I am intrigued today by a story from the Associated Press out of Minneapolis about a 9-year-old boy who was able to grab another person’s luggage off the baggage carousel, skip out of a lunch bill, get through security, and board a Delta flight to Las Vegas – all unaccompanied. This causes me to query the powers that be in the Department of Homeland Security – are you smarter than a 9-year-old? I ask because from where I am sitting this little incident indicates numerous points of failure in your system.
And what about Delta? Here is a kid who not only doesn’t have a ticket, but who should be, by virtue of airline regulations an unaccompanied minor who triggers additional procedural steps. How did he even get past the gate agent scanning tickets? Well, I have an idea how it might have happened, but in the interest of not encouraging other industrious 9-year-olds to try a similar stunt I will refrain from sharing it.
The bottom line is this – our national security is vulnerable in a hundred different ways to anyone who takes the time to observe the pattern and practice of human behavior and couples that with an understanding of the current security measures. The Department of Homeland Security has created the image of security through a series of procedures that have allowed the government to say it is doing more and seeing more, but time and time again the proof of the gaps in the system come by virtue of the individuals who squeeze through them.
The folks who finally sounded the alarm on this whole mess were members of the flight attendant team. They work with passengers every day and have become well-versed in human behavior. They remain the strongest link in airline security because they observe and interact with hundreds of people every day and they know that a security failure that allows a threat to board the airplane can potentially cost them their own lives. And that is the key folks – if you want to tighten security in a meaningful way, don’t tell passengers that you have it all covered and they can relax – tell them that you can only do so much and your best efforts often are not good enough. And I do not mean using a halfhearted See something, say something! message like the Department of Homeland Security uses now. What needs to happen is folks need to be told that the Department of Homeland Security can, at best, only contain a portion of the threats that emerge and often the behemoth agency botches even that effort. People – people like you and me – need to be the ones watching out for themselves at large events, in airports, on planes, on trains, etc. We are the ones who will be injured or die if security fails – we have the most to lose. Our safety and security is in our own hands.
Thankfully the 9-year-old who was smarter than the Department of Homeland Security had no terrorist agenda. Now this latest evidence of security gaps in our system can serve as a free reminder that there are some things that regular folks can do much more effectively than government. I am banking on the fact that most adults are smarter than a 9-year-old, and recognizing that our government often isn’t.
Day one thousand five hundred and fifty of the new forty – obla di obla da