I’ve spent a good deal of my time standing in airport security lines thinking similar thoughts to those so eloquently expressed in this recent New York Times item about the folly of airport security today.
In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.
For several reasons — particularly the awareness of passengers and crew — just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be thinking about how to improve airport security in our nation and around the world. In fact, as the article states, there are several examples where we’re making good solid decisions that should lead (and have lead) to real protection. But add up the amount of time each instance of needing to confiscate liquid of more than three ounces in volume occurs, multiply every one of those times the number of people standing behind that situation in line (all of who have to wait extra time now), and when you add up all those hours, divide the average life span of a human being into that amount, and I wonder how many people we have, in that sense, “killed” by the measures we’ve implemented in the name of saving lives.