Why the obsession with airplane security?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by GFLPraxis, Dec 12, 2010.

  1. GFLPraxis macrumors 604

    GFLPraxis

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    #1
    Obviously, the TSA's recent policies have come under a bunch of heat, but what's really concerned me more than anything is the reactions I tend to see from spokespeople, politicians, and the media. I actually just flew this weekend (and am on vacation now, typing from my iPad) and have had a few thoughts bouncing in my head I wanted to jot down and get some thoughts on from others.

    There is a sort of strange stigma attached to flying, and I'm not sure exactly the source. The average person views flying as a scary or risky sort of transportation. When private airplanes crash, it hits news headlines, and people seem to have an impression that airplane crashes are not uncommon.

    The reality is that commercial planes almost never crash. They are incredibly well engineered with backups upon backups of critical systems. If a commercial plane goes down, it is international news. It is exceedingly rare, and virtually every plane crash you hear on the news involve private planes. I honestly can't remember a commercial flight in the U.S. going down since 9/11; correct me if I am mistaken.

    The other perception, among Americans, is that we are some kind of enormously huge terrorist target. Which, yes, we are a target, but we are mostly a target due to our interference with other terrorist targets. I'm not going to discuss politics here, but suffice to say that countries like Israel are much bigger terrorist targets than us and many countries have car bombs exploding in their streets, while the U.S. hasn't suffered a notable terrorist attack in a decade. Again, I'm not getting to any point here or saying that we're not a target, but I want to get that point out before I continue.

    This combination of perceptions, that (A) airplanes go down a lot and are unsafe, and (B) we are the singe largest terrorist target, has led to a sort of "zero acceptable risk" policy. Which, to the layman, sounds fantastic, but is in reality utterly absurd.

    Consider that there has been very close to zero American airline-related deaths in the last eight years, and hundreds of millions of flyers, and then compare this statistic to the amount of people killed in car crashes every year. How many deaths would be averted if we dropped all speed limits to 20 MPH? Tens of thousands of lives would be saved. Are we, as a society, willing to make that tradeoff? No. We're either not willing to accept that loss of liberty, or not willing to accept the impact on our way of life/society/economics.

    I believe it was Ben Franklin who stated, "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."


    People, however, tend to get fussy at this viewpoint; one person patriotically began speaking of how people like me had "forgotten" 9/11 but he would never. My viewpoint is not to pretend it never happened, nor to allow it to happen again, but to take reasonable precautions to make it a poor choice of target.

    Consider that, prior to these new X-ray scanners, airport security has been, so far, sufficient to prevent anyone from successfully harming anyone else on a plane via a bomb or weapons since 9/11. These new security precautions began after someone smuggled a bomb in his underwear. Strangely, the media presents this as a security failure. However, when you examine the facts- the type of bomb the man had to use to get it through a metal detector was so unwieldy that it (A) has been lab demonstrated to not have been powerful enough to take down the plane, and (B) was so difficult to reassemble that the other passengers noticed and stopped him. I would say this is a security success. The man couldn't smuggle a traditional bomb on a plane, so he had to build this unwieldy, nonmetallic, detonator-less device that ended up getting him caught and wouldn't have brought down the plane.

    Not only has existing security proven more than adequate, the key is to simply make it impossible to repeat 9/11. Essentially, make it impossible (or extremely unfeasible) to hijack a plane. All you need to accomplish that is a big, fat security door between the cockpit and the passengers. Even if a terrorist did somehow get a bomb past security, and that bomb was somehow powerful enough to take down the plane, it would be impossible for the terrorist to get to the cockpit. The worst damage that could conceivably occur would be for the plane to be destroyed (again, worst case scenario), which makes attacking an airplane a...very poor target for terrorists, because they could accomplish just as much damage by destroying a pair of crowded city buses with a tenth of the effort.

