Monday, February 05, 2007

Security sham in Chicago

In my last post I said I wouldn't be posting any more aviation-related stuff. Well, the builder is already behind schedule, so other than complaining that the builder is already behind schedule, there's not much to talk about with regards to the new house.

Before I get into the main point of this post, let me stress that my role in the incident was purely unintentional, and I was annoyed with myself when I realised what had happened.

Since 11th September 2001, air travellers have been subjected to much more intrusive security measures at airports. Then someone tried to set off explosives he had hidden in his shoe, so now in many airports we have to take off our shoes and put them through the x-ray machine. More recently an alleged plot to blow up aircraft using liquid explosives was foiled, so now we have to carry all liquids, creams, gels, etc. in containers no larger than 100 ml, totalling no more than 1 litre, and we have to put them in a regulation-sized ziploc bag to be run through the x-ray machine separately from our other carry-on luggage.

In some places it can literally take hours to get through security (Heathrow Terminal 3, I'm looking at you). We put up with it in the name of increased safety and security. But it is totally pointless if the security is only for show and doesn't actually provide adequate security. In December last year I was travelling from Chicago's O'Hare airport (ORD) to Washington DC's Reagan National airport (DCA). I was carrying a kitchen knife in my carry-on, which I planned on relocating to my suitcase to be checked into the hold. Except that I completely forgot that it was there.

I walked up to the security checkpoint, took my laptop out of my carry-on bag and put it on the x-ray conveyer belt, took my shoes off on put them on the conveyer belt, took my ziploc bag containing a small tube of toothpaste and my 75ml bottle of eau de toilette and put it on the conveyer belt, put my carry-on bag on the conveyer belt, and walked through the metal detector. On the other side I picked up my laptop, shoes, liquids and bag, and walked off, secure in the knowledge that like all passengers, I had been found to be clear of liquid explosives, shoe bombs and any prohibited items which could jeopardise the safety of my flight. Except of course that the following was in my carry-on:

That's right, ORD security completely failed to detect a 5 inch long metal knife. Which is a pity, because it's exactly the sort of thing that they have been looking for all along. But at least they made sure that my toothpaste was not a threat to national security.