I plan for this to be mostly an essay blog rather than a link blog, but I could not resist this story of yet another nightmare at airport security, as a student is ordered to "dispose" of her pet fish while trying to take it home with her on the plane.
So now the essay. Like many of you, I have read tons of these crazy security stories. Stories of cruelty, stories of pointless security that simply gives the appearance of security without making things safer. Innocent people harassed. Pilots arrested over nailclippers. People groped. People kept off planes for reading the wrong book.
Now, you might be firmly of the mind that we must increase security and make some sacrifices. But if that's the case, there need to be checks and balances on the security decisions.
Right now, when people go overboard on security, there is no negative consequence for them when they get it wrong. They have no reason not to go overboard. We're too afraid that if we discipline them at all, they might let something slide and let Al Qaida on the plane.
But it can't work that way. There needs to be a consequence for going over the top. People should be able to lose jobs, get fined or disciplined. Security workers need to think twice about whether they should do something.
This should particularly be true if it's obvious that what they are doing gives only the appearance of security rather than real security, unless we decide it is our policy that the appearance of security is more important.
(And while I see the argument some might make for that -- that the public has to feel confident that they are safe in transit or they won't travel -- I don't buy it long term at all.)
The men who made the fish policy, or the men who enforced it, should be called to account. If they have a reason for it, they should have it ready for the passenger. If they don't, somebody should be disciplined.
No, I'm not saying don't give them any discretion or let them make any mistakes. But the mistakes should be noted, explained, and if repeated, punished.