With all the news media chattering on about this latest round of terrorism with flight 253 and the guy with a bad stomach in the restroom, we are seeing the latest group of pundits advocating for more technology, full-body scans, etc, etc.
Real airport security is far more low-tech than that. Here is the formula, in case anyone at the Department of Homeland Security or TSA wants to read it and maybe do something effective rather than expensive and whiz-bang.
Train TSA agents to be charming and firm
If you need some inspiration for this, watch Road House. “Be nice” was Dalton’s direction to his staff. And nice works, until you’re told to not be nice. In that case, effective, clean take-down is far more effective in controlling crowds than is a wild display of guns, badges and shouting.
Ask simple, rapid-fire questions in a dispassionate manner at checkpoints and randomly in the gate area. Where were you born, what day is it, what city are you in, how long will you be here, what is your mother’s name. And stare the passenger straight in the eye as you are asking and force the passenger to look back. If cultural differences prevent them from holding a stare, the passenger should be reminded that looking the agent directly in the eye is a requirement for travel. But gently and firm.
Pay TSA well. Train them and expect high-quality, consistent results. Discipline emotional responses. Right now, they are seen by most Americans as over-zealous mall cops who are quickly prone to anger and an excessive display of authority which they will wield for petty reasons, especially in smaller market airports like Dayton, Ohio.
Nothing makes a smuggler more nervous than a sniffing German Shepherd walking in and out of the boarding gates sniffing at every piece of luggage. And since dogs sniff at crotches as part of their nature, you get the added benefit of that without training, which would have come in handy for this last round of explosives. And use a lot of them. Be everywhere, all the time. Dogs don’t take anything personally, don’t profile based on race, gender or religion and are pretty darn accurate. Taking them for a 3-4 hour walk and a sniff is their idea of heaven.
And, after all the passengers have boarded the plane, take the dog down and up the aisle one more time in the plane. The dang thing will be just sitting on the tarmac anyway, so why not use a few extra minutes for security.
And nobody messes with the dog. Nobody.
Don’t dress in para-military garb
The dog handler and all security past the checkpoint should be dressed in simple, plain clothes but that also makes it clear they are the controlling authority. They should also be armed, but not obviously so. An over-armed security agent in an area that is supposed to be secure just says “I am more scared of being attacked than I am of defending myself.”
Dress in para-military garb
And carry very big sticks. Any area before the security check point should have armed guards very obviously and strategically placed. When you are entering into an airport terminal, there should be a “no-shit, this is serious” tone set from the start.
Airport insecurity is a human problem, created by human beings for the purpose of inflicting harm on other human beings. Pushing more technology at the problem just makes solving the real causes of the problem more complicated and gives passengers a false sense of security.
*For the record, I am not a security expert, but I do watch people in airports and other public places both here and abroad and can make judgments based on observed behaviors. Eventually, a pattern emerges.