New TSA procedures

| Comments (2) | Security: Airport
Since some clown from Nigeria decided to try to blow up a 777, apparently the TSA has decided to give us some new security procedures. They're sooper secret, but apparently pretty cool:

TSA has a layered approach to security that allows us to surge resources as needed on a daily basis. We have the ability to quickly implement additional screening measures including explosive detection canine teams, law enforcement officers, gate screening, behavior detection and other measures both seen and unseen. Passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport.

Anyway, the new rules appear to apply to international flights into the US and include secondary screening for everyone, requiring passengers to stay in their seats for the final hour of the flight without any carry-on baggage in your lap, including laptops, pillows, and blankets. The other major restriction is restricting you to one carry-on bag. (There are rumors of a no electronics policy but that seems to be only sporadic). I just saw a report on Canadian TV about how much this is slowing things down in Canadian airports and I'm looking forward to experiencing it myself on Tuesday.

At least for me, it's pretty hard to see any rational connection between these restrictions and security (see here for the thread on the TSA blog where commenters express frustration and TSA doesn't even confirm that these restrictions are policy, let alone defend them). Certainly, if you were carrying a bomb you could set it off at any point during the flight. In fact, it's not clear to me that there is anything special about the last hour, except that I guess it's more likely to be over the US, for whatever that's worth. As for limiting you to one carryon, I suppose that's designed to minimize the number of bags they have to screen.

More to the point, it's not clear that any new security measures are required. Eventually someone was bound to try to blow up a bomb on a plane and someone eventually did. It's not like we didn't know that you could carry plastic explosive on your body through the magnetometer, so what exactly has changed that merits reassessing the method of screening, let alone the screening effectiveness/inconvenience tradeoff? I suppose one could argue that maybe this attack is potentially part of a coordinated effort and thus tightened security efforts are temporarily appropriate while we investigate if he had any collaborators, but if that's true at some point TSA should revert to their previous policies. I don't see any reason to keep them at this level indefinitely.

2 Comments

<pedantry>Not 777, A330.</pedantry>

Most of the restrictions seem to be temporary, like the ban on flights after the 9/11/2001 attacks. That makes some sense, like coming home to a busted door and checking the house for burglars. Checking for burglars every time you come home for the next few years would be silly.

The TSA.gov blog is mortifying. Taxpayer-funded doggerel.

In my undergraduate dorm, someone who didn't live in the dorm had come in and made a death threat against a resident. The housemaster responded with weird rules, like not letting the doorperson buzz in people without an ID, even if they were friends. But wouldn't the best policy be to only buzz in people you personally know?

As always, look at the incentives. There are a small number of us who say the policies are irrational, but there are large masses who think that any terrorist attack means that our leaders have failed us, and our leaders respond appropriately.

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