Recent reporting on aviation security has reached new levels of stupidity, threatening public confidence and understanding – and perhaps even the very security of the traveling public.
What do I mean? As will happen on a fairly regular basis – until the end of time – intelligence agencies have picked up specific evidence of terrorists trying to find specific ways to evade security at the airport and on the airplane. I’m pretty sure such evidence is gathered almost every day, and occasionally it warrants some changes in the procedures used to secure airports and airplanes. Fine so far.
But then the headlines scream such inanities as “more security” seen at airports. Or “U.S. officials fear (terrorists) will try again.” Or “AQAP bomb maker still at work.” As if he’s going to retire to Cabo someday.
People see “more security” and assume there was “less security” yesterday, and there will, perhaps, be even “more” tomorrow. Which day will be the “most” secure day?
The fact is, there is no “more” or “less” security. There is simply “security.” Our security agencies should be, and are, doing what they can to ensure the best possible security on any day. If some specific information is known today that wasn’t known yesterday, actions may be taken to keep security at high levels. But it is not “more” security.
As to the breathless “breaking news” that terrorists are hard at work trying to evade what is always called “airport security,” my answer is “No (bleep) Sherlock!” They will be doing this, as said above, until the end of time. This is a permanent condition. It is not breaking news. And it is especially infuriating when 5-year-old videos showing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the so-called underwear bomber, who I always call Captain Underpants) hugging the leader of AQAP are released by the terrorists, secure in the knowledge that U.S. news outlets will use them to scare the daylights out of people. Sometimes I think the terrorists keep a cave full of such videos, knowing their very release will be hyped in the media.
We need leadership on these issues. The President has made some comments along the lines I am describing, but there is no sustained messaging. The terrorists will not stop. There will always be new ideas they seek to deploy, and we must seek to stop. That fact should never be breaking news. I wish news outlets would be smarter and more responsible, but I guess in our system, that is not necessarily their role.
For starters, those mostly helpful messages played on a loop at most security checkpoints could be amended slightly to say that procedures may change from time to time to respond to specific intelligence, or just to keep a random element. I have no problem with information being released about the need to power up your electronics; information is power and travelers should have it. That’s not the point.
The point is that the fact that we are under threat will remain true until the end of time. The fact that terrorists will be trying new ideas will be true until the end of time. We will need to be vigilant until the end of time.
There is a need for adult, responsible, messaging from government and industry leaders. It is too much to hope that media outlets will change their stripes, though I hope they will. In the end, that is not their job. It is up to government and industry to do more to educate passengers on this. If they can do as good a job at education as they have done at providing secure transportation to people and goods, I am confident it will be well-worth the effort.