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Pulling the Curtain on Airport Security [pdf] (xs-sniper.com)
363 points by vesche on Aug 24, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 166 comments

Lots of people are posting highlighting how pointless airport security is given the ease with which a terrorist can bypass it by e.g. blowing himself up in the security line, targeting buses or shopping malls, making weapons from stuff bought "air side" etc.

As this hasn't been happening (despite how easy it would be for a terrorist to do), the only logical conclusion I draw is that the entire terrorist threat is so unbelievably overblown it doesn't warrant even thinking about when it comes to evaluating personal safety. I mean, how can it not be, given how easy it would be for a terrorist to just stroll in to an airport departures hall with a jacket bomb and detonate himself yet the closest we've seen to this is one lunatic failing to ignite some powder in his shoes and another idiot burning his crotch.

I think the real answer is that you can probably count the number of truly dangerous terrorists in the world on two hands. The rest of the current crop are nothing more than brainwashed amateurs who spend their time wreaking havoc and misery in isolated parts of the world that no normal person would ever have occasion to set foot in. This article from the FT makes a similar point: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ee2a8412-2923-11e4-9d5d-00144...

If I was a black man in the US I'd be much more afraid of looking at a cop the wrong way than being caught up in a terrorist outrage.

I completely agree with your first two paragraphs, but you lost me on the second half of your comment.

The TSA's response to attempted attacks has been to clamp down on the rest of us after the fact: shoes off, no liquids. This tells us that the intelligence gathering effort was not reflected in the airport security measures. They lock down those attack vectors to prevent "me too" attacks, but there haven't been any. Yet, the security gymnastics routine has not gotten lighter for the average traveler.

Where I disagree:

> no normal person would ever have occasion to set foot in

You just dismissed a chunk of humanity as non-"normal" along with their homeland. Yes, Westerners have rare occasion to visit some of the places where terrorists breed and train. But the world contains more than Westerners, doesn't it?

> If I was a black man in the US I'd be much more afraid of looking at a cop the wrong way than being caught up in a terrorist outrage.

You are making the same mistake we're talking about with airport security: you are blowing a few highly-publicized events way out of proportion.

Here[1] is some 2011 data from the FBI highlighting homicide victim/offender race & sex. Compare that to this report[2] from the Bureau of Justice Statistics showing arrest-related deaths from 2003-2009. (I know different years, etc, sorry) From that data, it looks like blacks kill way more blacks (and whites kill more whites) than cops killing either race.

[1]: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/c...

[2]: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ard0309st.pdf

Blacks, whites or cops killing blacks - whatever it is, it's more than terrorists killing blacks.

I could have worded my other paragraph slightly better - what I meant was no western person (since we're talking about potential for terrorist attacks on westerners) would normally find themselves in the mountains of bora bora or the war zones of syria/iraq. The only western people outside of UN, military or diplomatic personnel you are likely to find in these parts are radical young men from home who are living out a jihad fantasy.

Unfortunately, studies have found that police homicides are under-reported to the FBI's national database.


> As this hasn't been happening

I believe this is incorrect. In Russia, two terrorists set off a bomb outside the secure area in the arrival hall. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domodedovo_International_Airpor...

Thanks, I wasn't aware of that. I think my point still stands though. I'd be more inclined to believe there's a serious terrorist problem if something like that was happening once or twice a year.

As it stands, if you live in the US at least, it seems your child has a greater chance of being gunned down by a classmate at school than blown up by a terrorist.

If you're anyone in the US, be more worried about heart disease and driving defensively.

Yet the TSA manages to find weapons all the time. On their blog [0], over the last 4 weeks, they claim to have confiscated 156 firearms from security checks. Even if 99% forgot they were carrying a weapon and accidentally brought it on the plane that's still 1-2 planes with a malicious guy carrying a gun every month.

[0] http://blog.tsa.gov/

And that's the danger of 2 9s thinking. It's really probably 99.999% are forgotten and the TSA hasn't found one malicious one.

Schneier makes some good points with regards to why there aren't more terrorist attacks:


Correction: You can estimate the number of truly dangerous terrorists targeting the US easily. Israel and Russia seem to attract more and they tend to hit easy targets that are more difficult to secure than airports.

My conclusion: providing you don't share a land border with the area you are upsetting (Chechnya, Palestine), most 'would be' terrorists lack the means/skill/desire to make a trip to your homeland to perform an atrocity.

I wish there was a transcript to go with these slides, or some context. It looks like an amazing talk.

One thing that jumped out at me right away is that the explosives sniffer is also configured to detect narcotics, amphetamine and marijuana. Is this standard procedure at American domestic airports?

TSA has more than a bit of scope creep going on. In theory, all they're supposed to do is a basic administrative search to prevent weapons or explosives from being brought onto a plane. In practice, the perception in the public mind that they are a more general law-enforcement body allows them to easily perform other tasks on behalf of agencies that don't have the same general search powers.

The classic example is searching for large sums of cash. Detecting large quantities of traveling cash and ensuring it's been properly declared is CBP's (Customs and Border Protection) job, not TSA's. But because TSA gets to X-ray and search every bag and body-scan every passenger, they catch that stuff, and then hold the passenger and go get CBP.

The result is that the number of outside-the-mandate things that can end up happening as an "incidental" result of TSA's screening is staggering.

Is searching for cash the classic example or a one time example involving Ron Paul's cash courier, which then led to a rule change instructing TSA to ignore cash?

TSA claim they don't search for eg drugs; they claim to search for expsi es and incidentally find drugs. This is the classic mission creep example.

There are people who hide drugs in jars of peanut butter. This shows up on TSA screens as a jar with different stuff in, which they claim to view as suspicious because it looks like explosive.

There seems to be some goal post creep as well. How many classic examples are there?

Well, I do wonder if there's any benefit to the TSA for finding drugs? Perhaps I should trawl theough the reports to see if the TSA uses drug-finds as part of their results to support their work?

The TSA does not search in-bound people, and CBP does not search out-bound people, so this doesn't really make sense.

CBP does not ALWAYS search outbound people, but retains the right to do so (at least in the US).

Where would they do it? At boarding? Most US airports have no wall between domestic and international flights.

Totally anecdotal, but I was once pulled aside on the jetway by a woman with a Treasury badge and a burly guy who was probably a sheriff though he never said anything. She wanted to know how much cash I was carrying. I was flying from SF to Frankfurt, and I think it was 1994. My net worth then was about $30k, so I laughed and told her I had about $200 and a credit card.

So maybe CBP doesn't check outbound travelers, but Treasury did at least once.

CBP can and does in fact carry out checks for undeclared cash exports in the jetway for international departures. Not every departure, obviously, and I don't think the selection mechanism is public, but it's a thing they're documented as doing.

I have seen them set up in the jetway after you show your ticket to the airline attendant.

You do get searched by TSA if you are coming from outside the country. In recent years I've flown in from Mexico, Spain, India and the Dominican Republic. For each flight, the boarding gate was blocked from general access and the only way to get in was to go through a TSA search. They only had metal detectors, but my bags were still searched. Had I been carrying a large sum of cash (or anything else that needs to be declared) they could have contacted CBP at my departure airport.

