Random Screenings Work—Well, Kinda

Posted March 26, 2009 by Nicki Krawczyk

Dice2 First, a major newsflash. Random screenings at airport security are coming back. OK, two news flashes really, because who knew they’d gone away in the first place? Anyway, apparently they were drastically scaled back around 2003 and the TSA began ramping them up again a few months ago to better combat security risks (though not because of specific security risks).

Msnbc.com quotes TSA spokeswoman Lara Uselding as saying that random screenings at gates are “particularly effective at addressing insider threats” and serve as “a random and unpredictable security layer.” Though I’m sure the TSA has fully researched this, I can’t help but question how truly “random” these checks are and whether potential terrorists would be deterred from acts of violence because of the odd chance they’d be picked out of line. Hmm.

Interestingly though, random screenings have proven effective at one thing: Making a public issue of whether or not they’re effective. Now, I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations, but I’ll just say I’m not particularly surprised that "important people" get all riled up when they’re subjected to the same policies that the rest of us are. So, the fact that House Rep. Peter DeFazio got his panties in a bunch when he was selected for a random screening last week seems pretty par for the course.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill paper, reports that DeFazio lost his temper and called random screenings “stupid.” DeFazio counters, saying, “I didn’t lose my temper. I was not happy and I told them it was a stupid practice.” Eh, po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes. However, in response to this little kerfuffle (and, ahem, bad publicity) DeFazio has vowed to “try to fix the policy”—which seems like an especially good idea since DeFazio is a longtime member of the House Transportation panel’s aviation subcommittee.

TSA regulations are bound to always get someone, and probably large groups of someones, in a tizzy. And while I question both the efficacy of random screenings and the true randomness of said screenings, I also question whether it makes sense to lose them completely. I’ll be the first person to cast a disparaging glance and disdainful smirk at inefficiency…and yet, here I pause. Since airplanes and airports are still notoriously vulnerable, perhaps it’s best to layer on the security measures, rather than remove them. As much as they annoy us and (even more so) Very Important People, it might be best to suffer through them until someone comes up with a better plan.

(Photo: whyleaveastoria.com)

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