Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Insecure Security

---The T.S.A., it seems to me, has been making a genuine good-faith effort to balance the obvious requirements of security with the realization that the civilian public is not, per se, the enemy. Not so U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency that appears to be out of control. (Just ask any European business traveler who flies to the U.S. -- or just look at the sharp downturn in overseas visitors to the U.S. in recent years.) And have a look at this one -- and also this one -- to see an example of what appears to be invincible malfeasance at the border.

–Oh, this oughta work out real well. Amtrak is rolling out “mobile security teams” equipped with bomb- sniffing dogs (and armed, my guess is, with Uzis, flamethrowers and chucka sticks) to “randomly pull people out of line” at train stations for the good old once-over and third degree.

No explanation of why Amtrak suddenly decided to send out the bulls, more than 7 years after 9/11. These will be Amtrak employees, incidentally. Sleep well tonight.

For example:


June 30, 2007

From Phoenix News at 5
PHOENIX -- A 65-year-old St. Louis man is missing after Amtrak personnel, mistaking his diabetic shock for drunk and disorderly behavior, kicked him off a train in the middle of a national forest, according to police in Williams, Ariz. ... Police said there is no station or running water at the crossing, which is about 2 miles from the nearest road at an elevation of about 8,000 feet.


Anyway, the most feeble national rail system in the developed world says not to worry, the new in-house security measures will not cause the trains to run late. “This is not about delays,” an Amtrak spokesman told the Associated Press, in the non-sequitur of the day (so far). Hardy-har-har.

There’s a similar security program on the New York City subways, but it’s conducted by the New York Police Department, whose officers are highly trained, motivated, and generally aware that citizens are to be treated with civility unless they provide sufficient reason not to be. I’m not sure that’s in the Amtrak customer-service tradition.

By the way, the good old reliable AP failed to report when this new security program will start. (For some reason, some reporters increasingly overlook the “when” in the 5-W’s).

This week, on the Northeast corridor, is the answer.

Most security experts I know laugh at the idea of “bomb sniffing” dogs as an effective security tool for dealing with moving crowds. Stick a great big ham sandwich in a decoy bag, and that’s where the dog’s attention goes, they say.

Who can blame the dog? Better they should use “busy-body parrots” as security animals. I have two parrots, a big macaw and a little African gray. The little one is always ratting out the big one, and the big one screams bloody murder every time a jogger thumps down the street outside. And neither one can be distracted by a ham sandwich.

Meanwhile, consider the potential of the trained anti-terrorism wasp. USA Today actually did once.


1 comment:

Catherine said...

I agree with your point that the TSA is making a good-faith effort to improve their image and actions. I especially like their new blog. However, I still think their image would benefit greatly if they were allowed to express or even show a glimpse of humor. In other countries, there's much more leeway at security checkpoints for a little levity. I'm not saying that security is a joking matter anywhere these days, or that it should be in the U.S. It would just be nice if the T.S.A employees were allowed to show their human side and if something is funny, at least smile.