That is not the TSA doing the checks though. In Beijing, there is gate screening just as you described, but it is done by locals who don't speak English, and they definitely aren't looking for cash.

Based on reports from flyertalk and other places, it appears that there is a requirement that a certain minimum percentage of US-bound international passengers undergo at least a TSA-style boarding-pass-and-ID check.

Typically this involves stationing agents at the departure gate. Anecdotal evidence suggests AMS is a popular place for this.

All of the people who screened my flights in these situations were wearing TSA uniforms.

Interesting, I have never seen this in Asia.

I wonder how the THC thing could possibly work. I opt out at every checkpoint, and each time, they maximize body contact and then generate an input to those machines. Wouldn't it go off for anyone who had smoked up earlier in the day, or the preceding day? It seems like they'd be spending all their time doing drug searches.

(Don't get me wrong: drug searches at TSA checkpoints are extremely alarming, because TSA has been given a near all-access pass to mechanically searching people).

Fun fact: if you do any welding before you get on a flight, there's a good chance you'll set those things off.

I've literally spent a night putting on a fireworks show, gotten up and flown the next day, and not set off the alarm. I've also at a different time been completely clean, set off the alarm for gunpowder (I could see the screen), and then had the TSA wave me through.

They don't know, they don't care, they don't do anything. Their sole purpose is to make people more comfortable with invasive government overreach.

Similar experience here. I was at a party the evening before a flight and had loads of rockets and small mortars stuffed in my cargo shorts, which we were running around and shooting at each other (alcohol may have been involved).

Next morning at the airport was my first time seeing these machines. As the machines doors opened and closed, jets of air puffing at the passengers ahead of me, I wondered about the shorts which I still had on. I looked down at the empty pockets and they were literally sparkling with gunpowder and other residue from the fireworks the night before. 'Let's see what happens' was my only thought and I felt a bit let down when I got through with no problem.

Edit: Shorts sparkling in the light with some kind of crystalline residue from the fireworks, not sparkling like a lit sparkler, which would have been even more impressive.

> Their sole purpose is to make people more comfortable with invasive government overreach.


I set the hand wipe and scan machine off once. Had to go to additional screening, it was my hair product.

I most recently triggered it at SFO after wearing clothing I had gone go carting in the day before. First time for me. The enhanced screening was fun. Aside, SFO security is a contractor, not TSA.

Contractor probably measured by throughput, not capture rate. Hence incentives are to push people through.

Also, if you spend lots of time outdoors around fertilizer you can set it off.

Yes, this happened to me after a couple of hours on the golf course.

It's a confusing UI, but I'm pretty sure the "selected" column indicates that drug alerts are not configured to alert.

Must not work that well. I flew alongside someone who smoked before a flight, and had the opt-out pat down... No alerts from the machine.

There's a sticker from the inside of the machine that indicates it belonged to the US prisons system at some point. Narcotics detection would seem very relevant to that application.

Some of these vulnerabilities are shocking. This goes beyond carelessness and straight into incompetence.

It's from blackhat USA 2014 (Aug 6/7), when the video is uploaded it should be posted here: https://www.youtube.com/user/BlackHatOfficialYT/videos


They don't seem to be detecting marijuana in their currently configured state.

This isn't correct. They are checking for THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana.

The "selected" column indicates "no" for drugs.

I ended up finding a way to get cigarette lighters through with a 100% success rate just by brute forcing it.

If you travel a lot and you're a smoker you'd know that the worst part is getting off the flight, crawling through the airport at exit and then not having a lighter because they took it off you at departure[1].

No penalty for being caught with a lighter, so I kept leaving lighters in my bag in different places deliberately to figure out how I could get one through.

Solution turned out to be simple, and I hit it almost accidentally. I removed the metal shield and then dropped the lighter into an inside pocket of my bag that contains pens and loose coins.

Worked 100% of the time thereafter.

The scanners being blacklisting like a virus scanner means they have the same problem, they can only identify known threats. Change the form of the threat and you're through until they update and train their scanners again (both human and machine).

The illusion of safety. I've since quit both smoking and flying frequently.

[1] I gave the TSA the idea of handing out lighters they have confiscated from departing passengers to arriving passengers but they didn't buy into it.

You sure you didn't make that change around August, 2007?


Probably should have dated it - this is from right after 911

I remember when the change happen, because there were no longer the large bins and signs at both SFO and Sydney.

Lighters were the biggest single item holding up security queues prior to the liquids changes after the TATP '06 plots.

The one year period after summer 2006 was the worst possible time to travel, routinely took an hour to pass through most checkpoints.

Is that an example of confirmation bias? "I finally moved it around and tweaked it enough and that is what caused the success" instead of "the TSA changed the rules?"

No; it's post hoc ergo propter hoc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_hoc_ergo_propter_hoc

That seems very odd that they would take a lighter. Mind you I've been on very few domestic US flights, and on a few flights in/out of the US, but I never had problems with lighters. I just drop it on the plate they send through the X-ray and pick it up afterwards, no issues.

This was within the last 4 years though, maybe procedures have changed?

Here in EU I've never had any problems either.

The only thing that I know they frown upon is Zippo lighters, unless it's brand new and still sealed. Something about the petrol being used in those lighters they don't like.

They started allowing lighters again 7 years ago.

Some lighters. Regular ones are okay, I think, but I had my butane torch confiscated last May in San Francisco. I'd been carrying it around for three or four years and had never been stopped.

I've also brought a swiss army knife on numerous flights, pretty much always by accident.

In Europe they let you keep your lighter, at least inside the Schengen Area.

They do in the US, too.

Typical. Government organizations think IT security means having strongly worded statements and reams of bureaucratic rules and procedures. If you look closely though the strong words often aren't backed by any meaningful action. In a government official's mind if the 50 page IT security document was filled out and is on file that means the system is secure. It's all a big joke really.

I don't think most of them would be that stupid. Just lazy. In a government official's mind, if the 50 page IT security document was filled out then he can't be held responsible when the shit hits the fan.

It's both...it's a problem of incentives. The government guy aint getting stock options or a real bonus or whatever for a job well done. And he's probably close to impossible to fire if he does poorly. So what does he care? And while this is a problem in itself, it also creates a self-selection problem where good candidates don't want to work there in the first place.

My first job out of school was with the US government. I'm speaking from experience. It is worse than you could possibly imagine. Onion levels of absurdity, snake oil levels of effectiveness.

Being young and naive I, at first, thought it was just an isolated case of astonishing incompetence but I came to realize it was actually accepted as normal and good practice across many parts of government.

Once my idealism about civil service wore off I got out of there as fast as possible.

To be honest, I don't think laziness is a problem, either (or at least, THE problem). The problem is the utterly impossible goal of 100% security from all possible threats with a nearly unlimited mandate to do so. The goal is improbable, the consequences dire, so the result is the mad scramble to do visible things. And so we get security theater instead of reasonable precautions and courage in the face of a statistically insignificant threat.