    Israel (again, much bigger terrorist target, gets hit by car bombs regularly) has security doors in the cockpits, and allows their security personnel to profile and asks the same kinds of questions that they do at the border. And that's it. And no one has hijacked an Israeli plane. The most you can do is blow up an Israeli plane, and that's only if you can make it through security; it's so difficult and the payoff is so little (only the passengers, you can't hijack the plane) that the terrorists just use car bombs because it's not worthwhile to attack the airplanes.

    Yet the media floods us with so much FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) about the evil terrorists out for our airplanes that people seem to think no amount of security is enough and are accepting of increasingly intrusive (and unsafe; see the University of California's statements on the health risks) security, even when other countries that are much bigger targets have successfully implemented policies that stop terrorist attacks on airplanes we clamor for more security and don't bat an eye when it starts to get ridiculous (Israel's head of airport security has publicly berated how silly the TSA is).


    Can I get thoughts from anyone? Are there flaws in my perspective on this, or does anyone perhaps have more insight in people's viewpoints? I'm trying to get a feel for the public view, because I was rather disappointed by how...narrow minded the people I spoke to on my flights seemed about it, though I didn't want to attempt to engage a deep discussion or debate for the duration of the flight (that's what the internet is for, amirite?).

    On a side note, I'd also like to encourage anyone who agrees with me to opt-out of the new scanners. I fully agree that I'd rather go through the scanner than get a pat down, but the TSA brags about the low opt-out statistic as proof of customer acceptance of the scanners, and that statistic needs to be hurt. Take a stand.

    I've tried to opt out my last three flights in the last two weeks, but, strangely, something has occurred every time to allow me to not have to get patted down OR scanned :confused: be it a really bored security guard not wanting to do a pat down or the machines being out of order...I always get through unscathed. :D
    See: http://attackofthemonday.com/?p=344

    Any comments appreciated.
     
  2. Dragoro macrumors 6502

    Dragoro

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    #2
    It was this year or last that a commercial plane crashed into the New York harbor. Theres also been several international planes that have gone down, taking american lives in the last year.
     
  3. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #3
    The fact of the matter is, you have a much better chance of dying in a car accident on your way to the airport than you do in a plane crash. And then when you consider that many plane crashes are due to pilot error or mechanical failure (something airport security can't do jack squat about) then the chances of dying in a terrorist attack on your plane are even less.

    We need to go back to the security we had on 9/10/2001. Everyone thinks that airport security was broken and that caused 9/11 to happen. No. Airport security did their job. The hijackers didn't have anything on board that they weren't allowed to have. No guns, no bombs, just boxcutter knives, which, at the time, were allowed. The security was just fine. So we need to go back to that, no nudie scans, no groping, no shoes off and none of the liquids BS.

    And every single one of them were as a result of pilot error or mechanical failure in the plane itself. Or in the case of the NY one, birds - and everyone survived. What good is making me toss out my bottle of water at the checkpoint going to do to stop a pilot who has no idea what the hell he's doing or a bird from flying into the engine? There hasn't been a successful terrorist attack on a plane since 9/11.
     
  4. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #4
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Reid_(shoe_bomber)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar_Farouk_Abdulmutallab
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faisal_Shahzad
    ...

    How many deaths would be caused if we relaxed airport security? The fact is that as ineffective as US airport security really is, it's an effective deterrent. Take it away and who knows what would happen.

    The TSA has taken what it deems "reasonable precautions." If you disagree, run for office or write your congressperson.

    You don't need to bring down a plane to kill people inside. Maybe the TSA should just disallow "large" bombs on airplanes.

    So it's OK if a plane explodes in midair, but not OK if a plane under terrorist control flies into a building? Err... pyrrhic victory at best.

    A tenth of the effort for 1/100th of the publicity. Terrorism thrives on fear. If they inconvenience an entire country by attempting to smuggle a boxcutter on an airplane, who has really won?

