Airport Security – What Would Ben Do?

Recently, I came across this quote from American statesman, founding father and signor of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin:

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

As usual Ben’s wisdom and insight prompted thought on my part. At the time I read this quote, I was standing in an endless line at that Seattle/Tacoma airport, waiting patiently for the humiliating TSA (Transportation Security Administration) full body scan, pat-down or other search du jour to occur. It dawned on me that as the 911 terrorists have achieved their ultimate goal, the destruction of our open society from within. By forcing us to slowly deprive ourselves of our essential liberties by imposing stringent safety mandates on travelers, the terrorists won. We have taken airport security and the fear of terrorism to the extreme. We have traded our liberty and freedom to which we were accustomed to move throughout our country to purchase that little bit of temporary, but illusory safety in the sky.

Perhaps the time has come to dispense with the airport security scans, pat-downs and other humiliations. There is no direct statistical evidence that TSA security is making air travel safer, however, there is abundant evidence that: (1) we are spending billions of dollars on these security measures; (2) we are allowing intrusive searches and seizures (even a gift bottle of wine cannot be taken aboard and must be dispensed of); and (3) the cost of our citizens spending countless hours committing to security clearances at the airport is an inordinate burden for the U.S. society to bear. Here is recourse we can take in lieu of the airport TSA charade:

1. Place more air marshals on each flight. The billions of dollars spent on TSA security scans could be put to better use by placing more air marshals on flights and relying on the deterrent effect of having law enforcement officers on board. Prospective terrorist will have to deal with trained air marshals and committed passengers in the event a hijacking were contemplated. The cost of air marshals would be significantly less than the legions of TSA security officials employed at the airport whose efforts likely are not making air travel more secure.

2. Every traveler should be responsible for the safety of all other travelers. U.S. citizens should take personal responsibility for their safety and the security of others. We should be vigilant, if we see suspicious behavior we should report it, if we see suspicious packages, we should report them. If each traveler took that responsibility seriously, we could vastly increase the level of law enforcement and dissuade would be hijackers. Our complacency, our willingness to hand over the responsibility for our safety to TSA is simply costing too much money, is likely ineffective and, is not consistent with the vision of our forefathers who made self-reliance a cornerstone of American values. We could adopt the lessons learned from the citizens in Israel who augment their law enforcement with the attentiveness each citizen. Each Israeli is accountable for the safety of all others. That attitude has thwarted numerous bombing attempts in the Middle East and could be readily adopted in the U.S.

I realize this rant is only tangentially pertaining to construction. We all however avail ourselves of air travel, unrestricted air travel is fundamental to our economy. Flying is becoming unwieldy and the over-the-top security at air terminals interferes with our fundamental freedom of movement in this country. Ben got it right trading our freedom for security makes us undeserving of either security or freedom.

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