Changing up the airport security

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The New York Times reports that TSA is planning to make some significant changes in airport screening procedures:
  • Allow scissors with blades under 4 inches and tools with blades under 7 inches (but not knives).
  • Randomized secondary screening. (Hey, didn't they used to tell people that it was randomized before?)
  • Varying the screening procedure. This would allow you to do intensive screenings of say carry-on one day and shoes on another.
  • Pat-downs of the lower body.

All of these seem like sensible moves, though of course, I tend to think they could go further and allow knives. Then I could bring my Leatherman.

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I have one of these multitools on my keyring:

Phillips and standard screwdrivers in both full and micro size, plus a small needlenose pliers. But no knife blade.

It will be nice to be able to carry some basic tooling on the plane

How much will they be charging for the lower-body pat-downs?

Depends on whether you want a happy ending.

  • Passengers are now typically subject to a more intensive, so-called secondary search [...] because of anomalies like a last-minute ticket purchase

In other words, terrorists and business travellers.

  • What happens next will vary. One day at a certain airport, carry-on bags might be physically searched. On the same day at a different airport, those subject to the random search might have their shoes screened for explosives or be checked with a hand-held metal detector. "By design, a traveler will not experience the same search every time he or she flies," the summary said. "The searches will add an element of unpredictability to the screening process that will be easy for passengers to navigate but difficult for terrorists to manipulate."

I'm not a terrorist, nor do I play one on TV, but it seems to me that an easy way to manipulate this new system is to send one operative with something in the carry-on bag and another with something in the shoes. The TSA will be very pleased with themselves that they caught one of them with their new difficult-to-manipulate scheme.

  • This new category of random checks and the more comprehensive pat-downs can be done without causing significant delays, officials said, because of the enormous amount of time that will be saved because screeners no longer have to confiscate small scissors or tools, a policy change first reported in The Washington Post. These kinds of sharp instruments are now found in about one in four carry-on bags.

I love it! Travellers have sucessfully mounted a DDoS attack that's resulted in the relaxing of a (stupid) rule. Far out.

  • All knives will still be prohibited, as well as drills, hammers, saws and crowbars, according to the summary document.
    "The threat today is not someone taking over an aircraft with scissors or a knife," Mr. Mica said.

Hm. Knives aren't a threat, but they're still banned. Hm.
And I can't bring a hammer, but I can bring a monkey-wrench.
The rules are now different... but still nonsensical.

  • allowing scissors and small tools on planes was a mistake.

    "These items in the wrong hands can become dangerous instruments that can ultimately threaten both air marshals' and travelers' safety," Mr. Adler said.

Indeed; as can forks, pens and pencils, and many other everyday objects.

More security theatre.

The randomized screening actually seems like a fundamentally bad idea to me.

If I search bags on one day, and shoes on the next day, this means I have a 50% chance of finding a terrorist that uses one of the two methods. In other words, I now have a 50% chance of preventing a given terrorist attack.

It is not clear to me that suicide bombers (or the people that finance, equip and send them) would be deterred by a 50% chance of failure. As a previous poster pointed out, they will most likely just send two people.

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