Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:35 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:35 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Airport security


Sam Roggeveen


24 March 2009 17:18

Mark writes:

I think your argument exaggerates the cost of regulating ingress to airport terminals. It is not necessary to have a multitude of security at the facility if the incoming vehicles are scanned further away, albeit briefly and not necessarily thoroughly. However, the security personnel that would man such preliminary access points would have a focus on the people inside the vehicles. If they appear threatening (obviously this would be subjective) then further enquiries/searches/questions would be conducted on the vehicle and occupants.

You may argue that this is not workable and would cause unacceptable delays. However, if the access roads and infrastructure cater to this method of access control it is a viable model, without the need for 'hundreds of heavily armed police'.

An example of this in practice is Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel. It may be the case that Sydney domestic terminal handles a much larger volume of passenger turnover, however the infrastructure can be adapted to the volume. In the Israeli example, it is often the case that ingress access if via only two lanes, with 2x former combat soldiers manning each lane, and other personnel in a control booth nearby.

I take Mark's point. In my post, I used the most literal and dramatic 'solution' of having lots of armed security around, but that is clearly not the only way to prevent the kinds of attacks Peter Faris described in his op-ed. Equally, there are endless ways for terrorists to get around the kind of security regime Mark describes, or to just avoid it altogether by hitting other targets. And we cannot protect them all.

That's why there ought to be a better balance in our counter-terrorism strategies between protection and resilience. Since we cannot protect everything, let's at least build structures and set up procedures that allow us to bounce back quickly from an attack. That's another lesson Israel can teach us — the practise there is to clean up the scene of a suicide bombing within hours if possible and return the scene to normality. It sends a message that terrorism will not work if the target population refuses to be terrorised. That's a far saner (and cheaper) approach than adopting a perpetual defensive crouch.