Airport security more show than substance

By PAT WATSON

There is a sea of information about the vulnerability of people and nations as a result of an atmosphere of terrorism, and if you have a mind to, you can soak yourself in the gloom and despondency of it.

But, what is being achieved by the presentation of the security procedures being carried out at airports around the world, including, of course, Toronto’s Pearson International, one of the busiest airports in North America?

The ‘random’ searches that are carried out with such practiced professionalism by security staff at Pearson on passengers exiting the country has to be more about the appearance of keeping other countries safe than really doing so because, just as the people who register and legally own guns are the ones least likely to commit gun crimes, those who are traveling legitimately are also least likely to be carrying any prohibited substances surreptitiously in an attempt to commit an act of terrorism.

When we look at the large-scale importation and exportation of illegal drugs, for example, these substances do not enter or leave any country in a passenger’s suitcase. Airport security staff’s scrutiny of ordinary passengers is too sophisticated for any importer/exporter to try that.

So what is all this business of asking ordinary people to remove their shoes and belts? These days, those who travel regularly have actually accustomed themselves to wearing slip-on shoes to make it more convenient for them to dress and undress. Some even begin undressing without being asked as they near airport check points. Mouthwash, moisturizer, nail polish remover – if you don’t want to have them taken away by security staff be advised to pack them in your baggage that is to be checked.

The ridiculous business of all this is that regular folks are being humiliated, ostensibly so that Canada can keep America happy.

The idea that persons with the intention to terrorize either airline passengers or a whole country, as we well know, goes back to the explosion of two planes that plunged into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City back on September 11, 2001, killing thousands.

Much has come from that fateful day including a lot of finger-pointing when it came time to lay blame for the tragedy. Some top level American officials have pointed to the supposedly porous Canada-U.S. border. It was only last month that Canadian officials had to refute comments by new U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano that, “to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it’s been across the Canadian border”.

Not true! And, Immigration Minister Jason Kenny said as much when he called Napolitano’s statement “absolutely wrong.”

For all we do and all we go though, we still are, in the minds of far too many Americans, part of their terrorist problem.

But anyone with the slightest bit of reasoning ability could begin to figure out just exactly where someone with bad intentions would be looking to penetrate a country or, for that matter, an airport. And it wouldn’t be someone carrying a legitimate passport and a plane ticket through an airport security checkpoint.

In fact, this appearance of security action is an example, and symptomatic, of so much that is wasteful and wrong with governments. So much effort is wasted on the appearance of getting things done. While we understand the notion that justice must not only be done but appear to be done, it seems there is more attention paid to style than to substance. Can anyone recall any time when this kind of public scanning and shoe removal scrutiny has led to the apprehension of someone truly bent on carrying out an act of terrorism?

Of course, one could argue that the security has prevented it from happening, but that’s like former U.S. president George W. Bush arguing that the war in Iraq has stopped terrorism. The one has little or nothing to do with the other.

In fact, quite the opposite is true. Any profiling of certain types of individuals, Black people or Muslims, let’s say, in these cosmetic security theatrics could end up embittering the targeted groups and thus lead to the creation of an environment that fosters anti-national feelings. How stupid is that?

On a health note…

What is it about life on Earth that ensures that the person who doesn’t smoke cigarettes almost always finds herself downwind of the smoker carrying a lit cigarette or the one exhaling toxic columns of secondhand smoke?

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