Published on Online Journal, by Linda S. Heard, Nov 5, 2010.
Here we go again! Just last week, the British transport secretary hinted airlines using British airports will soon be free to consider ways of “easing the passenger experience” during check-in and suggested aspects of the security programme are now “completely redundant.”
He argued that many of the checks had been forced upon the UK by America, some of which, he says, are not enforced within the US itself.
The chairman of British Airways, Martin Broughton, was even more outspoken. There was no need for Britain to “kowtow to the Americans” on airport security, he said, adding there was no real need for passengers to remove shoes or have their laptops separately screened.
My first thought was Hallelujah! Sanity at last! Millions have had to take off their footwear all because some dim-witted wannabe terrorist Brit, Richard Reid, used matches in an attempt to fire a fuse hanging out of one shoe that was so damp, due to either rain or perspiration, that it wouldn’t light. Reid didn’t succeed in blowing up American Airlines Flight 63, thank goodness, but his failed attempt has led to massive and widespread disruption.
Then along came the so-called ‘Underwear Bomber,’ a disgruntled Nigerian called Omar Farouq Abdul Muttalib, who succeeded in setting his explosive nappy alight on Northwest Flight 253 before he was subdued. The incident resulted in further reviews of airport procedures but, according to a BBC documentary in which experts reconstructed the attempt using an old plane, there was “nowhere near enough” pentaerythritol in his pants to breach the fuselage of a Boeing 747.
Reid and Abdul Muttalib were billed in the press as evil Al Qaida operatives, which, if true, is good news. Al Qaida must be really scraping the recruitment barrel to entrust Dumb and Dumber with its deadly agenda.
As it turned out, my Hallelujah was premature. Just days later, a packaged explosive device made from pentaerythritol stuffed in toner cartridges was discovered in a FedEx depot in Dubai and another just like it on a UPS cargo plane at East Midlands Airport near Nottingham, England; both originated from Yemen. Thanks to a tip-off from Saudi Arabia the devices were discovered before any damage was done … //
Tobias Feaken, a representative of RUSI, a British-based defence and security think tank, warns against such knee-jerk reactions. “International security cooperation has improved and appears to be working well at present,” he says. “That’s what terrorism wants to do — to change the day-to-day operations of people.”
Feaken is right. Governments should resist going overboard with security measures affecting silver-haired grannies, teddy-hugging toddlers and even the disabled in wheelchairs. There is a fine balance between essential security checks and those which delay flights and humiliate passengers for no good reason.
Why, for instance, do asthma sufferers have to get advance permission from airports to take their inhalers on board? And why do travellers to the US need to disclose personal information — regarding, for example, onboard meal preferences — that is forwarded to American border authorities before travel?
The fact is not every terrorist act is preventable. We gamble with our lives every time we get in a car, swim in the ocean or simply stay home.
As long as we allow callous lowlife numbskulls in Yemen or anywhere else to impinge upon our way of life and governments to use our fears to diminish its quality and invade our privacy, then any fool with the most rudimentary bomb-making skills has the power to manipulate the world. (full text).
(Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email).