Social Security?

Have government measures since Sept. 11 made us safer?

Today, British authorities foiled a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airplanes by arresting 21 people. Two days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Rob Walker wrote that Americans valued convenience over thoroughness when it came to airport security. By 2002, Malcolm Gladwell maintained that most airport security was arbitrary, and in August 2004, Christopher Hitchens argued that most terror alerts and security measures were “done largely to create an impression of security.”

It’s pointless to use the government’s No-Fly List as a method to keep terrorists off planes, as Andy Bowers pointed out in his piece on how terrorists could circumvent the list. Keelin McDonell explained why planes are allowed to take off if they’re carrying passengers who are later discovered to be on the list. Steven Aftergood criticized the government’s refusal to allow airline passengers to see so-called sensitive security information, including why they might be subject to a pat-down.

In December 2005, Daniel Gross discussed Steven Brill’s plan to create a registered travel program, which would give its members the privilege of moving more quickly through airport security in exchange for $79.95 per year and the registration of their fingerprints and iris images. Three years earlier, Michael Kinsley asked whether speedy check-in lines for special fliers were fair. In April 2002, Scott Shuger expressed incredulity at the items that weren’t allowed on planes, including horseshoes, umbrellas, and toy transformer robots. Daniel Engber explained why passengers have to turn on their laptops during security checks and also provided a guide to laptop policies on different continents.