The Corner

Risk and Reward in Airport Security

My old friend Bob Poole at the Reason Foundation has been fuming for years about America’s absurd policies on airport security, which treat everyone as potential bombers while failing to assess risks rationally. Perhaps the latest foiled attack – foiled not because of airport screenings but excellent intelligence work by multiple governments – will breathe life into the cause of reforming security procedures. There needs to be a consistent, effective way for frequent flyers to register with authorities, obtain clearances, and be able to move quickly through the airport. On the other hand, there needs to be careful scrutiny of individual passengers with known risk factors, which as I understand it does not include being a grandmother from Kenosha. Essentially, the system would sort passengers into three categories: low-risk, ordinary, and high-risk. Would there likely be an even distribution of sexes, races, and ethnicities across these categories? Not if they are meaningful. These are policies already used in Israel and much of Europe.

The latest plot further illustrated the shortcomings of the system, Poole told the Chicago Tribune yesterday.

“It’s ridiculous to screen 100 percent of checked baggage for explosives and be lackadaisical about what is inside carry-on bags or what people may be concealing underneath their clothes,” he said.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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