For those of you who may have missed the ABC News item the other day on airport security, here is an interesting item that should be a 5-alarm wakeup call for the Department of Homeland Security. You can’t make this stuff up.
An Arab-looking American businessman, Farid Seif, passed through TSA security at an airport last fall with a loaded Glock pistol in his otherwise-empty computer case. He didn’t mean to. He had somehow forgotten it was there. Upon finding it after landing, he reported it. Here is the ABC News item.
As you will note from the link, the TSA lapse was not unusual. Undercover agents are successful in passing simulated prohibited items through security more than half the time. The situation is so bad that the TSA classified the results of such tests, probably out of embarrassment. There is no indication that anyone has a solution to the problem, nor that anyone was fired or even reprimanded because of it.
I posted on this subject last month under the title, The Naked Truth. The
problem is that human beings are inquisitive social creatures who are not suited to “mind-numbing” boredom, and what could be more-so than surveying endless lines of average Americans day after day looking for that one-in-a-million exception? Not much that I can think of. Ranks right up there with mail-sorting and airline pilot.
Airline pilot? Yes. Remember the two guys who flew past Minneapolis this year while in rapt discussion of pay and benefits issues? Take a fighter jet jockey who is used to adrenalin rushes and put him behind the controls of a huge lumbering passenger jet, then alternate his day/night cycles until he isn’t sure what day it is. The taxi and takeoff are the most exciting parts and he gets to eat airport food too. Yum. At altitude he is on auto-pilot for hours. The GPS tracks position exactly – no challenge anywhere in sight. Boooooorrring!!! IMHO, assigning a human being to any boring security job for is just asking for trouble if you don’t test the alertness every few days with some kind of Red Team.
Human beings just aren’t good at boring jobs. When I was in manufacturing, my second profession, I noticed that the people on the assembly lines compensated for the boring nature of the work by socializing with one another. The poor TSA people have only limited opportunity for even that. I sympathize. About the only thing worse I can think of is sitting at home watching daytime TV and counting flowers on the wall.
In my previous post on this subject, I recommended the Israeli method, i.e., profiling. At least a profiler has the daily challenge of selecting the right suspect out of the lineup and a decent chance of catching a real terrorist once in a while. All we are doing with the TSA body scans and pat-downs is putting a small dent in the unemployment line while intensely annoying airline passengers. It sounds like the plot of a Peter Sellers/Blake Edwards movie, except . . . we’re living it!