Pilot to TSA: Let my people go!

Patrick Smith, the airline pilot who co-writes the NY Times's Jetlagged Blog has written a corker of an editorial railing against the bullshit "security" procedures that the TSA has put into place. Smith is hopping mad and stops just short of calling for a revolution. Man, I'd be with him at the barricades.
No matter that a deadly sharp can be fashioned from virtually anything found on a plane, be it a broken wine bottle or a snapped-off length of plastic, we are content wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and untold hours of labor in a delusional attempt to thwart an attack that has already happened, asked to queue for absurd lengths of time, subject to embarrassing pat-downs and loss of our belongings.

The folly is much the same with respect to the liquids and gels restrictions, introduced two summers ago following the breakup of a London-based cabal that was planning to blow up jetliners using liquid explosives. Allegations surrounding the conspiracy were revealed to substantially embellished. In an August, 2006 article in the New York Times, British officials admitted that public statements made following the arrests were overcooked, inaccurate and "unfortunate." The plot's leaders were still in the process of recruiting and radicalizing would-be bombers. They lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives. Investigators later described the widely parroted report that up to ten U.S airliners had been targeted as "speculative" and "exaggerated."

Link (Thanks to HeavyD and everyone else who suggested this one!)


  1. Unfortunately, the “point” of inane measures is not even to create a security spectacle. The true purpose is to create an atmosphere where any action by a traveller can be called in to question at almost any time. While I don’t much care for it, I do see how such a climate can be effective for certain administrative purposes. If for some reason there is a legitimate reason to suspect someone — then the current system means they can be “investigated” for any number of behaviors that 99% of the time would be considered completely normal.

  2. The silliest part is something that Patrick Smith didn’t mention: if a pilot wants to endanger a flight, he’s got much easier and more certain ways to do it than to smuggle weapons aboard.

  3. Ah, that great triumvirate strikes again: the British Government, the British press, and “security services”. All mutually puffing one another up until we end up in a queue at Heathrow chucking our water away. Haven’t they done well?

  4. The entire Kabuki ‘security’ charade at airports is nothing but a means to show every single member of the petit bourgoisie who is boss (HINT: It Isn’t You). There is absolutely zero merit to these procedures otherwise. The TSA charade cannot stop something like 80% of the obvious bomb components deliberately smuggle through to test their efficacy, so what other use is it. When you get right down to it, TSA security screening is just one more tool of oppression.

  5. This is absurd… and will continue as long as security companies and goverment have diffetent motivation than passangers.
    Whatever the cost, as long as they stay “tough on secuirty” they get what they want. Security – paychecks, goverment – votes.

    IMO there’s a reasonable way to get minimum risk with minimum expense. Bind security pay with both passanger inconvinience and their results. They get more than generous payment, but it’s lowered for inconvience to passangers, not intercepted goverment agents’ setups and devastated for any succeeded terrorist attack.
    If it’s your money on the stake you will do your best.

    However… this method wouldn’t be “equality” supporters approved. It’d definetelty lead to racial/age/occupation profiling. What company in it’s right mind would waste money (more delay = lesser payment) patting down grannies? Or which one would take any risk with European muslim, who had visited middle east frequently and had flying course?

  6. @ Kevin;

    “The silliest part is something that Patrick Smith didn’t mention: if a pilot wants to endanger a flight, he’s got much easier and more certain ways to do it than to smuggle weapons aboard”.

    Not that you are wrong, but Patrick Smith would very quickly discover himself ass-and-collared out of his pilot gig is he were even to breathe such an opinion, which is the meat of exactly how f-ed up the whole thing is. Instead of being advised and empowered by intelligent adults with a vested interest in successful security, we are instead being being pushed around by a bunch of fantasy-ridden, puerile, paranoid children, for the purpose of aggrandizing the state. The whole thing is complete, nonsensical, uneconomic, top-down centralized madness, and the sooner we realize it the sooner we will be on the path to restoring both our natural rights and security sanity.

  7. Sometimes, it’s blessed just to be limited. :)

    As always, security is slow. The depiction in movies that they come in late, just after the hero tied the villains, are almost always true. ;)


  8. I don’t remember where I saw it (it may even have been here), but in Israel, where they’ve been dealing with terrorism for many years, it seems as though their security is so ‘relaxed’. The story goes like this. There’s an elderly woman (American) in line at security. She put her little baggie of liquids on the scanner and proceeds. A few steps later she realizes that she has a bottle of water on her. She goes to hand it to the screener who looks kinda funny at her and says: “This is Israel, we’ve been dealing with terrorism for 50 years. This water bottle…isn’t dangerous.” They have experience, they know what their doing.

  9. Think of the children! We all know that airplanes are the only places with hundreds of people gathered together and that there aren’t any places with thousands of people gathered together that terrorists could target. If we secure our airlines then we will be 100% safe!

