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On Putin, Pot and Public Security in 2014

As 2014 begins, it is tempting to comment on trends and things one hopes will happen, or do not happen. A few things have occurred that have me thinking overtime on the latter.

The Volgograd bombings have brought back to mind the Boston Marathon bombings. As the source of the terrorists involved seems similar, and as both seem connected, in some way, to a sporting event, it is natural to think of them together. A few thoughts:

First, the people at the International Olympic Committee who thought it was a good idea to massage Vladimir Putin’s ego by putting the Olympics in such a place ought to have their heads examined (fired would be better). The fact that this decision was going to cause trouble was foreseeable. The fact that Putin wanted the Games in that location was all about his ego. This was a dumb decision. No, dumb is too mild a word – but this is a family blog.

Yet, it was a decision that was made, so as they say, the Games must go on. I cringe at news outlets like CNN that seemed to spend 24 hours last week asking everyone who came on if it was safe for Americans to go. Stop this, please! Every time some nitwit on television asks these questions, it hands the terrorists exactly what they want. Go to the Games. Enjoy them. Speak freely while you are there about whatever you want to talk about (Putin hates that). And I am begging the executives at NBC Sports and News: when covering the Games, let’s celebrate the talent and full diversity of the athletes. Please do not spend all your time talking about bombings.

Speaking of which, the Boston bombings caused the NFL, and now MLB, to step up security at stadiums and ballparks. College football did the same. This is fine, to a degree, but we were already asked to show what was inside any bag we might bring in. The extra “security benefit” of the additional steps is negligible, at best. In the end, this is bound to breed cynicism and skepticism among the public. The media and political leaders talking about how dangerous things are, and then doing things that breed cynicism, is not a good formula. When I go to Nationals Park this spring, and I see the “extra security” and people turned away because they want to bring a bag with a sweatshirt or sunglasses, I will cringe just a bit because it will show the Boston bombers achieved something they sought to do.

Let me end on a “high” note. Legal pot is now for sale in Colorado. There are strict laws on bringing it across state lines, which are more than appropriate. The airport has declared itself a pot-free zone, which is also the right call. Local law enforcement is in charge of this. Also right.

I see TSA is saying they will not be looking for pot. Good! That’s not their job. Every time I argued with certain folks at TSA about mission creep, part of the answer was always that “we catch some people with drugs.” I am not generally in favor of drugs, and have never even tried pot, but nevertheless, looking for drugs is not TSA’s job. They should focus on bags and passengers (there is more to say about this overall topic, another time). I will be watching what happens in Denver and hope I never see the words “TSA” and “pot” in the same sentence.

Greg Principato blogs primarily on aviation and transportation security. His involvement in aviation and transportation infrastructure spans more than thirty years. He previously served as President of Airports Council International – North American from 2005 to 2013, where he oversaw the leading association of airports and airport-related businesses in North America, which enplane nearly all of the domestic and international airline passenger and cargo traffic on the continent. ACI-NA is the largest of the five worldwide regions of Airports Council International. Read More