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Why It's Time to Break the Code of Silence at the Airport (linkedin.com)
262 points by eplanit on Feb 13, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 229 comments

I opt out every time that I fly, and I always request a public screening, because I want people to see me being patted down. It's amazing how many people still aren't aware that they have the option. I've talked to a few folks in line about it, and even convinced one guy to opt out after me. Set an example and be obvious about it.

Funny story - on my last flight, the patdown resulted in an alert for some banned residue on my clothing, so the TSA took me aside to a private cubicle, re-ran the patdown, came up clean, and then left me to pack my stuff up and go on my way. In this cubicle with me were two 5-gallon buckets filled with confiscated lighters and pocket knives. Someone thought it was a good idea to leave me to re-pack my luggage unsupervised in a room full of contraband with no additional security checks. I didn't take anything or do anything untoward, and I wanted to point it out to the agent who'd patted me down, but I'm sure that would have just flagged me as suspicious and I would get to expend extra time being thoroughly searched. If that doesn't tell you how hilariously bad security is, I'm not sure what will.

The same thing happened to me. Fun fact, sunscreen residue trips the detectors. If you go to the beach the day before you fly, you will be tagged.

A couple years ago, my dad flew on the 5th of July. As he was getting screened, he commented that they must be getting a lot of false-positives that day. The agent replied that they didn't check for those kinds of explosives...

What, gunpowder?


I think they want to make the pat-down _look_ as humiliating as they can so that people will be discouraged from choosing it.

I think a good thing to do may be to make sure other passengers around you hear you opting out of the scanner.

You are allowed to take lighters on the plane. Not sure why you saw a bunch of confiscated lighters.

No idea. It was clearly a bunch of Bic lighters, though.

Not sure about in the US, but here (Australia) you are only allowed to carry 1 lighter per person.

You mean besides the fact that pocket knives and lighters pose no real danger?

Wasn't flight 93, according to the official version, hijacked by four people using pocket knives?

Before 9/11, all plane hijackings in America were a matter of a hostage scenario with some money. The safe thing was to let the hijackers do their thing.

Now that we know that the hijackers maybe be terrorists who want to use the plane as a weapon-- the American people will resist.

Flight 93 hijackers had box cutters. I'd be happy to go toe-to-toe against a guy with a box cutter.

"the American people will resist" Some will, some won't, some will follow a leader. People tackled hijackers before 911 and people have tackled hijackers since 911.

you have to admit the status-quo has changed with regards to public understanding of how to deal with "terrorists have taken over my airplane." before 9/11 it was a scary affair but basically was reduced to the same equation as a mugging: let them do what they want, it will all be over soon, it's not worth being a hero over. not the case anymore, quite the opposite.

I'm dubious. Be cool to see some hard numbers.

Cockpit doors are secured now, which really limits the damage a person can do with simple tools.

and by secured u mean what exactly?....

I recently moved to the U.S from Israel. If there's a country that knows about Airport security, it's Israel, for obvious reasons.

Let me tell you this - most of the security procedures in U.S airports are pointless and ridicules. Taking off your shoes and your belt. Holding your hands in front of a screen. Pat downs. We have the technology to avoid this (and have had it for the past 20+ years). If you've been to Israel, you know it's a completely different procedure, and I can guarantee you it's way more secure. They focus more on behavior profiling through multiple inspection points and with a series of questions they ask you AS YOU WAIT IN LINE for checking in your luggage. No fuss, no body strip checks, no taking off pieces of clothing. X-ray screening is done by simply walking through the machine, while your baggage passes a different machine.

Airport security in the U.S feels like the result of bureaucracy and procedure for the sake of appearance.

EDIT: clarified what I meant by profiling.

As an Israeli, you see the "easy" side of Israeli security.

As someone who has flown to Israel for work, I can tell you that if you're not Israeli or Jewish, you don't get such a great experience. And according to one of my Arab American coworkers, it can get much much worse than what I experienced.

I just don't see how the profiling that takes place in Israel would ever work in a multicultural society like the US.

You should read the article in the comment below yours to understand what I mean by "profiling". I did not mean special treatment by race or religion - crazy fanatics and terrorists come in all shapes and sizes.

Israel is very multicultural; there are over 1.5 million Arab Muslim Israelis, and Israeli Jews include Americans, Europeans, Russians, Ethiopians, and various flavors of Arab/mizrachi Jew.

Yup, and have you tried asking those Arab Muslim Israelis how they feel about flying?


FWIW, I had the rare pleasure of flying into Gaza airport shortly before its runways were bombed by the IDF. It took me 4 hours to get through security and back into Israel, and I'm a pointy hat short of a Viking (blond hair, blue eyes, the works). Can you imagine the treatment an ordinary Palestinian gets?

Its not an issue of it not working -- it would be illegal. Illegal things can not happen in plain site in the US, and the airport is one of those places.

Everyone knows the TSA is a joke, these are people who are qualified to do very little else. The TSA procedures are just noise to make the racial profiling look less obvious.

TSA employees lack the intelligence to profile effectively. Probably the standards in Israel are higher.

You make it sound as if Israeli security is uninvasive. I'm an American who visited Israel last September on business. The security checkpoint before getting on the plane in Frankfurt was quite stringent and was separated from all other security checkpoints with its own entrance. I had a metal detector passed over my whole body, including the bottom of my feet. When I entered the country I was asked many questions about why I was there. When leaving the country, all my baggage was opened, the contents removed, and every inch inspected for explosives. This was done in two phases, first for checked baggage and the second time for carry-on bags. It seemed like this was also done for every passenger as I didn't see anyone being passed through without having to go through this procedure. Before walking through the metal detector, I did not have to remove my shoes, but I'm almost certain I did have to remove my belt and empty my pockets, as seems to be standard procedure everywhere now.

It's not standard procedure in Israel. You were scanned by local airport security personnel, and each place has its own procedures. I had to go through something similar when leaving on a direct flight from NYC to TLV - additional security at the gate leaving to Israel. Those are probably in place because Israel is considered a high-risk country at the moment - but they have nothing to do with how airport security is handled in Israel.

The only thing I mentioned that did not take place in Israel was the departure from Frankfurt. Everything else happened at Ben Gurion.

I was really intrigued to learn about Israel's approach to airport security, especially given the relative threat they face. Here's the article that I read a while back: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2009/12/30/the_israelifica...

Seems like the US could stand to learn something.

The TSA is experimenting with behavioral screening of this kind. I was screened at Logan last time I flew.


There are two problems with it, I think. First, it requires a fairly well-trained interrogator or it's no better than window dressing. Second, when it's effective, it's almost always perceived as rude. U.S. border guards have been doing it for years, and it's one reason they get such a bad reputation vs. those friendly Canadians on the other side. Deployed on a large scale, I bet more folks here on hn would be complaining about it than about the nude scanners. "What do you mean I have to tell an agent of the government what I'm planning on doing in LA?"

I've found the best way to avoid them is to wear a suit and to constantly look at your smartphone like you're an executive who's aggravated with a business problem. If they question you give terse responses with a hint of being annoyed but without being rude. Or even be a little rude but apologize highlighting how you're dealing with a problem at work. They tend to move on.

Yeah, that is also a good way to get your phone confiscated at the border in the US ...

Interesting article, thanks for sharing

I asked friends who have traveled to Israel about the situation there, and one friend shared this recent news story, "Shocked Dudamel reconsiders Israel future after double airport harrassment,"


suggesting that once in a while a foreign visitor to Israel finds the security procedures there annoying.

Another friend recommends giving a careful read to the United States Department of State travel information for United States citizens planning to travel to Israel:


But will Israeli security practices scale? Ben Gurion served a bit over 13 million passengers in 2012. JFK served over 47 million.

You should check the article in one of the comments in this thread - Israeli methods actually reduce security overhead. If there's anything the U.S is good at, it's logistics - I'm sure they can scale it just fine.

I had to take off my pants in Ben-Gurion on my way from the Google Tel Aviv office. It was more invasive than any security check I've ever heard of in the United States.

I recently moved to the U.S from Israel.

Baruch ha'ba! Where did you move to?

> Besides, American airport security is the "gold standard," isn't it?

Depressingly, this is the same logic that keeps Americans from improving anything. Because they're constantly told they live in the best country in the world(TM), Americans are apathetic when it comes to making things better (healthcare, education, poverty rates, incarceration rates, living standards, etc.), because they think it's already "the best".

> Americans are apathetic when it comes to making things better (healthcare, education, poverty rates, incarceration rates, living standards, etc.), because they think it's already "the best".

A great many of my fellow Americans are worse than apathetic. If you point out areas where we can improve, some Americans will actively attack you through accusations of treason and verbal abuse. (Seems to be 10X worse in Texas than any other place I've lived.) It's as if they're willfully trying their best to ensure they won't ever learn anything.

When I was travelling through the US, it seemed to me that the state religion of some Americans is "America" - and like all religions, it's not up for questioning.

I noticed that this patriotic religion increased and I had a lighthearted mental count going in my head of how many houses had a little US flag in the front yard (in LA, this would be on the other side of the yard as the post telling you which security company would respond to a burglary). It seemed to me that the more patriotic-religiouse areas hit one beflagged house in every 4-5. To be fair, most areas didn't have any flags or rare flags, but when it got to one in five... anyway, this theory was turned on its head when I stayed in a part of Pittsburgh where it was one in five houses that didn't have that little flag...

Generalizations like these are exciting. Let me try too...

I've yet to meet an American who didn't think at least one one of these, if not all, were completely broken.

Source: I live in America.

Not that it's a great source of truth, but this one says a massive majority of Americans still believe they live in the best country in the world:


> I've yet to meet an American who didn't think at least one one of these, if not all, were completely broken.

More importantly, what are any of those people doing about fixing the things that are broken?

