Friday, September 17, 2004

Airports are not prepared to deal with future attacks.

Why you're right:

1. Common sense is not so common. A running joke among security screeners at Dulles International Airport is “Guns, bombs and common sense are prohibited by the TSA in the airport.” Security screeners confiscate from children toy guns because they replicate firearms, judicial gavels for looking like hammers, and fingernail clippers, but not foot-long knitting needles or bottles of wine, which could also be used as weapons. Additionally, airports continue to use outdated criteria for screening for terrorists – such as buying one-way tickets and paying in cash – even though terrorists have probably caught on and moved on to other techniques. (Washington Post)

2. Hidden explosives are too easy to pass through security. The 9/11 Commission report recommends that each passenger selected for special inspection should be screened for explosives. While luggage, carry-on items, and shoes are screened for explosives, a suicide bomber theoretically could get past metal detectors and screeners. It would cost $240 million to equip each of the 1800 security lanes at the nation’s 450 commercial airports with walk-through explosive detectors. (9/11 Commission Report, LA Times)

3. TSA is not taking care of its employees. Airport screeners receive, on average, only three hours of training per month, even though three hours per week is required. 42% of screeners surveyed by TSA said they were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their jobs, and TSA recently laid-off 10,000 workers. In a separate poll, only 14% of the cargo executives surveyed rated industry security performance as “excellent.” (TSA, Deloitte & Touche USA)

Why they're wrong:

The 9/11 attacks alerted the Bush Administration to poor security condition at airports. TSA plans to spend $5.3 billion on airport security in FY2005, while the nation’s ports are only allotted $1.6 billion by the Administration. Cockpit doors have been reinforced and baggage screening has improved. But, much of the money is addressing outdated concerns and simply increases delays and hassles for regular passengers. Integrated watch lists have not been developed and the threat of shoulder-fired missiles needs to be addressed. Simply committing high amounts of funding is useless unless it addresses the most important problems. (GAO)