My friend John Aravosis has just tipped me off to a disconcerting and irritating bit of news that AP has reported.
Apparently, all of us who have been “optionally” removing our shoes at the airport and putting them through the X-ray machine might just as well have had them packed with some sort of incendiary material as many of the screening machines have not been upgraded to detect explosives.
We all know that these shoe screenings were not really optional either — and now, after the foiled London airplane bombing plot — they are mandatory. But previously, if you elected not to remove your shoes — even though not officially required to do so — you’d be subjected to a full search.
As reported by AP:
The government’s new order that all airline passengers put their shoes through X-ray machines won’t help screeners find a liquid or gel that can be used as a bomb
The machines are unable to detect explosives, according to a Homeland Security report on aviation screening recently obtained by The Associated Press.
The Transportation Security Administration ordered the shoe-scanning requirement as it fine-tunes new security procedures.
Those procedures were put in place after British police last week broke up a terrorist plot to assemble and detonate bombs aboard as many as 10 airliners crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Britain to the U.S.
Among the new procedures are a ban on liquids and gels in airline passenger cabins, more hand searches of carryon luggage, and random double screening of passengers at boarding gates.
On Sunday, the TSA made it mandatory for shoes to be run through X-ray machines as passengers go through metal detectors. They were begun in late 2001, after the arrest of Richard Reid aboard a trans-Atlantic flight when he tried to ignite an explosive device hidden in his shoe. The shoe scans have been optional for several years.
I’ve always thought that a committed band of terrorists who wanted to smuggle dangerous materials into the country would do so through cargo ships and planes, but civilian aircraft have been and are terror targets because of the ability to create high-shock impact with the destruction of a few or even a single aircraft.
But all this time, we have not had the scanning detectors in place that would deliver “real” rather than “artificial” security. I noticed recently some very impressive, new airport screening machines at Reagan National Airport that help “sniff” the passenger as well as screen for metal. However, only the US Airways wing has these screeners. All the rest of the airport wings have the old X-ray and metal detection systems.
Thanks to TSA for the long lines and screening charades.
— Steve Clemons