There's a difference between having the best X and living in the best country. A lot of nations have fantastic X but would widely not be considered anywhere close to the best place to live. In theory you could rank at #10 in all things desirable and still be the all-round "best" place.

The US is a good country and the citizens are indeed well off. We're not trending in a good direction on average and a lot of things need to be fixed, but it's still a very good place to live.

> but it's still a very good place to live.

Spend some time looking at the statistics [1] and you'll see that in almost all key areas, America ranks dead-last among developed countries, and is often more comparable to developing countries than developed ones.

Compared to undeveloped countries, you are right, America is a very good place to live for the average Joe on the street. Compared to developed countries, it is not.

[1] http://www.oecd.org/statistics/

America is a pretty good place to be above-average. Our good schools, for example, are pretty expensive, but they are really good. Same goes for high-end medical care, and, for that matter, taxes. It's a pretty nice place to be above-average, even though, yeah, for the average and below, you are probably right.

The thing, I think, that most of us miss is that, well (and I am in this category too,) most of us think of ourselves as above average.

As Steinbeck said, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

From my experiences, even just looking at my own feelings, this is absolutely something built into the American culture. I go on like I'm wealthy, and I do own a company with a very high revenue, but profit? what I actually get paid? well, I'm barely above average. But I still see myself as 'above average'

I think this explains most of the very American phenomina of poor folks voting for various policies that disproportionately favor rich folks.

I don't really see America ranking dead last among developed countries. I see it average in almost every statistic. Perhaps average in everything actually makes for a great country?

Can you be more specific with your assertions? Linking to a huge dump of statistics and making claims about them is a bit disingenuous. What makes it not good for an 'average joe' compared to developed countries?

Have a look at murder rates, poverty rates, heart disease rates, obesity rates

I think America is the best country in the world, that doesn't mean I don't think everything is broken or that America is the best at everything. I feel like America is certainly weak in certain key areas, but in many areas America cannot be beaten. Even on this site, PG has mentioned that it's hard to replicate the Valley in other countries.

Where do you live, might I ask? Have you spent significant time in America?

I've visited Jamaica, Scotland, England, France, Canada, and South Africa and interacted with expats from a number of countries and I've never had the impression that any developed nation would provide me a better quality of life. (Okay, I lie, when it comes to soccer/football, almost any European country would make my life better). In fact, in every country the people I've interacted with have universally complained about the same issues that are fundamentally broken in America (healthcare, immigration, education, etc).

Granted, I am most certainly a privileged American. I'm a white male. I have a masters degree, a job making more than median household income.

tl;dr: I'm not sure why you've decided to champion the cause that America is bad on HN today, certainly America has a lot of issues, but every country does.

> I think America is the best country in the world, that doesn't mean I don't think everything is broken or that America is the best at everything. I feel like America is certainly weak in certain key areas, but in many areas America cannot be beaten.

Most importantly, how are you trying to fix the areas that are broken? Are you even doing anything towards fixing them?

> Where do you live, might I ask? Have you spent significant time in America?

I'm in Canada these days, I lived a year on the West Coast of the US and a year on the East. I've spent another year driving all around, I've spent time in ~40 states.

> In fact, in every country the people I've interacted with have universally complained about the same issues that are fundamentally broken in America (healthcare, immigration, education, etc).

Right, because they're interested in constant improvement. It doesn't matter how good healthcare in Norway is (brilliant) - it can always be imrpoved upon.

That is the mentality that is lacking in America these days - the drive to constantly improve upon things are sometimes good and sometimes bad.

> I've never had the impression that any developed nation would provide me a better quality of life.

You're OK with more than double the chance of being murdered? or involved in a violent crime? You're fine with double the chance your kids or their friends will be born into poverty? You're happy your child is massively more likely to be obese and have serious medical complications because of that? How about incarceration rates? How about police violence rates? Student debt? (you don't even realize you graduate into servitude)

If you're happy, that's great. Other countries do it better.

Where do you live in America?

I know several Americans who think those are all in fine shape. They tend to be Republicans living in places like Arizona. I don't meet a lot of people like that in Los Angeles, but they really do exist.

I'm a republican (think Barry Goldwater, not George Bush), from North Carolina.

No 'republican' around here is happy with anything, everything is broken and it's all Obama's fault. :)

If you're a Republican in the spirit of Barry Goldwater, then you should do as Barry Goldwater did and become a Democrat!

Seriously, his belief in individual liberty lead to sharp disagreements with his party on abortion, gay rights and drug laws, with the result that by the 1990s he was endorsing and voting for Democrats over Republicans.

Usually people I talk to about this seem to think things are broken, and yet learning from other countries would just make it worse.

It's a mentality I really think is going to hurt the country in the long run. The only way to stay the best at anything is to keep striving forward - like Singapore does with education.

And this is still my favorite clip from a TV show- somewhat related. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MYjyLg8bbo

I went to an Ivy League school, and I spent a bit of time working for the office of Alumni Relations. About 90% of the alumni members of "The Greatest Generation" I spoke with seemed to be convinced that the country was going down the tubes, and my sense was that this was something more than just the bitterness of old men.

Laughable, travel to Israel. There have been numerous news stories on the security theatre that is the TSA.

Quite a few Americans know things are broken. Just many that do tend to adopt an apathetic or indifferent attitude about it (i.e. "It sucks, but what can I do about it?", "I don't like it, but how can we make it better?" or the worst one "It doesn't affect me really.").

disclaimer: I'm an American Citizen.

Try flying into or out of Israel. Israeli airline/airport security is far and away the best in the world.

> Depressingly, this is the same logic that keeps Americans from improving anything...because they think it's already "the best"

So this is why there is no innovation in America? We are all culturally caught up in tradition and taught in such a rote manner that we can't innovate? You should see the caste system we have -- inflexible tradition all the way!

The 'can-do' attitude that the country is famous for does seem to be evaporating. Sure, it's still present on an individual level (witness the point of this site), but it seems that the idea of nation-building projects is gone, perhaps even considered evil by some in the current political climate. When faced with war in the 40s, the nation banded together and did amazing things never before seen. While today, when faced with impending financial doom, everyone's content to merely bitch about the politicians bickering. Roll up your sleeves and put some sweat equity into building the nation? That's a long gone notion in terms of the national psyche, it seems.

I dunno, I don't have particularly clear examples, but as an outsider, Americans used to have a reputation as having a real can-do attitude, but recently it seems to have... attenuated? More content to fiddle while Rome burns?

I'd just like to chip in that, in Sweden, I've come across a lot of people who use the exact same saying to things that can be improved in general.

I think this rhetoric is a lot more wide spread than just the United States of America.

The author gives three very persuasive reasons for NOT "breaking the code of silence", with no explicit rebuttals to them.

Perhaps the implied point is that by calling people to arms to speak up, the peer pressure (reason #2) will crumble, and those who do speak up will not be labeled crazy (reason #1). As for "you'll miss your plane" (reason #3), I'm not sure his solution, but I assume it would be something along the lines of "they can't make everyone miss their plane".

A decent article, but its conclusion paragraph "The next time a TSA agent asks you to do something you're uncomfortable with, say something. [...]" is bad advice. We need to speak up, but not at the moment of the offense when we have least credibility - it must be from outside the queue, where we have a stronger position.

The TSA's budget is just a tad short of half that of NASA's. Cutting back on the little-old-lady-molesting budget and giving the cash to space-explorers seems like a no-brainer to me. However, I'm not an American.

Not to call out your comment specifically but I've always been curious why when people advocate against government spending on one thing they always feel the need to say it would have been better spent on something else as apposed to just not spending it at all. The general argument seems esp. perverse in light of the fact that the US Government is so far in the hole in terms of both total debt and yearly deficit.

It's a way to point out how wasteful spending on the TSA has become. People lack intuition for numbers on the scale we are talking about. Does $8.71 billion seem huge compared to $8.70 billion? (I'd sure like to be making $0.01 Billion a year!) By suggesting something specific be done with the funds one can give some impression of the potential that is being wasted.

For the record, I'm not disputing the fact that airport security is ncessary. I'm just arguing that it's only good in moderation. The TSA is both too intrusive for the security they provide and extremely wasteful. Back-scatter X-ray machines are a great example of this. The first models used were not adequately tested and proved to be easily defeated. The solution? Replace them, at tremendous expense, with a new generation of machines that have also not been adequately tested. At the same time, x-ray back-scatter vans are being rolled out on a truly alarming scale. It's a cash bonanza for someone!

Economic allocation means that if you're not spending time and treasury to one end, you're spending it on another. Now, if you want to advocate private-sector spending as opposed to public, that's fine. However economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources.

The comparison of budgets among different programs is helpful to provide perspective (though both TSA and NASA are minor components of the Federal budget overall) -- 0.22% and 0.5% respectively -- the US Federal budget is huge: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/newsgraphics/2011/0119-...)

Note economic stimulus resultant from the space race. Compare with the money being spent that actually ends up slowing economic activity.

I think we could cut the budget significantly by dismantling our surveillance state and cutting useless law enforcement (TSA, drug warriors, etc.). But people seem to feel better cutting something like social security and medicare which we pay into.

It's hard to see the impact of not spending the money, but it is easy to see the benefit of spending the exact same money towards something that actually gives a return on investment.

Here's perspective: The TSA's budget is on par with what we estimate the CIA and NSA use.

The freaking CIA.

How much of the TSA's budget is secretly diverted to the CIA?

Given that the TSA budget is about $7B and that the total intelligence budget is around $50B, that seems a tad high.

You are talkin' loco. That could mean American excellence once again and we have vowed to end that.

> little-old-lady-molesting budget

How about a bit of maturity ?

The TSA performs a legitimate role that is required by EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY. Yes. Every country has a TSA. The difference is in the aggressiveness of their searches. So how about instead of this "abandon the TSA and let every gun toting idiot board the plane" why not focus on the specific policies.

