Dallas-Ask anyone who is old enough to remember to travel before September 11, 2001, and you are likely to vaguely recall what it was like to fly.
There is a security check, but it is not intrusive. There is no long checkpoint line. Passengers and their families can walk to the boarding gate together and postpone the farewell hug to the last moment. Overall, the airport experience means much less stress.
It all came to an end when the four hijacked planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a venue in Pennsylvania.
The worst terrorist attacks in the United States have led airports around the world to adopt more and sometimes tense security measures to prevent the recurrence of that terrible day. The catastrophe also contributed to other changes that changed the aviation industry big and small-for consumers, air travel is more stressful than ever.
Two months after the attack, President George W. Bush signed a piece of legislation that established the Transportation Security Administration, a team of federal airport security personnel that replaced the airlines hired to handle security matters. private company. The law requires inspections of all checked baggage, strengthening the cockpit doors, and arranging more federal air police on flights.
There is no other 9/11. Nothing at all. But after that day, flying changed forever.
New threats, privacy issues
This is how it unfolds.
Security measures evolve with new threats, so passengers are required to take off their seat belts and take out some items from the bag for scanning. Obviously things that can be used as weapons, such as the box-opening knives used by the 9/11 hijackers, are banned. At the end of 2001, after the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid tried to shoot down a flight from Paris to Miami, the shoes began to fall off at the security checkpoint.
Each new requirement seems to extend the queue time at the checkpoint, forcing passengers to arrive at the airport early if they want to fly. For many travelers, other rules are more mysterious, such as restrictions on liquids, because the wrong liquid may be used to make bombs.
“This is a bigger trouble than before 9/11-bigger-but we are used to it,” said Ronald Briggs as he and his wife Jenny waited at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport The flight to London last month. North Texas retirees who traveled frequently before the pandemic said they were more worried about COVID-19 than terrorism.
“The idea of taking off your shoes because of an accident on an airplane seems a bit extreme,” Ronald Briggs said. “But PreCheck works very smoothly, and I have learned to use plastic straps, so I didn’t take it. Come down.”
The long queues caused by the post-attack measures gave birth to the “Trusted Traveler Program” of PreCheck and Global Entry, in which people who paid for and provided certain information about themselves passed through checkpoints without having to take off their shoes and jackets or from their Take out the bag from the laptop.
But this convenience comes at a price: privacy.
In applications and brief interviews, PreCheck will ask people for basic information, such as work history and where they have lived, and they will leave fingerprints and agree to a criminal record check. Privacy advocates are particularly concerned about the TSA’s idea that the TSA also reviews social media posts (a senior official of the agency said it has been cancelled), news reports about people, location data, and information from data brokers, including how applicants spend their money. money.
“It is not clear that this has anything to do with aviation safety,” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.
More than 10 million people have participated in PreCheck. TSA hopes to increase it to 25 million.
The goal is to allow TSA officials to spend more time on passengers who are deemed more risky. As the country commemorates the 20th anniversary of the attack, TSA’s work to expand PreCheck is unfolding in a way that privacy advocates fear, which may put people’s information at greater risk.
Under the guidance of Congress, TSA will expand the use of private vendors to collect information from PreCheck applicants. It currently uses a company called Idemia and plans to add two more companies by the end of this year-Telos Identity Management Solutions and Clear Secure Inc.
The recently launched Clear plan uses PreCheck to register to increase its membership of identity verification products by bundling these two products. This will make Clear’s own products more valuable to its customers, including stadiums and concert promoters.
“They are really trying to increase their market share by collecting large amounts of very sensitive data from as many people as possible. This has sounded a lot of alarm bells for me,” said India McKinney, director of federal affairs at the Digital Rights Advocate Group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
However, TSA administrator David Pekoske believes that Clear’s strategy is to help TSA. Pekoske said: “We allow suppliers to bundle their products with ideas that can inspire people to sign up for the Trusted Traveler Program.”
The TSA is testing the use of kiosks equipped with facial recognition technology to check photo IDs and boarding passes instead of having officials check them. Critics say that facial recognition technology can go wrong, especially for people of color.
McKinney said that TSA officials told privacy advocates earlier this year that these kiosks will also retrieve photos taken when travelers apply for PreCheck. This worries her because it means connecting the kiosk to the Internet — which TSA says is true — and potentially exposing the information to hackers.
“They are completely focused on convenience factors,” McKinney said, “they are not concerned about privacy and security factors.”
