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Airport Security - A Question of Scale

A short note on airport security. I was in DC last week, and without getting into detail, the following stories should be mentioned. The task of ensuring secure air travel is not an easy one, sometimes processing hundreds of people in just a few minutes.

(1) In a meeting with one of our federal agencies, I heard how a team had traveled by air, and on arrival needed to open a package. One of the individuals then removed a pocketknife from a carry-on and proceeded to slice open the box. When asked, the individual commented that she always carried the pocketknife with her (sort of as a letter opener) and had forgotten that she had it in her carry-on, even when queried by TSA in the security line about whether there was anything in the carry-on.

(2) A scientist traveling to a recent meeting carried sample of a harmless liquid chemical in his pocket. The liquid is clear and was carried in two 3-milliliter vials and one 10-microliter ampoule. The containers were all glass with no metal.

I, for one, believe that air travel is significantly safer today than it was on September 10, 2001 as a result of the added security, surveillance, and yes, the vigilence of the TSA. Is there a bit more inconvenience, especially as it comes to the 3-1-1 program? Sure, there is. Are improvements still needed? Yes, there are. Are these two stories harmless occurences? Yes. At the same time, the tools of terrorism change constantly.