Monday, January 15, 2007

Airport Security

EWR (Travel and Leisure)
In a New York Times op-ed today, Kathryn Harrison writes that she was able to board a plane at JFK to look for her wallet. While not breaking news in any way, shape, or form, the way she was able to do it is highly disturbing.

She had gotten off the plane with her daughters from a Puerto Rican getaway, gets to the baggage carousel and realizes she left her wallet on the plane. She begs and pleads her way through security, gets to the gate and no one is there. She can see her plane through the window, so she knocks on the door of the gate leading to the plane. Nothing. 

She opens the unlocked gate door, and an alarm goes off. She waits for someone to show up and yell at her, but nothing. The passengers in the airport don't seem to care, either. So she props the door open with one of her shoes, all the while the shrill alarm is going off, and goes onto the plane. She looks around her seat for the wallet, but it is gone because the plane has already been cleaned and prepped for its next departure.

So she leaves the plane, closes the gate door and the alarm goes off. She walks back to the terminal and explains what happened to someone at the customer service desk, who is shocked, tells her she cannot do that, then lets her go.

So essentially someone was able to gain access to an airplane in one of the largest airports in the United States and was able to freely move within the aircraft and could have had enough time to alter the plane how she could have wanted to, which could include planting a bomb. This begs the question: how safe are our airports? If Mrs. Harrison was able to go through security sans boarding pass and also able to gain access to an empty airliner prepped for takeoff, all the while setting off alarms and giving authorities every chance to act, what would happen if a terrorist were able to do this?

I am certain of one thing: had Kathryn Harrison been Middle Eastern or had darker skin, then this would be a very different story. Remember, if there is the slightest miscommunication between a port employee and a Middle Easterner, you can expect to spend a night or two locked up, even if your paperwork and everything is in order. We are out in Iraq fighting terrorism there, when it seems that our airport security (or lack thereof) might be a larger threat to national security than some Sunnis and Shi'ites (if you know the difference) in Iraq fighting for control of their homeland.

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