Yes, as soon as the TSA begins loosening its procedures like other countries(using your example), gun toting idiots will come out of the woodwork to board flights. Obviously this is what happens in every other country. The current TSA procedures are the only thing stopping the hoards of gun toting idiots attempting to board planes.

To be fair, the US does have more than its fair share of gun toting idiots.

Look, just because you're another radical, misinformed anti-gunner, doesn't mean the rest of us should have to tolerate the abuse the TSA doles out. The simple facts are, the VAST majority of gun owners in the US never, ever use their firearm in the commission of a crime, and are just as lawful, peaceful and smart as you are. You could totally legalize carrying firearms on airplanes and you would still be just as safe as you are now. Worrying about a passenger with a gun causing a problem would make as much sense as worrying about getting struck by lightning.

>The TSA performs a legitimate role-

I'm going to stop you right there: bullshit.

The TSA shenanigans make us less safe by causing a false sense of security while being completely ineffective. The private screeners we had pre-9/11 did a better job. The one or two things necessary to prevent another airplane-as-missile attack are already done and don't require any government intervention. #1, locks on the cockpit doors, #2, passengers who will kick your ass if you try anything.

The "mature" thing to do is to disband the TSA. End of discussion.

Well when they quit molesting old ladies, we'll stop pointing it out.

You know, I flew quite a bit before the TSA appeared in 2002, and somehow those flights were free of the "gun toting idiot" you are so afraid of. Must have been magic, since apparently the TSA is the only thing standing in their way.

Seriously. I have to wonder if he even considered why the 9/11 hijackers had to use box cutters of all things. As we learned that day, box cutters only work if everyone expects to live if they cooperate. No adult flying today would have such an expectation.

Isn't Hacker News suppose to be about tech stuff? Why is this political stuff making it to the top? I realize a lot of people here fly a lot and so anything TSA related is relevant to them, but there are other places on the internet to discuss these political issues.

As a side note, some of the posters rabid hatred for the TSA is borderline concerning. These people are normal folks with a crappy job doing what their bosses and the US government tells them to do. They aren't heartless demons whose sole existence is to make your air-travel uncomfortable. Every time a TSA post comes up (which seems like once or twice a month) I am shocked by the type of comments people leave here when they refer the the TSA and their employees. Frankly I expect a lot more from comments here than in other places on the web.

If everyone's excuse for doing evil things is "it's just a job," "not my department," or "above my pay grade," then those evil things will continue. Everyone is responsible to make an ethical decision with regard to the jobs they will accept, and the assertion from the HN posters to which you refer appears to be that those taking a TSA job have made a questionable ethical decision in doing so.

As for why it's on HN, many here have dealt with being treated like an outsider or an inferior, and have a heightened awareness of such issues. There's a long tradition of geeks taking up non-geek causes because they would want the same (that is, non-geeks taking up geek causes).

Not sure how moderation works on HN. Are there mods who are supposed to take this kind of stuff down?

I flagged the original post though.

The TSA needs to go. The security theater we have to go through every time we fly does NOTHING to make us safer. It's all just a big show.

Too many people are making too much money from it. Good luck.

And billions down the drain.

The most disturbing thing about this article is this fact:

"But in a recent poll, one-third of Americans said they would be in favor of cavity searches to board a plane. No, you didn’t read that wrong. Cavity searches."

What the hell, people?

I suspect there's an implied "of other people" there. Or maybe they think that the backscatters have an ultrasound in them somewhere.

Latex up the butt would be a great way to get people pissed enough to do something.

Yup, "of other people".

Remember that the median number of flights taken by an American in a year is zero.

Millions of armchair patriots are perfectly happy to sacrifice someone else's convenience for the edifying notion that we're beatin' them terr'ists. The war on terror they see is a far-off unreal spectator sport, not daily personal violations of human and constitutional rights.

Well, he's restating something posted on something called TSA News Blog, which was just repeating something mentioned by Jonathan Turley, who was reporting this little factoid courtesy of Infowars, so yeah, I'd say it's completely credible all around.

Curious: Does anyone have any sort of information that the TSA has even prevented a single terrorist attack?

As in: Terrorist was going to board a plane, and the security that we all go through stopped him/her.

You get some surprising results if you google it... just wondering if any of you have any futher knowledge.

Spoiler: The answer seems to be "No".

Worse than "no", many independent tests were run by "false negative" terrorists -- people who weren't actually planning anything but were probing security by bringing contraband onto the plane -- who were actually successful. It's worse than bad.

Don't you think that if they had, it's all we'd be hearing about for months/years afterwords? I can't imagine they'd catch someone then do anything less then blast it all over the news.

I met a TSA airport agent a few months ago and, naturally, asked him exactly this. Apparently, the TSA purposely does not release accurate statistics as a security measure and that he and his colleagues have definitely stopped a lot of potential, but minor, scenarios from happening.

I could be wrong and uneducated about this, of course.

I worked for the TSA for about 6 months a few years ago. They convince employees that catching a knife from some traveler who forgot to put it in their checked baggage is a huge win and that somehow we saved the day yet again. Happened on a daily basis.

Our biggest catch while I was there: one day we caught a guy with a sword. The guy obviously didn't know what he was doing, apologetic, and confused. Of course, our managers talked it up as a big win for TSA security. Can you imagine a terrorist trying to take over a plane with a sword?

Without statistics it's hard to say what "potential" meant, doesn't it? The TSA reports that they find 4-5 guns each day. People forget that they have their gun one them or in their luggage.

These incidents are reported. Are these part of the "potential, but minor, scenarios"? It's hard to say without knowing the statistics. But it's safe to assume that "minor" means "not terrorism related."

I can't come up with any scenarios where the release of accurate statistics would cause a security problem, except to lower the security of the TSA's own existence. To take it up a notch, are all of the accurate statistics from 2010 still so sensitive that none of them can be revealed? I don't think so. But I don't think those have been released at all.

FWIW one thing I really appreciate about living in Australia is the complete absence of security hassles when flying vs. the US.

I've flown domestically within Australia half a dozen times in the past couple of years and I don't think I've been asked even once for ID.

Obviously they screen your carry-on luggage and you walk through the X-ray machine, but it's reasonable and relaxed security compared to the US.

It's fine for non-travellers to go through security and meet friends or family right at the gate as soon as they get off the plane. Very civilized.

The only time I've been through a body scanner is in Australia. Just recently returned to the US through Melbourne airport where I had a 'wtf' moment when I saw the scanner. I was selected (about 25% of the people went through it, I'd guess) and when I said I'd rather have a pat down - as I do in the US - they told me that if I refuse, I would be escorted out of the airport and banned from returning for 24 hours.

I argued for a little bit but eventually had no choice, not really being able to miss the flight.

The old system with metal detectors and xray screening of luggage was more civilised, imo.

Things have really changed, ... When I was a child I used to fly from Devonport (a small city) to Melbourne a lot. In those days, you didn't even go through security to get onto the plane in Devonport - they put you through security after you disembarked in Melbourne!

Luckily I haven't been groped by any TSA agents, but I did have one experience that was very annoying.

I went through the scanner and my bags did as well, but I forgot to empty my water bottle. In the past, TSA agents have asked if they could empty it for me and rescan it. This time the TSA agent said I would either have to throw it away or leave the gate and reenter the whole security line.

I'll admit that I should have dumped my water, but I was bewildered by how aggressively the TSA agent told me my options. This may sound like whining, but I've never had anyone talk to me like that. I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to and she said no. Not wanting to create a scene, or be taken away by the TSA to be questioned, I left the gate and reentered the security line.

I started talking to the person next to me in the security line and explained the situation, and for some reason, the TSA agent came over and basically yelled at me to empty my water bottle. I hadn't even gotten to the trashcan to empty my water bottle. And it is entirely unnecessary for a TSA agent to scold a passenger. At this point, I felt relatively shaken up by the whole ordeal. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't a huge deal, but, man, I really hated being basically yelled at in front of everyone and having the TSA agent go out of her way to yell at me in line again.

I should have filed a complaint, but it seemed pointless to do.

I had the opposite experience once. I forgot to empty my bottle and the TSA agent apologetically said I'd have to throw it away or re-enter. I was frustrated and asked if she could just empty it for me. She said no, it was against the regulations. In a frustrated tone I told her how I thought that was ridiculous but was never rude or disrespectful. I even made it clear that I understood her position and that she had to follow the rules. I decided to throw it away. As I put my belt and shoes back on she handed it back to me on the sly, empty. I was very thankful knowing that she had gone out of her way to help at the risk of being reprimanded.

I sometimes forget to empty my bottle. I just drink the contents before they can finish their spiel.

I remember a more innocent time almost three decades ago when my work involved frequent flying, such that I have been to most major airports in the United States repeatedly and have logged weeks above 30,000 feet of altitude. I have a photograph from those days showing me seated at the controls of a commercial airliner, which the crew of the airliner took after I boarded a flight early in the boarding process. In those days a business traveler could sit down to pose for a snapshot inside the aircraft cockpit, with the crew having no concerns about a person who was not an airline employee being there. That's the carefree ease of flying in the United States I remember from the beginning of my adulthood.

1329 days ago I wrote here on HN, in reponse to one of the recurring complaints about airport security procedures, "Hear. Hear. I was just on flights out of town over the weekend, and it occurred to me that the terrorists have won by making air travel so inconvenient and annoying for every American who ever flies domestically. 'Maybe Secure Flight is a good use of our money; maybe it isn't. But let's have debates like that in the open, as part of the budget process, where it belongs.' This is the general answer for review of current security procedures: we should check whether they are worthwhile for the amount of improved security they promise to provide."