Fifty pages filled out means it is now someone else's job to read those pages and implement. His hands are clean.

"TSA has not audited these devices for even the most basic security issues"

This to me is the most troublesome aspect of this an entire ordeal. Any security pen-testing firm with their wits about them could have discovered these backdoors in a few simple audits.

The fact that he was able to find all of these is very worrisome to me. I can only imagine what other bugs/backdoors are built in to these systems.

Does any of this security matter with the fact that you can build weapons using airport giftshop items?


The weapons in the video are not powerful enough to take down an airliner. They'd likely harm a handful of people nearby or blow a small hole in the side of the plane but not much more than that. A small hole in the side of the plane would likely not cause it to crash.

Of course, I don't mean to be flippant with regards to the lives of people close by but it's not a larger threat than someone doing this on the ground. The biggest point of airport security is to keep the planes from falling out of the sky or flown into buildings.

arguing for arguments sake: 9/11 happened with a box cutter

Because passengers believed that the result of a hijacking was to land in a third-world country and eventually be released after negotiation mostly regarding things that have nothing to do with them.

Once the passengers believe that the result of a hijacking is to be flown into the side of a national monument, you're gonna need a lot more than box cutters to hold them back. As we saw before the 9/11 attacks were even completed.

If this isn't the answer, and I'm not asserting it is or isn't. What is, and how do implement it. Or do you suggest if we scrap it all and go back to 1950's like airport security that the few incidents that are inevitable are an acceptable risk? I don't know the answer, but I'd like to have the conversation.

I do suggest we scrap it all and go back to the 1950s. Let people walk right out to the gate to meet arrivals. Let people run through the airport right to the gate without having to stand in a line at all. Even the level of security we had before 9/11 was misguided and caused more deaths than it saved.

Here's all we should do: leave security policy up to the airlines themselves. Then there won't be the sort of single points of failure we have now. If one airline wants to reinforce the cockpit doors or arm the pilots they can just do that without getting permission from a central authority and making that the new mandated standard. Get rid of one-size-fits-all security. Let "convenient security" be just one more attribute that airline companies compete to provide, along with "comfortable seating" and "frequent flights".

Why would the airlines have incentive to provide good-quality security? Terrorism events are rare and it seems unlikely that a reasonable amount of security infrastructure that the airline could provide would result in a substantial decrease in the probability that a sufficiently-motivated terrorist would be successful with an attack against that airline.

I just can't imagine we would get anything more than the airlines putting in a minumum amount of security theatre to meet appearances for the customers and appease the local regulations.

What airlines are doing now amounts precisely to "a large amount of security theatre to meet appearances for the customers and appease the local regulations."

I want to decentralize for two reasons:

(1) it removes single points of failure. For instance, post-911, airlines needed to GET PERMISSION to make changes such as strengthening the cockpit door or changing the protocol for opening it. Being more flexible means being able to quickly adjust to changing security circumstances.

(2) It gives customers the OPTION of purchasing LESS security. So far as I'm concerned, the airlines I fly are already far more "secure" than they need to be - I would pay extra to fly on a plane with NO security, one where people could just walk on openly carrying a rifle if they so desired.

Were it left up to the airlines, they would have to make tradeoffs between security and every other value customers have including cost and convenience. We then wouldn't get somebody's idea of "the best possible security no matter the cost". Instead we'd get "the best possible security consistent with not spending too much money and not inconveniencing or annoying passengers very much." Which is what we really want.

I agreed with you more before this post. Let's consider the advantages of centralization:

(1) A single agency can have within its mandate, expertise, and budget the security apparatus, which requires full-stack authority: airport design and administration, customs officials, airlines, planes, luggage, etc. The airlines can focus on the task they actually want to perform and are qualified to perform, whereas the one agency responsible for security can be audited and held accountable for that task as a unit.

(2) Customers cannot purchase less security. This is an advantage. It is nonsense for a customer to walk openly onto an aircraft carrying a rifle.

I think "airport security" has much less to do with passenger security than the risks inherent with allowing planes to fly through our skies. 9/11 is a clear example that many more people than the passengers of the flight can be affected via air-terrorism. This is why planes are controlled.

I'm not opposed to that control; I just marvel at how awful a job the U.S. government does at determing the cost/convenience/effectiveness tradeoffs. In my experience in the United States, this seems to be a systemic problem with governmentally-administered services that does not seem to exist so much in other governments.

There aren't many airlines, and I expect the overwhelming majority of consumers would consistently purchase the cheapest option. If airlines are the agency entrusted with safe flight, this makes everyone less safe. Rather, airport and flight security seems better serviced as an airport-surcharge or tax. What's missing is effective, accountable security provided by experts that we trust. I don't know why that isn't something we can solve.

> It is nonsense for a customer to walk openly onto an aircraft carrying a rifle.

I'm not sure that I agree. Prior to metal detectors and airport security here in the US plenty of guns were carried on planes and very few bad outcomes were the result. I've heard of planes getting hijacked and going to Cuba but nothing in the way of mass murders on airplanes.

I wish that instead of just stating this as a fact that you had argued it in some way. For point 1 you gave reasoning. For point 2 you just said "this is true" and stopped.

If you had said something like "air is necessary for life" yeah sure, I won't belabor that point. It's scientifically verifiable at least for humans.

But when the parent was posting "I wish people could just carry rifles and it not be a big deal" it's clear that your position is more of an opinion than a fact. You might consider it a fact, but you're replying to glenra who quite obviously doesn't agree.

> I've heard of planes getting hijacked and going to Cuba but nothing in the way of mass murders on airplanes.

Now you have:



While these incidents are tragic, two incidents in the span 50 years of passenger aviation since WW2 don't seem like a big problem.

More people have been killed by lunatics while going to church without churches imposing a security theatre on attendees.

That was an response to the previous poster's incorrect observation about hearing "nothing in the way of mass murders on airplanes."

It appears that you incorrectly interpreted it as a complete list, as you concluded that only two incidents have occurred. http://listverse.com/2014/03/26/10-people-who-committed-murd... gives other examples of people who have committed mass murder on an airplane, including http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_Airlines_Flight_11 (as a consequence of a suicide-by-bomb insurance fraud).

Also, the context was "mass murders on airplanes." Mass murder means typically 4 or more deaths. I have found many murders which took place at churches in the US [1] and ending up with one or two death. However, I haven't haven't found much in the way of mass murders of the sort that is supposed to be identified by security theater measures.

[1] If we go outside of the US then there are certainly metal detectors at some synagogues, bomb detectors at Mecca’s Holy Mosque, etc.

Over the decades of following online discussions, I'm growing ever more irritated at pedantic declarations of wrongness by countering reasonable generalizations with obscure/rare exceptions. Yes, out of the total vast number of commercial "airbus" flights ever, a minuscule number have suffered such incidents; likewise, a tiny number of holy sites are secured due to extreme attraction of violent nutjobs; taken in context both in absolute percentage of instances and in this being a casual discussion involving short comments of understandably less than peer-reviewed encyclopedic thoroughness, we don't have to spend time arguing minute absolutes.

