Says Focus Should Be On Uncovering Terror Plots, Not Things Like Passengers' Liquids
Former TSA administrator Kip Hawley says that the agency's focus on individual passengers at airport security checkpoints is misguided, and that far more emphasis should be placed on getting to terrorists long before they enter an airport security line.
In an editorial appearing last week in The Wall Street Journal, Hawley says that the agency's attempt to eliminate all risk from flying has made air travel a "nightmare" for those who need to get around the country, while creating a security system that is "brittle where it needs to be supple."
Hawley (pictured in 2005 photo) said the agency should re-focus its efforts on preventing a catastrophic attack on the travel system, rather than try to assure that evey person on every airplane will arrive at their destination unharmed. He says that reinforced cockpit doors, air marshals, air crews, and even passengers are a much better defense against a few terrorists hijacking airplanes with box cutters ... an situation he says will never happen again.
Hawley says "terrorists are adaptive, and we need to be adaptive too." He says regulations are always a step or two behind the terrorists because the bad guys make their plans around loopholes in the system.
The former TSA administrator says that aside from a few obvious things like guns and explosives, it is time to do away with the expanding and shifting list of banned items on airplanes. He says that the list has TSA agents spending too much time looking for them, and the list serves as a blueprint to terrorist for what not to use in their next attack. He also says some simple steps could, and should, allow all liquids to be brought onto an airplane.
He says TSA agents should be given more flexibility, and held more accountable for screening, and that security should be more randomized. He says that predictability, banned item lists, and rigid rules can be deadly.
His last recommendation is to force airlines to eliminate checked baggage fees. He said that one of the reasons things are often so slow at security checkpoints is because so many people are carrying so much more baggage through the checkpoints to avoid paying the fees. He says airlines can increase the ticket prices if they have to, but more baggage in the hold means an easier time for everyone at the security checkpoint.
Airlines seem to be going the other way, charging for the use of the overhead bins for carry-on luggage.
Hawley calls any kind of security a series of trade-offs. But he says that it is time to shift the security paradigm to one in which passengers accept more risk, which he thinks the public is ready to do.