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‘Closing Argument’: On airport security

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I’ve been thinking a lot about airport safety, since the authorities found box cutters on at least two airplanes last night, and since I’ve been traveling so much as of late.

By next summer, the Transportation Security Administration will have a new system in place designed to assess the risks of every air traveler, what I would think is targeted law enforcement. The vast majority will be coded on green. They’ll easily pass through security. Less than 10 percent approximately will be assigned the yellow code. They’ll face additional screening, and one to two percent who get red will be questioned by authorities and soon even arrested. The information will be based in part on travel plans, date of purchase, travel companions, criminal history, et cetera.

It sounds OK to me, but not to some civil liberties groups. Every time the authorities try to focus on law enforcement search, some of these groups express concern about privacy and they say this may lead to more delays at the airport.

You give up privacy every time you get on a plane. They can search your bag. They can search your body. They can ask your questions. If you don’t like it, you can drive.

Instead, if done properly, this will just speed the process for most people and hopefully make us a little safer. Those who get arrested, for example, won’t be arrested for having a pair of scissors in a carry-on bag, but more likely on an outstanding warrant.

Civil liberties groups complain whether the targeting is based on a person’s nationality or criminal history. They’re only satisfied if every old lady gets stopped as often as every young man from Yemen.

Well that doesn’t make any sense. Sure, there will be some mistakes, the same way some people get the full-body search, because their belt has too much metal. But there are certain characteristics which make people higher risk. Law enforcement uses those sorts of characteristics all the time. Now they’re just doing it in an organized fashion and being honest about what they’re doing.