It should be said at the top that I do not underestimate the difficulty and security challenges related to holding the Olympics in Sochi. The fact that they should never have been awarded to such a site (and I said so at the time, 7 years ago) is immaterial at this point. They are there, and I hope they come off without a hitch (other than hotels that are half built and water that you can’t even see through). If I had the means and the time, I would certainly not have cancelled any plans to attend. However…
Some bad guys want to put explosives into toothpaste tubes. This should not be a revelation for anyone. Indeed, I understand this approach has been used successfully in the past. This is also part of the reason the travel-sized toothpaste industry is booming, as is the baggie industry.
Then, the TSA decides to ban anyone from bringing ANY toothpaste, or any other liquid or gel on any flight to Russia. I hope no one thinks this will deter anyone from getting any such thing into Russia. What this is really designed to do is to be able to say, should something happen, that the toothpaste did not originate here. It is a purely defensive measure, not defending against terrorism but defending against blame. Given the propensity for some in the media (the CNN report by Rachel Nichols, an excellent sports journalist but not a good security journalist is an example) and in elected office to cast blame, I can’t say I “blame” TSA for taking out this “Blame Insurance Policy,” but I fear it leads to further cynicism.
Speaking of which, I understand Major League Baseball has now mandated metal detectors at all of its parks by the 2015 season. Not only is this sort of thing a victory for terrorists, not only is it at best redundant, but it will guarantee bottlenecks and large crowds backing up at ballpark gates. This is what is known as a target-rich environment. I can tell you that when I first got to ACI-NA, I was told by airport directors that their biggest nightmare was an inefficient checkpoint resulting in hundreds of people being backed up, and then someone coming into the public area with a gun or bomb and killing many of them. This is what we are putting at risk.
I’ve worked for politicians; I know how hard it is to explain some things to the public. I get that. I am just worried we are creating bigger problems down the road through a combination of public cynicism and policies and procedures that result in greater (not less) risk.