    You make some good points, but it seems like you want terrorists to use methods that are harder to prevent/stop. Hmmm.... ;-)
     
  5. 0007776 Suspended

    0007776

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    #5
    It's because politicians want to look like they are doing something so whenever something happens, we have to put another layer of "security" so the politicians can say they are doing something. If the terrorists really wanted to attack us all they would have to do is set off a bomb in the security line and it would kill at least as many as bringing down a plane.
    But yeah flying is safe, and I read somewhere that your odds of being killed in a terrorist attack on an airplane are about the same as getting cancer and dying from the scanners.
     
  6. dscuber9000 macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    Wait, what? Do you mean boxcutter knives should be allowed again?

    And the shoes-off and liquid "BS" is response to actual attempts that could definitely succeed under the right circumstance. The other ways of security I have no opinion of, but I definitely see the merit of putting shoes through a scanner and banning liquids, even if it is annoying.
     
  7. GFLPraxis thread starter macrumors 604

    GFLPraxis

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    #7
    "January 15 – US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320 ditches in the Hudson River just after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City after total engine failure due to multiple bird strikes, no fatalities."

    I did find some references to international planes that went down, but couldn't find any references to any Americans dying on American flights in American space in 2009 or 2010.

    @ miles01110 (sorry, I'd multi quote but it's harder when writing this on an iPad :) ):

    All of the examples you list were failed attempts, foiled by existing airport security, which further helps my point. I'm not arguing lesser security, but that existing (2009-era) security was perfectly fine, and combining that with precautions that minimize damage if something was to occur is much preferable to the waste of money we have with the new scanners.


    To your second question ("how many deaths if we relaxed security?"), my argument is not to relax it, but rather, to keep it the same as the last five years rather than wasting more money to increase it. To answer how many deaths we would have if we kept security the same as last year: judging from the last five year's record, zero.


    To the airplane exploding question: which is preferable, a hundred people dying, or a thousand people dying when the plane hits a building? I'm not stating to relax security, but existing security has made it incredibly difficult (to the point that no one has been able to successfully attack an airplane in almost ten years), so simply making it then impossible to hijack if someone DID succeed is, to me, acceptable.

    Further increasing security every time someone fails to blow up a plane is simply moving towards a police state.

    You're entirely correct that terrorism thrives on fear. Which is exactly what we're giving them, with the paranoia that surrounds airports. The fact that the underwear bomber and shoe bomber were stopped should have been heralded as successes, not failures.
     
  8. Apple OC macrumors 68040

    Apple OC

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    #8
    I do not think it is an obsession ... just better to be safe than sorry.

    Try to imagine the fear of a hijacker on board your next flight?

    The first thing you might think of is ... how did this happen? :cool:
     
  9. anjinha macrumors 604

    anjinha

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    #9
    It's still much more likely for people to die in a car crash and people aren't nearly as scared.
     
  10. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #10
    It's probably much more likely to be not fatally injured in a car crash than in a plane crash.
     
  11. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816

    CorvusCamenarum

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    #11
    The first two were stopped not because of airport security but by quick thinking/acting passengers and crew. Your last example is unrelated to the question at hand.

    Some guy tries to set off his shoes, now everyone has to take off their shoes. While we were busy inspecting everyone's shoes, terrorists moved onto something else. By the time policymakers cotton onto whatever trick comes next and find some way to hassle elderly grandmothers in wheelchairs over it so it looks fair, well you get the idea. We need to be more proactive and less reactive, else we'll be playing catchup for eternity.

    Frisking toddlers is reasonable? They do that now, you know.
     
  12. GFLPraxis thread starter macrumors 604

    GFLPraxis

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    #12
    This is exactly the kind of mentality I'm trying to get insight in to...hm.

    So would you be opposed to putting X-ray scanners and metal detectors on public buses and trains?

    Are there reasonable limitations to "better safe than sorry"? Would you send your kid to school wearing a bulletproof vest every single day on the off chance that one of his peers might bring a gun to school (which is a far more likely scenario than a hijacker on your plane)?
     