334 days ago another participant, who came to the United States from another country, wrote,

It's also the only place that made me take my shoes off before the metal detector, which I found quite humiliating

This appears to have been one of the calculations of the terrorist group that put up the shoe bomber


to trying his failed attempt to blow up an airplane with a bomb hidden in his shoe. Some of the co-religionists of some of those terrorists consider it extremely degrading to be bare-footed in certain situations deemed to be "holy" situations (I know this from having been warned about how I oriented my feet in flip-flop sandals once when I was overseas in 1984), and thus they have probably been glad to humiliate Americans as Americans have reacted to the failed shoe bomb plot. My proposal is that United States airport security give up on requesting passengers to remove shoes. Yeah, maybe have chemical sensing devices with air intakes at floor level to screen for bombs on shoes, but let us all wear our shoes onto airplanes and throughout the insides of airports. The screening procedures at present appear to be an overreaction to the actual risk of a shoe bomb destroying a passenger airplane, especially in view of other countries not having the same screening procedure for airline passengers.

I've summed up my reaction to the past incidents of terrorism directed at Americans overseas or civilians in the United States in a more recent Hacker News comment: "It's important for all of us to remember the basic issue here. The basic issue is whether people in free countries, like most readers of Hacker News, are going to be able to enjoy the right of free speech throughout their country, on any subject, or whether any American or Dutch person or other person accustomed to free speech who happens to be within reach of attack by a crazy foreign person has to prepare for war just to continue to exercise free speech. On my part, I'm going to continue to comment on public policy based on verifiable facts and reason and logic, even if that seems offensive. I am not going to shrink from saying that people in backward, poorly governed countries that could never have invented the Internet have no right to kill and destroy just because someone in a free country laughs or scorns at their delusions. The people who are destroying diplomatic buildings and killing diplomats are declining to use thoughtful discussion to show that they are anything other than blights on humankind."

Allow me to reemphasize this point. The many participants on HN who criticize Transportation Security Agency "security theater" as a meaningless reduction in the freedom of people who travel to the United States are right on the basic point. If free citizens of free countries can't live in freedom because of fear of terrorists, the terrorists have already won. You and I should be able to speak our minds and express our opinions in the manner of all people in free countries--sometimes agreeing with one another, sometimes disagreeing, but always letting the other guy have his say. To engage in self-censorship because of fear of violent thugs is to be defeated by the thugs.

We should also be able to fly freely about the country with no more than strictly necessary security precautions. I want to be able to walk into an airport with my shoes on and walk calmly to an arrival gate to greet arriving passengers there. I used to do that. And I want to be able to carry a Swiss Army knife in an airline carry-on bag. Grandmothers and mothers and children should surely be able to board an airliner unmolested in a free country like the United States.

That said, I remember when conditions changed in the United States. I stood on top of the former World Trade Center in New York City twice while traveling with foreign visitors to the United States during my earlier frequent flyer days. Because I remember the peace and freedom I long enjoyed here to welcome visitors to the United States from around the world, I want the leaders and active participants in terrorist networks to identified through constant surveillance and intelligence, and I want terrorists to be attacked relentlessly where they live, so that they have to hide in caves while people all over the world who renounce their goals get to lead civilized, peaceful lives in the Twenty-First Century. Taliban delenda est. Al Qaeda delenda est.

AFTER EDIT: Thanks for the several interesting comments. I think it is important to acknowledge that, yes, the United States government as a matter of official policy has engaged in assassination of foreign government leaders, and plotted the assassination of others, as well as committed and plotted break-ins in foreign embassies (but not random bomb attacks on foreign embassies, to the best of my recollection). I think the United States has been chastened by some of the results of those earlier policies. The movie Argo has been watched by many Americans, and it frankly acknowledges the assassination of an elected prime minister in Iran by the CIA back before I was born. I think now the United States is much more interested in information openness as a means to make sure that countries all around the world trade peacefully rather than waging war one one another, and I think that is the only long-term way to defeat terrorist networks. The current armed warfare strategy of drone attacks on specific terrorist leaders rather than mass bombing attacks on cities (as in World War II) is a step forward in war-fighting effectiveness and an improvement in reducing civilian casualties.

Yes, the United States is still second only to France as a country destination for foreign tourists (and rather more of the tourists to France can drive cars or ride trains to France than can many visitors to the United States). So as obnoxious as current TSA security procedures are to me and to many, they are not so obnoxious that people have stopped visiting the United States for fun.

Oh, yes, and my "half-Asian" children look very Central Asian, as one might expect, and my oldest son with his full black beard looks like someone from the latest news story about Al Qaeda. I'm not sure what his experience has been traveling around the country for his study and work. He barely remembers the old days before the TSA. Certainly we should also make sure not to harass citizens or visitors who happen to have the wrong name or the wrong pattern of physical appearance, but identify threats on the basis of more relevant information. Another top-level comment in this thread says that Israel succeeds in doing that for the most part.

> If free citizens of free countries can't live in freedom because of fear of terrorists, the terrorists have already won

As a dark-skinned man who oftentimes sports a beard, I'm treated like a terrorist every single time I walk through security. To them, I'm a second-class citizen - no question about it.

I avoid flying like the plague; I'd gladly take a 12 hour train ride over a 2 hour flight just to avoid this treatment.

It's been 12 years, and I still haven't gotten used to the degradation. I hope I never do.

> Because I remember the peace and freedom I long enjoyed here to welcome visitors to the United States from around the world, I want the leaders and active participants in terrorist networks to identified through constant surveillance and intelligence, and I want terrorists to be attacked relentlessly where they live, so that they have to hide in caves while people all over the world who renounce their goals get to lead civilized, peaceful lives in the Twenty-First Century.

There's a certain degree of irony in that statement; the Beirut bombing, the (first) World Trade Center bombing attack, and 9/11 were, at least in large part, a response to the destruction that the US has been wreaking on foreign soil for years.

> The people who are destroying diplomatic buildings and killing diplomats are declining to use thoughtful discussion to show that they are anything other than blights on humankind

This same line of reasoning could be applied to the US - we're a little bit better at disguising it, but we've been responsible for terrorism abroad (and domestically!) for decades.

I'm a white guy (as white as wonder bread and twinkies, only thing missing is the blond hair, and blue eyes) but with an very common first and last name and a Persian middle name.

For 5 years every time I flew, I was subjected to 'random' extra inspection, and was unable to check in online. When I questioned this, I was absolutely assured it was random, and there was nothing I could do about it. I don't plan on living the rest of my life in fear of the unknown, planes crash, people die, these things happen, its statistically less likely to die from terrorism then it is from a normal plane crash, consider that.

I feel your pain, and its absolutely not right, and I hope in my lifetime, we come to our senses or I fear it may eventually result in a revolution.

Aside from all the rest (not to discount it), stories such as this lead me to believe that the government and the TSA are lying to the public.

I'm not content to live in a society where the government persistently lies to me and insists upon ruling with "secret" laws and policies.

Aside from the emotional impact, such an asymmetry of information does not foster a democratic process.

I think it could be as something as a keyword match, and its either my middle name, or the fact that I have such a common first and last name that matches me to someone, somewhere who may or may not have done something, at some point in time.

It's probably the second one. My little brother used to be on some sort of list that caused us some problems, and he has a very generic American name. This was when he was ~12.

> its statistically less likely to die from terrorism then it is from a normal plane crash, consider that.

From a purely passenger point of view this might be true, but if you include the total deaths from WTC/Pentagon I bet it comes out in a wash. Normal plane crashes do not occur that frequently in the US, I doubt the total deaths from commercial flights is much higher than ~3000

Depending on the window that you use, you've lost that bet.

Using the numbers from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incidents... and including the fatalities on the ground:

985 fatalities in the 1980s, 1277 in the 1990s, and (excluding 9/11) 512 in the 2000s. This adds up to 2774.

I started to include the pre-1980 numbers, but it became too tedious. From what I got so far, there have been 3606 commercial aviation related fatalities since 1970, and over 4656 fatalities total in US-located commercial aviation history.

Pan Am Flight 830 had 1 fatality due to a terrorist bomb, which I put in the non-9/11 column. I put EgyptAir Flight 990 as a suicide+murder (or accident) and not due to terrorism.

However, this excludes accidents from US carriers not in the US (Pan Am 1736 in Tenerife; 583 fatalities in 1977), and includes accidents from non-US carriers which took place in the US (Air Canada 797; 23 fatalities in 1983). I did it this way because you qualified it as "in the US."

Just under 3,000 fatalities occurred due to 9/11. The full statistical analysis would decrease the chance of death slightly to remove the 19 hijackers and observe that the same person could not be on all flights at the same time, reducing the count by about 150. These minor details don't affect the overall analysis.

The worldwide numbers are listed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_accidents_and_incident... . From 2002 to 2011 there were 11,068 aviation fatalities. This likely includes fatalities on the ground because it lists 4,140 fatalities for all of 2001, which is about 3000+(11068/10). I don't know how many of those other fatalities are due to terrorism.

Worldwide then, if you pick any period of three or more years, you are more likely to die by a plane accident than by terrorist attack. In the US, if you look at the last 40 years of flights, you are still more likely to die by accident than by terrorist attack.

For the usual sense of scale for these matters, there were 32,367 automobile deaths in the US in 2011, or 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Airlines have about 1 death for each 2,000 million miles traveled. (Neither of these statistics include non-traveler fatalities.)

> In the US, if you look at the last 40 years of flights, you are still more likely to die by accident than by terrorist attack.

Alright so not a complete wash, but fairly close. I might go so far as to say the difference between ~4000-5000 vs ~3000 out of ~250-300 million is statistically insignificant. I know using the total U.S. population in this instance isn't fantastic statistical analysis, but there isn't a great metric to use for a comparison between the total number of passengers on U.S. flights and the population exposed to 9/11 type terrorist fatalities. The best sources for total airline passengers include both U.S. and international to U.S. passenger total (~800 million[1]), and while it's unlikely someone in Montana is going to be killed in a 9/11 type terrorist attack it's still a possibility.

Anyway you put some effort in and clearly there is a slightly higher chance of dying from a normal plane crash than a terrorism induced one. So I'll admit you win this bet.

