Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Monday, January 04, 2010 :::

So a fellow tried to blow up his underwear at the end of a Christmas flight, prevented by a passenger. The Secretary of Homeland Security responded by saying "the system worked", which is sort of true, if she meant the part of the system consisting of ordinary citizens taking action on their own rather than the part of the system she oversees, which didn't work at all.

The TSA has responded by further limiting quantities of carry-on baggage and prohibiting passengers from having anything in their laps during the last hour of their flights. Maybe this will prevent people from having anything to distract them from looking to see whether any other passengers are lighting themselves on fire. I can't see how else this might have helped thwart the attack a week and a half ago, or any other attack. Requiring people to sit still in their seats without books or anything else in their laps during the last hour of a flight certainly won't reduce the number of passengers who prefer self-immolation to sitting through the remainder of the trip.

I've read some complaints that the TSA is concerned with the appearance of safety rather than with actual safety. Some of these complaints denigrate the attempt to increase the appearance of safety, and I think this appearance is valuable in its own right, as people are far more likely to overestimate their odds of being victims of an attack than to underestimate those odds. But I don't think the TSA restrictions even do that. If a handful of skeptics noted that the restrictions aren't likely to be very effective, they might reduce panic, but my impression is that there aren't a lot of people who are falling for it.

What we might learn from the shoe bomber and the undie bomber is that clothes can be used as weapons. If the TSA wants to take a real step toward preventing attacks like these, prohibiting the wearing of clothing on flights would be more productive. They're one attack away from strip-searching all passengers, anyway, and I don't think anyone can buy an airplane ticket at this point and have any expectation of privacy. At this point, we might as well just show the goods, so to speak. And if the other passengers don't want to see my naked lap, I'll be happy to cover it with a book throughout the flight.


::: posted by Steven at 10:08 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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