  13. GFLPraxis thread starter macrumors 604

    GFLPraxis

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    #13
    It's worth noting, though, that the passengers were able to react and stop them because last year's airport security was good enough that they had to use unwieldy weapons that the passengers could detect and stop.
     
  14. tablo13 macrumors 65816

    tablo13

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    #14
    Sure, but with the new patdown, I think it went too far. Has there been an attempt with hiding bombs in little kids? :rolleyes:
     
  15. Apple OC macrumors 68040

    Apple OC

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    #15
    unless we adopt a system similar to how Israel handles Airport security ... we are a sitting duck waiting for an in-flight Terrorist attack.

    and Yes ... Israel obsesses over Airport security = Good for safety :cool:
     
  16. GFLPraxis thread starter macrumors 604

    GFLPraxis

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    #16
    Israel's security is great. They don't check your underwear, they use a big security door for the cockpit and they are allowed to profile.
     
  17. Apple OC macrumors 68040

    Apple OC

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    #17
    Checking people's underwear is not the answer ... It is how they question the passengers that does it ... and Yes Israel's track record proves ... their security measures work ... including making it not possible to storm the cockpit :cool:
     
  18. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #18
    No, I'm not saying that. They should be banned, but we can still stick to the pre-9/11 form of security where we didn't have a useless TSA and get rid of the full body scanners and that garbage

    Other countries don't require you take your shoes off. When I flew out of London, Berlin and Frankfurt I didn't have to take my shoes off. And they're doing just fine.

    If an explosive could really be made out of liquid, don't you think the terrorists would be smart enough to divide it up into amounts that each of them can carry on and then mix them once on board? Or how about the fact that right now, you can carry on a few ounces of gasoline or some other flammable fluid and a lighter. You might not be able to take down a plane, but pour some on the seat in front of you and light it and you'll certainly scare the **** out of a few people.

    Israel's security is great, but here's the problem: Ben Gurion airport handles roughly 11 million passengers a year, and it's the only major airport in Israel. Atlanta handles 60 million alone, add that in with JFK, O'hare, LAX, and all the other hubs, plus the hundreds of small, non-hub airports in the US with commercial service and that's a lot of people. Israeli airport security just can't scale up to meet the demands of a country as large as ours.
     
  19. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

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    #19
  20. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #20
    I think making people take shoes and coats off is reasonably reasonable. The liquids ban is more dubious as its much more annoying. My coat for example has about 10 pockets in it, several of which are internal, you could easily hide a bunch of stuff in your coat.
     
  21. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #21
    So if I want to take my Leatherman tool, which has knife blade, on vacation, I have to put it in checked luggage (which many airlines are now charging extra for)? Come on, how much of a problem is a knife, now that most cockpits cannot be entered easily in flight? Sure, a terrorist could slash a passenger up badly, but that would be about it, especially if other passengers had cutting devices handy.
     
  22. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #22
    Why do you need it? Are you going camping or something? If you're going camping or something you've got to swallow the extra $20 or so IMO - its not a particularly common use case.

    And if they knew how to use them in such a situation. Defensive knife training couldn't possibly be made compulsory.
     
  23. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #23
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrKvweNugnQ

    I don't speak a word of German, and maybe if someone who does can translate the finer details I'd appreciate it, but you can clearly see what's going on without understanding a word they're saying: He's able to conceal the ingredients to make a bomb (maybe in his fat folds?), completely undetected by the nudie scanner, and demonstrates what the chemicals are capable of.
     
  24. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #24
    And you can hide stuff up your arse too, but it is much trickier.

    Most of the benefit of old fashioned metal detectors is that they make it much harder for the terrorists with little harm to you.

    Feeling people up and banning liquids is really annoying (everyone has to take Shampoo when they go on holiday), and their isn't much gain to be had.
     
  25. MacNut macrumors Core

    MacNut

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    #25
    And you know this how?:p
     

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