We have Umar Farouk Abumutallab to thank for all this. If the would-be terrorist hadn’t tried to turn his Jockey shorts into a Christmas surprise, we wouldn’t be screaming about blue-gloved TSA workers visiting regions that twenty percent of Americans can’t stomach.
It’s the same with the Shoe Bomber’s bungled attempt. Now we have to make sure our socks match before we fly.
When it comes to transportation security, we’re always countering the last brainstorm. While we ought to be imaginative and forward leaning, just like our adversaries, we are reactive⎯which is probably better than nothing, but not good enough by a long shot.
If you subscribe (as I do) to the notion that all of this is window dressing just to get the sheep to feel reasonably safe about flying, you figure it’s highly unlikely that the next terrorist is going to try any methods that have already been attempted. And if, God forbid, he or she is successful, then we’ll never know the technique of choice, anyway.
As a corollary to this, it is nonsensical and counterproductive to categorically exempt classes of people from inspection. Terrorists have used children as suicide bombers before. Ninety-nine percent of pilots, I’m sure, are stand-up people⎯but what if one of them cracks from the pressure, just like that flight attendant did (albeit in a more comical way)?
I would think that the most effective solution would be a combination of approaches: rigorous no-exemptions inspection, Israeli-style interrogation and psychological profiling, and top-notch intelligence gathering. But that’s expensive, dilatory, and it’s still not foolproof.
In the meantime, we’ll probably just go on kidding ourselves…and complaining.