Normally, I wouldn’t bother to address a media report that is obviously unbalanced and done just to evoke fear and ratings. However, sometimes you have to raise the nonsense flag, particularly when things are so skewed that they demand correction.
Recently, Fox News in Denver ran a story where TSA missed 3 rolls of coins concealed in the back of a wheelchair.
Now, the media loves to run these types of stories from time to time, usually during sweeps or when it’s a slow news week. Often, they are about 80% accurate, but in this case, the story was that the TSA missed a non-threatening item. Hmm. Where’s the story?
The wheelchair was subjected to an explosive trace detection and the individual subjected to a pat-down search. Any gunpowder or explosive residue would have flagged on the ETD sweep. So, actually, the individual in the wheelchair and his wheelchair were subjected to a higher level of security than most people going through the metal detectors. The fact that the screener missed the rolls of quarters is irrelevant. They are not a threat item. In the report, the news anchor says that the quarters could have been used as a weapon. A pen, a laptop, a belt, a cup of hot coffee can also be used with equal effectiveness. Also, to date, no one has ever hijacked a plane using rolls of quarters.
Now, I understand that the quarters were supposed to represent a “threat item,” but fact of the matter is that they aren’t. Does TSA catch everything? No. Do they catch a lot of stuff? Yes. Is it a perfect system? No. Are there layers besides screening? Of course. Are there things we need to keep working on to make security better? Yes. But, to say that because a screener didn’t see some quarters means we aren’t any more secure or that the system isn’t working is a Grand Canyon leap of logic and is not an accurate reflection of the where we are today.
The lesson here is Viewer Beware. Usually these stories run out a security “expert.” Check to see that the person actually has the credentials in the aviation security industry to be commenting on such issues. The web is good for this. If he or she does not, then their opinion is worth about that of anyone walking down the street.
Second, see if there is balance to the story. Are both sides represented? Does it sound fair and balanced or does it sound like there was an agenda?
Lastly, what should be done about these types of reports? Not so much the response to the media, as they will say whatever they want, but should tactics be changed to respond to these perceived “threats?” Probably not, but it’s always worth looking at, just as long as these distractions don’t take our eye off the ball which is stopping the real threats and listening to the real security experts.