Friday, June 09, 2006

Flying without ID

A neat piece from Wired: Wired News: The Great No-ID Airport Challenge -- a DHS committee members takes on a challenge to fly without an ID.

Airport security is such a joke. All that machismo and people acting tough and (sometimes) like bullies. [The story links to this travel writer's blog, where he details how he almost got arrested for asking a few simple questions.] Is this really helping us? We've become jumpy. Way paranoid. That's understandable. But is this (these kinds of bureaucratic approaches to security) really necessary?

There's little that gets my goat more than bossy security-guards who think they're all that and then some. It's a universal phenomenon. Give someone a uniform and a little authority and they think they're the President. It's ubiquitous in India. It's really sad to see this take root in the US.

I often get asked if since 9/11 I've faced any problems flying in the US. You know, brown guy and all that. Frankly, I never have. I'm always cooperative. I've only been "selected" for extra security twice. And as I always say, it's nothing like Europe. They treat brown folk a heck of a whole not worse.

There was that one time recently that I was asked not to take a photograph from a train. That was on NJT.

Here's Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot column (simply fantastic) from Feb. 10, 2006. Salon.com. "I took some pictures at the airport -- and fell into the cluthes of bureaucrats mouthing the cheap prose of patriotic convenience." Here's his response to the ubiquitous (and, to me, oh-so-tiresome) "we live in a different world now."
Not to put undue weight on the cheap prose of patriotic convenience, but few things are more repellant than that oft-repeated catchphrase. There's something so pathetically submissive about it -- a sound bite of such defeat and capitulation. It's also untrue; indeed we find ourselves in an altered way of life, though not for the reasons our protectors would have us think. We weren't forced into this by terrorists, we've chosen it. When it comes to flying, we tend to hold the events of Sept. 11 as the be-all and end-all of air crimes, conveniently purging our memories of several decades' worth of bombings and hijackings. The threats and challenges faced by airports aren't terribly different from what they've always been. What's different, or "too bad," to quote the New Hampshire deputy, is our paranoid, overzealous reaction to those threats, and our amped-up obeisance to authority.
(Salon.com content is free after watching an ad.) And finally, take a look at this Atlantic Monthly piece from 2002 b Charles C. Mann. Homeland Insecurity. "A top exerpt says America's approach to protecting itself will make matters worse. Forget 'foolproof' technology -- we need systems designed to fail smartly."

1 comment:

Edward Hasbrouck said...

I've gotten a response from the TSA, although it avoids the most important issues, and raises at least as as many new questions as it answers. See my follow-up article, Dialogue with the TSA Privacy Officer.