However if I want to argue the point (which I'm bored and do), I might say that looking at the trend in the data we might find those numbers evening out. We should expect air traffic control and safety to improve as newer technologies are implemented, people are trained better, etc. We can already see fewer deaths after the 1990's and I'd expect it to remain at that lower threshold. Now the terrorism number is harder to comment on, because presumably with all the extra safety measure another 9/11 won't happen. And even without the TSA around, it's still rather unlikely an event of that magnitude would occur again. I don't doubt the next hijacked airplanes that go close to an urban area will be intercepted and shot down. But for (my)arguments sake lets say without the extra security measures we could expect the same rate of terrorism related deaths, though perhaps not all in the same event. Given all of that, my statement about it all coming out in a wash will be true within the next couple decades :D

(Yes, I know all of that is nonsense speculative crap, but I already typed it all out so I'm just going to hit the reply button anyway.)


Dude, a comparison with plane accidents does injustice to how irrational the fear of terrorism is.

In the US alone, over 40,000 people die each year of flu. In 2011 about 32,000 people died in car accidents, which is actually good because that number is down from over 40,000 per year in the last decade (but it's probably due to the raised gas prices, it isn't like car travelling got all of a sudden safer). About 600,000 people per year die of heart disease, another 600,000 die of cancer, another 130,000 die of respiratory diseases, another 120,000 die of stroke ... many of them are old people and I don't have any stats now, but I bet the number of young people dying from such chronic diseases are on the rise and in the tens of thousands at least.

Compared to such numbers, the number of deaths related to terrorism that occurred in the first world countries in the last 50 years is completely insignificant and saying that these measures are the reason for why no more terrorist attacks happened is complete bullshit ... the only reason for why you don't see any more 9/11 scenarios is because existing terrorist networks have been drained of resources and that's it.

What TSA does to you on the other hand is just security theatre. I have a cousin that boarded on a flight from Romania to Spain with a pack of old-fashioned razor blades in his backpack. Razor blades are not allowed, mind you, but he forgot them there and they somehow passed through the airport's scanner and airport personnel is really not that careful. If the invasive procedures in the US would actually work, if they prevented anything, then where are the 9/11 events from Europe?

And if the US is a more popular target for terrorists, then maybe, just maybe, the right solution would be to improve your foreign policies and abstain from invading countries like Irak based on assumptions ;-)

I was looking at the 10 years from 9/11, when I made the statement.

That's a time window that is just small enough to include the single most lethal terrorist attack in the past 150+ years[0]. That's a bit too number massagey for my liking.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_battles_and_other_viol...

I think you've misunderstood, and that you're actually in agreement with Aloha.

Aloha's statement is that even in the window from 10 Sept. 2001 to 10 years forward, worldwide air travel-based fatalities due to non-terrorist events is higher than due to terrorism.

In other words, even massaging the numbers to include the worst case, Aloha's statement "its statistically less likely to die from terrorism then it is from a normal plane crash" is true.

My own research shows that if the window is 3 years wide or wider then there's no way for Aloha's statement to be false. Further, I showed that even if restricted to the US commercial aviation, that statement is true if you talk about the last 40 years. (Include general aviation and it's about a 5-6 year window.)

Essentially, on 9/11, the US total death rate doubled for a day. From a statistical point of view, a minor blip.

I'm going to assume the US daily death rate is a pretty constant number.

You wouldn't consider the doubling of it to be more than a statistical blip?

I would just consider it an outlier and don't fret too much about it if went down to the usual level the next day.

I'm a white American with a Persian first name, and while I don't get the 'random' pull-out every time, it's quite often. (Maybe a third of the time? Just offering another data point.)

Nice to meet a coincidental fellow traveler so to speak.

>>There's a certain degree of irony in that statement; the Beirut bombing, the (first) World Trade Center bombing attack, and 9/11 were, at least in large part, a response to the destruction that the US has been wreaking on foreign soil for years.

Yep. It's actually funny because that's exactly what George Soros's General Theory of Reflexivity says: in any given situation, thinking participants have partial and biased views, and the actions they base upon those views, while inappropriate, end up influencing the situation to become more congruent with those views.

Basically, by treating the Middle East as a terrorist haven, the USA has turned it into one.

The Hashashim were destroyed when the Mongols invaded. Not much of a haven.

That's not really the point, which is that terrorist tactics were being used in the region long before the United States existed.

Can you provide some examples of terrorism in the middle-east for the 500 years in-between the downfall of the assassins and the creation of the US? The GP was talking about a terrorist haven - you've pointed out a single order.

Incidentally, Europe has historically been awash with terrorism, and up until 9/11, there have been plenty of Americans happy to financially and socially support terrorism in the form of things like the IRA. Terrorism has been often featured in the history of Africa and central, south, and east Asia.

So tell me more about how this single species of extinct terrorist made the middle east some innate sort of special, super-terror playground for all eternity.

EDIT: Also, if we're playing the 'once upon a time' game, then I'd like to point out that historically, the US was one of the greatest users of slaves, and through the wonders of Manifest Destiny, engaged in genocide, terrorism, and straight-out wars of conquest.

"Also, if we're playing the 'once upon a time' game, then I'd like to point out that historically, the US was one of the greatest users of slaves"

Nonsense. Slavery (or near-equivalents, such as serfdom) existed practically everywhere on the planet until quite recently in historical terms. Also, the number of slaves imported into the United States was dwarfed by the number imported into European colonies in Central and South America.

The Euros have had large-scale genocide and wars of conquest rather more recently than the U.S., too.

You were the one characterising a region based on what happened there in previous centuries, not me. Don't get huffy with me for using your own argument against you.

To paint it even more clearly: I was pointing out that shit happens everywhere - you know, the main part of my comment before the 'edit'. Trying to spread the shit around as you are, the "you know, they do it too" that you're doing, that's exactly what I'm trying to say.

So, the question of my comment that you neatly avoided: show us some real reasoning behind calling the middle-east a 'terrorist haven' over the centures, given your implication that other areas didn't have it as bad.

> As a dark-skinned man who oftentimes sports a beard, I'm treated like a terrorist every single time I walk through security. To them, I'm a second-class citizen - no question about it.

As another (very) dark-skinned man who has also donned something close to a beard, I've noticed that (a) I've been treated the same as everyone else at all of the major hubs and (b) Everyone else gets treated like cattle.

Same for when I've travelled with my family, and my Mom and Dad are dark.

I've definitely had my fair share of stupid racists (okay, maybe less than my fair share; I got lucky somehow); going through airport security hasn't been it.

Maybe it's a regional thing?

> As a dark-skinned man who oftentimes sports a beard, I'm treated like a terrorist every single time I walk through security. To them, I'm a second-class citizen - no question about it.

As a dark-skinned, long-haired main who (usually) doesn't sport a beard when flying, I've learned to stick very close to my (fairer) wife and daughters whenever I can when going through security/immigration/customs.

On 9/11, I had a job where I racked up the frequent-flier miles. I still remember my friends and co-workers urging me to cut my hair to avoid hassles at the airport (among other things). While it has been an inconvenience from time to time, I'm still glad I didn't.

> I'd gladly take a 12 hour train ride over a 2 hour flight just to avoid this treatment.

To add to that, three times now I have driven straight across the country (3 thousand miles) instead of fly. I can't say TSA harassment was the only factor (fun and desire to have a car on the other side factored in), but I would be lying if I said it wasn't a major point of consideration.

For what it's worth I'm a brown man with the occasional beard and I've never felt singled out or degraded when flying. I've been selected for pat downs and further screening surprisingly infrequently, and the TSA have been nothing but professional. I miss the pre-TSA days as well, but I'm no more hassled by it than the average non-brown guy.

As a dark-skinned man who oftentimes sports a beard, I'm treated like a terrorist every single time I walk through security. To them, I'm a second-class citizen - no question about it.

I travel frequently and I'm on the other side of the spectrum. I'm younger, caucasian, dress professionally when I travel and have never been searched and haven't seen anyone get through customs faster than I do. I'm practically invisible to airport security. I don't think I do anything differently than anyone else other than I'm probably a little more hurried than others because I've been through it many times so I want to be efficient. But I've heard and witnessed others having troubles many times. They must be profiling people on some scale that I just don't register on.

I'm not sure how much value this comment adds to the discussion other than perhaps adding a point to validate your comment from a different perspective.

Maybe you're lucky? I fit your description and have been pulled aside for additional screening several times.

>This same line of reasoning could be applied to the US - we're a little bit better at disguising it, but we've been responsible for terrorism abroad (and domestically!) for decades.<

I'm going to have to argue with your moral relativism here.

I would challenge you to provide examples of US gov't supported terrorist actions. Note, I'll ask you stick to the commonly held definition of terrorism which is the intentional targeting of innocent civilians in order to incite terror.

I would challenge you to provide examples of US gov't supported terrorist actions. Note, I'll ask you stick to the commonly held definition of terrorism which is the intentional targeting of innocent civilians in order to incite terror.

I think this hinges somewhat on the meaning of the word "innocent". What I think you mean is innocent in the sense of "uninvolved", rather than in the moral sense.

It's no secret that the CIA (among other US agencies) captures, kills, and torturers people in other countries. But it's my understanding, at least, that the US does not purposefully do so to "uninvolved" citizens of those countries. These actions are done against violent members of the ruling class actively opposing US interests, and their allies. None of these people are "uninvolved" in the sense that charges of "terrorism" would require.

To put it more bluntly: the US does not attempt to incite "terror" in uninvolved citizens in any country, ever. It just not how our government works to achieve US goals abroad.

Whether the US policy of intervention abroad is good or bad is certainly open to debate, and the reality of "collateral damage" is ever present. But I don't think that US intervention abroad counts as "terrorism", under the standard definition of the word, which is why arguments that try and equate the two tend to fall on deaf ears.

