Simple Solution for TSA - Two Tiered Pat Downs

The Obama administration now freely admits that the new airport screening protocols are a response to the BVD Bomber last Christmas who strapped powdered explosives to his groin. So, if the added security of the Extreme Pat-Down is the much needed answer, why did it take them close to a year to get started?

Pat-down techniques are so thorough that they would have thwarted the suspected Christmas Day bomber, who allegedly hid an explosive device in his underwear, the head of the TSA told senators on Tuesday.

Pat-downs might have worked against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, but remember, it is the new nude screening machines that are used on the vast majority of travelers, and they can't reliably detect powdered explosives taped to the groin, leading Pistole into contortions to construct a scenario under which the new screening techniques make us safer.

“If we have an individual who opts out of the advanced imaging technology, let’s say Abdulmutallab … had opted out, thinking [he’s] not going to receive a thorough pat-down so [he could] get on that flight, and if that had been successful on Christmas Day, I think we might be having a different dialogue this afternoon and in the public."

But, of course, Abdulmutallab would never opt out of the full-body scan under the new scheme because he knows he'd be selecting the tougher screening!

Yes, the scanners work against high-density objects such as guns and knives -- but so do traditional magnetometers. And the scanners fare poorly against low-density materials such as thin plastics, gels and liquids.

Pistole brags that TSA is staying "one step ahead of the terrorists," but Jeff Jacoby explains in today's Boston Globe the farcical nature of that claim.

One step ahead? That isn’t how TSA operates. Knives and sharp objects were banned from carry-on luggage after 9/11, so Richard Reid boarded American Airlines Flight 63 with a bomb built into his shoe. Passengers ever since have had to take off their shoes, so the 2006 Heathrow terrorists came up with a plan to use liquid explosives. TSA responded by confining liquids to tiny containers sealed in baggies, so Abdulmutallab smuggled explosive powder in his underwear. Now TSA scans or feels even air travelers’ nether regions, so terrorists based in Yemen hid two bombs inside printer cartridges and shipped them to addresses in Chicago. TSA promptly responded by announcing that “toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces will be prohibited on passenger aircraft in both carry-on bags and checked bags.’’ Just who has been staying a step ahead of whom?

If the Extreme Pat-Down is the only way to make flying safe, then we'll all have to get used to it. But if the Extreme Pat-Down is the only way to make us safe, why isn't it being used on more than just a fraction of flyers?

That is a crazy system — crazy in its ineffectiveness, in its breathtaking cost, and in the staggering degree of inconvenience and invaded privacy it imposes on innocent passengers.

Are we actually getting a tougher system that makes flying safer, or are we getting CYA - the Obama administration working to make sure it can't be accused of not trying?

In security expert Bruce Schneier’s cogent term, TSA provides not security, but security theater — “measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security.’’

The interesting thing about Abdulmutallab is that he could easily have been stopped if the most basic profiling techniques had been used - including paying attention to his father's reports to the CIA that his son was dangerous.

Neither the father's warnings, nor the international ticket purchased in cash, nor the lack of luggage prevented Abdulmutallab from boarding the flight.

Jacoby, and others, point out that Israel's security, the best in the world, uses a profiling based security system which includes an interview with every passenger. But that small system is based on competence, something that our government would never be able to deliver on such a large scale in a union controlled environment.

Even if the scanners did work against low-density materials, the same group linked to the Christmas bomb, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has already found another way to defeat the technology: hiding bombs inside the human body: A would-be AQAP assassin tried to kill a senior Saudi counter-terrorism official with a bomb hidden where only a proctologist would find it.

The solution to the current crisis is simple - a two tiered pat-down system. The four year old child or an otherwise obvious low-threat traveler is given a routine pat-down while upsetting, Extreme Pat-Down measures, can be restricted to people who profiling reveals to be higher risk.

This solution is so obvious that the failure to adopt it confirms the theory that the government is engaged in security theater.