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Transportation Stupidity Administration – Part II July 17, 2007

Posted by federalist in Transportation.

Today we’re treated to a regular feature of post-9/11 journalism: The “I can’t believe the stuff people try to bring on airplanes” expose. What should be satire is apparently reported in all seriousness:

Steve Ekin pulled out corkscrews, pocketknives and assorted hand tools before finding an electric impact drill as long as his arm. “You’d think people would know better,” he said.

As someone who regularly flew with a 3.5″ pocket knife before 9/11, I’d think the TSA would know better. What is somebody going to do with an electric drill — find a 112VAC receptacle and start making small holes in sheet metal at 35000 feet? Corkscrews, bats, saws, scissors, nail guns — we’re supposed to be scared that these tools are going to somehow facilitate a massacre of civilians? Or that they could breach the reinforced door of a cockpit before the flight crew can employ any countermeasures?

For every banned item I’m sure we could think of ten that are permitted that would be at least as effective in achieving whatever nefarious objective was imagined. Box cutters are forbidden? Well what about one of those aluminum cans from the beverage service torn open to form a lethal cutting blade? Bludgeoning instruments like bats and golf clubs are forbidden? What about a large man with the ability to clench his fists or fire off an elbow strike or head butt?

I’ve said it before: The failure on 9/11 wasn’t our screening policies. It was our assumption that terrorists would not try to use heavy aircraft as weapons. Securing the cockpit was an appropriate response. Arming pilots was a good idea. Arming passengers to provide suicidal terrorists with a quick means of meeting their maker would also be appropriate. This charade that imagines that we can remove every means of mischief from human beings by searching and harassing them is absurd.



1. Hamilton - July 30, 2007

True… but innocent boxcutters were effectively and maliciously used. Why not letter openers and corkscrews? On flights I’ve been on recently, we were given metal forks and knives with our meals.

Still, I don’t think an air marshall or any number of heroic passengers is going to be intimidated by most of those tools you mentioned if they are wielded as weapons. The trick is HOW they are used. One crazed passenger can lure out the hidden air marshall so that two accomplices can target him/her first.

Terrorists are creative and determined… banning a variety of instruments is a heavy-handed, obtuse way of trying to stay one step ahead of them.

Nobody would have asked all passengers to remove all shoes before the failed shoe bomber incident.

Flying is still 90% less of a pain in the ass than taking a cruise.

2. federalist - February 17, 2012

Bruce Schneier:

[E]xactly two things have made us safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door and convincing passengers they need to fight back. Everything else is a waste of money.

3. federalist - January 2, 2013

It may have taken 12 years, but maybe the end is in sight for the TSA.

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