There is some evidence that terrorist activity has been a CIA modus operandi since its inception. Operation Gladio was a post-war communist resistance network composed of 'stay-behind' fascists in various European countries. The CIA was formed in part to manage the operation, which according to some of its members went on to orchestrate false flag terrorist attacks across Western Europe in the decades that followed. The stated aim was to drive voters into the arms of more authoritarian, neo-fascist governments. See below for a fascinating BBC documentary from 1992.

Similar stories emerge from Latin America in the 1980s. And the notorious Operation Northwoods proposal from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 suggested domestic false flag attacks to drive support for an invasion of Cuba. An argument can be made that the CIA is the primary terrorist organisation of the post WWII era.


While they may not intend to do it, it most certainly happens.


If it quacks like a duck?

I don't argue that it doesn't happen, but "if it quacks like a duck"?

Intent is usually a huge factor in determining the seriousness of a crime. If someone shoots and kills someone who is attempting to murder them, that's ok. If, while attempting to shoot and kill that person, they kill an innocent bystander, that's not OK and usually punishable (manslaughter).

Am I right to infer that your argument is that those two situations are morally identical?

To the village that lost 50 people to the omnipresent invaders, it may just be morally identical. "Oh, hey, we thought you were terrorists - our bad" probably won't cut it as 'understandable', given that 40 of the victims were women and children, which aren't generally part of the insurgent personnel in Afghanistan. Keep in mind that this wasn't a wayward bomb - the innocent bystander in your story - but a target hit three times across several minutes.

Does Iran-Contra ring a bell?

I think I-C was a proxy war. In any given war there are acts of terrorism in that either side in this case (the local proxies of the US) and the adversarial proxy (in the case Cuban/soviet) engaged in some terrorism against the people either side saw as supporters of the opposition. The contras were a coalition of both deposed affiliates and disaffected revolutionaries who switched sides.

I knew someone who was once an optimistic 'internationalist', as they called themselves.

Anyhow, I suppose you could argue that all the soviet-US proxy wars resulted in some terrorism by the local proxies. But we could go further and say that most major wars involved some form of terrorism.

Supporting a rebel movement isn't terrorism.

Heh, Khashoggi's brother lives down the street from me. ;)

"the Beirut bombing, the (first) World Trade Center bombing attack, and 9/11 were, at least in large part, a response to the destruction that the US has been wreaking on foreign soil for years"

Because nothing says "retaliation" better than deliberately attacking innocents with zero culpability for whatever it may be that is pissing you off.

By your thinking, we could have gotten bin Laden by announcing that, until he was turned over to us, we'd drop a 1000lb bomb on some occupied point in Afghanistan every day. There would be logic, right? They had harbored a known murderer and killer, who had gone and killed thousands of people. The Afghans were responsible, in some sense, for the safety from which he operated, and culpable by knowledge of his aims. They should have settled him a long time ago. So let them settle the problem now, or pay the price.

By _your_ logic. Which is stupid. If everyone behaved that way the world would be completely unlivable. The US is by no means perfect but it is, by and large, a nation of laws. That means very little to those innocents killed in its mistakes and evils, but means an enormous amount to the very many people who are not killed by its adherence to some standard of humanity. And to all of us, living in a world where the mighty hold themselves in some manner accountable to something looking like justice.

Here is a thought experiment on the difference between the likes of the US and bin Laden. Imagine what bin Laden would have done if he got ahold of, say, a single nuclear missile submarine. Or any of the destructive powers of this country. That is the difference between an imperfectly ethical power, and a murdering piece of crap. For me, I think it is a really, really important difference.

We are a nation of the people, by the people, for the people. Bin Laden wrote a letter to the American people and published it after 9/11 wherein he explains the motivation behind his attacks. Other than the obligatory fundie religious crap, his reasoning was thus: your government has been fucking with us for decades, and we're sick of it, yet we cannot attack your government because it is too powerful. Because your government represents you, that makes you culpable, hence the attack.

The easy conclusion is that all 'terrorist' are vile, murderous, evil people with not a drop of decency in their bodies. However, the reality is that 'terrorists' are usually just normal people who have frustratingly little recourse against that which they are opposed to.

I think that you're making a mistake in taking what Bin Laden said at face value. He was trying to goad us into invading Afghanistan, and he was successful. He wanted a "War on Terror" because he knew that it would be unwinable.

Painting his justification for the attack in a way that Americans would read as an attack on the people and the government encouraged the jingoism that gave us the Patriot Act and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's how Bin Laden won the war on terror.

Congratulations, you've justified a world where everyone is a hostage to the aggrieved. How do you think that will work out for the not-rich / not-strong / not-smart / not-popular?

It's opinions like this that hold us back from progressing socially - the idea that understanding the motives of a nemesis is functionally the same as justifying them.

This phrase:

"'terrorists' are usually just normal people who have frustratingly little recourse"

is a _value_ assessment.

It is literally a normalization of terrorist motivation.

And, the idea that al Qaeda is motivated by outrage at American or Western injustice is at best a huge oversimplification. And at worst, a credulous acceptance of their propaganda.

Al Qaeda is not a monolithic entity with a single soul. The senior figures certainly have more complex motives, but the junior figures are going to have simple motives similar to the swathes of young US southerners who signed up to defend their country. The GP was talking about 'terrorists' as individual people, not as a theory.

There's a difference between analyzing terrorist motives and using terms like irony or implied hypocrisy on the part of the U.S. -- this is where the line crosses from understanding to justification.

I did not justify terrorism, nor was I attempting to. I am merely pointing out that even a 'terrorist' has reasons for his actions, and we ignore those reasons at our own peril. The CIA has a term for what amounts to retaliation in response to US actions overseas: blowback. It is obvious that if you fuck with a beehive long enough, you are eventually going to be stung. Is the bee wrong? Are we wrong? Who cares? The sensible course of action would be to just stop fucking with the damn beehive.

Unfortunately, it seems that we've allowed our government to get us caught in a feedback loop of retaliation - they sting us, we smash something of theirs. When does it stop? Must we eradicate all of the bees in order to see peace?

> "I am not going to shrink from saying that people in backward, poorly governed countries that could never have invented the Internet have no right to kill and destroy just because someone in a free country laughs or scorns at their delusions."

You have no clue what you are talking about. You think you live in a black and white world where the terrorists simply hate Americans by default, and because they are envious of what USA have they just start sending suicide bombers and hijacking planes? Out of envy? Stop reading Mickey Mouse and get some actual information. The terrorists hate USA because USA did something (well, a lot of things actually) that generated the terrorist acts in response.

Here, you can start reading about how Iran ended up a few years ago on the "axis of evil" alongside North Korea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ajax

Ex nihilo nihil fit, ok? Obviously USA has an external policy and they can't just abandon it, so the risk of terrorist attacks will remain a fact of life. But don't assume that things happen for no reason.

I hope they learn that Al Qaeda's next plot involves explosives stuffed up his tukhis. I'm sure people will finally revolt when they insist on anal probes.

They already did, although (unfortunately?) not at an airport.


Don't be so sure. According to TFA, one-third of people surveyed said they would be okay with a cavity search before being able to fly.

I would assume that study was sponsored by KY.

Did they take this survey at a porn convention?

If they do it gradually enough, I bet they won't.

Reminds me of the saying: "If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. If you place a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the heat, it will boil to death."

... a saying which is only actually true if you first remove the frog's brain, though.


Only half true with or without brain.

I'm one of the whitest, blond-haired, blue-eyed crackers you'll ever meet and when I had a large beard, even I got profiled. For a while, I understood it, just kind of shrugged it off. In 2013, it's getting a lot harder to do so when it's so clear the security apparatus largely exists as a way to get administration insiders like Mike Chertoff super rich without actually providing security. The failure rates of the scanners were actually SEALED largely I assume because they were so poor, or at least that was the public implication made in Congress when Napolitano was asked about this. The Congressman (no not looking it up) said "well, these rates are sealed, but do you really think these sorts of failure rates are acceptable?" Napolitano basically refused to address it.

"I have a photograph from those days showing me seated at the controls of a commercial airliner, which the crew of the airliner took after I boarded a flight early in the boarding process."

I remember when I was a kid in the 60s-70s, the flight crews would let us into the cockpit to have a look when we were getting on or off the plane. It's sad that kids growing up today might never have that experience.

The TSA is there to make people feel secure, not to be secure.

Tourism is a trillion dollar industry; even if you hate jumping through hoops you are infinitely more likely to take a flight if you know everyone is being molested.

you are infinitely more likely to take a flight if you know everyone is being molested.

Speak for yourself; I for one don't like being treated badly. It's security theater at best, and runaway government power at worst, and either way it's at the cost of human dignity.

I am saying that the whole point is the theater.

Not even the TSA believes that. That's why they have "TSA Precheck" - pay $100 and submit to a "background check" and you will almost always skip the molestation.

TSA Precheck is a program explicitly designed to placate the people with enough influence to get the system changed. You can be sure that every member of congress and their staffs are in the Precheck program, along with anyone who flies on business or is otherwise wealthy. Pretty soon the only people getting molested on a regular basis any more are the lower classes.


Precheck is free.


I'd wager most of the people in the program aren't rich, they just have jobs that require them to travel a lot. We're talking Accenture consultants, not bank execs.

It isn't that most of the people in the program are or are not rich, it is that most of the rich in the country are in the program. In other words -- anyone who is (a) likely to be annoyed by the inconvenience AND (b) powerful enough to do something about the inconvenience has been co-opted by PreCheck.

...along with anyone who flies on business...

Not quite. As a counter-example I give you http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randal_L._Schwartz. Due to his past felon status (now exonerated so not a felon), he is not eligible for TSA Precheck.

But he flies business a lot, and has made it clear that he'd love to be in TSA Precheck. He's simply not eligible.

