Sunday, 28 May 2017

Safety first

The mass-murder in Manchester has revived the old debate about security checks and procedures - whether you can stop someone who is bent on carnage, or whether a determined person will dodge every security check going.

A friend of mine (let's call him Dennis) is totally against security checks of any kind. He thinks they seldom catch a would-be terrorist, and mostly all they do is cause long queues and huge annoyance to thousands of people. And if security checks become routine in one area of life, a terrorist will simply adopt a new method.

A former friend of mine (let's call her Esther) thought the opposite. She believed the more security checks the better, that even if they didn't often catch anyone she was happy to face any number of them if they reassured people and made them feel safer. Especially on planes which many people are scared of anyway.

I guess I lean towards Esther's view. Not having any security checks is just an invitation to a terrorist to do whatever he wants because nobody will stop him (and it's usually him). Security checks will never be foolproof because they're always one step behind a terrorist's ever-changing methods, but they do act as a deterrent and they do sometimes catch someone and prevent a horrible massacre.

Security checks are irritating but they're hardly a huge burden. Airport security is tiresome and finickety but it's all over in five minutes. I don't mind having to show photo ID at airports and polling stations. I don't mind having my shoulder bag examined. I don't mind being frisked.

Surely the tedium of security checks is trivial beside much more pressing concerns like political incompetence, greedy landlords, rubbish jobs and wages, extortionate house prices, and a hundred other things. Unfortunately, in today's terrorism-prone world, they're necessary and they're here to stay.


Mike Goad said...

Working in nuclear power, going through security was a regular ritual. Since I retired, ten years ago, it has been greatly enhanced. I've only been inside the fence twice in that period, but the delay fencing that they've installed was rather difficult to traverse in a couple of places and I'm quite familiar with the facility. Another addition I notice was a tower for a remotely operated weapon system -- I assume there were more than the one, but I didn't go around "surveiling" the facility looking for them -- that would have been rather suspicious, wouldn't it. (I did do a little research on the design requirement of remote operated weapons at nuclear facilities -- firing of the weapon requires three separate and independent commands; remotely operated weapon systems must not fire except upon command of a human operator.)

Joanne Noragon said...

It's a new world. Be patient, be kind. If checkpoints annoy you, suck it up or go home.

Nick said...

Mike: I'm in favour of enhanced security at nuclear power stations, given the potential for a colossal disaster if a terrorist was able to infiltrate the building. And good to know the remotely operated weapon system wouldn't just fire away of its own accord!

Joanne: Absolutely. Suck it up or go home. We have to accept that we're now living in a very dangerous world.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I don't enjoy security checks but I welcome them if they deter or prevent even some instances of terrorism. I wish, given our problem with domestic terrorism (in this case school shootings), the U.S. would beef up security in schools. And change the gun laws, of course.

Ursula said...

You ain't seen nothing yet, Nick. The Angel and I went to the motherland's Embassy in London (Belgravia where all the embassies are cheek to jowl - a terrorist's paradise I'd imagine). The security employed before entering the actual passport area was something else. The Angel even had to lock his smartphone in a security box (I don't carry a mobile) before we were allowed in.

Of course, security checks are nothing new. And not always to do with terrorism. On one memorable occasion (the first and not the last), the Angel was still very young, on check in (Eurotunnel) was taken apart, sniffer dogs employed, people crawling underneath our (rather large) car. Why? Because, as was explained to me, there is nothing so alluring to DRUG smugglers than a woman travelling with child. The picture of innocence. Why do you think we used to be asked at airport check-ins, long before terrorism reared its ugliest head, whether we'd had packed our bags ourselves, let them out of our sight, etc?

Like you I believe better safe than sorry, even if it's a pain. The examples I could give you, Nick, and maybe you yourself have encountered. According to the Angel who visits the USA once a year never will you be subjected to more "shit" on entry than there. Which, again, is fine. His main query why American border control has to be so rude with it.

One thing we must not deceive ourselves over is that all the checks in the world will not "deter" a suicide bomber. Imagine the unimaginable, Nick: If someone is prepared to kill other people at the cost of their own life there is nothing you can do. As keeps being proven again and again in the last few years. That, of all (crowded) places, concert halls/music venues are being targeted is shameful beyond belief (and I mean "beyond belief" since those attacks are carried out in the name of "belief").

You may be interested to know that, according to the Angel, when you go to music venues which he does often, you will be security checked on ENTRY. HA. Great. But what of EXITING (like in the Manchester attack)?


