Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Barefoot Flying

If you've flown anywhere in the last few years, you've probably been instructed to remove your shoes and put them through the x-ray machine for carry-on baggage. This was the "new" process put in place after Richard Reid attempted to light explosives in his shoes aboard an airline flight.

So, everyone dutifully pulled off their shoes and walked barefoot in the security lines so that our shoes could be scanned for possibly explosives or other "items of interest". It has always been optional, but every airport I've been through requires it, even for thin little flip-flops. We've all learned to wear slip-on shoes. No biggie.

But, it's all been for naught, I discovered.
Washington -- X-ray machines used to screen passengers' shoes are unable to detect explosives, according to a Homeland Security Department report on aviation screening.
X-raying the shoes with the existing equipment simply doesn't have the ability to find explosives. They might find other items, but the main worry -- explosives in the sole of the shoe -- don't get caught.

And the TSA has known this since 2005.
In its April 2005 report, "Systems Engineering Study of Civil Aviation Security -- Phase I," the Homeland Security Department concluded that images on X-ray machines "do not provide the information necessary to effect detection of explosives"

Findings from the report did not stop the Transportation Security Administration from announcing Sunday that all airline passengers must remove their shoes and run them through X-ray machines before boarding commercial aircraft.
They haven't upgraded the equipment to handle the new requirements. Might this be because they have had their budgets slashed, and money quietly diverted from the actual security issues by Bush's war? As the latest terror plot revealed that this was certainly tried:
WASHINGTON Aug 11, 2006 (AP)— While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology.
Congress stepped up and blocked this diversion, but Homeland security and it's control of TSA is more and more a joke -- a political exercise that does little to enhance actual security and grows into a bigger boondoggle every year.

Not to mention that the very phrase "Homeland Security" makes me cringe. References to "The Homeland" really grate on me, and sound somehow innapropriate in a country supposedly founded and run on democratic principles.

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