A pretty common argument around the pro-gun community is that removing guns from a specific area (schools, movie theaters, airlines) makes those places a prime target for mass shootings/terrorism -- the attacker knows that the area is gun-free and that, if he can get his own weapons into the area, he can't be (easily) challenged.

I'm not entirely sure if this is true or not, but it seems accurate -- have there been mass shootings in areas before they declared "gun-free zones?" Anyways, my point wasn't to argue for or against this, just that it seemed relevant to your comment -- you say that there were no issues when we used to let people just walk on planes with their guns, but once we started banning them, we started having things like 9/11.

As a frequent pro-gunner, the argument as I see it is more that if you want a gun-free zone that might actually be safer, then you need the whole airport-style rigmarole - metal detectors and armed security at every entrance, everybody entering gets their bodies and bags scanned or searched until you can positively verify that there aren't any guns, carefully designed walls, fences, and doors to make sure that nobody ever gets through anywhere but the official entrances with security, etc.

Putting up a sign saying gun-free zone at a place with no security makes things less safe, since it can only deter people who would never commit a crime anyways.

I appreciate your comment. I should have been clear to separate my opinion that "availability of rifles on planes make them less safe" away from the argument that "less-safe planes should not be a passenger choice because the harm caused by the lax security is commit against non-passengers as well".

one where people could just walk on openly carrying a rifle if they so desired

So you also want airlines to modify cabins to handle oversized carry-on luggage? Nevertheless, the amount of people who would pay more to do this would not be commercially viable - you yourself state that cost is a significant factor for users. Keep in mind also that your security-free airline would have to have its own terminals, as its customers wouldn't be able to mingle with existing airline customers.

Also, why would you pay more for an item that's better off in checked luggage anyway? It's not like you can use the rifle between luggage drop-off and pick-up, and it's irritatingly large to carry around a cabin. It sounds like sacrificing pragmatics for pointless idealism, to me.

It's not about "using it", it's about transporting as you see fit. A good-quality rifle can easily cost $3000, and is a device of precision mechanisms & optics - not something you want strangers throwing about for hours a la "checked-in luggage", especially as if you're transporting it you will need it in good working order upon arrival (likely the point of the trip). Sure it's long, but a slim-fit case can go into the coat rack well; "takedown" models in-case would fit well in the overhead bin.

Yes, I have travelled with one. Check-in etc was more a hassle, and no more "safe" for all concerned, than if I'd just carried it on.

Some smaller flights make the issue laughable: for all the trouble of checking in luggage, screening it, and securing it for the trip, it's all ultimately just stowed behind a curtain in the cabin.

> So you also want airlines to modify cabins to handle oversized carry-on luggage?

No more so than they already do. See, I routinely travel with an acoustic guitar in a gig bag as my "personal item"; it fits in the overhead compartment. And when I don't have the big guitar I often carry a smaller "travel" guitar in a triangular case that is almost exactly the size and shape of a rifle case; they often let me hang that one in the coat closet to get it out of the way.

The problem here isn't that I want to carry a rifle on board, it's that I want other people to be free to carry a rifle on board. I want that because preventing them from doing so inflicts a cost on me. Preventing things like rifles means I need to get to the airport an hour before the flight and I need to stand in long security lines and let them grope and/or ogle me and search my baggage and confiscate my sunscreen and examine my guitar and send my electronics through a second time. Every. Single. Flight.

If I could skip all that nonsense - just come to the airport and walk right to the gate WITHOUT the search, that would worth at least an extra 5 or 10 bucks to me because it substantially reduces the chance that I'll miss my flight. And it would SAVE the airline money not having to pay for search goons and their equipment, and it would even make me more likely to fly.

I want other people to be able to carry a rifle because I'm not a hoplophobe. In fact, I personally would feel ever-so-slightly safer in a flight where I knew other people might be armed as a matter of default than in one where the ONLY armed people are likely to be bad guys or Official Security. Because I trust that on average, by and large, my fellow passengers are competent and well-meaning people. They're not ALL potential terrorists; any potential terrorists are seriously outnumbered and (in my world) outgunned.

I just want to get on the damn plane without the time-wasting rigamarole.

Have you ever gone skydiving? If so, did you notice that there's no airport security there - you don't have to take off your shoes and helmets and put the parachute through a metal detector? You just put on all your crap, get on the plane with it and the plane takes off. Right then and there. You can do this at small airports all over the country, using decent sized planes. And somehow nobody has ever used this as an opportunity to kick everyone out, hijack the plane and crash it into a building.

The specific threat that modern "airport security" is designed to stop is essentially nonexistent. We are fighting an imaginary hobgoblin, an empty set. The money we spend doing so is entirely wasted other than that it makes a few people feel more confident to think that we're "doing something".

We should address the same fear some other way. Maybe if we put up billboards and ran ads explaining why all the security theater makes us less safe, people would stop demanding it.

I like your example about skydiving, but your reasoning is flawed. Hijacking a skydiving plane and crashing it into a building isn't likely to cause a lot of damage. More importantly, it's not likely to cause a lot of terror. The planes are relatively small, passengers are well equipped to simply jump out (therefore, no hostages), or some would happily make a fight of it, knowing they'd probably be safe getting out of the plane anyway.

Nevertheless, your point is important. There are a lot of potential "terrorist tools" that are not protected. How about a terrorist taking over a subway/train and running full speed until it crashes or derails? I can't be the only one who's noticed operators are almost always alone. Even during a shift/operator change, overpowering 2 of them wouldn't be difficult. Same goes for most other type of public transportation (commuter trains, busses, trolley, ferry, etc.)

There are a LOT of terrorist plot/targets that scare me more than a commercial airliner today. Lots of things that keep me awake at night and wonder about the world our kids will inherit. I'll be completely shocked if a commercial airliner type of plot happens again in my lifetime. At least in that environment people would be far more aggressive towards an attack during a flight. The US government is well behind the curve with TSA and it seems clear they are simply attempting to justify the TSA's existence.

It's true that some people jump out of tiny planes like a cessna but I was thinking of the larger ones like this:


Even less than fully fueled that thing could put a pretty big hole in a building and the cockpit doesn't even HAVE a door separating it from the main cabin. Yes, it might prove tricky to take over a flight full of instructors and students in the air, but given that legitimate customers have easy access to the airfield at ground level before and after a jump and there's no real security there it's not hard to imagine ways a sufficiently motivated and unscrupulous person could take over such a plane at relatively minimal risk to themselves and weaponize it.

But yeah, that's just one of a zillion possible threats anybody with half a brain can come up with. The current airport security model assumes the existence of terrorists who have a really weird set of characteristics such that they are simultaneously:

(1) sufficiently driven and resourceful to successfully bring down a plane via a bomb or weapons if there were no security (this is pretty hard)

(2) NOT sufficiently driven and resourceful to find a way AROUND the current security measures (even though this is easy)

(3) also NOT sufficiently driven and resourceful as to find some OTHER way of causing a similar amount of terror and damage, such as blowing up 5 busses or funding a half-dozen "DC snipers" around the country or blowing up the security line itself.

