Although I’m so disconnected from the TV that it seems like I’m living under a rock, I’ve heard of the UK government stopping some terrorists from blowing up an aircraft using liquid explosives.
Now, I guess I don’t need to read anymore. Security on planes is a polemic matter. One one side, are those who claim that passengers should only be allowed to carry the passport and nothing else, since this increases security, but decreases our freedom to act and behave as we used to. One the other side, those who claim that not letting passengers carry hand luggage with them — filled in with an MP3 player or a bottle of water — is just simple and plain paranoia, and unsustainable over the long term.
Is of my particular belief that I agree more with the second one, and I think I’m not the only one. I care for security, but also care about my freedom. If terrorists end up circunventing the security systems, it’s a matter of national interest, and it seems governments are somehow really interested in throwing our freedoms out of the window. Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson:
Those who desire to give up Freedom in order to gain Security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
The idea of using liquid explosives is not new, so why all of this spontaneous paranoia? If I were a terrorist, and wanted to let a bomb into an airplane, I guess I would never try to carry the bomb with me. Since I usually have to pass through one or two X-ray detectors, several metal detectors and, sometimes, let my hand luggage get checked manually by security personel, I think it would be really difficult to try getting a bomb on the airplane by myself. Oh! Wait! I can use liquid explosives, but governments and airlines will probably ban any kind of liquid into airplanes. OK. I can then try to embbed a bomb into my shoes, but if I’m able to make it explode, next, governments and airlines will also ban shoes in commercial flights. I can keep going on and on until everything is banned out on commercial flights. We can even be forced to wear special dressing during the flight and being forced into getting all our personal belongings checked out at the airport.
I think all of this is rather unrealistic and paranoid. We simply can’t make the threat of terrorism vanish by forcing passengers to fly with no personal belongings, except the passport. Maybe someone is able to build explossive passports, made of highly flammable substances, after all. Forcing any businessman or businesswoman to check out her laptop, PDA or briefcase is simply impossible and unaffordable. Let’s use a laptop as an example. Most of the times I have flight on an airplane, either my briefcase or my baggage have ended up damaged, and they are made of plastic! Can you think how an alluminium-made chassis, like the one found in most laptops, would have ended up? OK, you can pay for insurance on your laptop so shall it get destroyed or lost, someone will pay you. But it’s not only about lost or damage. It’s about trust, confidence, comfort and information. What happens if the laptop is lost? Did it had confidential information stored on it? Maybe it doesn’t matter to me, poor lonely man, but what if I work for a company dealing with trade secrets? What if work for the government? Will the lump amount paid by the insurance company will be enough? No. OK, so I end up sending my laptop using a courier, like FedEx or UPS. However, some couriers take one or two days to get items shipped. What if I need to get to New York in a hurry for a couple of hours just to have an extremely important meeting with the regional VP? Nah! In most cases, my laptop won’t arrive in time, or maybe it can, but for a prohibitively high cost. OK. So, I won’t take the laptop with me and instead will revert to using a notepad and a pen. Great! All these years of technical advances and miniaturization mean nothing at all.
The point I want to make here is that security is a daunting task. You can go all over the road and still don’t get where you want. You can ban liquids on an aircraft, but maybe you can use powder-like explosives. And so on, and on, and on, till everything is banned, which makes flight trip mostly useless or, at least, impractical for a lot of people. Well, in the name of security, we do ban everything on airplanes. But, what’s next? Banning all passengers from carrying briefcases or backpacks on the underground? Heck! In the US people is allowed to carry weapons! We can fast forward in time and keep losing our freedoms, abandoning our habits, changing the way we do things, the way we work, the way we live. Does it matter? If terrorists are able to change the way we live, our lifestyle, if they are able to make we feel scared, then they have win after all.
NOTE: Since I’m no native english speaker, any corrections or suggestions on syntax or semantic are welcome 🙂