  10. I and others I know have been saying this ever since these farcical rules were created. Sadly there is no means to protest this. If you want to fly you have to play by their rules. Your first amendment rights are basically suspended in airports. The TSA is basically its own little dictatorship part of the US in name only. Our congress has no will to assert power over TSA and the homeland security dept. and we all know Bush and gonna do anything. Thus we are probably stuck with these stupid rules for quite some time — maybe once there is a seachange in or country’s culture — maybe.

  11. The airlines are exhibiting a classic symptom of insanity: trying to prevent something that already happened. All of these measures are designed to prevent a 9/11 from happening again, but the fact is that it never will. We are protecting ourselves against weaknesses that existed six years ago, which has the follow-on effect of creating other weaknesses. So, the airlines have no idea what their current weaknesses are (this is important), so they impose scattershot restrictions aimed at getting people to self-police lest they get rousted by some high-school dropout (the screeners are the panopticon here).

    Intentionally or not, the process is designed to be random and capricious.

  12. Blackbird@8: That’s exactly it. The unspoken criticism of the TSA is that they obviously don’t know what they’re doing. Why else would it be so random? Does anybody think the TSA/DHS/Dubya organization could be so organized as to have a system that only appears random?

    P.S. Is the “Post” button supposed to be missing on preview?

  13. When I asked my dad what he did when he was stationed in Germany after WWII, he answered “What armies always do. Continue to fight the last war, even though it’s over.” In his case, he was planning out evacuation routes for European war refugees. But not WWII refugees, since they had had been evacuated years earlier.

  14. So when terrorists start to emulate drug mules and hide explosives internally, does that mean mandatory x-rays and colonoscopies for everyone?

  15. I actually asked a BA stewardess once why i was eating with plastic, blunt-edged cutlery, off a glass(!) plate.
    Armed police in British airports disgust me. Armed police are inept (unacceptably numerous mistaken identity killings in the last few years). They want to play cowboy like their US cousins, and don’t see that it causes fear and civil unrest to see men with guns on your streets. Plus, they are just normal cops, not special units. They always sit around filling their faces with sandwiches in the italian restaurant in heathrow terminal one.
    Our authorities cause fear, and then blame others for ‘terror’. ~Ridiculous. In the 80’s, we (the UK) came though a spate of IRA bombings without losing our minds, thanks to a pragmatic government that didn’t treat us like kids.

  16. Unfortunately, some of the commenters on Patrick Smith’s blog think that the solution is to get rid of “political correctness” and just harrass the Muslims. They forget that the shoe bomber was a Brit by the name of Richard Reid, who would have been bypassed by profiling based on race or national origin.

    As Lewis Black said, thank goodness his bomb wasn’t in his underwear!

  17. Here’s how I’ve beaten the water rule: Put an empty plastic bottle in your carry on. Go through security. Fill it at a water fountain.

    Airline food isn’t just bad, it’s also scarce. So I buy food at an interior concession and bring it aboard. My favorite is the chinese food at the Charlotte airport, which is cheap ($6 for two heaping dishes) and smells so bad you’ll make the rest of the plane jealous.

    I’m also awaiting the opportunity to ask the flight attendent during the flotation device demonstration whether there’s ever been a successful water landing in the history of commercial aviation.

  18. This little quote comes from one of the comments on the article. Superb :)

    About two years after 9/11 I was selected at random by a TSA agent for additional security screening at an airport checkpoint. I was asked to remove my hat, shoes, belt and jacket, after which I was told to spread my arms and legs for electronic ‘wanding’.

    When I asked why I had been chosen for the extra attention, two more agents quickly appeared and their unsmiling faces emphasized that airport security was, indeed, very serious business. “We need to be sure you don’t have anything you can use to take control of an aircraft”, the screener told me. I will never forget the absurdity of his words.

    You see, I was, in fact, about to take control of an aircraft, an Airbus A320 to be precise, and fly it up the Potomac River to LaGuardia. That’s what airline Captains like me get paid to do. That’s why I had showed up at the airport in full uniform, properly credentialed and ready to go.

  19. I hate to say this, but as usual this all seems like a bunch of pointless chatter. We’re all smart enough to realize the current system is ridiculous, but I’m astounded at the dearth of solutions. What can you/are you going to do about it. That would make for truly dialectical discourse.

  20. You know, these days, a terrorist no longer have to actually kill people. For instance, say somebody were to try to smuggle onto an airplane, bomb components placed in condoms hidden in his anus … just think of the checks the TSA will have to do after that …

    He deliberately gets caught and is sent to jail, but on the plus side, he doesn’t have to kill himself, or anyone else. But he achieves his objective. To scare people, and force people to subject themselves like sheep to ever more senseless humiliation by the TSA.

    Hmmm … the possibilities for non-violent terrorists today is practically unlimited.

  21. It isn’t pointless chatter, eventually people will be tired of this and it will be relaxed in the same way that previous restriction were. Now, there is a solution that was suggested (in jest, I think) to Saddam Hussein some years ago by his security people. Worried about potential bombs on aircraft, one of his advisors suggested he carry a bomb onto any aircraft he was traveling in since the odds that two people would have a bomb on a plane are astronomical.

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