>And somehow nobody has ever used this as an opportunity to kick everyone out, hijack the plane and crash it into a building.

Because how much damage could you really do with one of these, versus a widebody jet fueled up for a long flight?

Here's someone who crashed a smaller aircraft into an office building. It just damaged a corner office and killed the teenager who was at the controls, not exactly the kind of major attack that terrorists go gunning for.


What disturbs me is that you're arguing from the opposite extreme. Airport security does stop security threats - it raises the bar considerably. There's definitely an argument that current security is way over the top in the US, but the opposite extreme is even more silly. The moderate path is the way forward - it does not follow that all security measures are security theater.

All the arguments about 'what about blowing up trains/buses/whatever' also miss vital points - namely, that the passengers on a plane cannot escape, and small damage to a plane can doom it. This is not true of trains or buses. Combine this with the point that the public, rightly or wrongly, are more significantly affected by a plane crash, and it becomes clearer why planes are better targets for terrorism. Similarly, the demographic that uses planes are largely middle-class. Those who use public transport have a much larger proportion of working-class people on them, who have less political power, and the media also cares less about them.

You also still have to face the issue of running your own terminals, because any international airport has its sterile zone, which is connected to every other international airport in the world. Until you get them all accepting your citizenry carrying weaponry, your local international airport is going to keep its sterile zones. And running your own terminals is going to cost you more than $5 extra/ticket...

Because I trust that on average, by and large, my fellow passengers are competent and well-meaning people.

'On average' is the problem here. The general public includes all sorts of idiots, terrorist or otherwise. Anyone who's had a job facing the general public will be aware that there are plenty of people who fuck with you just because they can. Particularly in an enclosed environment where people sometimes get heavily inebriated.

And regarding the skydiving, light aircraft have only rarely been used for terrorism. The same is very much not true of heavy aircraft, which have a long track record of terrorism.

The specific threat that modern "airport security" is designed to stop is essentially nonexistent.

Ultimately, this is a chicken-and-egg problem. Hijacking has been made extremely difficult by the current measures, but even before 9/11, hijacking was much more difficult in the 90s than in the 70s due to increasing the bar for security. The threat is there, but higher security means you have to be better-resourced in order to defeat it.

Perhaps put another way: if there is actually no threat, then why do you say you'd feel safer if your fellow passengers were armed? Shouldn't you be saying it'd make no difference?

> Airport security does stop security threats - it raises the bar considerably.

As somebody who flies a lot for work, it raises the bar enough to stop a really stupid terrorist. Those business travellers that you see flying week in, week out know more about airport security flaws than the TSA.

On the other hand airplane security does raise the bar. The change to have reinforced cockpit doors was the only thing that changed after 9/11 that makes flying safer.

It's worth pointing out that we weren't discussing security changes post 9/11, but the presence of security at all. Pre 9/11 security did pretty well (as I said, see 90s vs 70s), which would be fine with a small bit of tuning. But to completely remove security altogether? It's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I'm only saying to completely remove security altogether with respect to how we treat the PASSENGERS. That is, when people walk into a plane let them be "protected" to much the same degree as when they walk down the street or get on a bus or a train. Protected by a little sensible thought put into how the environment is designed and a little faith in human nature, not at all protected by strip searches and behavior rules written out in minute detail and a legion of guards with uzis wearing camo on every corner.

In response to prior experience with hijackers, pre-9/11 "security" primarily involved disarming the passengers and training passengers and crew alike that they should act like sheep, exercise no judgment of their own and obey any commands given by hijackers. 9/11 should have sufficiently demonstrated the fundamental flaw with that approach - that it is brittle. It was perhaps worth trying back then, but it didn't work and we should try something else instead.

There are many busses in NYC where the bus driver is in a bulletproof compartment; he doesn't have to come out until/unless it's safe. One cannot reasonably expect to hijack such a bus. Planes can be similarly safe against hijacking so long as airlines take cockpit security seriously. Make sure the door is strong and secure, make sure the pilots can see OUT of it well when they need to - this might involve a bulletproof glass window - and make sure there are clear protocols such that nothing going on in the main cabin can force the pilots to come out. Let the pilots be armed as well if they so desire. Beyond that, we might want to encourage passengers NOT to be sheep, but it would probably suffice to merely let them exercise common sense. (The would-be shoe bomber and underwear bomber were ignominiously foiled by fellow passengers.) "Taking control" of a huge room full of hundreds of people is not an inherently easy thing to do and it's not clear it could ever happen again in a similar situation now that the risk is known. Given that ordinary technology and protocols and social institutions make controlling the cabin unlikely and controlling the cockpit nearly impossible even WITH the use of weapons, why bother searching for them?

There is a weird feedback loop in operation: we are unusually afraid of plane hijackings, so plane hijackings are an unusually good way to make people afraid. But hijacking is already nearly impossible, so we just need to stop being afraid of it. The solution to terrorism is to stop being terrorized. Modern security leaves people defenseless as it sends the message that they SHOULD be afraid; getting rid of security would send the message that the threat isn't so bad that we need to be paranoid about it. Paradoxically, this would actually make planes a less attractive target for terrorists.

There is no baby in there; it's ALL bathwater. It's dirty and gross and needs to be tossed out.

I think there are several factors to consider.

Terrorism is an infinitesimally small threat, but many on the political side chose to treat it with heavy gloves despite the diminishing returns because (1) the Zero-risk cognitive bias makes people want to force than small risk to zero [1] and (2) the federal government views the TSA as a jobs program. Even though they're largely ineffective, no politician would dare to propose the dismantling thereof because the opposing side could use this as ammunition in the form of 'X is allowing the terrorists in' or 'X has cost us 10,000 jobs.'

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-risk_bias

> Even the level of security we had before 9/11 was misguided and caused more deaths than it saved.

Even if I grant that it saved no lives, it's not obvious to me how it caused any.

> Here's all we should do: leave security policy up to the airlines themselves.

Airplanes filled filled with thousands of pounds of jet fuel hurtling overhead create externalities, with costs borne by the community. While customers certainly would consider safety and security in choosing an airline, those killed on the ground in Lockerbie and in the WTC and at the Pentagon did not make that choice.

> > Even the level of security we had before 9/11 was misguided and caused more deaths than it saved.

> Even if I grant that it saved no lives, it's not obvious to me how it caused any.

This is discussed elsewhere in the thread, mainly here:


When you make flying less attractive, people are more likely to drive. Driving is orders of magnitude more dangerous, so people die in car crashes who wouldn't have if they had flown.

Security makes flying less attractive because:

- higher monetary cost for the flight (some of this is reflected in explicit "security fees", some not)

- bigger time commitment due to having to arrive early to allow for security

- bigger chance of missing the flight (if you're the sort of person who tends to cut it close on time)

- less flexibility. For instance, before the modern security era you could just buy a ticket and then if it turns out you couldn't use it you could sell it on craigslist. Or if the flight was overbooked you could directly sell your ticket to somebody on standby - the airlines didn't care.

