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Research Paper

  1. 1. Knox 1Jerica KnoxProfessor Alicia BoltonEnglish 101November 20, 2012 Airport Security for the Innocent Throughout history, the safety of family members and friends has always been a top priority ofthe people that love them. Knowing that daughters and sons are in the security of their own home canput anyone at ease. Security is important, especially when citizens travel. The standard way ofthinking about airport security is that it is strict—stricter than it was during 9/11, that is. The lives ofinnocent friends and family were taken so suddenly that day. So, with such a tragic day, securitysystems tightened their doors, or did they? I am responding to the ignorance and ineffectiveness in thestory, “Signal Detection” by Steven Casey. An American airport security system, that was supposedlystrict against terrorism, allowed a suspected man on board AA Flight 63. This man, Richard Reid—amember of al Qaeda and declared loyalist of Osama bin Laden, attempted to end the lives of citizenswith a shoe bomb that could have potentially blown up the whole plane. Had it not been for the bravepassengers, Reid could have been successful. This was a mere 4 months after 9/11. Ultimately, what isat stake here are the lives of innocent passengers—brothers, sisters, grandmothers, and fathers. At thevery least, citizens should care. Although terrorism is a threat and security has improved, there shouldbe better security tactics within airports for terrorists who plan to destroy the innocent lives of people. There are some critics who claim that security has, indeed, improved tactic wise. For one thing,the improvements people speak of are tactics that are used to prevent terrorists from getting on theplanes, such as randomness. According to “Homeland Security is Working” by former U.S. Appellatecourt judge Michael Chertoff, “Randomness is another critical tool... And therefore when we disrupttheir planning capability by having an element of randomness in our detection, we set them back interms of their ability to execute” (Chertoff 63). While randomness is an effective tool that potentially
  2. 2. Knox 2brings the element of surprise to our side, this tactic should not be such a critical tool in the first place.Randomness only works half the time it is actually used. There should be tools much more critical thanthis while randomness should be considered merely a back up plan. This proves that security has notimproved much. Lawyer, Joan Claybrook—former President of Public Citizen, a public policyorganization—states a similar viewpoint: “Amidst all the claims of government action to protectagainst terrorism, most citizens are completely unaware that little has been done to protect our sensitiveand critical infrastructure from real threats to communities across America” (Claybrook 69).Government has not improved security with tactics as much as citizens really think. Rodney Wallis,former Director of Security in the International Air Transport Association, gives an example of this.One particular thing Wallis mentions referred to the President signing a new aviation law: “PresidentGeorge W. Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, believing it ‘should giveall American’s greater confidence when they fly.’ New aviation laws hadn’t achieved their objectivesin the past, and those who listened to the president’s words were entitled to wonder if they would do soon this occasion” (Wallis 30). This law simply required bags to be screened. However, Wallis goes onto say that bags had previously been screened as well when terrorists’ attacks had been carried out.This simple gesture of signing a new aviation law may have seemed like security improving, butreally, it was the same procedure being reintroduced. Moving on, another tactic that is argued for is theuse of x-ray. While it is true that x-ray has improved, it does not necessarily work all the time.According to National Geographic, the airlines main defense was x-ray, up until recently. Now, theyuse machines that can literally see through people: “Tadar can see through clothing like an x-raymachine ...Tadar isnt full proof. It still requires the watchful eye of a security guard. Cleverlydisguised explosives might get through” (Outsmarting Terror, “Airport/Airplane Security”). This newmachine, though a great idea, is not entirely able to do its job. With clever and sneaky people liketerrorists, this new machine is not even a challenge to them. Although security is trying to improve, ithas yet to truly ensure the safety of citizens.
  3. 3. Knox 3 With that being said, security needs to find more innovative ways to deal with the search forterrorists. Terrorists who succeed do so because they are not predictable. They know what measuresare taken to prevent people like them from blowing up a plane, so they adapt to those regulations tomake them seem less suspicious. Because they have this to their advantage, security needs to improvetheir tactics, and show terrorists that America will give them a hard time if they plan on killing innocentpeople. This can be done by giving the Transport Security Administration (TSA) more flexibility. TheTSA are those people who make passengers take their shoes off when going through search proceduresin airports. They are usually presented badly, on TV, as they are seen taking a grandmothers cane or achilds stuffed animal in order to keep everyone safe. However, if the TSA were given more flexibility,they could interact more with passengers and get a better feel for suspects. Another way to improvetactics is to simply eliminate baggage fees. Yes, of course, this tactic is not just to reduce the costs offlying. It will also prevent people from stuffing their suitcases as much as they can in order to avoidpaying extra money. This process will improve security, as it will be easier to maneuver through bagsand weed out any suspicious devices found in them. It will also make security go faster. Theseimproved tactics will help to better our security. Keeping all this in mind, there are other ways people say security has improved, like thecreation and strategies of security agencies. Chertoff provides his position on a strategy he believes iseffective: “So our Officer of Bombing Prevention developed and launched the TRIPwire secureinformation sharing portal. What this does is it takes any gaps, some of the best learning IEDdevelopments that were gaining...through DOD [Department of Defense] takes and makes federal departments, state and local agencies, and private sector organizations” (60).While I do agree that sharing information among different security agencies is a clever idea, it isregrettably unorganized. There is no need for so many security agencies. With so many agencies, theinformation passed on can be interpreted in various ways. Even the Department of Homeland Security,since its creation a couple years ago, is filled with too many agencies. In fact, this department is so