Despite the trauma that led to its creation and the strong desire to avoid 9/11 from happening again, TSA itself often became the subject of questions about its methods, ideas, and effectiveness.
When the agency proposed in 2013 to allow passengers to carry folding knives and other long-term banned items on the plane again, flight attendants and air police were angry. The agency abandoned this idea. After another outcry, TSA cancelled full-body scanners, which produced realistic images, which some travelers compared with virtual strip search. They were replaced by other machines that caused less privacy and health objections. The traveler’s patting is a constant complaint.
In 2015, a published report stated that TSA officials failed to detect weapons or explosives carried by undercover inspectors 95% of the time. Members of Congress who received the confidential briefing raised their concerns to Pekoske, and one member said that the TSA was “seriously damaged.”
Critics, including former TSA officials, derided the institution as a “safe theater”, giving the false impression of protecting the traveling public. Pekoske refuted this view, pointing out that a large number of guns were seized at airport checkpoints — more than 3,200 last year, of which 83% were loaded — instead of being carried on the plane.
Pekoske also completed other TSA tasks, including reviewing passengers, using 3-D technology to inspect checked luggage, inspecting cargo, and arranging federal air police on the flight.
“There are a lot of things people can’t see,” Pekoske said. “Don’t worry: this is not a safety theater. This is real safety.”
Many independent experts agree with Pekoske’s assessment, but they usually see areas where TSA must improve.
“TSA can effectively prevent most attacks,” said Jeffrey Price, who teaches aviation safety at Metropolitan State University in Denver and co-authored books on the subject. “If it is a safe theater, as some critics have said, it is a pretty good safe theater, because we have not successfully attacked aviation since 9/11.”
This summer, an average of nearly 2 million people passed the TSA checkpoint every day. On weekends and holidays, they may be crowded with stressed travelers. In the middle of the week, even in large airports like DFW, they are less crowded; they buzz rather than roar. In an uncertain world, most travelers view any inconvenience as a price for safety.
Traveling “it’s getting harder and harder, I don’t think it’s just my age,” said Paula Gassings, who taught in Arkansas for many years and is waiting for flights to Qatar and Kenya, where she will spend the next time Months of teaching. She attributed the difficulty of travel to the pandemic, not the security agency.
“They are there for my safety. They are not here to disturb me,” Gathings said of TSA security inspectors and airport police. “Every time someone asks me to do something, I can see the reason. Maybe it’s the teacher in my heart.”
Threats from within
In 2015, a Russian passenger plane crashed shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. American and British officials suspect it was destroyed by a bomb.
However, this is the exception rather than the rule. Even outside the United States, terrorist attacks on aviation have been rare since September 11, 2001. Is that because of effective security? Proving the negativity, or even directly attributing it to certain preventive measures, is always a risky approach.
Then there is internal work.
— In 2016, a bomb blasted a hole in a Daallo Airlines plane shortly after takeoff, killing the bomber, but the other 80 passengers and crew survived. Somali authorities released a video from the Mogadishu airport. They said the video showed that the man was handed over to a laptop with a bomb.
— In 2018, a Delta Air Lines baggage handler in Atlanta was convicted of smuggling more than 100 guns on a flight to New York using his security pass.
— The following year, a mechanic at American Airlines played an ISIS video on his cell phone, admitting to sabotage an airplane full of passengers by sabotaging a system that measures speed and altitude. The pilot aborted the flight during takeoff in Miami.
These incidents highlight a threat that TSA needs to worry about-people who work for airlines or airports and have security clearances can prevent them from regular inspections. Pekoske said that TSA is strengthening its surveillance of insider threats.
“All those who have the (security) badge, you are right. Many people can indeed enter the entire airport unaccompanied, but they have to go through a very strict review process before being hired,” Pekosk Say. These workers are usually reviewed every few years, but he said that TSA is launching a system that will immediately trigger an alert based on law enforcement information.
Despite all the different ways in which fatal chaos can occur on airplanes after 9/11, the fact remains: most of the time, it doesn’t. The act of boarding a metal machine and rising into the air to quickly traverse countries, nations, and oceans is still a core part of the human experience in the 21st century, although it may be difficult.
Although after 9/11, the global airport security agency has grown to a level that some people consider unreasonable, it will never be able to eliminate all threats—or even enforce the rules it has established. Just ask Nathan Dudney, the sales executive of a sports goods manufacturer in Nashville, who says he occasionally forgets that there is ammunition in his bag.
He said that sometimes it will be found, sometimes it will not. He understands.
“You can’t catch everything,” Dudney said. “They are doing everything they can.”