Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Take new angle on security

So we've been taking off our shoes in airports for 10 years now. Then it was no toothpaste or baby lotion or bottled water on planes. And now—well, we all know about the latest craziness, apparently rather belatedly triggered by last Christmas's threat of exploding underpants. Can vaginal bombs be far away?

And has all this supervision and humiliation and colossal cost actually resulted in a single exploding shoe or bomb-ready mouthwash being confiscated? A single terrorist apprehended? A single check-in arrest being made?

It seems to me we are being pathetically retroactive instead of proactive about this. Why not try a different approach altogether? I sincerely mean no disrespect to the current security staff in their blue gloves, harassed and overworked and often reviled by the ungrateful public as they are, the poor things. But rather than more and more gizmos and technology, wouldn't our billions of dollars be better invested in training programs that would graduate a new type of highly specialized and qualified airport security staff?

They should be well-paid professionals akin almost to therapists and psychoanalysts, with skills specifically honed to recognize unusual or questionable behavior. They would move freely among the airport crowds, observing body language, talking to and (as in Israel) maintaining eye contact with every passenger going through check-in. Anywhere in the airport, at any time, a traveler causing the slightest suspicion or doubt could be politely asked to step aside, at which time further investigation would be warranted and appropriate. Not foolproof, of course, but most experts agree there's no such thing as 100 percent safety anyhow.

Finally, and at the risk of sounding terribly crabby, I couldn't help noting (without much surprise) that one of the companies supplying airports with these new zillion-dollar, high-tech scanning machines doubled its lobbying donations to politicians last year. Surely this couldn't have anything to do with the issue at hand?

Just thought I'd mention it.

Diana Fassino


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