TSA: Are we really safer?

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 in Writing Assignment 1 | No Comments

Since September 11, 2001, airport screening procedures in the US have been continuously evolving with the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). With the implementation of new technology being used in airports, air travel has been more stringent than ever. The new question being raised is whether these new security procedures will “make us safer” or just “move the targets.”

In the case of the deadly attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, thecity’s main international airport, highlighted a difficult truth in airport security. Subjecting passengers to more security before they board a plane doesn’t necessarily deter terrorists. The major differences in security procedures begin with how passengers enter the airport. At Ataturk, vehicles are screened about a mile away with some cars being pulled over for additional search (Blalock). Passenger are then passed through metal detectors and their bags scanned before entering the terminal. This differs from US airports where anyone can enter the airport terminal without being screened. Turkish officials reported that the terrorists were turned away at the initial screening but returned with assault rifles entering the building forcibly. According to Mark Stewart, a professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia who studies how to protect against infrastructure attacks, “attempting to ‘protect’ against mass casualty attacks is a somewhat hopeless task due to the near infinite number of targets.” He later noted that a “deterred terrorist will just go elsewhere” (Perisco).

In the attack at Brussels Airport in March of 2016, there was no security check to enter the airport terminal and the terrorists just entered the building and detonated their explosives. Since that incident, all passengers were required to be dropped off at nearby parking lots instead of the airport terminal directly. The security in the German airports are much more thorough which makes lines longer and overcrowding more common. Trade offs commonly include passengers missing their flights and connections costing airlines major financial burden on rerouting new itineraries. Terrorists also view crowds of people as a major inefficiency and view them as ‘holes’ in airport security making them more susceptible to attacks (Seidenstat).

Figure 2: Statistics of TSA security and Firearms discovered in Airports

Figure 2: Statistics of TSA security and Firearms discovered in Airports

With new devices such as full-body scanners that use ‘millimeter wave’ detection to create a 3D image of the body, airport security officials are able to quick rule out potential threats concealed in clothing and on the body. With MRI technology being used in baggage scanners, liquids and other electronics can be passed through the machine without being removed reducing queue time (Frederickson).


Figure 3: Top Number of Airports where guns are confiscated by the TSA.

Figure 3: Top Number of Airports where guns are confiscated by the TSA.

The passenger screening process is constantly trying to strike a balance between offering security while making travel quick and efficient. This balancing act not only has important implications within passenger security but also for the airline industry that is faced with volatile energy prices and sometimes burdensome labor agreements (Frederickson).



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Airport Security Measures on the Demand for Air Travel.” The Journal of Law & Economics 50.4

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Persico, Nicola, and Todd Petra E. “Passenger Profiling, Imperfect Screening, and Airport

Security.” The American Economic Review 95.2 (2005): 127-31. Web.


Seidenstat, P. (2004), Terrorism, Airport Security, and the Private Sector. Review of Policy

Research, 21: 275–291. doi:10.1111/j.1541-1338.2004.00075.x

Frederickson, H. G. and LaPorte, T. R. (2002), Airport Security, High Reliability, and the

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