Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 12:35 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 12:35 | SYDNEY

Airline security theatre


Sam Roggeveen


24 October 2008 13:27

I notice that every time a new edition of The Atlantic Monthly comes out, I find myself blogging about at least a couple of articles from it. It's just a phenomenal magazine, and I really hope it makes it through the current economic malaise. Discretionary items like magazine subscriptions tend to suffer in downturns, and although I have no idea of The Atlantic's financial position, it does feature weirdly obscure ads from small mail order companies in its back half, which doesn't exactly scream financial solidity. So perhaps it's kept afloat by benefactors, as many such magazines are.

Anyway, I've already featured one Atlantic piece today, and here's the second, a very entertaining article about the farce that is American aviation security. The moral is that most of it is 'security theatre', intended to reassure people their flight is safe from terrorism, but at huge cost and with very little real impact.

Australia has made many of the same mistakes, and in the latest issue of the Kokoda Foundation journal, Security Challenges, there's a study of one such initiative, the air marshals (you need a subscription to read it, though I think it will be free as a back issue once the next one comes out). I saw a conference presentation by co-author Mark Stewart which showed pretty conclusively that the air marshals provide very little additional security at high cost. The real work of stopping another 9/11-type scenario is done by the armoured cockpit doors, making it virtually impossible for terrorists to take control of an aircraft.

Let's hope that one day it won't be considered career suicide for politicians to discuss the relaxation of airport security and the abolition of programs like the sky marhals. Who knows, we might eventually get our metal knives back so we can hack our way through Qantas' rubber chickens.