April 27, 2004
Someone attempting an exact replay of the 9/11 attacks today would likely be beaten to within an inch of death – and I wouldn’t take that inch for granted – by passengers with nothing to lose. Even if the terrorists managed get to the cockpit, physical locks and airline policy would make it impossible to take control of the plane. They could kill everyone on board and blow up the airplane, but that makes this kind of attack identical in effect to the “bombing” type. The “hijacking” category, at least for commercial passenger flights, has been largely negated. “Never again” is not just a solemn vow here. It is a statement of fact.
Why, then, do I still have to surrender my nail clippers, take off my belt and wait three quarters of an hour to go through a metal detector honed to such a level of sensitivity that the steak taco I had for lunch sets it wailing? What harm could I inflict with a one inch piece of flimsy metal on a hundred instant air marshals, a bank-vault quality door and pilots specifically trained to never give up control of the airplane? Why is our still-recovering economy being subjected to this level of delay and inefficiency? More importantly, why are our dramatically finite security dollars being spent here as opposed to on other, largely unsolved, problems – like the other three types of threats outlined above? Are these measures effective security, or are they primarily meant to comfort us?
I think we know the answer.