- greater chance of being stolen from because you are forcibly separated from your valuables which are accessed out of your sight.

- greater stress due to the fear of losing one's valuables.

- more stress due to fears related to dealing with security personnel, long lines, being treated like sheep, having one's personal space invaded and more.

The most DIRECT way all this translates into extra deaths is that fewer people fly so more die on the road. One INDIRECT way it translates into extra deaths is that fewer people travel at all (or do so more expensively) which damages economic growth; economic growth tends to promote health.

How exactly has airport security caused any deaths?

Airport security makes flying much more expensive (both in time and in money) and inconvenient and generally unpleasant than it would otherwise be. So many people who otherwise would take a plane on a short trip choose to drive instead. Some of those people die needlessly in traffic accidents, since driving is orders of magnitude more dangerous than flying. That's the primary mechanism of harm.

A common estimate I've seen is that roughly 500 extra people a year die due just to the added security costs post-9/11.

A little googling finds a few relevant popular-press articles including these:



One of the relevant academic papers is by Cornell University researchers Garrick Blalock, Vrinda Kadiyali, and Daniel H. Simon, “The Impact of Post-9/11 Airport Security Measures on the Demand for Air Travel,” published in The Journal of Law and Economics in November 2007. (pdf here: http://dyson.cornell.edu/faculty_sites/gb78/wp/JLE_6301.pdf )

This comment is correct. People do avoid flying in particular because it is so annoying and humiliating. I know this anecdotally from talking to both frequent and infrequent flyers, and I believe several statistics and studies bear it out, though I haven't carefully analyzed the methodology.

Additionally, the economic costs of slowing and discouraging plane flight are staggering. The loss of people's time spent waiting in the airport is a tangible economic price. Thousands of human hours wasted daily. The security procedures make what should be very short trips (for example, New York to DC) inconvenient enough that it becomes a toss up between plane, train, and car. In my opinion, this is a significant step backwards for our effective infrastructure.

I seriously doubt that a $5.60 fee has a significant effect on demand for $200-$500 plane tickets.

If that were the case, one could argue that the overpriced food at the airport also kills people.

As for your sources: The paper linked by Business Week doesn't say anything about the price of airport security deterring people, rather it is about the aggregate group that substituted driving for flying after 9/11, which has a myriad of causes. It does not support the assertion that the price of the TSA kills people.

The second link asserts that the time spent due to TSA procedures puts more people on the road, but I doubt this for two reasons: 1. security has been quick and efficient in my 2x-4x flights per year experience and 2. the rule of getting to the airport 1 hour before domestic and 2 hours before international flights existed before 9/11 too. So if somebody spends 30 minutes in a security line or 5 minutes, that affects their time twiddling their thumbs at the gate and not their travel time (and therefore doesn't really impact the decision to fly or drive).

Personally, I don't fly if I don't have to. The cost of flights has nothing to do with it.

The way things are now, I feel threatened in an airport. Especially a US airport, though Canadian ones aren't much better. I feel a heightened possibility that my valuables be stolen from me. That it's done under the color of law makes it even worse than being in a rough neighborhood.

Some may say this is unreasonable, but I know two people who've been stolen from by TSA.

I'd rather drive 8 hours than be subjected to a warrantless search.

Do you know they were stolen from by the TSA, or by baggage handlers? Getting rid of the TSA wouldn't solve the latter problem.

On case is someone I know directly, the other is a friend of a friend who I haven't met personally.

Both alledged thefts were of jewelry in carry on, so if the allegations are true then it was TSA.

We are forced to divest ourselves of metalic objects and then put them through an xray, out of our sight, operated by a low class, unaccountable workforce.

Going through there gives me this mix of feelings: anxiety from being on my guard, fear that I may lose costly property, anger towards whose who designed this awful system and the liars who enable it, pity for the poor losers who work in it, and despair that Americans allow themselves to be treated this way - like chattel.

TSA theft happens all the time. They have the ability to take stuff from passengers basically with impunity. What are you doing to do, start a row in the security line?


As a matter of TSA policy. They're directed & empowered to take things which are harmless (save for absurdly extraordinary efforts with minute operational payoff), under the threat of "give this up or lose your paid ticket".

I'm not sure if it's true, but I've read that the airlines didn't want to have any part in security after 9/11 because of the liability.

> I do suggest we scrap it all and go back to the 1950s. Let people walk right out to the gate to meet arrivals.

You could do this in the 90s. It still boggles my mind that someone thought it should be stamped out.

It's also a bit surprising that meeting people at the gate is thought of as some bizarre behavior that only happened in ancient antiquity. All of these restrictions, and all of these new bureaucracies are brand new, completely created and maintained over the administrations of only two presidents.

You can still dos it in Australia, for domestic flights (albeit you have to pass the security check.) Still, I was quite surprised the first time I noticed so.

Methinks he was referring to not what we think of now as the "gate" (the extended building reaching to the plane), but in fact walking right out on the tarmac.

Nah, I meant what we think of now as "gate". For instance, I remember going out to meet people at the gate at SFO in the 1990s. I'm not quite old enough - or perhaps didn't grow up in a small enough town? - to remember routinely walking out on the tarmac to greet a plane.

I vote to drop nearly all of it.

The cockpit door is reinforced and locked, without the ability to take over the aircraft there is literally less risk than if someone just drove a bomb into an airport.

I vote to go back to the way it was pre-9/11. The 9/11 hijackings were a one time play, that is, they changed the rules by which the terrorists play by, and therefore the passengers have changed the way that they will react to a terroristic threat aboard a plane. We have seen passengers are more than willing to stand up to those that pose a threat on plane in post-9/11 air travel.

> if someone just drove a bomb into an airport.

Which is exactly what the 2007 attack on Glasgow airport was.[1]

All major airports in the UK now have limited access to the front of the terminal building (typically, buses and taxis only). Most now have a drop-off zone in the car park.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Glasgow_International_Air...

Does moving the "attack zone" make any sense? What if someone bombs the car park -- will the airport stop allowing personal cars into it?

I know I'm not the first to say this sort of thing, and maybe it's cliche, but really, what is there to protect at the front of the terminal, that is not just as vulnerable now in the car park? (Edit: I recognize the poster I'm responding to hasn't necessarily endorsed the authorities' action in this case.)

They should be protecting anywhere large groups of people are gathered. I do think that large security lines of people waiting to be screened are detrimental to that.

I assume the theory is that there will be less people in the car park then in the terminal.

I imagine the front of the terminal is a place where groups of people can typically be found - drop offs, pick ups, waiting for baggage, etc.

Also, blowing up the front of the terminal has the potential to shut down airport operations much longer than a remote car park.

It is also to do with glass windows. Terminals tend to have massive amounts of glass which a bomb will blow out massively increasing the casualties. Car parks are open at the sides and sparsely populated.

Shortly after 9/11, vehicles entering the airport car park were searched. Methinks it ended as formally extending the "security zone" to there proved untenable.

