Perhaps it was missing a connection in Boston because the security outfit at the Bar Harbor airport hasn’t figured out that the waiting area beyond the screeners should be large enough to accommodate a planeload of people, in order to avoid a departure delaying logjam. Maybe it was being handed a paper sticker with the word “Visitor” scribbled on it by a guard this morning to gain entrance to a New York City building full of television VIPs and millions of dollars worth of equipment. I got to thinking about security practices in general. And how many of them do absolutely nothing to protect us, from anything.
I find it comforting to think that the reason a 9-11 type event has not been repeated is due to some change in the security practices of the nation. I don’t often find myself thinking like a criminal, but if you allow yourself to for just a moment, you start to realize that many of the security practices we see everyday are either costly smoke shows, or initiated by complete morons. I’ll share some stories and observations that will hopefully entertain and enlighten, that hopefully the bad guys won’t read.
I was recently traveling by plane in Europe. They still ask you there if anyone has given you anything to carry on the plane. I actually think this is a good idea, and for some reason, the powers that be in the US have deemed it unnecessary, yet still won’t let me carry an Evian on the plane. They have apparently determined that middle aged white guys are more likely to craft an IED that looks like water, than a terrorist asking an old lady to please carry his “gift” to New York where his lovely wife will come pick it up at baggage claim.
And what’s with the 3.4 oz. rule? Am I expected to believe that Homeland Security is running tests and taking down planes over some Arizona airfield with 3.5 ounces of hair goo? And that they will know exactly when terrorist technology reduces their hair gel disguised bomb size to 3.3 oz. and will then consequently change the carry on rules? If they know the level of terrorists' Neutrogena bomb making abilities to this much detail- I think they should just go kill them.
My wife and I were leaving England, and weren’t sure if two jars of jam we bought for our parents would pass through security or not, so we (stupidly) left them in our carry on at Heathrow. What’s the worst that would happen- they pull them out and toss them, right? London airport security is apparently required to unpack and swab EVERY item in your carry-on bag when a liquid over 3.4 oz. is discovered in it. Apparently there is a cell of very savvy bad guys that appear to be middle aged, middle class American tourists, but are actually some folks who have figured out that if they can sneak on a plane with their magical terror-in-a-jam-jar solution that has the ability to turn dirty socks into explosives, they can do some serious damage. Am I being ridiculous? I wasn’t the one running a chemically treated stick over my skivvies for 40 minutes.
Think about this- you can’t bring 3.5 ounces of liquid on a plane, supposedly because it could be an explosive. And you can’t bring sharp metal objects on, because they could be used as weapons. To insure that nothing dangerous gets on board, your carry-on bags are X-Rayed for both, but you yourself are checked for metal ONLY, by being passed through a metal detector. That’s right- watch it in practice the next time you pass through airport security- the system protects us from 3.5 containers of magical jam that turns underwear into bombs, but not from anyone putting as many oz. of whatever the hell they want into a plastic flask, jamming it in their pocket, and sashaying onto the plane.
I was traveling for work years ago with a television crew and equipment. Sometimes the audio equipment gets rookie security officers excited and you have to sit and watch as they pick it apart and look at you as if you are bringing a turd on board. You want to say to them, if I wanted to blow up the plane, would I put something that looks EXACTLY LIKE A BOMB on the conveyor belt under your nose? Anyway, in this case, everything made it to Las Vegas from New York without difficulty. On the way back apparently the equipment tested positive for nitroglycerine, and security wasn’t going to let it on the plane. I calmly explained that this was several thousand dollars worth of equipment that had travelled around the country in recent months without difficulty, I had no idea how nitroglycerine got on it, and there was really no way I could explain to my bosses that I had left their equipment at the Las Vegas airport. I explained that this is why we arrived two hours before the flight- they could do ANYTHING they wanted to the audio gear to quell their suspicions, so long as it made it onto the plane. After about 20 minutes of negotiation, the agents said they only way we could bring the nitroglycerine laced audio mixer on board was, I'm not kidding, if one member of our party agreed to be placed on the terrorist watch list. WTfuck? So let me understand, fearless protector of humanity, you think this TV equipment is a bomb, that we are terrorists on a suicide mission to blow up the plane, and you are going to let us on the plane as long as one of us admits that we are a terrorist? Before I could get my head around the ridiculousness of the situation and attempt to communicate it to the guards, my grip Josh yells out- “Ooh I’ll do it!” I shot him the death glare fearing hours of interrogation or worse, until I heard the agent say to Josh “Sign here please.” He did, and they proceeded to allow us, our nitroglycerine soaked audio gear and our newly anointed chubby, deaf dimwitted grip/terrorist on the plane.
Banks often have one security guard on duty. Who is this person supposed to stop or dissuade from doing what exactly? To professional crooks who have the ability and moral tendency to organize a team to infiltrate a banks vault and take some serious cash, a security guard is a speed bump. So it would seem he’s there to ward off the random solo thief who wants to grab maybe a thousand bucks from the teller’s drawer, the type that may strike that branch once every ten or so years, if ever. Wouldn’t it be wiser to let the thief take the grand and just not pay a security guard the $400,000 over that time span?
Some office buildings in New York City won’t let you enter without identification unless you get your picture taken and your license information is entered into a data base. This isn’t going to stop a madman from shooting up the entire accounting department on the fourth floor if he feels like it, but it seems a bit of a deterrent to other ne’er do wells. On the other hand what exactly is the point of the gruff chunky ladies with the clip boards at a multitude of other buildings that insist you sign in before entering the building? What in the name of St. Pete is this designed to “secure?" The women are wearing shirts that say “Security” on them, so I assume it must be securing something, but for my life I don’t know what that could be. I would imagine that anyone with nefarious inclinations ranging from stealing stirrers from the cafeteria to blowing the top 15 floors off the building would not arrive at the front desk, learn he had to sign in, and head off to an easier target free of clipboard lady defense shields. I then thought that the name signing was possibly to protect the signee from being left in the building in case of a fire or other emergency, but the idea of the gum chomping troglodyte behind the desk grabbing his clipboard and running through the flames to save “R. Goldfarb- 6th Floor- 1:43” made me realize that no, this was just another example of a security measure that, by design, secures nothing.