Here’s what happened at Newark airport yesterday (thank Zeus I flew into LaGuardia):
1. Man walks through “Do Not Enter” doors, into a secure part of the airport terminal without going through security.
2. The security guard manning the doors apparently ignores him
3. A passenger sees the man walk through the “Do Not Enter” doors and alerts security
4. TSA tracks down the surveillance tapes of the terminal and sees that a man did indeed breeze into a secure zone without being checked.
5. TSA is unable to find the man in question.
6. Two and a half hours later, TSA shuts down the terminal and everyone is stranded.
I’m no expert in airport security, but could TSA not have pulled up other surveillance videos and perhaps looked at where the man went? I don’t love the idea of video surveillance in public places, but an airport is not a purely public place (especially in the post-security terminals). It would make a lot of sense for the terminals to be videotaped, and for those vides to be easily accessible. Then TSA could see where the heck the dude went instead of, say, jogging around the terminal looking for the dude in the gray shirt. Do these fools not watch CSI?
I don’t oppose closing the terminal if that’s what you have to do. But as others have pointed out:
Robert W. Mann Jr., an airline industry consultant in Port Washington, N.Y., said that evacuating the terminal was “consistent with what they’ve done in the past.” But he said he was concerned by the two and a half hours between when the man went through the do-not-enter door and when the terminal was shut down.
“Presumably,” he said, “if you’re going to do this, the time is immediately, not some lengthy period afterwards.”
Because of the terminal closure, passengers were stranded for hours and even overnight. Which is especially genius, since they can’t access their luggage, and that luggage contains all of their liquids and often medication, since our fairly arbitrary carry-on rules changed a few years ago:
She spent the next five hours in a customer service line, only to be told to return around noon Monday to be booked on a flight leaving around 4 p.m. She said she tried to explain that her mother needed pills in luggage that had been checked for their original flight. She said the Continental employee she was talking to told her, “Look at the long line I have to deal with.”
So people can’t get their medication, but look at the long line I have to deal with!
Not that I fault the poor Continental employee — she probably did have an enormous line to deal with! And she probably spent her entire day dealing with yelling, crying, threatening and generally unpleasant passengers. The point is that the airports need to do serious thinking on what the goal of airport security actually is, and then develop comprehensive security measures are actually necessary, instead of these stop-gap reactions to stupid shit that happened yesterday. Could TSA really not have predicted that someone would put explosives in their underpants? Have a solid few decades of a War on Drugs taught us nothing about how people smuggle contraband?
But, hey, we can’t pee on the last hour of international flights, so I feel safe.
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