  4. 4. Knox 4unnecessarily big that it becomes less effective: “The huge and diverse department wins little praise fororganization. Its constituent elements range from the entire Customs, Border Patrol and immigration-control forces to the Coast Guard, Secret Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA)” (Katel 135). With so many individual agencies under the department, it loses potential ofcreating an effective security system. Instead, it does the opposite, and goes backwards in the plan totighten security. With that being said, getting rid of the Department of Homeland Security would actually reversethe little work that it actually has done. Therefore, simply improving the department could help. Onething that needs improvement is its structure. It is definitely an issue. “In simple bureaucratic terms,structure is an issue for new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, not only because of thelarge number of agencies pulled in the new department but also because of those that were left out”(Katel 135). Some agencies that are important arent included in the Department of Homeland Security,while ones that arent are included. By specifically containing only the important agencies and pullingout the smaller ones, the structure would improve. There is no need for so many smaller agencies whenthey have little to no control over national security. Another problem that branched off of having toomany agencies is the sharing of information. By eliminating the less important agencies, informationwould be shared more smoothly and faster. This would effortlessly give more time to solve problemsinstead of trying to get it out to everyone. Moving on, although President Bush created the HomelandSecurity to coordinate national strategy against terrorist attacks, “policy experts say the office largelydepends upon presidential coattails for influence, because it has no direct authority over any of theagencies involved in protecting the borders and very little experience in dealing with the issues”(Marshall 152). This puts a hole in this new security strategy. Without proper authority, this agencycannot deal with the issues it is supposed to be addressing. Therefore, I suggest giving the Departmentthe rightful authority it needs and deserves to ensure it can deal with the safety issues its job demands.Improvements in the Department of Homeland Security would make a major difference in the goal to
  5. 5. Knox 5defend America. Moving on, taking serious measures, such as searching procedures, are acceptable as long as aperson is actually questionable. Yet, some readers may challenge my view, insisting that it is theharassment of people who are potentially innocent. Although I grant that the potential harassment isunfortunate, it is okay as long as the security system has the safety of the passengers in mind. We see asimilar viewpoint in “Signal Detection”: “From the agents and airlines point of view, the consequencesof a false alarm – tagging an innocent passenger as a terrorist – were regrettable but tolerable as long asthey didnt do it very often and they corrected their mistakes once they were made” (Casey 42).Making mistakes is okay, especially if it were for the protection of lives. Twenty minutes ofembarrassment is better than a lifetime of hurt by families dying. Harassment is worth it. Because of this view, the people who claim searching should never end up being harassment donot think about the possibilities a potential terrorist has. With so many tactics terrorists can use to harmothers, a little harassment would do some good. This would ensure everyone is alert. I would ratherhave everything I owned searched than to get on a plane and live my last few seconds of life in fear.This is what passengers deal with when they are on the plane with a terrorist. They are fearful beyondwords and have little hope of making it through this. No one should have to go through that.Preventing this from happening can be more effectively done by mistakenly harassing passengers. If apassenger is innocent, then they have nothing to worry about anyway. This is to ensure their safety, sowhy not take these measures to keep them and their loved ones alive? Harassment may be regrettable,but it would only be done to ensure the safety of mothers and fathers, nieces and nephews. Though security has attempted to improve, other precautions for airport security need to betaken to ensure terrorist become a thing of the past. The innocent lives of parents and children are atstake. Neighbors and co-workers are at stake. Best friends and spouses are at stake. Because of this,citizens should care. Families and friends should care. Airport security has not improved by muchsince 9/11, but terrorists grow both in numbers and creativity. As of right now, they are ahead of
  6. 6. Knox 6security, plotting every move diligently while airports are forced to predictably take on the sameineffective procedures they have for years. Security needs a change. By giving TSA more flexibility,and improving the Department of Homeland Security, security would have an edge. Improvement doesnot stop there, though. It is the responsibility of every citizen to do as much as they can for theircountry. By enduring a small precaution of harassment every now and then, they would bestrengthening security. With both the government and its citizens working together, the security ofAmerica has potential to improve its borders and fill each and every citizen with a sense of bothsecurity and safety.
  7. 7. Knox 7 Works CitedCasey, Steven. “Signal Detection.” The Atomic Chef: And other True Tales of Design, Technology,and Human Error. New York: Aegean Publishing, 2006. 42. Print.Chertoff, Michael. “Homeland Security is a Failure.” At Issue: National Security. Ed. David M.Haugen. New York: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 60-63. Print.Claybrook, Joan. “Homeland Security is a Failure.” At Issue: National Security. Ed. David M. Haugen. New York: Greenhaven Press, 2008. 69. Print.Katel, Peter. "Homeland Security." CQ Researcher 19.6 (2009): 135. Web. 6 Nov. 2012.Marshall, Patrick. "Policing the Borders." CQ Researcher 12.7 (2002): 152. Web. 6 Nov. 2012.Outsmarting Terror. “Airport/Airplane Security.” Films Media Group, 2006. Films on Demand. Web. 06 Nov. 2012. < PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=3503&xtid=40808&loid=90555>.Wallis, Rodney. How Safe are our Skies?: Assessing the Airlines Response to Terrorism. Praeger, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 6 Nov. 2012.