A Nigerian man who reportedly told officials he had ties with the al Qaeda terrorist network and has been charged with attempting to carry out a bombing on a Northwest Airlines flight may have had a greater affect on international travel than he may have originally thought.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who American prosecutors have accused of trying to bring down a flight on its last leg from Amsterdam to Detroit, appears to have succeeded in his alleged mission to a certain degree.

In the aftermath of the alleged attempted bombing, the Department of Homeland Security is creating a travel nightmare for people attempting to fly through American airspace.

According to a report posted on the New York Times’ Web site Sunday evening:

The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.

Among the steps taken, according to the Times:

  • Passengers on international flights coming to the U.S. will have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps.
  • Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item.
  • Domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines.
  • On at least one flight, attendants kept cabin lights on for the entire trip.
  • Mandatory screening of passengers at airport gates during the boarding process.
  • Passengers on flights of 90 minutes or less would most likely not be able to leave their seats at all.

As a result, airlines are warning passengers to expect delays and cancellations.

Of course, the question that needs to be asked is: Will the new security procedures make the public any safer?  I have yet to be convinced.

It seems that the changes do little to reduce any potential terrorist threat to the flying public — and more to save the TSA face.  It also doesn’t seem that any of the changes would have prevented Friday’s alleged attempted bombing. 

If the charges are true and Abdulmutallab did attempt to bring down a commercial airliner outside of Detroit last week, then the failure was rooted at the airport and with the security personnel who allowed the self-described terrorist on the plane that traveled over one of the world’s most populated areas with 200-plus other people on board. 

Protocols and personnel should be evaluated, and what went wrong should fully explored.  But actions should not be done for the sole sake of saving face — as appears to be the case with these extremely disruptive changes.

It was the passengers — not security personnel or procedures – that prevented a potential disaster.  So why punish the heroes?

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2 Responses to “TSA: Protecting public, or saving face?”

  1. Zach Lowe says:

    I am flying back from Canada to the US on 1/2. The flight is about one hour. Does this mean I won’t be able to read a book (which would, naturally, be in the area of my lap) for the duration of the flight?

  2. Jamie DeLoma says:

    Zach, the AP reported about an hour ago that many of the restrictions implemented following the bombing attempt are already being cancelled so I think you SHOULD be able to read during your flight, but then again Homeland Security said they wanted to be unpredictable, so who knows? Regardless, I hope you have a safe and uneventful trip.

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