
Customers travelling from the UK will be able to take on board as hand baggage one cabin bag no bigger than 45cm x 35cm x 16cm, the size of a small laptop bag, inclusive of wheels and handles.
Cabin baggage MUST NOT contain:
- Any cosmetics
- Any toiletries
- Any liquids
- Any drinks
- Cigarette lighters
Cabin baggage CAN contain the following:
- Electronic equipment, including laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras and portable music and DVD players
- Essential medicines in liquid form provided they are under 50ml. Customers will be asked to taste the liquid. If they cannot taste the liquid for any reason they will be asked to go to an airport pharmacy to have the medicine verified.
- Baby milk and liquid baby food (the contents of each bottle MUST be tasted by the parent)
Nothing must be carried in pockets.
The TSA’s list says the same thing but with more detail, carefully forbidding such things as gel shoe inserts and eye drops.
And what is the point of this? How many terror attacks have been avoided by forbidding liquids? Not a single one. The suspected terrorists who were caught, were found through old-fashioned spy work.
The airline security people are thinking about and reacting to the last attack, not the next one. And not reacting in a rational way, either. There has been no analysis weighing the costs against the benefits. The measures put in place are unlikely to have much positive effect, while they cost a lot in money as well as lost time. It’s all security theatre, to use Bruce Schneier’s term: the people in charge want to be seen to be doing something, anything, no matter whether it’s efficacious at all. And of course, they don’t bear the costs, either.
If history repeats itself – which it often does – and things go the way they did after 9/11, these measures may be relieved somewhat, but a large part will become part of a new system and will remain in place for years. Just think of all those concrete barriers and blocked-off roads in lower Manhattan, and all the bag checks at every public building, including museums. Like the liquids thing, it’s mostly theatre: the bag checks at London’s museums are cursory at best. But once they’ve been put in place, they become sticky and remain, no matter how useless and annoying they are.
All this theatre achieves is whipping up hysteria. Which, as many people have pointed out, is exactly what terrorists would want.
Here are a few good articles about how we (that’s “we” in a very loose sense) are letting terrorists scare us into ridiculous and irrational behaviour.
Bruce Schneier on overreactions to so-called “security threats” and more of the same from Salon. The dropped iPod story is among the most ridiculous, but there are so many more that it’s hard to choose the most egregious ones among them.
For a longer-term perspective, read Cityscape of Fear, a Salon article about how security measures (of dubious value) trump design in architecture and planning. And again, appearances matter more than actual efficacy:
“A lot of security folks are trained to believe that a place needs to look secure,” Chakrabarti says. Indeed, one of the paradoxes of security infrastructure is that sometimes appearance can be more important than actual strength. A Tiger Trap is more effective at blocking a truck bomber than a Jersey barrier – but a Jersey barrier looks more menacing.
I don’t want to go along with this any more. I have – luckily – no flights planned for the near future. And when we plan our next holiday, I’m more likely to choose someplace I can get to by train. And I am turning back from entrances that impose yet another gratuitous bag check on me, most recently at the Scottish Parliament building.
I want the rest of the world to wake up and see the absurdity of what is going on.
On second thought, the silliest “security” action is pretty obvious after all: not allowing someone to fly because they had Arabic text on their T-shirt.