I think there is probably a finite number, and one that is calculable if you have the right data. My totally ignorant speculation is that it's a small percentage.

I believe it also serves as a public works program of sorts. 50,000 decently paying jobs with great benefits and plenty of opportunities to steal passenger's possessions for people who, quite frankly, aren't qualified to do much else.

What if you realize, like many, that they're too busy molesting people and confiscating shampoo to be doing anything useful?

The point of the TSA is that its use is in providing the charade of security because it is the only tangible proof of increased security that most people will see/experience.

There are numerous other measures in place to actually increase security, i.e., fortified cabin doors, armed air marshals on all domestic flights, anti-hijacking procedures, terrorist-wary passengers, crew training, etc., all of which have prevented terrorist activities to some degree or another.

There aren't enough air marshals to place one on all domestic flights. The cost would also be astounding and unsustainable.

As Schneier has pointed out, more air marshals have been arrested than they have made arrests. (http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/04/the_effectiven...)

The cabin door fortification has been the most effective thing so far. Passenger awareness and quick thinking has actually prevented several incidents, making them the best line of defense.

The rest is just nonsense.

> The point of the TSA is that its use is in providing the charade of security because it is the only tangible proof of increased security that most people will see/experience.

I think at this point it has overplayed it's hand.

> The TSA is there to make people feel secure, not to be secure.

Security theatre is part of it but they do make planes more secure.

I (and the majority of people) don't want people bringing pocket knives, guns, samurai swords, lighters or whatever other crazy thing people feel they "have a right" to bring. Because when disagreements happen we don't need people escalating situations into life/death scenarios that require planes to make unscheduled and riskier landings.

Most of those things were not allowed on airplanes before 2001 as well. Not sure what you are getting at really if this is an attempt to justify what TSA does.

Not to mention the "pocket knives" and "lighters" plots are foiled by the new policy of "beat the shit out of terrorists and then sit on them, or you all die".

This is one aspect of the security situation that I haven't been able to wrap my mind around: if someone were to attempt to hijack a plane with a pen knife/nail clipper/etc in any year past 2001, they'd get their shit stomped in. The public is well aware of the fact that terrorists don't always merely force landings and take hostages like they did before 9/11. Why do we continue to ban the most trivial shit?

Before September 2001, I routinely flew with my Leatherman on my person. I'd simply remove it from its sheath and drop it in the little plastic basket for your keys and change and such, or hand it to the uniformed person manning the metal detector before passing through. I was never once questioned, or even looked at twice for doing this, and I flew fairly regularly.

That's the one thing I really miss. It's almost inevitable that I find myself needing a Leatherman at my destination (after all, you're away from all your other tools).

I've even resorted to buying one at my destination and giving it to someone as a gift when I leave.

I once bought a cheap soldering iron, hookup wire, and solder in Cambridge, MA and left it behind in the hotel room 'cause I didn't want the security hassle of taking it home on the plane.

A pocket knife is a rather absurd weapon anyways to anyone with common sense. Sure it could be used as a weapon, but it's not something that would keep passengers from stopping a terrorist in 2013. I don't know if pocket knives were technically allowed or just overlooked because of the above reason. My reference was in regards to the obvious (guns, swords, explosives, etc). I was at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix in the late 90s and the entire airport was shut down when someone went through security with a gun.

Pedantics aside, airport security used to have common sense. Now, it's been tossed out the window for zero tolerance "no need to think" policy. It doesn't mean we should return exactly to the laws of the 1990s for airport security in the US, but the "security theater" for the sake of making people think they're safer by inconveniencing at best and harassment/theft/groping at worse is ridiculous.

A leatherman is a bit bigger than a pocket knife.

That would all depend on the model in question[1]. 2-3" blade is pocket knife size. If going by wiki[2], it defines pocket knife as 2-6". 6" is pretty big for a what one would define as a pocket knife though.

[1] http://images.google.com/images?q=leatherman&sourceid=op...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocket_knife

Every flight I've been on in the last several years has allowed you to bring a lighter on board.

Edit: looks like that changed in 2007.


-Yeah, maybe have chemical sensing devices with air intakes at floor level to screen for bombs on shoes,

Good idea, that way you can f'up a few hundred peoples day by spilling a 'coke' on a busy path way.

And by coke I mean some benign chemical that is none the less detected as explosive precursor by the machines.

> the terrorists have won

This is exactly the feeling I have seeing what has happened to the US after 9/11.

I tend to vote against this type of security by opting out of the scanners. If even one quarter of the passengers opted out they would need to reexamine their security - one that would likely not include the expensive scanners or intrusive pat down tests. I just get to the airport 10 minutes earlier. They do seem to intentionally penalize you with delay, and often question why you're opting out.

Yeah they asked me why I opted out. I said "I don't trust the government". Then I imagined a CIA robot zooming in on me. I clarified: "I don't trust the government with medical x-ray procedures"

My comment:

Simple solution and nobody ever wants to talk about it. Sure it is more towards the long game but perfectly valid. The TSA budget is $8 billion, we should quit funding all of these crazy government programs. With a federal government budget of 1 trillion dollars, of course they are going to abuse their power. Iraq war, don't fund it. Afghanistan war, don't fund it. Drone operations, don't fund them. TSA, Department of Homeland Security, don't fund them. 3m

For that, we'd first need to be able to work up a new Federal budget, pass it in the House and Senate, and have it signed by the President.

It's been four years since we've even been able to do that much; I'm not holding out hope that anything, anywhere, will have its budget cut in real (or nominal) terms.

> "I wasn't even afforded the privacy of a screen."

this is... interesting. I mean, I know this is very different for me because of the cultural expectations of me as a male, but personally? I'd /much/ rather have an authority figure violate me in public than in private. In public, they are restrained by witnesses; in private? well, who knows what they will do? and if I complain of what they do in private, well, it's my word against that of an authority figure. In public, there are witnesses.

Often, air travelers either have to pay for a new ticket at an expensive "walk-up" fare

Wait, what? While I'm sure it can't be 100%, I've missed dozens of flights over the years and never once was it ever suggested that I might have to pay a dime to the airline. Usually it's the next flight on the same route unless its full or a long way off.

imho you don't speak up against the TSA because it's designed to be a dominating experience. you don't speak up in prison either.

4th Amendment. Use it.

(To wit: the US government is forbidden from searching people without a warrant signed by a judge for that particular person and situation. Creeping judicial decisions have in effect destroyed that restriction.)

While it's well within your right to refuse a search, it's within the private airline/airport rights to refuse you access to a secure area if you refuse to be "properly" screened and they can just turn you around at that point to find another means of transportation to your destination.

The private airline/airport has no say. The government, a la TSA, is the one who will not just refuse, but jail, you for opposing the unwarranted search.

Has this actually happened, or do the low-level agents use this as an empty threat?

Not sure what you mean as "empty threat".

If you try to get on an airplane with airline permission but without TSA search ("no thank you, I don't want to walk thru the metal detector, I don't want a pat down, I don't want to go in the weird radiation booth, I'm just going to get on the plane now"), they WILL arrest you. If you refuse the search and attempt to leave, they might not arrest you, but they will threaten criminal charges and very well may follow through on them.

Not empty threats by low-level agents. Systemic policy. Try it and show me I'm wrong.

The one exception is airplanes carrying 9 or fewer people: those are not subject to governmental interference (a la TSA). Many small airlines feature such planes precisely as a way to avoid unwarranted* search. If you find one offering airfare anywhere close to major airline prices (or the price of just driving to destination), let me know - seems they run about $1000/hr. I'd be surprised if TSA wasn't trying hard to get jurisdiction over those too.

(* - by "unwarranted" I mean "without adjudicated written approval by a court in response to presentable evidence regarding particular persons, items, locations, and circumstances"; the common "because one in a billion passengers might try to crash a plane" is inadequate.)

Nobody disputes that you must be searched to get on a plane. The question is whether or not anyone is in jail for coming to the airport, getting in line, being selected for an extra search, and saying "you know what, fuck this, I'm going home".

The FUD is that "yes, you will go to jail forever if you do that", but I don't think that has any basis in reality.

Doesn't necessarily apply. Courts have ruled that the 4th amendment can be limiter or suspended in certain situations.


Hence my comment Creeping judicial decisions have in effect destroyed that restriction. Same kind of reasoning which turns synonyms into antonyms.

The problem isn't TSA. The problem is that we and the world have not delivered a sufficiently severe set of consequences for engaging in terrorism.

If you have small children you've seen this at work a million times. It could be about not touching a hot pot or not abusing the cat. Sometimes you can repeat your "don't do <x>" a million times and it simply does not register. Kids are wired that way, and, I suspect, most of us remain wired that way for some time.

When does the behavior stop? When they touch the hot pot and get burned or when they mess with the cat too much and they are attacked. Just to clarify, none of these things happened to my kids because (a) I got lucky and they tend to listen and, (b) we don't own a cat.

The point is that TSA and a bunch of other measures none of us like (Patriot act anyone?) were a reaction to an absolute failure to communicate, in no uncertain terms, that terrorism has severe and dire consequences. Almost unimaginable consequences that not one person on this planet would want to provoke.

We are not a "hot pot" or a "cat" in the eyes of any of these people. We are a country and a people to be messed with because the consequences just don't hurt enough. And so is much, if not all of the West and Europe. This is a problem when you have an ideology and people who are living 800 years behind the rest of the planet. No? Ha! Go ask their women, their homosexuals and anyone who dares express such vile things as wanting women to be educated. Maybe 800 years is too small of a number, maybe it's more like 1,500 years.

What consequences am I talking about? No point in going into it. The opportunity was lost over a decade ago. I am not sure I am smart enough to even begin to imagine what could be done today.

You have to turn the environments within which would-be terrorists are cooked-up into environments where not one person would even consider the idea of terrorism due to a clear understanding of the consequences.

