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Posted: 4/2/2002 11:25:25 AM EDT
The National Review April 2, 2002, Security Games By John R. Lott Jr. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-lott040202.asp When are we going to get real about security? Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has based airline security on three policies: improved screening, air marshals, and strengthened cockpit doors. While all are helpful, no one can ignore the evidence from the last couple of weeks that all three policies are simply not enough. If the administration is going to be serious about keeping terrorists out of the cockpit, Mineta and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge need to being considering something they have long resisted — arming pilots. Six months after September 11th, the Washington Post reported that there were fewer than 1,000 U.S. Air Marshals, possibly a lot fewer, but no exact number is publicly available. With most marshals also apparently working in pairs, fewer than one percent of the 35,000 daily commercial flights in the U.S. are being protected. Increasing the number of marshals is also proving surprisingly difficult because of the reportedly extremely high attrition rate. Flying back-and-forth across the country is simply an extremely boring job. Even if these problems are solved, placing marshals on even a third of flights will be very expensive, running around $7 billion per year. By now everyone realizes that inspections cannot guarantee weapons will be kept off of planes. A Department of Transportation study conducted during the middle of February was released last week. Seventy percent of the knives, 60 percent of simulated explosives, and 30 percent of guns used in the test were successfully smuggled onto planes. Unfortunately, the situation may even be worse than the study indicates because knives can also be made of plastic or ceramics that are much more difficult to detect. Strengthening cockpit doors is important, but doors can still be blown open. Security can be breached and terrorists may obtain the key or code used to open the door. Boeing has announced that even when the second generation of upgraded doors are installed by next year they will slow down but should not be expected to stop terrorists from entering the cockpit.
Link Posted: 4/2/2002 11:26:25 AM EDT
Surely it is more difficult today for terrorists to take over a plane, but the return to them doing it is also higher. Another successful attack right now, especially after all this warning, would surely destroy confidence and throw air travel into chaos. Recent news reports indicate that Delta is expected to lose $350 million this quarter. Even Southwest Airlines is going to suffer their first quarterly loss since the early 1990s. Few airlines would financially survive another attack. So what to do? A serious option that has gotten little discussion from the administration is arming pilots as a last line of defense. Their job would not be to police the entire airplane; it would be to defend a single, narrow entrance to the cockpit, a much more limited responsibility and a much easier job than faced by marshals in a cabin filled with passengers. Of the three pilots' unions, 83 percent of the Allied Pilots Association, 78 percent of the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association and 73 percent of the Air Line Pilots Association support arming pilots. More than 70 percent of the pilots of major airlines have served in the military and are familiar with guns. They know more about their planes than the marshals. All the pilots' groups have agreed to training programs before being armed. Additional organizations like the 5,000 member Airline Pilots' Security Alliance having sprung up pointing to El Al and two major European airlines that arm their pilots as a model for us to follow. Stun guns have been mentioned by Mineta and others, but they are not a serious alternative. The New York Police Department found that tasers fail to fell suspects 30 percent of the time because thick clothing can foil the weapons. One can only imagine that terrorists would plan for tasers in advance and the failure rate would be much higher. Fears of bullets piercing an airplane's skin and causing it to lose pressure are misplaced. Specialized bullets could guard against these possibilities. And even if a regular bullet penetrated the skin, it's unlikely that there would be any noticeable change; an air outlet at the back of the plane, which draws air through the cabin, would automatically shrink to compensate. Banning guns does not ban violence. Law-abiding citizens obey the rules, not terrorists. — Lott is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of More Guns, Less Crime
Link Posted: 4/2/2002 11:50:27 AM EDT
Security is a joke. Last week I went through "security" in Philly and complied with the screener's wishes that I take my uniform hat off before I went through the metal detector. No problem getting through, I carry nothing made of metal anymore. However, I noticed two muslim women that were right behind me, also going through security. These two had scarves on and I was curious as to whether or not the screener would make them remove their scarves for inspection. No F-ing way! They breezed right through, headgear in place. I questioned this policy and was told "that's the way it is". Pilots must remove hats, shoes, etc for inspection, but muslim women don't have to. Whats wrong with this picture?
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