Security – comfort blanket or safety net?

December can be strangely predictable. I catch a cold . I sniffle. And I keep pretending I’m not sniffling til I slow down to a full stop. And then I stop sniffling. It’s a pattern with which many of you can identify. But sometimes December can be unpredictable. How many of us thought there would be a potential terrorist attack on Christmas Day? Even though previous attacks have been on dates prominent in western calendars – 9/11, 7/7, we chose to ignore 25/12, a date made significant by the Christian calendar even if many of us now pay more attention to St Michael than to St Nick.

What’s sad is the predictability of the response of western governments. The US – and the UK and other European governments – seem more interested in the illusion of security than security itself.

Since Richard Reid demonstrated that shoes had more functions than protecting our feet, more pairs have been removed at airports round the world than we care to think about. We don’t know for sure that no explosion ingredients have been found as a result of such searches, but I, for one, would be quite surprised. We still go through metal scanners despite a decade of knowing that terrorists do not need metal to achieve their objectives. We are routinely asked the same questions by bored check-in staff every time we check baggage before flying. We respond in similarly bored voices. We know very well that no one with genuine ill intentions would stare back and say they had been asked by the leader of a cell to carry a package which was now duly tucked between the socks and the shirts.

Why are we so process driven? If it were not such a serious issue with such unbelievably horrific consequences we would laugh at the pathetic silliness of modern airport security. As many of you know, flying into or out of Israel can be an unpleasant experience. You are asked any kind of question from what language you speak at home to how many years you have lived with your partner. This is because Israeli security is not aimed at gaining public approval; it is aimed at keeping you safe. Questions and profiling is unpredictable and far from politically correct but it achieves the objective. I can remember reading about thwarted terrorist attempts. I would have to search google to remember the last successful attempt.

And maybe that’s the problem. Governments aren’t actually taking the measures they should to deal with terrorism. They’re taking the measures which they think will win public approval and achieve a public perception that security measures are in force.

As the French would say, Oo la la.

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