airport1_leadingedgestrategiesSeems TSA is considering putting MORE checkpoints but outside of terminal buildings. Let me count the several different ways this is a bad idea.

1. Wherever you create a checkpoint, you create a line and, you create a CHOKEpoint – huge amounts of people standing around – which is a natural place to attack. Plus, If you create a line too close to the passenger arrival and departure vehicle lanes, you have now created more risk to passengers from a potential vehicle bomb, rather than a lower-level suicide bomber’s vest. If you’re going to relocate a checkpoint, or create one closer to the doors, then make sure it’s in an area that affords some protection against car bombs.

2. You put the lives of your TSOs in danger. The threat in the parking areas and passenger pick up and drop off areas isn’t someone slipping a gun or knife through – it’s a threat to the public at large from people with guns and bombs. Most large airports have unarmed security personnel already driving around looking for criminal and suspicious activity. They stay mobile and can report people to police right away. They aren’t standing there creating a line. The public areas also need to be patrolled (like the photo here at LaGuardia), by police with firearms who can rapidly respond to a threat.

3. We don’t need to give TSA another reason to expand their mission creep into other areas of airport security, any farther than they already have. It’s this mission creep that helped cause the long lines in the first place. TSA was tasked with the operational function of screening, but beyond that they are supposed to be regulating the airport and airline security programs, not doing their jobs too.

4. Putting random screening locations in public areas doesn’t reduce the threat. It puts TSOs and passengers at MORE risk (even if there is a cop standing there, you’ve put them at risk to – they need to be able to move around otherwise they are the Blue Canary and will be the first to be attacked). Yes, several international airports use two levels of screening, one near the entrance (like in Istanbul) and another for passengers, farther inside the building. But you also have police there to immediately respond. While the bombers still detonated in Istanbul, imagine the death toll had they been able to shoot a bunch of people beforehand.

5. This idea will only slow down passengers throughout, causing even more inconvenience and uncertainty for travelers about when they are supposed to be at the airport. This, again, tries to make aviation fit security, when security should be fitting aviation. Notice that shortly after the Istanbul bombing, many LOCAL airport operators did not wait for a TSA mandate – they immediately posted more ARMED law enforcement in the public areas. Those airports knew what they were supposed to do. They knew the effective measures that needed to be applied. Some airports like LAX have kept higher levels of security, such as random vehicle inspections, for years.

This cannot be a knee-jerk reaction so we can look like we’re “doing something.” If a person is drowning and we tell them to flail about and panic, that’s doing something, but it’s not keeping them from drowning. Take a breath and do the right thing, not just anything.