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After the Christmas Day attempted attack and the failure that occurred at Newark Airport on Sunday night, we all knew they were coming: even more new security measures. After these incidents, it is clear that we do need the overhaul, but how effective will they be? The millimeter-wave X-Ray machines first mentioned in the immediate aftermath of the Christmas Day attack are being rolled out nationwide, according to the Wall Street Journal. In addition, at least one major global airport will begin using them on all US-bound passengers. Naturally, that would be Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the European and global hub where indicted Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Delta flight 253 that day. This is exactly what should be happening now, but there are still concerns.
Some of these concerns are pretty ridiculous; in fact, this post is later than I wanted because I could not stop laughing at just how out there some of the lingering concerns about these machines are. According to this video clip from World News Tonight, these issues include the standard privacy questions as well as the radiation. Now, wait a minute. We are perfectly fine with getting X-Ray after X-Ray of various types in the doctor’s office, but balk at getting one in an airport, even though the latter is thousands of times weaker than the former? That just does not make sense to me, but then again, neither do the privacy concerns. Normally I say that privacy issues are legitimate, but this just goes too far; according to the video, British authorities think that scans of children violate child pornography laws, and there are similar thoughts on this side of the pond. First of all, the video states that the scans are not saved, nor are the officers monitoring them able to view the passenger. Second, going on the basis of the images in the video, one must be a very sick individual indeed to get off on images from the scanners. Hopefully, such a person would have been caught by the initial background checks that all government workers, not to mention security personnel undergo before getting the job. If they aren’t caught, well that is a different matter altogether.
Only As Effective As the Weakest Link
In addition to the concerns about the scanning machines, here’s something to think about: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the security in our airports is no different. Last Sunday, one of the main international airports in the New York City area, Newark Liberty International, was subject to a security alert due to ultimately a broken surveillance camera. Wait a minute, in addition to a major airport, Newark is one of the places that the 9/11 hijackers left from. Ergo, you would think it would have airtight security, right? We are all human, but this is simply inexcusable. According to ABC News, the man in question walked through the exit of the security checkpoint. Seriously, something that simple brought a major international hub to its knees for seven hours. I commend the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) reaction to the incident once it was found out, but they are always preaching to the American people to be proactive about security; shouldn’t they also be? This piece of their strategy seems to work; it was a traveler’s comment to a TSA guard that alerted them to the breach.
The camera failure went undetected for a week, which is inexcusable in itself, but the underlying cause of that is the real issue here. According to the article linked above, the actual control and monitoring of surveillance cameras in US airports is a Grade A bureaucratic nightmare. For instance, in the Newark airport, it is the TSA’s job to monitor the cameras, but the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the organization that runs the airport, owns the cameras. The situation in Newark is so convoluted that now it is becoming clear that neither organization knew just who exactly was supposed to maintain them. Not to mention the obvious; where was the uniformed TSA guard that has been seated at every security exit I have been through, even at Newark? Reports on the local news here in New Jersey and this ABC News article state that he was away from his post minutes before the breach. In the military, that is called a dereliction of duty; I am certain that in security agencies like the TSA it is similar, if not the same thing. At the very least, the officer should have had someone else cover the post while he went away.
Already, the calls for Congressional investigations are coming, but while answers are always good, we need to make concrete steps toward ensuring things like this never happen again. Place all the airport security cameras under the TSA’s direct control and make them clearly responsible for maintaining them. Another possibility is to hire a technology firm to code in a piece of software to each security camera that sets off a very loud and annoying alarm whenever the camera breaks down. We have a similar thing for emergency exit doors and other doors that should remain closed; why couldn’t someone develop a fix for the cameras? Oh, and while they are updating the TSA manual after details were posted online, why not put in a penalty for uniformed officials who leave their post while there is not another uniformed guard to man it? We got lucky this time; the person who breached security at Newark did not end up doing anything harmful. We should take this as the wake-up call that it is and ensure that stupid things like this do not happen again.
As for the full-body scanners, if it becomes a common thing, it will become a non-issue. Until then, how about we listen to the experts and be reasonable about the whole thing? On that note, if I ever have the option to go through one of these scanners when I go to catch a plane, I’m all for it. Are you?
The Changes Come in Aviation Security, but Will They Work? by The New Age of Politics, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.