There's a risk that an aircraft will be bombed in-flight, which doesn't require access to the cockpit. Before 9/11, such bombings were the primary security concern as hijackings usually resulted in a hostage situation. It'd probably be wise to keep explosives screening.

An in-flight bomb, though tragic, is much less of a threat, economic, social or otherwise, than an 'airplane-as-missile' into a populated area. So long as there is no access to the cockpit, the maximum effect of a terrorist's explosion is the downing of a plane, not the downing of a $1B 110 story building.

I don't think this conclusion takes into account the 'terror' part of the plan.

Most everyone here assumes rational responses from the: media > public > politicians. This is incredibly naive. It reminds me of economic arguments used by libertarians.

Sure, but without taking over the craft and turning into a significantly more dangerous missile (a la 9/11) there is only as much risk as bombing a parking garage, mall, school or any other place with hundreds of people and virtually no security.

Not sure how much that logic actually applies to anyone trying to bomb stuff, though.

If you want to kill 300 people, you can just blow up five buses. It's much easier than trying to blow up a plane.

It doesn't have the same publicity quality, though. The groups that carry out these attacks do it for attention, and they're going to do whatever they can to maximize their press time. That results in worldwide publication of their message, often requiring their opposition to acknowledge and respond, and gives them outlet to advertise to potential new recruits. Airplane attacks and crashes get a lot more coverage than incidents involving similar loss of life due to the emotional factor of being isolated 35,000 feet in the sky, and that makes the cost involved in launching a more intricate attack on aircraft worthwhile.

You can try to run away from a bomb at a parking garage after the initial explosion and an ambulance will be there to check things out and rescue people pretty quickly. If you're in the plane when it gets attacked, you have no recourse and virtually no chance for survival, which is not usually the case when a ground target is bombed with conventional explosives. Even if you survive the actual ground impact (zero chance if an event happens at cruising altitude, small chance if it happens at a more reasonable altitude during takeoff/landing), there's no guarantee you'll be anywhere near civilization that can give medical help or attention. This makes the risk of an airborne attack much more frightening, since death is virtually guaranteed.

Passengers want a reasonable assurance that there's something more than chance protecting the flights they're boarding (and for whatever reason, they don't usually make the same types of demands from ground entities like parking garages or bus stops). That's why the airlines added their own security checkpoints in the 70s as hijackings became prominent. That's also the reason the TSA can exist at all. The TSA takes it too far, and we all acknowledge that some threats can't be screened out, but just going back to nothing isn't a plausible solution, at least not at first. There needs to be a more gradual transition if we're ever going to get there.

I agree that an airplane crash is more newsworthy than an attack on a bus.

I'm not so sure about a campaign that takes out five buses. I'd expect that to get heavy coverage.

Precisely. Think of the paralysis the DC snipers caused a few years back with just a rifle over a few weeks.

Just get rid of it. What currently exists is like something from a police state. It's evil, tyrannical, and will fail stop a future attack against the traveling public inside the United States.

If this gross violation of liberty and due process must continue for legitimate reasons of public safety, because the consequence of projecting power abroad is being targeted for reprisal, then at least grant immunity for offenses unrelated to aviation safety.

But that will not happen, because the people who enable and profit from these checkpoints aren't subjected to them at all.

> But that will not happen, because the people who enable and profit from these checkpoints aren't subjected to them at all.

Don't worry - you can pay ~$100 to have the privilege of being "randomly" selected for "reduced" screening (ie, pre-9/11, with a metal detector).

Of course, this is certainly not random at all. I don't have a random sample, but based on what I can see, it's very unlikely that they actually select people randomly and fairly[0].

The existence of this program means that we're separating travelers into two groups - those who can afford the $100[1] to be exempt from these draconian checkpoints, and those who can't (or who can, but are still forced to go through them anyway).

[0] https://twitter.com/nickgrossman/status/476745477430734848

[1] Not just the fee, but also the time (you have to go for an in-person "interview", which is really just so that they can fingerprint you... I don't remember them asking any real questions)

I applied to - and was granted - the TSA Precheck clearance. Let's face it; it's $100 for five years. And the interview took well under an hour including waiting time. Works out to be an almost negligible increase in cost compared to the cost of the travel it covers.

The fingerprinting is a different issue.

Can that be used to avoid the "pat-down" for those who cannot go thru the metal detector for medical reasons (metallic implants)?

No, in fact, precheck generally means you don't go through the AIT device and instead go through the metal detector. If you refuse to go through the metal detector (or if you set it off, or you are the 'zone 5' "random" person), you get a (hilariously perfunctory) patdown that they use to collect particles for the explosives test device. Nothing like the Freedom Grope™ in the plebe lanes.

What kind of questions did they ask during your interview?

> you have to go for an in-person "interview", which is really just so that they can fingerprint you...

Well, in Finland, we have to submit to fingerprinting to get a new passport these days..

Oh, and Japan started fingerprinting all foreigners a few years ago. You just can't get into the country without it.

As an Australian, I'm fingerprinted and photographed every time I enter the US.

Yeah, all of this scrap-the-TSA talk makes me wonder how much people have flown internationally: in places I've been, security has been very similar to the TSA with minor variations. It seems like for every policy that had something a little less strict about it there was also something else it was a little more strict about: some care about liquids, some treat iPads as laptops, some make you remove your shoes.

I've also been frisked by the TSA and at the Brussels airport and they were significantly more invasive in the latter.

My experiences include flying in the following places in the past 5 years as a single male US citizen: USA (2x-4x year), Brussels, Budapest, Denpasar Bali, Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo, UK.

You're not factoring in just how much of this international security is driven by US interests(US imposed security requirements for airports servicing flights bound for the US). It's significantly driven by US interests. Domestic flights in several countries I've been to have much less security.

Interestingly though, in Australia you can NOT opt out of the screening machines. They will quarantine and deport you if you refuse to go through them. But then, Australia isn't exactly a bastion of personal liberty when compared to the US.

> Yeah, all of this scrap-the-TSA talk makes me wonder how much people have flown internationally: in places I've been, security has been very similar to the TSA with minor variations. It seems like for every policy that had something a little less strict about it there was also something else it was a littles more strict about: some care about liquids, some treat iPads as laptops, some make you remove your shoes.

In my experience when traveling to south asia, once I was outside the US, they didn't care about liquids or shoe removal. The security scan just involved sending one's bags through the scanner and going through a metal detector. On the way back, though, it was much like the US with the shoe removal, taking the liquids out of carry-on bags, etc.

Depends on which country in South Asia. I've travelled to Thailand, where they're super lax about security. Their scans can be skipped and their pat-downs (if they occur at all) are cursory. Right next to Thailand is India, where the policy is indistinguishable from the TSA.

I didn't have to take shoes off, laptop out, or throw away liquids in India. They do a hand-wand metal detector and a perfunctory frisk if you're wearing loose clothing, but otherwise it's much less invasive than any TSA check.

I've done plenty of flying out of China, where you can get the death penalty for improper fundraising. The most onerous part of security is that you have to take your laptop(s) out of your carryon to go through. Out of US-instilled habit, I show up hours early for flights and end up spending those hours at the gate waiting to board. It's enough to make you ashamed of your US passport.

