John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

Airport Security Theater

July 2nd, 2009

I’ve mostly been able to avoid flying, so the recent trip to Ireland was my first experience with the changes since 9-11.  The last time I had flown before that was in the summer of 2001 – and that was enough security hassle for me so I rightly guessed the modern scene would be a total nightmare.

The most obvious problem is the scope of what they’re attempting:  a full inventory of every passanger and his or her belongings.  While they spare no expense in attempting to verify every single thing, they do spare time.  Everyone is being rushed through crowded corridores and I find it hard to believe that sneaking things through would be impossible due to the simple fact that so much is being examined in such a short time.  Sure, large metal objects will be found, but that was the case back when the metal detector was the only standard exam.

Its even possible that more time could be spent inspecting cargo and passangers by killing redundancy.  When leaving Dublin, I noticed that we had to pass through four American security checkpoints before boarding and leaving the plane.  Why is security searching people who just passed through U.S. security?  Do they think we picked up some terrorist hitchikers when we were seven miles above the ocean?

Incidentally, this is when my Irish whiskey became triple sealed.  First of all, they come in sealed bottles from the duty-free shop.  Now although the duty-free shop is after Irish airport security, it is before American airport security.  This means the sealed bottles of whiskey had to be sealed into a bag and stamped by a U.S. security guard to get on the plane.  That’s two seals but that’s not good enough!  When we landed in Philidelphia, we were informed that nothing from duty-free shops would be considered secured and we’d have to get them … yes … inspected and stamped by security.  This led to the third seal:  boxing up my sealed bag of unopened whiskey to be sent with checked baggage.

The establishment of redundant security checkpoints has affected the layout of several airports.  Passangers are corralled through long hallways and unused basements, often walking for an hour in a big circle rather than be allowed to move inside the secured zone of the airport terminals.  U.S. Airport Security guards in Dublin aren’t trusted in Philidelphia, and U.S. Airport Security guards in Jacksonville aren’t trusted in Charolette.  Don’t even get me started on London – they take distrust to third world levels.

When I flew in from Europe in ’01 it was a lot different.  Security met us at the terminal and inspected for produce (and I guess drugs, but all they got were apples).  Customs was right outside and they singled me out for heavy inspection (probably because I look like a hippy).  Anyway, despite that hassle, it was a lot less infuriating then the current security theater.

Today’s guards don’t have the time to inspect suspicious looking people like me, yet everyone is subject to standing in lines & running through hallways for more time than it would have taken to do so so they can wave you through some xray machines displaying a blob of grey lines.

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