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February 08, 2005



Thanks for bringing this to light, Dan. This has irked me for some time, for it highlights the constant battle between convenience and security. At some point, all those lineups have to move forward. But how much security are we as a society willing to give up to make that happen? How slow is too slow?

I'm not sure what the ultimate answer, and don't believe that there actually is one. But I'll venture a guess that this figure will vary depending on how recently the last terrorist attack on American soil occurred. We're pretty far removed from the numbness of 9/11, so we lean toward the convenience side of the spectrum. I anticipate a swing the other way after the next attack on America.

Carmi Levy


I forgot about Slate...

Cory Doctorow

Well, as Seth Schoen point out here:

This is only a security threat if you believe that no-fly lists are a useful security measure. If, like me, you think that no-fly is "security theater" intended to assuage the cries for Something To Be Done without actually doing much, then the fact that it has this failing pales alongside its much graver failings, such as including a bunch of people who aren't terrorists, such as not including a bunch of people who ARE terrorists, and such as being ripe for abuse by corrupt coppers who can stick their political enemies (including ferchrissakes Ted Kennedy) on the list in order to mess with them.


I've read three books on security and all three addressed airport security. The experts all agreed that airport security, as currently practiced, is simply security theater. According to them, if you want to make planes safe, lock the cockpit securely.

They describe our current system as "brittle" meaning that it is a defense with no feedback and response and no built in intelligence or adaptability. It can be probed for weaknesses at will, allowing attackers to simply keep trying until they defeat it.

For the money we're paying, it's disasterously bad security.


Cory is right...the appearance of security is more to give the impression that "they" are protecting us. That explanation at least gives our leaders credit for having the intelligence to create the security theater.

The alternative...that they actually believe all this folderol and money DO something...raises the image of the Robin Williams "Good Morning Vietnam" radio personna of a military intelligence operative whose strategy was to ask Vietnamese if they were VC and shoot them if they said "Yes".

I've been stopped for having a toenail clipper in my carryon (honest!) but passed through with a forgotten small penknife in my briefcase. It seems that the principle risk to terrorists is that they'll die laughing at our security pretensions. If I'm going to be inconvenienced anyway, at least give me some value for the effort, not just cosmetic security.


They do take these boarding passes seriously, though. When I've forgotten to print mine out, I've tried to get through by showing them the image on my laptop. No dice--apparently, the image isn't enough--you have to have the hard copy.

Cory Doctorow

Because terrorists can't afford toner.


My name was on the no-fly list for a while, and I was actually prevented from using both the online check-in feature as well as the automated booths in the airport. I was forced to talk to a real person because my name had somehow ended up on the no-fly list.

All it took at the counter was a quick phone call to somebody to confirm that I was not, in fact, a terrorist. But I was happy to see that they had safeguards in place to prevent me from printing out a boarding pass without talking to a person.

But maybe that varies by airline?

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