The public is misinformed

USAToday recently ran a few letters to the Editor about aviation security. It’s amazing how people cannot do some simple fact-checking. I remember the days when reporters were experts and had “beats.” They knew more about the subject they covered than some of the subject-matter experts within the industry. Today, the media often doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. If I was a reporter, I’d be looking at these types of letters as ways to gin up stories and inform the public – you know, like what reporters used to do before many of them decided to make news instead.

Read the USAToday letters here. My response is below.

The letter from Pete Rose on 2.12.10 was totally inaccurate. A good percentage of commercial airliner cargo is currently screened through a variety of methods and by the end of 2010 TSA is required to ensure airlines screen 100% of all air cargo carried in the belly of their planes. Also, Pan Am 103 was not brought down by a bomb with a barometric pressure switch, nor was the bomb put on the plane as air cargo. It was a Swiss made timing device, with the bomb placed inside a 1980’s style “boom box,” which was placed on the aircraft by a Libyan spy as a checked bag. Checked luggage is carried in the same areas as cargo on a commercial airliner and was supposed to be screened, but was not.

Additionally, Bill Figard’s question about how would body scanners in the U.S. have prevented the terrorist attack from Amsterdam. They would not. But they will help fill a security gap should someone attempt that threat option here in the U.S. History tells us that if you fail to plug the last security loophole, terrorists will continue to exploit it.

Both writers do have one point — traditionally Congress has only reacted to tragedy in order to make changes in aviation security, however, since 9/11 there has been a clear track record of Congress, the aviation industry and TSA continuing to develop practices and procedures to prevent the last attack and the next attack. We don’t always agree and we are not 100% secure, but we have definitely reduced our vulnerability.

Jeffrey C. Price
Co-Author, Practical Aviation Security: Predicting and Preventing Future Threats
Assistant Professor, Department of Aviation & Aerospace Science
The Metropolitan State College of Denver

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