As the TSA announces its latest security measures, I can't help but suspecting that they are missing the point. As Christopher Hitchens points out, the existing system should have caught an aspiring terrorist:
-- Somehow the watch list, the tipoff, the many worried reports from colleagues and relatives, the placing of the name on a "central repository of information" don't prevent the suspect from boarding a plane, changing planes, or bringing whatever he cares to bring onto a plane...[Abdulmutallab's] own father had been sufficiently alarmed to report his son to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, some time ago. (By the way, I make a safe prediction: Nobody in that embassy or anywhere else in our national security system will lose his or her job as a consequence of this most recent disgrace.)
And that's a central problem. When government fails, rarely are their consequences for the individuals in charge. If the airlines themselves were responsible, the survival of their business would be at stake. They would be forced to make radical changes and come up with innovation solutions. But governments respond to failure by doing the same thing, only more vigorously. That means longer lines and more mind numbing intrusions.
Blogger Megan McArdle adds:
-- The TSA's obsession with fighting the last war is so strong that I expect any day to see them building wooden forts at our nation's airports in order to keep the redcoats at bay. Every time they miss something, we have to give up more liberty.
-- ... I cannot imagine where this is going to end. No, actually, I can imagine all too well: with passengers checking all luggage and flying in specially issued hospital gowns. And when some enterprising terrorist manages to sneak through that cordon by swallowing his explosives, the TSA will tell us that "the system works" and start the cavity searches.