Friday, January 15, 2010

revisiting airport security

I want revisit my last post on airport security. I got hung up on the pointless search that went on right before boarding the plane, but I neglected to discuss what was probably the most effective security measure.

They interviewed me. It was fast and simple and did not delay me at all because it happened while I was standing in line between the time I used the check-in kiosk to get my boarding pass and the time I reached the counter to drop off my bag. I cannot recall every question, but aside from the standard luggage questions about packing my bag and giving the man my passport during this process so he already knew my name, I was at least asked:
How are you?
Do you have anything with batteries in your bag?
(He did not check my bag at that time.)
How long were you in Hungary? (I keep it short with "engineer for an oilfield services company")
What company?
Where do you live in Hungary?
How did you get to the airport?
(I say my co-worker dropped me off.)
What was his name? (He is not Hungarian either so this leads to me explain where he is from.)
Where are you going?
Who are you seeing?
How long will you be there?

I cannot say for certain if that was everything, but it was most of the questions. It went very quickly and he looked at me the whole time so I looked at him because we were having a quick and highly purposeful conversation. The questions themselves aren't that important and neither are the answers. They are all easy to answer as long as you have a coherent story and the truth is the simplest coherent story. If I had hesitated with my answers or shifted about nervously, then I would be suspicious. And I would be profiled, but not for any reason that people in the States get so worked up about profiling. It would be because I'm a shifty liar, not because I was a foreign, semi-dark-skinned (but not really in the winter), single, male traveller with squinty eyes who had not shaved.

They were doing on a smaller scale what gets discussed in this article about the security at Israeli airports. Layered, quick, effective.

Instead, while at JFK on the way back to Hungary, the TSA agent said shoes do not go in the bins and that they must go directly on the conveyer. WTF? I've travelled many times since the stupid shoe rule went into place and never heard that before. What a joke.

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