Security theater

Photo by nedrichards.

Under the guidance of security expert Bruce Schneier, Jeffrey Goldberg goes on a quest to see what he can and can’t take through airport security. It’s simultaneously funny, sad, and worrying:

… because I have a fair amount of experience reporting on terrorists … I’ve amassed an inspiring collection of al-Qaeda T-shirts, Islamic Jihad flags, Hezbollah videotapes, and inflatable Yasir Arafat dolls (really). All these things I’ve carried with me through airports across the country. I’ve also carried, at various times: pocketknives, matches from hotels in Beirut and Peshawar, dust masks, lengths of rope, cigarette lighters, nail clippers, eight-ounce tubes of toothpaste (in my front pocket), bottles of Fiji Water (which is foreign), and, of course, box cutters. I was selected for secondary screening four times—out of dozens of passages through security checkpoints—during this extended experiment. At one screening, I was relieved of a pair of nail clippers; during another, a can of shaving cream.

The piece is a perfect encapsulation of how absurd airport security has become – all about making passengers feel like they’ve had a hard time getting to the plane, so we know terrorists would have to take their shoes off. Which would totally stop me, were I a terrorist.