Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Security (page 1 / 1)

The Power of Bias

The Power of Bias →

Megan McArdle wrote recently about the power of bias, as applied to people's opinions of George Zimmerman. I recommended reading it for insight into how our thinking can be affected by bias. But, given the still swirling gun control debates, I was also struck by this passage.

Parents find it easy to imagine their child being kidnapped by a stranger, which is why many children under the age of 12 or 13 are now escorted everywhere by a parent or another trusted adult. But stranger abductions are incredibly rare and always have been, even in the days when first-graders regularly walked themselves to school. Parents find it easy to imagine their children dying in a gun accident, which is why you hear about parents who won’t have guns in the house, and refuse to let their kids play at the homes of parents who do. But those sorts of accidental shootings involving young children are about as rare as stranger abductions. On the other hand, very few parents would say “I won’t let you play at their house -- they have a swimming pool,” even though drowning is one of the most common ways for young children to die. Economist Steven Levitt estimates that swimming pools are about 100 times more dangerous than a gun in the home.

At what point does the need for security eclipse human dignity and compassion?

At what point does the need for security eclipse human dignity and compassion? →

Yesterday I went through the imaging scanner at JFK Terminal 4 for my Virgin America flight to San Francisco.  Evidently they found something, because after the scan, I was asked to step aside to have my breast area examined.  I explained to the agent that I was a breast cancer patient and had a bilateral mastectomy in April and had tissue expanders put in to make way for reconstruction at a later date.

I told her that I was not comfortable with having my breasts touched and that I had a card in my wallet that explains the type of expanders, serial numbers and my doctor’s information pictured and asked to retrieve it. This request was denied.  Instead, she called over a female supervisor who told me the exam had to take place.  I was again told that I could not retrieve the card and needed to submit to a physical exam in order to be cleared.  She then said, “And if we don’t clear you, you don’t fly” loud enough for other passengers to hear.  And they did.  And they stared at the bald woman being yelled at by a TSA Supervisor.

There are reasons that I don't fly, unless I absolutely have to.

Airport Security -- Expensive and Worthless

Do you feel safe about taking a flight? Do you think that another 9/11 style attack couldn't possibly succeed? Do the TSA regulations and onerous security procedures make you feel safer? If they do, they shouldn't. We're just as much at risk as we were six years ago.

Hot Air > Blog Archive > A Pilot on Airline Security

At this moment, there are roughly 5000 commercial airliners in the skies above you. There will be 28,000 flights today, and 840,000 in the next month -- every month. The U.S. fleet consists of some 6000 aircraft -- almost all of which will be parked unattended tonight at a public airport. We will carry almost 7 billion passengers this year, the number increasing to 10 billion by 2010, barring an exogenous event like another 9/11.

There is simply no deployable technology that has a prayer of keeping a motivated, prepared terrorist out of the system every time -- even most times. TSA misses more than 90% of detectable weapons at passenger checkpoints in their own tests, and it is not their fault, because of the limitations of technology and the number of inspections they must conduct. This doesn't count several classes of completely undetectable weapons like composite knives and liquid explosives.

What is TSA's fault is their abject failure to embrace more robust approaches than high visibility inspections, and their accommodations to the Air Transport Association's revenue interests at the expense of true security, while largely ignoring the recommendations of the front-line airline crews and air marshals who have no direct revenue agenda and are much more familiar with airline operations than are the bureaucrats (remember government ignoring the front-line FBI agents who tried to warn them about 9/11?). Deplorable amounts of money have been wasted on incomprehensible security strategies, while KISS [Keep It Simple, Stupid] methods proven to work have been ignored.

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Almost six years after 9/11, it is inexcusable that -- in an environment where TSA misses more than 90% of weapons, RON aircraft are not secured, and ground employees are not screened -- fewer than 2% of our airliners have a team of armed pilots aboard, fewer than 5% have air marshals, and the flight attendants have no mandatory tactical or behavioral assessment training. $24 billion dollars later, we are not materially safer, except in the areas of intelligence that prevent an attack from getting to an airport. Once at the airport, there is little reason to believe the attack won't succeed.

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I know I've gotten pretty far afield of your topic, but I want to give you the sense that RON aircraft are just one small piece of a multilayered security system wherein every layer leaks like a sieve. The problem is much, much bigger than any single element.

In the end, we should be starting with defending the smallest spaces -- the cockpits and cargo compartments, and working outward to the limits of our resources; instead of starting with the airport perimeter and working inward, ignoring the actual defense of those spaces that are actually the terrorist targets. And we should be using the resources already in place to the greatest extent possible, instead of trying to bring new, untried methods into play, then waiting to find out they don't work nearly as well in reality as they do on paper.

Given that Congress regulates air travel and air security, you can blame them for that. Just one more reason Congress has earned its 14% approval rating.

If you want to demand change, the issues raised in this article would be a great place to start.