Aug 10, 2006 • Karen

So I'm sure y'all have heard of the latest airport security hullabaloo--the British government foiled a potential terrorist plot and arrested some 21 people. And then decided that having done this, the public was LESS, not more, secure (??), and banned all carry-ons except for some very specific items:

* Pocket size wallets and pocket size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags);

* Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets);

* Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic;

* Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases;

* Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution;

* For those traveling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger);

* Sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags);

* Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (e.g. tampons, pads, towels and wipes) tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs;

* Keys (but no electrical key fobs)

(all of the above must be in a clear plastic bag)

So far, American officials have not taken such draconian measures. Instead, they are making passengers throw out all their toothpaste, lip gloss, and Starbucks in the name of National Securityâ„¢. There have been no reports yet of any exploding trash cans at checkpoints, but one must question the wisdom of *intentionally mixing* a whole buttload of potentially explosive liquids in the middle of a crowded security line... My Nalgene and I are grateful that I flew yesterday.

There are rumors, however, that the TSA may extend its restrictions to be as recockulous as the Brits'. All I can say is that, if extended, these measures had better be short-term (read: a week or less) and in response to a very specific threat (like, if they know that members of the plot are still active, at large, and planning to carry out the attack imminently). Other than that, it's simply not worth it. To paraphrase Cory Doctorow, even if they strapped down, stripped naked, and tranquilized air passengers, one cannot underestimate the amount of semtex and roofing nails a dedicated man can hide in his colon. The point is--we will never be 100% safe. Giving up our liberties in pursuit of an unattainable goal is stupid. Beyond a certain point, the trade-off isn't worth it. A mature, level-headed "home of the brave" (and its government) would recognize those simple, simple facts and SUCK IT UP. But, alas, the Bush administration is neither Churchill nor FDR.

I don't trust the people who search checked luggage with my Zachary. They steal things and the administrative procedures for getting reimbursed are terrible. I sure as hell am NOT getting on a eight hour long transatlantic flight without at least a goddamn book. If carry-on items were a reasonable security trade-off yesterday, they should be a reasonable security trade-off now--short of a very specific, short-term reason to think otherwise. They can take my carry-on luggage from my cold dead fingers, dammit.