Sunday, February 06, 2005

Airport security.

Speaking of airline travel, have you done any of that recently? Have you formed any impressions of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) procedures at airports?

In the Louisville airport (SDF) at 6:00 AM on a Friday morning, it seemed there were more TSA employees than passengers. My boarding pass and photo ID were checked three times by three different agents within a 30 foot distance. Each agent watched each of the other agents check my documents, yet each one went through the same procedure with me.

Then came the metal detection device, preceded by each passenger placing everything possible into plastic trays that are fed through an x-ray machine. And I mean everything possible.

As a frequent flyer, I know the drill. I try to wear items with no metal on them so I won’t have to strip off quite as much as others. This includes shoes with no metal eyelets for the laces.

Off came my watch and glasses, and out of my pockets came keys, coins, wallet, and a computer flash drive I usually carry. Since I also carry a notebook computer, it came out of its carry bag; and all of those items went into the plastic trays.

Before I passed through the little doorframe metal detector, the attending agent asked me to please remove my shoes. I smiled and told her they won’t set anything off; there’s no metal in or on them.

With no change in facial expression she asked me again to please remove my shoes. Now I know that shoe removal is not required (some airports allow you to walk through with them on), so I smiled again and told her, “These shoes have been through many metal detectors. They won’t set it off.”

Now she knew she was dealing with a troublemaker. With a roll of her eyes she informed me that if I wanted to leave Louisville on an airplane that day, I needed to put my shoes through the x-ray machine.

Being a perceptive, observant individual I continued smiling, pulled off the offending shoes and placed them in a plastic tray. With no further comment or acknowledgement she motioned me forward. I passed through the detector without incident and was waved on to pick up my three trays of items.

I counted 14 agents at that security checkpoint. After ensuring that I had collected all my belongings I glanced back and counted 8 passengers passing through the checkpoint or approaching it. For some reason I didn’t feel safer than I used to feel flying before 9-11.

To be fair, I’m sure that within an hour there would have been a continuous line of people going through security and 14 agents might be needed. And I guess their presence might actually prevent some idiot from getting on board an airplane with terrorist intent. But knowing that the same scene was playing out that day in literally hundreds of US airports, I had to wonder at the cost/benefit ratio.

The cost has to be astronomical. Are we truly safer having spent the money, undergone the inefficiency, and putting up with the inconvenience? Let's hope so.


Anonymous said...

Are we safer? Hell, no. It's a total waste of our money.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Yeah, well, I think we'd all agree that some airport security measures are needed, but my point was the cost seems to far outweigh the extra safety.