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What Does It Take to Get Us to Expend Adequate Funds on Airline Security?

October 31, 2001

After Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21st, 1988, you would have thought that any nation that could afford it would spare no expense in ensuring that such an event could never occur again.

If any nation could afford anything, it's the United States.

Yet as has come to light in the aftermath of September 11, thirteen years after Lockerbie, checked baggage was still not being adequately screened for explosives in the United States.

Nor, apparently, were the airlines making sure that there was a passenger on board to account for each piece of checked luggage. (Of course, a suicide bomber could check his baggage and board the plane, but such a procedure would still eliminate the risk from the presumably much larger number of people who would like to blow up a plane but wouldn't want to go down with it.)

Isn't this mind-boggling?  Think of all the ridiculous things the government spends money on.  Think of all the ridiculous things each of us spends money on.

If after Lockerbie the airlines couldn't afford this extra screening, why didn't all the airlines -- or the government by fiat -- take the total cost, divide by the number of passengers, and impose a surcharge?  Who in their right mind would have said "I don't want to pay these extra few dollars to ensure I don't get blown up in mid-air?"

Even beyond my amazement that such steps weren't taken after Lockerbie, how could these procedures not have been implemented immediately after the World Trade Center attack?  Emergency legislation could have imposed a temporary ticket surcharge, and federal troops could have been utilized at the beginning to screen all the baggage and ensure a positive passenger-luggage matchup.

I hear talk that machines able to detect plastic explosives which x-rays miss are "very" expensive.  So what?!!  Buy the damn things and use them.

And of course, how expensive could it be to match luggage to boarded passengers?

In the last weeks, Congress has been squabbling over the airline security bill, primarily over Republican opposition to making government employees of 28,000 baggage screeners.  A vote is expected tomorrow in the House, and it's unclear whether that body will pass its own version, or adopt the bill the Senate has already passed.

Hopefully some bill will be passed, signed into law and implemented with all due haste.

Unfortunately, in light of our past disinclination to invest anywhere near an adequate amount of our vast wealth on airline security, I'm just wondering what kinds of additional security measures we could be taking, but still won't be, because they may cost too much.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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