War on Terror

Airport Security Toy Big Seller Since Failed Christmas Bombing

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By Brian McGraw

The Playmobil Security Check Point has experienced a new surge in popularity (so much so that it is currently out of stock) on Amazon in a response to nationwide security talks concerning the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Daniel Solove over at Concurring Opinions offered (from 2005) a humorous review of the product:

I was a bit disappointed in the toy’s lack of realism. There was only one passenger to be screened. Where were the long lines? The passenger’s clothing wasn’t removable for strip searching. The passenger’s shoes couldn’t be removed either. Her luggage fit easily inside the X-ray machine. There were no silly warning signs not to carry guns or bombs onto the plane. And there was no No Fly List or Selectee List included in the playset.

Another oddity was that the toy came with two guns, one for the police officer and one that either belonged to the X-ray screener or the passenger. The luggage actually opened up, and the gun fit inside. I put it through the X-ray machine, and it went through undetected. Perhaps this is where the toy came closest to reality.

On a more serious note, airline security is likely to re-emerge as an important issue in 2010. President Obama labeled the incident a mix of “human and systemic error,” noting that U.S. authorities possessed intelligence indicating that Abdulmutallab might have been dangerous. He has ordered a review of security policies.

Unfortunately, new TSA policies will likely lead to longer lines and less privacy at security checkpoints, with the likely addition of full body scanners. It’s also possible that these policies merely force potential attackers to begin hiding materials in body cavities. Rather than now requiring passengers to remove their underwear while going through security, consider an alternative solution: returning airline security operations to the private sector. Privatizing airline security would lower costs while providing higher levels of customer service and privacy. Competition would breed innovation in finding effective security methods that are affordable and minimally invasive.

Airlines have a natural incentive to minimize security issues that the TSA does not: the TSA will receive funding regardless of what happens (and they will likely receive increased funding if another strike were to occur). Additionally, allowing multiple security strategies to emerge would serve as a deterrent in comparison to a nationwide TSA standard, which one of our caring government employees leaked to the Internet.

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