Wanted: Calm Airline Passengers

I love to travel and fly anywhere from a few to a dozen times a year.  I haven’t been pleased with the post-9/11 security crack down but have mostly agreed that it was necessary and put up with the poking and searching.  Sometimes it is more difficult: I have been in minor trouble before for commenting when a security screener was, frankly, getting too touchy.  Many of my female students report uncomfortable exchanges with security pat-downs.

I don’t have a flight anytime in the near future, but I expect increased security at airports and questions about the electronic equipment I always carry: my laptop, my iPod and my cell phone.  Again, it will be annoying but I don’t feel as though I have a choice.

I was definately concerned, however, when I read this article in the Wall Street Journal about a pilot program to test biometric data on potential passengers.  Advocates seem to think that blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels will tell you if you are the next sports-drink-bomber.


It seems to me that someone that thinks that your blood preasure might identify you as a terrorist hasn’t spent enough time actually traveling.  As much as I love to travel, I find flying to be a very frustrating experience.  Security?  Nerve racking.  Worry about someone lifting my backpack?  Nerve racking.  Annoying flight delays and rush?  Nerve racking.  Other travelers?  Nerve racking.  Being told something that’s not true by an airline employee?  Nerve racking.

Reading the article, I don’t think these companies get it.  They report that “just 4% of innocent travelers” are sniffed out.  Have you been to a big airport lately?  That would be 10 passengers on a jumbo jet.  That seems like an awful lot of false positives to me.

I get it: airline travel has changed.  But I just don’t get the administration’s attitude that you can somehow use an objective criteria to decide which passengers are the bad guys.

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  • You know, the funny thing about this is that their is no real way to ‘test’ this idea in a scientific manner. Any lab trial would involve a ‘fakeness’ that might not translate to the real world.

    What about the man on travel that has just learned his family was killed in a car accident? How will taht effect his biometric readings?

    How about the woman who is traveling to meet the man that she met on the internet and thinks that she loves but cant be sure until she meets him. How will that effect her biometrics?

    What about the guy slipping away to Aruba with his secretary, praying that his wife doesn’t find out? How will that effect his biometrics?

    How about the terrorist that has trained years for this moment. He is cool, ca1m and ready for abything they have to throw at him.

    Sooo, there are about a million different scenarios where this can go, It is likely that ‘innocent’ people would be bothered by this while the people we really want to find make it right through.

    One might answer, ‘Even if it catches 1 then it is worth it. You liberals want us to fail!’ Not so fast there hoss! If you have a false reliance on a technique then you may ignore other techniques that might actually work.

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