Why punish the passengers? (A dumb question....)

I hate to be repetitive, but reading things like the new TSA regulations really burns me up:

1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:
1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

In other words, the idea is to punish the passengers.

Excuse me, but the passengers are the ones who stop the terrorists!

So why punish them? Unless the goal is...

Oh, I get it. At least, I'm almost tempted to get it.

(Except I should probably remember Hanlon's Razor. These days it's tough.)

MORE: Glenn Reynolds links Rand Simberg

Once again, airline passengers 1, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 0.
And Professor Bainbridge wants to know when we'll rebel:
Maybe the terrorists figure they win everytime we in the West spend millions of man-hours being hassled, inconvenienced, and generally put upon by a myriad of stupid security measures.

So here's my question: When are we going to rebel and demand a sensible set of precautions?

This does call for rebellion. But how? Tea Parties at your local TSA?

I also see that some local Detroit area residents claim they witnessed the terrorist being boarded without a passport.

But that's no fair! They won't let me board international flights without a passport!


You'd think the restrictions they apply to us regular passengers could at least be applied to terrorists.

MORE: According to Reuters, the Dutch police are checking out the claim that Abdulmuttallab was allowed to board without a passport.

A U.S. couple on the flight, Kurt and Lori Haskell, told Reuters and other news agencies that they saw a tall, well-dressed man aged about 50 with the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Friday morning at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

The Haskells have claimed the man spoke for Abdulmutallab and attempted to get him aboard Northwest flight 253 without a passport.

"At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy," the military police spokesman said. "We are checking all clues and information we get."

The spokesman added that the military police and the counter-terrorism agency NCTb were reviewing CCTV video and other evidence to see if the accomplice story bears out.

The military police have already said Abdulmutallab did not go through passport control at Schiphol when he arrived from Lagos.

But the spokesman said it would be unlikely the man could board the plane without showing his passport at some point in the boarding process.

Unlikely? Why? Because Lagos officials are reliable?

I think that if he had a passport, it would have been found by now. But if he had a passport and didn't want to show it, that might explain the attempt to escort him through.

posted by Eric on 12.28.09 at 11:53 AM


Only thing that's going to work:

Wall off the left seats from the right seats. Women on one side, men on the other. Everyone nude, with no baggage reachable. Every passenger pre-wired with two stun-electrodes glued securely to their scalps. At the first sign of trouble, [bzzzzzzzzzttttt!], and everyone slumps peacefully to the floor. Someone pulls off one electrode, and the other kicks in immediately.

Extra frequent flyer miles if you get stunned and you're not a terrorist.

bobby b   ·  December 28, 2009 12:14 PM

We should just prohibit civilians from flying. It's obviously much too dangerous for us.

Tom   ·  December 28, 2009 12:50 PM

Stupidity and malice are identical twins, seldom seen apart. Hanlon's Razor makes people stupid, probably maliciously.

guy on internet   ·  December 28, 2009 1:07 PM

I thought the best way to catch people is to profile their behavior. People acting suspiciously will be pulled aside. Every cop I know believes in this, and if you read books on intiution (such as Gavin DeBeckers "The Gift of Fear") he explains how you yourself make decisions based on people's behavior.

The problem the government has is twofold: 1. I've read complaints that using this catches "too many" drug smugglers and not enough terrorists. You also might catch people doing immoral but not necessarily illegal things. Well so what? I mean I'm against the drug war but I don't see how this is a big problem.

2. Use the word profiling and people immediately assume racism. But I mean profiling behavior not "single guy one way ticket south asian descent" which are just as useless as the other rules since they can be gotten around.

I remember in the past reading articles (before the wall) when Israeli police would stop a bomber that he was just acting funny and they stopped him. Maybe he still blew up his bomb but not where he wanted and with minmimal casualties.

Anyway I guess in the end the way to stop criminals and terrorists before when they are trying to hide is not easily pared down into rules like TSA tries to. Maybe because they are not exactly hiring brainiacs ("who ever heard of a smart guard?"). But anything based on rules will always punish passengers more than criminals.

plutosdad   ·  December 28, 2009 1:37 PM

Simple bureaucratic logic in why the passengers are being punished. One, the bomber facilitates an increase in resources and influence by DHS and TSA. Two, passengers interfered with the plane's destruction highlighting both the failures to detect and stop the bomber and that guy on a plane is worth 100,000 DHS employees on the ground. Three, the passengers won't put up much of a fuss but the terrorists are likely to strike somewhere DHS has de-prioritized causing career damage to high-ranking "brilliant" DHS SES or politicals.

JKB   ·  December 28, 2009 2:28 PM

A reasonable explanation of the "no passport" question could be that the Haskells are mistaken. Eyewitnesses aren't all that reliable in many cases. They could have mistaken the short black man at the Schipol counter for Abdulmutallab, another short black man, especially in light of what they had just gone through on the airplane.

This is the most likely explanation as it is very difficult to believe that anyone would have been allowed on board an international flight from a Dutch airport without a passport.

liamascorcaigh   ·  December 29, 2009 1:19 PM

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