The British transport secretary Lord Adonis is contemplating now the introduction of new security measures that will affect short-haul as well as long-haul flights. A couple of the proposals make sense and have long been needed albeit ignored by a government that has wanted to appear politically correct. Adonis, quire rightly, is pushing the idea of “profiling” potentially high-risk passengers and placing greater attention on transit passengers. Both will go a considerable way in making travel safer without disturbing the vast majority of passengers. It remains extraordinary that transfer passengers have been neglected for so long.
Some civil libertarians will launch a hue-and-cry about the profiling, claiming it will all be based on ethnic background. In fact, profiling only works if there are many different factors thrown – ethnic origin is just one. Others should include patterns of travel, purchasing tickets with cash at short notice and travelling with little luggage — all the things that in the old days were observed.
But the rest of what Lord Adonis is calling for will infringe the civil liberties of all passengers without being effective. More body searches, full-body scanning, no movement from seats for the last hour of a flight, etc.
According to the transport minister – who is, of course, is an unelected member of the government – the travelling public will not believe any of this unreasonable. There he is, I suspect, mistaken. Most regular travelers from my experience are sick and tired of all of the measures being introduced. Body scanning, for example, doesn’t only raise civil liberty issues but health ones, too, especially for frequent fliers.
Two body searches? Maybe they should get the first one right. Of course, if they paid full attention to intelligence and watch lists, we would all be much safer. No recourse to bathrooms for the last hour of a flight. That basically means on short-haul flights no going to the bathrooms at all – add to that the half-an-hour to an hour before the flight at the gates at Heathrow and some other European airports where there are often no facilities and that is a long time to wait.
“We cannot be vigilant enough,” the peer says in an interview with the Sunday Times. “The Detroit attack was very nearly catastrophic. We need urgently to learn the further lessons from it.” Yes, and first and foremost is that intelligence is not only gathered but analysed and shared.