Monday, January 10, 2011

Metro Bag Searches: Security or Stupidity?

by Bill Adler

The question needs to be asked, and it certainly needs to be answered: How is it possible that voluntary random bag searches at some Metro stations can thwart terrorists?

There's something totally lacking in the common sense department: If terrorists know which stations have random searches, all they have to do is avoid those stations and attack another day or from another place. Is it fair to call these searches idiotic? I think so. But perhaps somebody can explain how this will stop or give pause to terrorists? The more I think about these bag searches, where the bad guys know in advance where and when their bags might be searched, the more I'm convinced this is a very, very bad idea.

Metro isn't alone when it comes to security stupidity-- that may be a better name for this than "security theater." Security stupidity is something that can actually increase the likelihood of terrorism or cause scarce police resources to be deployed in the wrong place. Amtrak announces on each train that the conductor might ask to see ID to ensure that the name on the ticket matches the passenger. But this happens after the train has left the station. What will an armed terrorist do who's confronted by an unarmed conductor demanding to see identification? I know that's a train I don't want to be on.

Somebody, anybody: How can these very obvious and avoidable security screenings do anything to prevent terrorism?

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