Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thoughts on Airport Security

In the aftermath of the "underwear bomber" on the Northwest Airlines flight around Christmas, I had a chance to fly to Denver en route to Regina, SK. Although I was unable to get to my final destination due to weather, I did get a taste of airport security on an international level (or at least as international as Canada). What I saw impressed me. Efficient transactions, the use of advanced technology, and a high level of professionalism.

But just before my trip, it was reported that international airports did not feel they needed to follow our lead with airport security measures. There's a lot that could be said about this, but from a security standpoint, it doesn't make me want to take a jaunt across the Pond to visit Europe anytime soon.

On a bigger scale, we should be concerned that in the aftermath of 9/11, the world still doesn't have a grasp on how to address airport security, America included. Go to different airports, see different security standards. The fact we still have that as a universal condition should be disturbing enough, but add to that fact that we seem to be okay with it only adds to the problem. As consumers, we have a duty to demand better service if what we have in place is not sufficient, and when it comes to airport security, we can't skimp on quality.

The introduction of new screening technology that sees through people's clothes is intriguing, but it isn't without controversy. People are concerned about the privacy implications of such technology, with some people saying that it could violate child pornography laws. Thus, we face a difficult decision: risk privacy for the sake of security, or have privacy trump security. This is both a testament to our nation's commitment to freedom and a detriment to airport security. Yet, it's a line we will have to walk and a decision everyone who travels by plane will have to make at some point.

And that's what should drive efforts to reform airport security globally: choice. With something so important (and with our leadership in the world diminishing since Reagan), reforming such a major tool in our security arsenal can't be done by legislative fiat. It's something that has to be organic, from the grassroots up. If we start demanding better security instead of putting that on those who don't have a great track record of solving problems, the airlines will listen, and maybe the government will, too.

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