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The Illusion of Security

Like every other flier, I want to be secure when I travel by air. So I smilingly put up with the feelups and patdowns and every other indignity you’re put through by the TSA at every U.S. airport. At least I know I’m safe from the bad guys. Or am I?

The guy who patted me down yesterday apologized for having to do it. He told me that he’ll touch me only with the backs of his hands, assuring me, I suppose, that by using the backs of his hands, he won’t get any thrill out of it. What a relief!

Almost every test study that gets reported shows that testers can get through airport security with knives, box cutters, pistols, machetes and brass knuckles. But my poor wife gets stopped and questioned about her nail nippers, and they sometimes get confiscated. Give me a break. Bring down a jetliner with a pair of nail clippers?

I was thinking about this problem the other day in the United club in Newark. At the same time I was mindlessly eating, I saw a nice apple sitting there. Now to cut it. No problem. There was a sharp metal knife right there on the counter. Not just one sharp knife, but fifty of them.

What’s to keep a bad guy from going into an airport club or an airport restaurant, grabbing some cutlery, then bringing down a plane? Or shopping at the duty free, where a wine bottle can be purchased, broken and fashioned into a mean shiv? Hell, for all I know, you can buy a revolver at the duty free. Why not? You can get everything else there you want.

Terrorism is basically a state of mind. Sure, people get killed, but killing people is not the main aim of the bombers. The main point is is to create fear and terror. It’s basically psychological warfare.

The same can be said for security, which is also in the mind of the beholder. Let the TSA do its largely meaningless dance. I suppose that if you think you’re safe . . . well . . . you’re safe.

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