Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Without a Net

This weekend over dinner with relatives visiting from the great Midwest, the question "Are we really more secure since 9/11?" came up. If a dinner lasts beyond dessert and into lingering drinks, the topic is inevitable. Borders, ports, chemical plants: the usual culprits were acknowledged, pondered, and--with a shudder of anxiety--discarded for lighter fare.

Today, I read commercial pilot Patrick Smith's essay on a loophole I didn't know existed. While all of us who fly are allowed to admire the smart uniforms and cocky personae of the pilots and flight attendants standing in the snaking, shuffling security lines with us, it turns out we are not allowed to see something else.

Hector, who works for an aircraft-cleaning contractor, is shuttled from the parking lot to the terminal, where he slides his ID badge through a magnetic reader on a security door and walks, backpack full of day's gear, to a waiting Air France 777 whose seat backs he must empty and toilets he must scrub. Without walking through a metal detector, having his bag searched, or talking to security personnel. And the Hectors of United States airports number almost one million. If he's been through a background check at all, it might be overlooked or otherwise ignored. Background aside, nothing prevents him from doing what he will, unsupervised, inside a plane awaiting takeoff.

Read it. It's astonishing. More importantly, Smith lends his usual level-headedness to a possible solution.

Question of the hour: While a zero-tolerance security environment is cost-prohibitive, why can't the TSA focus more on security itself than the perception of security?

2 Comments:

Blogger ajmac said...

That is astonishing. You know that if we know about it, Al Qaeda does, too.

10:39 AM  
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7:18 AM  

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