Nick said...

Agent: School shootings are now so common in the States that I'm surprised school security is still so lax. As for the gun laws, I despair at the stubbornness of those gung-ho gun enthusiasts who trot out one excuse after another for gun-related atrocities.

Nick said...

Ursula: I've been to the States several times, and I don't remember the entry process being especially draconian. I only remember the very long queues to be processed.

When I say security checks are a deterrent, naturally that doesn't mean every would-be terrorist will be deterred. Of course someone very determined will find a way of defeating the checks. And yes, why they are going for music venues is baffling. Do they really believe rock concerts are the epitome of Western decadence?

And yes again, why such lax security when people are leaving a venue? All you have to do is slip inside, mingle with the crowd and set off a bomb.

Ursula said...

In answer to your question "why ... going for music venues".

It's not baffling, Nick. Anywhere with large body density will do. Music venues possibly still a soft(ish) target. Or, considering Belgravia (embassy city) right next to Harrods. Remember Harrods? Forgotten the year now. Been there, done that (ref IRA). There may be lovely porters at the doors opening doors to you before (my thing) I will head to the food halls. Again, a self detonator's paradise. What they want is to take as many with them as possible to have maximum impact on public consciousness.

Fact is, Nick, and it's quite awful that we are held to ransom by extremists who shy away from nothing, there is nothing we can do. Other than building bridges within the limitations of diplomacy. The West has meddled to their own detriment, made a rod for their back. Even the language this (and the States') government employs is not that of diplomacy, an attempt of conciliation: "WAR on terror". Well, good luck.


Bijoux said...

I don't mind security going through my purse at concerts or amusement parks and I really don't mind being scanned at airports. What bugs the crap out of me is not being able to bring a small bottle of water in my carry on and then being charged $4 for one at the airport shops. Also, if your flight is canceled and they get you on another flight, be prepared to be treated like a suspect. Your checked baggage will be torn apart and you will be escorted to a separate line to be patted down, etc. Ask me how I know!

Nick said...

Ursula: I guess luxury shops like Harrods could also be seen as the height of Western decadence.

"The West has meddled to their own detriment, made a rod for their back." Indeed. The chain of events set off by Blair's invasion of Iraq is quite horrifying. And yes, phrases like "the war on terror" don't help. They only create a belligerent atmosphere. "Defusing international tensions" would be more constructive. But it wouldn't play so well in the tabloids, would it?

Nick said...

Bijoux: $4 for a bottle of water? What a rip-off. I didn't know you get special (discriminatory) treatment if you have to change your flight. Luckily my most recent flights to and from the US departed as scheduled.

Bijoux said...

The theory is that people who make flight plans last minute are terrorists. In this technology age, you would think that security could tell that someone's original flight was canceled and that's why the last minute new reservation. It just adds insult to injury.


Wisewebwoman said...

I haven't been to the US since I was detained in Homeland security for 3 hours by the nastiest Nazis I've ever encountered in all my years of travel.

Give these idiots power and they are vicious.

This form of terrorism abuses and terrifies old and young alike.

There has to be a better way than cattle lined up at the slaughter house.


tammy j said...

I don't ever go to huge crowded events... and haven't flown in ages. but I agree with you and
Joanne: 'Absolutely. Suck it up or go home. We have to accept that we're now living in a very dangerous world.'

been missing in action nick. sorry! have AFIB going on right now. taking drugs. hoping not to go back to hospital. if drugs don't work they'll do their paddle thing and shock the heart into beating properly again.
i'll be reading and loving it here as always... but maybe not commenting so much. energy low.xo

Nick said...

Bijoux: The idea that last-minute flight plans are only made by terrorists is pretty idiotic. How about business people attending an unexpected meeting or conference? How about relatives visiting a dying family member? As you say, cancellations should come up on the system.

Nick said...

www: Three hours? That's crazy. Yes, I think some of them enjoy the arbitrary power they can wield over people.

Tammy: Sorry to hear about the new heart problem. I hope the drugs do their stuff!

Huge crowded events are getting a little dicey these days. Especially as security is often woefully lacking.

Hattie said...

