We’re all suspects

January 2, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

The circus surrounding the alleged “underwear bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, reveals what authorities should know but are probably too stubborn to admit – airport security, x-rays and scanners are ineffectual. The rigmarole we go through to get on a plane does not necessarily halt a determined terrorist or suicide bomber.

I was about to do a post on this very issue but you have thankfully been spared my rantings because Andrew Gilligan says it far better than me in The Age in an article entitled “Treating everyone as a suspect is absurd“. I urge you to read his article in full. He interviewed an intelligence expert who said that airport security is merely ”theatre”, designed to reassure the public rather than to stop would-be bombers. And the chilling part of his article is his relating of how a woman breezed easily through 24 different airports without being detected and with the complete components of a bomb concealed on her body.

But it’s the conclusion of his article I find very powerful:

Airport security means, above all, starting long before the airport, with intelligence. Abdulmutallab was already known to the authorities, and on a watch list; it should therefore have been very easy to single him out for extra checks. That was the failure in this case. That is the answer, not ever more machines, ever more guards, and ever more grannies taking off their shoes.

One of the defining characteristics of Western governments, such as Britain’s Labour Government – from child-molester checks on school volunteers to ID cards – is its belief that everyone is a suspect. Not only is that illiberal, it just doesn’t work. What it means is that the guilty get missed because the authorities are spending too much time hassling the innocent. That lesson applies as much to airport security as to any other area.”

Bravo is all I can say.

Entry filed under: Airport security. Tags: , .

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