Airports Should Not Confiscate Liquids

Here’s a terrorism scenario: a stream of passengers walks through airport security one afternoon, each of whom is carrying a bottle over the TSA’s 3 ounce limit. Bored or sheepish, they each surrender their bottle to TSA screeners, who throw them into a nearby wastebin. However, each of the bottles contains a small quantity of high-explosive. One of them contains a timer and a detonator.

The result is a terrorist attack that was specifically enabled by policies designed to prevent terrorist attacks.

I think this scenario re-illustrates several things:

  1. Security Theatre is not only ineffective, it is dangerous. As Bruce Shneier has so eloquently discussed, if you’re going to go through the trouble of confiscating something, it’s imperative to treat it as actually suspicious.
  2. Continually changing the rules in response to specific, previous threats is mostly silly. Security needs to be forward-looking, not reactive.
  3. We’re losing our rights for this?

Fortunately, there are reports that the TSA (and international equivalents) will relax the liquid ban in 2009.

One thought on “Airports Should Not Confiscate Liquids”

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