I live on the Big Island of Hawaii, and the only way to get off the rock is by plane.
For us Americans, global entry and TSA pre status mean that we usually get through security in few minutes.
I agree that the most obnoxious security people are the ones that work at the busy international airports in the U.S. I remember with no affection a couple of them. There was the one who gave us a long lecture, after we were coming home from a week in Cuba via Houston, on how glad he was that we had been there so we could be grateful for being Americans! And he held us up long enough for us to miss our plane. Another one at Dulles was just kind of yelling at everyone for no reason. The man in front of me turned around and said, "He can't help it, he's an a**hole."
But for the amount of travel we have done, we haven't endured too much discomfort.
The worst experience I had was in the 70s, travelling with a small child through the Zurich Airport. They had set tents up and we were both subjected to a full body search. Those were scary times, I think worse than now.

Dave Martin said...

Much like Tammy I've never flown (apart from flying a small two-seater between Cambridge and Ely), and I avoid going anywhere with big crowds so it's not something I generally come across.
However, I'd have no problem with security checks because surely it's better safe than sorry, even if it sometimes seems like using a sticking plaster to treat a bullet wound.

Suburbia said...

Funny how we've all got used to the increasing security checks over the years, it seems so 'normal' now. Somehow I always send off the alarm and get frisked!!

Nick said...

Hattie: Most people seem to agree that US airports are the worst for over-the-top security checks, rude and high-handed staff etc. Missing your plane because of some sanctimonious jobsworth is outrageous. And a full body search of a small child? That seems pretty over-the-top!

Nick said...

Dave: Better safe than sorry - that's how I feel. Better a five minute security check than being blown to bits in mid-Atlantic.

Suburbia: I know, scanning and frisking and being photographed now seems like a normal part of flying. Why make a big fuss about it?

helen devries said...

Here in Costa Rica security guards are everywhere...go into the bank, they want you to open your handbag: the local hospital likewise, but not the major ones in the capital - except for visiting times when they want to see if you have illicit food or booze for the patients.

I don`t travel through the U.S.A. any more: security is one thing, rudeness and incomptence another.

Nick said...

Helen: No such security in my local banks, thank goodness! No checks on illicit food or booze in the hospitals either (our hospitals still have vending machines full of blatantly unhealthy food, but that's another matter).

And the US pops up again as rude and incompetent!

Theresa Young said...

I agree with Esther. Unfortunately this is the world we live in. If a security check is a way to keep everyone safe, and I'm in that crowd...I wait for the security check.

Rummuser said...

I think that security checks are necessary at certain places for our own safety. We have not had plane hijacking for a while for instance. That we cannot stop a determined terrorist from carrying out an act of terror should not stop us from taking as many precautions as possible.

Nick said...

Theresa: Yep, better a few laborious security checks than a terrorist bloodbath.

Ramana: Indeed, plane hijackings seem to be quite rare nowadays. That has to be partly the deterrent effect of security checks.

Limner said...

Having to be frisked means your safety is at risk. That in itself is scary for people who have other fears and insecurities. Abused people have a hard time being groped and patted down by people who might resemble the perpetrators; they run the risk of having flashbacks in public--which opens a whole barrel of worms that might end in their arrest or being shot. We're al different and carry a host of painful baggage. So it's okay to feel how you feel. I just hope we're compassionate no matter what.

Pat-downs did not stop the Manchester disaster.

Nick said...

Limner: Thanks for that interesting comment. I hadn't given any thought to those who've been physically abused and might find frisking hard to deal with. I guess there needs to be some special procedure to allow for that, though I'm not sure how it would work.

CheerfulMonk said...

We don't go to big events and haven't flown in over 20 years, so it's not an issue for us.

I was pulled out of line in London on my way back to the U.S. from a business trip years ago. I had gone to too many places and had changed my flight home, so was a suspect. The funniest part was I didn't have any ID showing I did indeed work for a national lab. Why? Because we had been told even to use a relative's address for our passports just in case the plane was hijacked. We would have been valuable hostages. The Brits were not amused, but they did let me fly home.

Nick said...

Jean: So if you flit around a bit and re-arrange your flights, you're a deeply suspicious character? Such simplistic reasoning. I'd never heard of the using-a-relative's-address tactic. I wonder if it ever paid off?

Liz Hinds said...

I think if someone is determined enough no amount of security will stop something happening. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have any security!

I always cross my fingers going through the metal detector thingy in airports and breathe a huge sigh of relief when it doesn't go off. Although when it does the pat down feels so half-hearted you wonder what it achieves. But I suppose I look harmless enough. I would not be considered a highly likely threat.

Nick said...

Liz: I'm always frisked quite thoroughly. There must be something about me that makes them suspicious!