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I got back in yesterday morning from a whirlwind trip to the west coast (hence the light blogging).  In the middle of our trip, we started hearing the reports of the big terrorist bust.  

We were fearing the worst when we got to San Francisco airport on Friday night .   American Airlines told us to get to the airport three hours before the flight to make sure we could get through.

Of course, the actual security check-in only took about 10 minutes.  For the first time in years, I got a pat-down, but otherwise, it was without incident.  We had hours to spend in the airport, which meant that we got to have a relaxing dinner and time to do some light shopping at a book store.  A waste of time but what the heck.

But I wonder about the security measures taken at airports these days.  Bruce Schneier editorializes today as to his thoughts on the matter:  

Hours-long waits in the security line. Ridiculous prohibitions on what you can carry onboard. Last week’s foiling of a major terrorist plot and the subsequent airport security graphically illustrates the difference between effective security and security theater.

None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 — no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews — had anything to do with last week’s arrests. And they wouldn’t have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn’t have made a difference, either.

Link here.

Good, solid intelligence work is what busts these plots.  9/11 was a failure of the intelligence community, not necessarily a failure of airport screeners.  The data was there, but it was ignored. 

While airport screeners have gotten much more polite and it’s not nearly as rough a situation as it was in the months after 9/11, we need to remind ourselves as a country that air travel is a vital, integral part of our economy.  Perhaps this means that we should stop allowing any bags, cell phones or laptops.  If that’s the case, then fine, let’s just make the decision and start making the security check-in process a rapid, pleasant experience.  It’s stressful enough to travel these days without having to deal with worrying about shaving cream and lighters.

Alex Eckelberry