Airports and an inept government

A young man enters security at a major U.S. airport with a backpack. The backpack goes through the x-ray machine and is singled out for a search. After an elderly security guard quickly looks through most of the pack’s many pockets, the young man continues into the airport and onto his plane. When he sits down, he opens his backpack and brings out a large pair of scissors with sharp, knife-like ends.

Is this an account of the lax security before Sept. 11, or perhaps a scary nightmare? No, the young man is me and the flight was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I had accidentally left a pair of scissors in my backpack and was extremely dismayed to find that I had easily passed through the new “tight” security with a potentially deadly weapon.

This raises the important question of how effective these new security measures are. Do they actually reduce the possibility of a hijacking or are the hour-long security lines in place simply to provide a false sense of security? Has the government and airline industry sunk millions into increased security just to boost the failing airline industry? Could that money be spent better elsewhere? These are all important questions that we should address when understanding the changes in air travel security and whether that money could be better spent addressing the problem directly.

It seems evident considering the complexity of the recent terrorist attacks that the terrorist organizations are well organized and have very intelligent leaders. The implementation of security measures has been well documented by the media and there is little doubt that any attackers could once again find holes in the security. I’m sure that no one needs reminding that the terrorists took control of the planes on Sept. 11 with knives, not guns. There is no practical measure that airports could take to keep knife-like objects off planes. Without a strip search, which would clearly violate human rights, there is no way that any security measure could keep passengers from bringing non-metal knives onto the plane if it is on their person.

Americans must face the bleak fact that if a person has access to an airport inside the United States and is willing to sacrifice themselves in order to kill others, there is little that the government or anyone can do to airport security to stop them.

Why has the government sunk millions of dollars into airport security? The American people’s lack of confidence in flying is causing the already unstable airline industry to take huge losses. Their logic follows that if you are forced to break off the nail filer from your toenail clippers, you will feel more safe flying. Perhaps this offers a small measure of protection, but in relation to the funds it uses and the lost hours at the airport for most flyers, these funds could be more wisely spent.

The government has had problems in the past with ostensible uses of funds instead of effective uses of funds. What I mean by that is the government wants to be able to point to a concrete result and show the American people that they are defeating the problem. A good example of this is the government’s attempt to fight the “drug war.” The government sank a large portion of funds dedicated to the drug war on neither the demand for drugs nor the supply of drugs, but at the flow of drugs. Politicians appeared to be tough on drugs when they seized 10 tons of cocaine, not mentioning the other 1,000 tons that passed into the country. A seizure is a lot flashier than setting up more drug programs to fight the demand. The government’s concern for the public perception of their effectiveness becomes more important than dealing with the problem.

I believe that this has occurred in response to the events of Sept. 11. On thate note, why must everyone call the attacks “the events” of Sept. 11. Anyway, it seems as though discussion about airport security has drowned out more serious questions such as how the terrorists got social security numbers and why our intelligence agencies did not know of the attack. It seems as though the government is once again looking past the root of the problem.

-Creating tougher standards for visas, more thorough background checks, and increasing the size of the American intelligence community are changes that could prevent a further tragedy from occurring. Unfortunately, these changes are being overlooked in order to deal with airport security and the failing airline industry.

It is important for the airline industry to survive, but I give the American people more credit than the government does in recognizing the security concerns which will make the nation safer. Americans don’t need to have security shoved in their faces by waiting in line at the airport for two hours to feel safe on a plane. In fact, the increase in time spent at the airport has undoubtedly made flying less appealing to travelers.

The government should address the real internal security concerns that were shown ineffective by the attacks instead of focusing on a hopeless battle in airport security. American people would be safer and flying would become much more appealing.