Hate me if you will, but I'm going to bring up TSA (and some other countries') screening measures again in view of what happened to Malaysian Air 17 today. The US government, the Ukraine and others have concluded the plane was shot down at 32,000 ft by a Russian BUK missile, though they are not saying which possible group fired it (though a preponderance of evidence including voice recordings at the time of the missile strike suggests Russian separatists in Ukraine). As one commentator on TV said today, "is this lost on would-be terrorists?"
Measures at airports that in my view are designed mostly to reassure people who don't fly much and seriously inconvenience people who do, are useless if groups such as these can get hold of BUKs or other missiles capable of bringing down a commercial airliner. Otherwise, why go to all the trouble of blowing up your genitals, like the underwear bomber did? I am NOT making light of this -- I think this is a very serious situation indeed.
And let's say for a moment that the US, Ukraine and others are wrong about it being a missile attack. If that's the case, a terrorist got through what I consider the most difficult and redundant airport in the world for security (Schiphol).
Above all, my sympathies to those who had relatives on board in such a horrific and despicable act. While I criticized Malaysia heartily during the earlier planedisappearance, it doesn't seem they had anything to do with this one (except flying over a war zone, which many other airlines did too), so I extend my condolences to a country that has suffered terribly from natural and manmade disasters over the past years.
Thanks, barrpat! I have gotten a fair amount of 'guff' for my feelings about the TSA, especially because I almost unilaterally have bad experiences with them. Getting Pre-Check through Delta helped, but since it doesn't count on their partner airlines (Alitalia, AF, KLM), I'm often stuck in the regular lines. And now I have to make sure every single device is charged or it will be confiscated. To me, this is government out of whack.
profchiara, I agree with your sentiment. Whenever you come up with a standard or a way to go about doing something a group will figure out a way around it. It is simply human nature. It certainly doesn't mean we should throw in the towel and give up, it means we need to inject common sense into the policies and proceedures so that they do the most good without being such a heavy burden. I don't pretend to have the answers to these difficult security questions but I think knee jerk reactions and idiotic policies do no good. As George Carlin said in the 90s well before 9/11 "I don't need some guy with a double digit IQ and a triple digit income rooting around my bag and never finding anything!" While I think the TSA does help in airline security (removing loaded firearms and items like that) patting down toddlers and invalids does not make much sense. The world we live in is a dynamic place and our policies and proceedures need to be dynamic as well in order to do the most good.
Both profchiara and ks77 make excellent points and yes our government is so out of what it makes we want to cry. on a daily basis. Had I not been a government employee for 35+ years I might chalk it up to politicians being politicians however; having seen all the waste and huge amount of dollars spent on the worst possible programs I'm convinced the swirling sound is just what it sounds like.
I cannot wait to get on an airplane headed for NYC in the coming weeks to see what the TSA has conjured up after this horrible incident yesterday. The knee jerk reaction most likely will be huge and not be well thought out at all, in my humble opinion we can all expect many new rule changes and more pat downs.
My condolences to all who have experienced loss from this terrible disaster, prayers for comfort and hope for a peaceful world one day soon.
I have no answers, only questions.
SAM's of course have been around for a long time and have been used to shoot down commercial airliners in the past, by national militaries (both accidentally and on purpose) and also by guerillas (and in this case perhaps separatists) during civil war or other military conflicts. (The U.S. shot down a commercial passenger airliner in 1988, killing all 290 on board.) In all this time, I'm sure the potential has never been lost on would-be terrorists, and fortunately, they haven't yet succeeded in this fashion. Since 2001, we've managed to keep our commercial skies reasonably safe from acts of terrorism as well. I am curious as to what everyone attributes this success to?
I think obviously heightened awareness at both the individual and governmental levels played a large part. Two of the largest airline plots were foiled by passengers (Shoe and Underwear bomber respectively), who undoubtedly were inspired and made more aware by what Todd Beemer and the others did on UA93 on 9/11. With both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and recruiting more Arabic-speaking agents, I think the ability to listen to and understand chatter has probably increased dramatically as have efforts to work with other countries' security networks (when we're not listening to their personal phone calls). That combined with agents in the field seem the most likely reasons for me.
Nothing the TSA has done has made me think that their role has been significant. Perhaps it's just been my experiences, but most of the time it amounts to feel ups (remember that news story by a former agent last year about what many TSA agents discuss?), and searching and discomforting people who are disabled, young, elderly, etc. I have always favored behavioral profiling, which I think is much more likely to spot suspicious activity than an underpaid civil servant who sometimes is overscrupulous and other times underscrupulous.
Finally, I don't ultimately think ANYTHING can be done if individuals are really intent on doing something like this and if they (no pun intended) manage to fly under all the radar. Almost everything we do seems to respond to the last threat, but that isn't going to foil an ever more ruthless and ingenious enemy.