Mysteries of the Air
Arvamus 01 Feb 2010  EWR
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Jens F. Laurson & George A. Pieler | TCS Daily

On February 7, the Airport Security-2010 conference convenes in Dubai. Featured on the program are forums and workshops on technology, overuse of technology, and even "Middle East criminals." Nothing about Islamist extremism, though.

The 2009 holiday season exposed this weakest links in air travel security. The near-disaster of Flight 253—thank God for wardrobe malfunction—betrayed more than just a "systemic" problem, as President Obama put it. It unveiled a deep-seated cultural fear of confronting the hard realities of 21st century Islamist terror. Until that fear is overcome, air travelers will probably be less than secure, and definitely, massively, inconvenienced.

The shoe bomber robbed us of our footwear, which President Obama finds amusing. Pushing high-speed trains in Tampa, he said "those things are fast, they are smooth. You don't have to take off your shoes." Then, foiled plots took away standard-size gels and beverages. Now we can expect routine pat-downs and electronic strip-searches, while experts argue whether technology alone, such full-body scanners, can or cannot detect the PETN explosive concealed in Mr. Abdulmutallab's intimate garments. Inconvenience and anxiety ratchet up a few more notches, with absolutely no assurance risk is being reduced, except the politicians' risk of being accused of not having done something—anything—about potential, unforeseen dangers. We are, however, protected from possible assaults by Joan Rivers while Halle Berry gets a special security-avoiding escort: O Canada!

All this would be funny if it were funny. The truth is rather less funny—we have no more excuses for avoiding the obvious. We should look closely at the actual passengers actually boarding each flight. That, alas, leads us into the politically incorrect territory of "profiling."

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