How is that relevant? I don't want to suffer through TSA shenanigans on domestic US flights. What they do in Brussels has nothing to do with that.

The point is that the TSA model, with minor variations, seems to be the dominant model of airport security.

So, aside from Israel (which has far more invasive procedures), there doesn't seem to be an alternative model to subscribe to.

Same plan we use to prevent terrorism at bus stations, beaches, and little league games.

In Iceland (as of 2006) my recall was no security screening point for the airports besides Keflavik (the airfield for large international flights). Totally liberating and strange to walk right to the gate, then out the door and across the tarmac onto a small airplane. Am curious if this is still so. I took it as a sign of mutual trust in a small nation.

I should also say that I remember even in the 1970s being able to walk to the gate without a ticket (albeit after passing through a metal detector). Both that and the Iceland experience had the romance of air travel which is lost during the humiliation of large airport screening procedures in the U.S.

I didn't think it was that different from European airports. Pretty much the same level of security in 2013 (Keflavik) and 2007 (Akureyri). Actually slightly more, since in Akureyri they got everyone into one room, closed it, and walked around with dogs sniffing for drugs (I guess).

They were much nicer about it though than pretty much everyone at the airports in the US.

This is a ridiculous idea I've always wondered about, but... why not just drop everything, and allow open carry? Maybe keep the cockpit doors.

I find it impossible to imagine any security threat to a flight where the passengers are packing and willing to defend themselves.

Doesn't this make flying exactly as dangerous as being in a crowd? For zero dollars?

> I find it impossible to imagine any security threat to a flight where the passengers are packing and willing to defend themselves.

I suspect the number of people who would carry is smaller than you imagine. I own some handguns, have had a CCW in the past, and I wouldn't carry on an airplane. I'm not opposed to it, I just don't see a reason to do so. Same as I don't see a reason to carry in my eastside Seattle suburb neighborhood when walking the dogs: it's probably the smallest risk I'll face all day. (Granted, I walk two pit bulls so a hand gun seems kind of redundant. <g>)

My second, and largest objection is having a bunch of amateurs of varying abilities shooting in an environment where people are packed in like cattle. The singular time I have ever even considered drawing a handgun for defense, there were people in the area behind the potential target, with a non-zero chance of hitting them were I to miss. Too risky, found another way to resolve the issue. On an airplane? The background behind the target is almost guaranteed to have innocents. I might trust combat-experienced military personnel to take the shot, no way would I trust someone who has only put holes in paper at a shooting range with no adrenaline coursing through their veins (a group which would include myself).

You're overestimating the marksmanship/ability to use firearms of the average (untrained) person, especially when under extreme stress.

And in an environment where people may well be panicking and moving around, making a clear shot difficult, even if your markmanship is good.

A fight occurring in a plane is more dangerous than on the ground, specially if people are firing guns.

There aren't fewer problems now. We are paying for nothing.

Is there a video to go along with these slides? This is fascinating.

The diagram-heavy slides could certainly use some context.

It was a presentation at Blackhat 2014. The videos are released sometime afterwards.


About a year after 9/11 I flew from Phoenix to Corpus Christi Texas. I brought a carry on case from work with me full of papers and (unknown to me) some tools including a large folding knife, a smaller pocket knife, a leather man and some screwdrivers. I honestly had completely forgot about the tools, they were buried in the bottom of the case under papers (yes, my case was not very organized).

So, I took the case carry through x-ray in Phoenix, then, during a layover in Dallas I went outside the airport with the case, came back in through security, re-boarded the airplane and proceeded to Corpus Christi where I passed my vacation. After vacation, on the return flight to Phoenix, they found the knives and tools at the small airport in Corpus Christi as I attempted to board. I gave them to security and nothing came of it but I didn't feel it wise to tell them that I had already been through two checkpoints with the contraband. I realize things have probably tightened further since then but still... I was a bit shocked. And I'm still thinking a lot of the "security" at airports is for show.

It makes laugh a lot, 9/11 happen because they used cutter.

Airport security will piss you off for a kid cissor.

But they will let you buy a glass bottle of alcohol in duty free.

That you can break properly and use as a weapon ...

Logic ...

Relevant - This guy built a bunch of weapons from things you can buy in airport shops.


Do they let you carry that own or do they hold that until you get off the plane? The latter was my experience some years ago.

from their blog: http://blog.tsa.gov/2014/01/tsa-travel-tips-tuesday-travelin...

Yep. You can bring two 1.7 oz glass bottles with you to the airport (in case you have a specific shape or kind of glass you'd like).

There are many shops in the sterile area of most airports that sell goods that could be readily transformed into weapons.

I keep forgetting that this whole mess is still ongoing. The articles seem to come in waves -- there'll be a new exposure of how useless the scanners are, lots of noise around that, and sometimes articles about changes to actual policy.

I actually had the impression that the silly Rapiscan (what a lovely name!) scanners had been retired a year or two ago. Then this summer I went back to the US (first time in several years!) and it was worse than ever. In the one visit (involving 4 flights including my arrival to the US and departure from) I twice had to turn down the millimeter wave scanner -- apparently having a baby in a sling on my chest wasn't enough to exclude me -- and so I got to experience (twice) the uncomfortable manual pat down process, including the by-the-book warning that they're going to slide a hand up my inner thigh until they meet "resistance".

On the other hand, I have some fairly ugly memories of arriving in JFK in the past (and going through immigration difficulties), and the airport remains horrible (their computer system went down for a half-hour while we waited to pass immigration...), but the people working there were impressively kind, especially to a family traveling with small children.

Seems like the SFO Kronos has been taken offline since this disclosure.

I still maintain that security checkpoints are the scariest places to be. So many people gathered, huddled, around a small, politically sensitive area outside the "secure" zone.

"Pulling the Curtain on Airport Security" - This article's title. Wow.

Almost all airport security is a theater... The TSA are simply the actors...

Pulling the curtain on "ticketed passengers only" as the crown jewel of this airport security theatre. Or as I call it the "TSA smoke and miroros/window dressing security" show.

There is one security policy, which everyone should be aware of for the farce it is and represents. It is the taking away of YOUR freedom of movement at your airport. This useless waste of time and manpower of only allowing persons with tickets past the security screening areas, known as "ticketed passengers only". Don't be fooled, "ticketed passengers only" is NOT a security measure. The following is only a partial list as to why this is a waste of time. I know, I worked as a supervisor at a security checkpoint for five years, and for the last 10 years have worked for a major airline.

There's the question of how our nations deal with the critical question of preserving both a reasonable measure of safety with individual rights in general. Striking a balance between feeling safe as opposed to being safe, and being free at the same time, is the most tenuous security concern of all. Averill Hecht Cheltenham, Pa. All comments are welcome. adhecht@comcast.net Please speak-up,

In this context, I'm having trouble filling in the blank in terms of TSA vs Public:

"All the world's a ___"

The increasing amount of security is more terror than any real group could hope to inflict. Technically the terrorists won.

expensive security theater

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