Airline Security and Proportional Response

I am flying to London this coming week on business. I have no idea if I will be able to use my laptop, emerge from my seat during the last hour of flight or be required to wear my underwear inside-out during the security check-in. Do I believe that any of these measures will contribute to passenger safety? No.

After the recent foiled airline bomb incident one thing seems clear; we are constantly retrofitting our security measures to defend ourselves against the last attack. Often these measures seem like what Bruce Schneier in a great CNN article calls “Security Theater“.<br

“Security theater” refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security.

What seems equally true is that the media has ginned up a national hysteria over the incident that leads much of the senseless government action. In the wake of blanket coverage officials are pushed to show a proportional response… the more hand-wringing the more actions need to be taken regardless of whether those actions have any salutary effect. Most of the criticism that I have seen has been leveled at politicians lacking leadership. <br
Schneier concludes

The best way to help people feel secure is by acting secure around them. Instead of reacting to terrorism with fear, we — and our leaders — need to react with indomitability, the kind of strength shown by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II.

Amen. And yet it isn’t people around me that I see freaking out. It is the media, followed in lock-step by politicians. One has to wonder if the United States of 2010 is capable of the kind of leadership Schneier is asking for. Are our politicians capable of leading when they can obtain personal advantage in either fear-mongering or finger-pointing? Is the media capable of leading without the histrionics that sell ratings?<br

I am flying to London this coming week but I won’t feel any more secure – just a lot more inconvenienced.