Do that. Accomplish that. And you can shutdown the TSA, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act and all else that is making our lives miserable and expensive.

Yes. They won. Why would anyone doubt that? Look at all you've given up in the name of security. Sad.

> The point is that TSA and a bunch of other measures none of us like (Patriot act anyone?) were a reaction to an absolute failure to communicate, in no uncertain terms, that terrorism has severe and dire consequences. Almost unimaginable consequences that not one person on this planet would want to provoke.

So you think it is possible to have absolute security?

The TSA and Patriot Act are similar to irrational escalation or commitment bias ala "throw bad money after good money." We've already suffered a massive loss of life and money, but we'll throw all of this money at the problem that has passed and take away a number of liberties.

The downside of an open society is the ability to be harmed. Giving up that openness doesn't seem like much of a trade for the margin security it provides.

> So you think it is possible to have absolute security?

Really. Where did I say that?

Sometimes it is really interesting how people read what they want out of what someone else wrote.

I actually got an email from someone pissed because he saw me advocating for nuking the entire middle east in my post. That is simply fucking amazing. I don't have any other way to say it. Why do "consequences" always have to mean such extremes.

For clarification, what I meant by "severe consequences" was ideas like utter and absolute isolation from the rest of the world for fifty years or some such thing. In exchange for being allowed back into the world of the civilized these societies would have to make a real effort to come into this century. Yes, that means respect women, human rights, promote education and other things. Not a perfect solution by any measure. I am far from a political/international-relations/cultural dynamics expert. I just know when something is really, really fucked up. And the Middle East (known as Asia in other parts of the world) is really, really fucked up.

The TSA, Homeland Security and the Patriot Act would not need to exist if the Middle East was locked-down solid until their leaders, clergy, etc. accepted the fact that they are being assholes to their own people and the world and let go. Enough already.

There's no evidence that patting down passengers like Burton has made air travel any safer.

I'm going to play the devil's advocate here. How on earth do you actually prove prevention techniques?

Very few break the silence because the far majority of human beings will submit to authority without question, if the conditions are right. It's well documented that they will even do so to the point of hurting or even killing someone else.


I have restarted the petition to abolish the TSA here:


or here:


An opt out is not a protest.

It's not.

The TSA doesn't keep records of opt out rates. The random folks waiting in line around you probably don't recognize that you're opting out as a form of protest.

The only thing opting out accomplishes is letting a TSA agent rub his or her hands all over you.

IMO, the opt out is a genius maneuver by the TSA: They give passengers who have privacy concerns a sense that they're protesting, without them actually having protested.

if you don't want to be treated like cattle stop accepting it. opt-out every time. every time i have, they have asked if i wanted a private screening, and in fact the personnel that performed the "pat down" was always very professional. i never wanted a private screen since i'm pretty comfortable in public, and if they were going to do anything embarrassing to me or themselves, I do want it out and public so everybody can see how their fellow citizen is being treated. let's disregard that this pat down is also demeaning and pointless. but at least you can just say no to the automatic total recall porno scanning. i don't give a fuck who hears me opt out, or if it interrupts the line (which it doesn't), or their jobs (tiniest violin playing). the first time i did they even seemed to make a show by calling it out, but i think it's probably just because they have to yell for the pat-down dude to come over and do it.

I was originally writing this as a response to conroe64 below, but it deserves to be its own comment.

Yes, the days before 911 were the good old days.

I have an older brother that didn't live with us. During the holidays, he would fly in and we'd go pick him up at the airport. On many separate occasions, the family would all wait at the exit gate for family and friends to get off. Can you even remember the experience of having a hundred people all patiently waiting for their loved ones to get off the plane, or being one of those people to exit the plane and to have all of your loved ones waiting for you right there?

One time when my brother was leaving for home, we were able to go with him on the plane and I got to sit in the pilot's seat. Soooo many buttons. For some reason, I still remember there being a little button with a Christmas tree on it. No idea what it was for.

So to your other points: modern airport security would have done NOTHING to prevent 9/11. Those guys didn't carry guns or large knives on board. They didn't hijack planes with water bottles and belts. They had fucking box cutters. You can't kill everyone on board with a box cutter. At worst, you can severely injure a couple of people, and by that point the passengers rise up and strangle your ass.

What allowed those planes to be hijacked is that pre-9/11 the universal experience of being hijacked was to do what the hijackers said. That was what we were all told, because up until then that's what happened. Hijackings were a way to make political statements, not necessarily to kill the passengers. You might end up in Cuba, or held on the tarmac for ransom or something.

What would have stopped 9/11 is if the public had a different mindset, being "take these assholes down at any cost". That's the mindset we have today.

There were a few fatalities back then. The Lockerbie Scotland incident was a bombing. It wasn't even a hijacking. The perpetrators were hanging out in Libya. In fact, that bombing was sponsored by Gaddafi. We didn't invade Libya in revenge for that.

The fact is, 9/11 happened. It was horrible. It brought to light that some changes were definitely needed in airport security, but it also brought to light that the passive reaction to hijackings was something that needed to change. The reason this is all fucked up is that we had a lame-duck president and government who over-reacted. If they had handled the incident responsibly, rather than initiating 2 wars that led to no capture of Bin Laden (remember, it was under Obama that the fucker got taken out), then we would be in a very different world today.

The TSA is a left-over remnant from a horrible event that happened 12 years ago. It was an over-reaction due to the climate of uncertainty and fear that existed at the time. Like all snakes set loose in an environment with no natural predators, it has gone on to swallow multiple government departments and their budgets and gotten so fat and dangerous no one is willing to fight it.

Its time to stop this bullshit, dismantle the TSA, set the various government agencies back on their own that it absorbed, start arresting these high-school dropout alpha fucks the TSA hires when they molest people and children, and put something rational and sensible in place.

Do we need airport security? Yes. Do we need this bullshit TSA theater we have now? No.

The next time you're flying and you're mistreated, make a scene. Ask the 10 people around you to record the interaction. You will likely miss your flight. Accept that. Its unlikely you'll be arrested as long as you don't hit anyone, you'll just be escorted from the airport or made to catch a later flight. Be rational and stand up for yourself like a human being with dignity.

We NEED everyone to start doing this, to make this into an issue. Stop being passive. Its an inconvenience now, but its the first step in making it better. Years down the line, you'll be proud of what you did. And you and your kids won't have to deal with this shit anymore.

I know I will.

but it also brought to light that the passive reaction to hijackings was something that needed to change

That is actually the only thing that absolutely needed to change to prevent another 9/11.

Some of the other stuff is also a good idea, but the only actual effective solution is to stop being passive in the face of hijackers and fend for yourself.

Couldn't agree more. I remember the first time I flew in 1998. I was more scared of the takeoff than actually going through security.

So many people here are acting like nothing happened to justify the existence of the TSA. Yet, there were two buildings destroyed in the one of the most iconic cities in the world, the pentagon was damaged, and the Whitehouse was almost also destroyed, with more than 3000 civilians killed, and all of this can be directly attributed to the lack of airport security.

Yes, the TSA does a questionable job, but the constant whining and calls to demolish it without the acknowledge of the need for changes from the "good old days" before 9/11 is not only sophomoric but downright dangerous.

You neglected to mention that since 9/11, it would be almost impossible to do now what the hijackers did then. If that were attempted now, a whole plane load of vigilantes would rise up against the hijackers.

It's a pretty simplistic viewpoint to think that nothing should have been done to amp of security and the problem would just take care of itself after the tragedy of 9/11. Yes, maybe the exact same plan wouldn't work again, but downing a plane would take far less compliance by the other passengers than running it into a building.

Sure, sure... And you know this how? A gut feeling? Remember, there were multiple planes on 9/11, and this did not succeed or happen in any of those situations.

I like that you are so sure about this, with no data or anything.

Remember the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania or near there? News spread to the passengers and they overcame the hijackers.

Is that really why it crashed? If so, that's awesome news. I thought it was shot down.

I think I would use the word "excuse" in place of "justify".

Fine, so replace the TSA with what? This is what bothers me, so much condemnation without supplying any alternative.

"...and all of this can be directly attributed to the lack of airport security"

Supposedly. You can never be sure about that. Just as people doubt the official version that Jack Ruby did act alone to be alone to know and come so close to Oswald, people can doubt the official version that people managed to hide x-acto knives (or whatever) due to a lack of airport security.

The attackers may have had insiders smuggling the knives in. It seems accepted that the hijackers had a support network inside the U.S. They may very well have had help from employees working a the airport.

Are you trolling?

There was no need to smuggle knives in. They were allowed under the security rules then in place. I carried my knife on the plane in 2001. I took it out, put it in the basket with my keys, coins, and other metal objects, let it go through X-ray, and put it back in my pocket.

Why make up the need for an insider support network when no such need exists?

Quoting from the 9/11 Commission Hearing:

> Our best working hypothesis is that a number of the hijackers were carrying -- permissible under the regulations in place at the time -- permissible utility knives or pocket knives. One example of such a utility knife is displayed by Mr. Brinkley here, this so-called Leatherman item. We know that at least two knives like this were actually purchased by the hijackers and have not been found in the belongings the hijackers left behind.

> The checkpoint operations guide provided no further guidance on how to distinguish between box cutters and pocket utility knives. One of the checkpoint supervisors working at Logan International Airport on September 11th, 2001 recalled that it was her understanding as of that day that while box cutters were not permitted to pass through the checkpoint without the removal of the blade, any knife with a blade of less than four inches was permitted to pass through security.

You float the idea of a conspiracy to smuggle box cutters on a plane? Box cutters? So the terrorists supposedly had the co-conspirators in the airport and out of all the weapons to bring on board, they choose a tool with a one inch blade to take over the plane with, as opposed to something like say, a gun, or even a hunting knife.

it's a jobs program

I'm always surprised at the amount of interest TSA receives on HN. Can someone explain why this is such a hot topic?

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