New York Times columnist John Tierney writes in favor of passenger profiling--in which airport security officials seek out suspicious people, rather than suspicious bags. As for current inefficiences at airports, Tierney blames Congress for giving the Transportation Security Administration too much to do, instead of assigning airport security to a separate agency and airports themselves:
The result has been a waste of billions of dollars on an unwieldy federal agency that's become known as Thousands Standing Around. The TSA should be looking for new ways to identify dangerous passengers, but it's too busy following Congress' mandates to search everyone's bag.
I'm given pause by Tierney's recollection that Washington Dulles airport officials tried out passenger profiling a few years ago with questions such as: "Did you see last night's Redskins game?"--when there had been no game. I would have failed that test. Will certain classes of cultural literacy become the mark of the law-abiding American in the passenger profiling of the future?
The announcement of more stringent passenger profiling by British authorities, in the wake of last week's foiling of a terrorist airline attack has brought rebukes from the British Islamic community. In the U.S., a similar debate on how best to keep air travel safe may leave Americans contemplating whether security and liberty are a zero sum game.