Transportation Security in the United States Research Proposal

Pages: 25 (6826 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation

Transportation - Security

CONTEMPORARY TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ISSUES in the U.S.

The Historical Evolution of Contemporary Transportation Security Issues

Airline Hijacking and Attacks on Transportation as Political Terrorism:

The first hijacking of a passenger airliner for the express purpose of influencing national or geopolitical events was the 1968 overtaking of an Israeli flight from Rome, Italy to Tel Aviv, Israel on July 22, 1968 by the Palestine Liberation Army (PLO).

Previously, numerous airline hijackings had occurred, but only for the purposes of either securing a monetary ransom or (more commonly) for the purpose of transportation.

Typically, prior hijackings involved the temporary takeover and diversion of a passenger airline flight as a means of transporting the hijackers to a specific destination; given the relations between the United States and Cuba in the post-Kennedy era, many of those incidents involved flights diverted to Cuba (Dershowitz 2002b). The new phase of airline hijackings marked a shift from tactical use of commandeered aircraft to their strategic use expressly to generate media exposure to a political cause, as well as to force national and geopolitical policy decisions. Terrorist shootings and bombings on civilian transportation preceded the era of widely available international air travel. In Israel, Jordanian and Egyptian forces had long perpetrated attacks on passenger buses, starting with the conclusion of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, in response to the United Nations decision to establish the country.

Initially, those targets were selected simply because they were convenient, with the majority of Israeli citizens (including soldiers) commuting daily to and from work by bus. Such incidents, (including the first Palestinian bombing of an El Al passenger jet) peaked again in 1967 after Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the defensive) Six Day War.

This shift in the purpose of terrorism coincided with increasing attacks on aircraft, passengers, and air transportation without any attempt to seize or divert a flight, simply because it achieved the goal of drawing media attention to political causes whether or not planes were actually hijacked in the manner associated with previous experiences. The phenomenon that began with terrorist attacks on Israeli airline transportation in 1967 culminated in brutality (as well as in media coverage) in the devastating massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Germany by the same PLO that had introduced the world to the realm of modern political terrorism against transportation.

Airport Security Before September 11, 2001:

Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. domestic airline security was handled in its entirety by private security organizations under contract with the federal government. Naturally, assignment of the work was awarded through a bidding process, to ensure the lowest possible expense of federal funds. As the saying goes, "you get what you pay for" and reports of ineptitude and inappropriate conduct on the part of airport security screeners were ubiquitous. Typically, airport security passenger screening was handled by unskilled workers possessing only a high school, education (or GED), earning approximately $10 per hour.

One of the largest companies furnishing contracted airport security screeners was Argenbright, many of whose employees were widely considered completely incapable of fulfilling their essential job functions at a minimally acceptable standard within the industry, in addition to being too socially unskilled to respond appropriately to passengers in routine circumstances arising daily within the passenger airport vocational environment, according to Charles Slepian, a security analyst formerly of TWA who now heads the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center in New York (Sperry 2003).

Airport Security Since September 11, 2001:

In the aftermath of September 11th, the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA) replaced all privately contracted airport security screeners with federal security screeners after conducting intensive efforts throughout much of 2002 and 2003 to select, assemble, and train more than 60,000 new security employees.

Concurrent with those efforts, the TSA also began implementing explosive detection technology used to scan unscreened passenger baggage carried within the cargo holds of airline passenger aircraft.

Restrictions have since varied, partly in response to threat warning levels issued by the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the new Cabinet-level position established by President Bush after September 11th. Generally, domestic U.S. airline passengers are prohibited from carrying any sharp objects aboard aircraft capable of being used to commandeer a passenger aircraft. Initially, even ordinary nail clippers were included on the list of items absolutely prohibited from carry-on luggage.

The specific list of prohibited items no longer includes nail clippers, but passengers are currently prohibited from carrying liquids of any type in containers larger than 4 ounces. Furthermore, as a result of concerns over terrorists possible combining numerous liquids that are inert individually but explosive or extremely corrosive in combination with others, domestic airline passengers are limited to a total of one quart of liquids, gels, or cosmetic pastes of any kind. To pass through TSA screening checkpoints, airline passengers must declare their liquids and present them for inspection sealed within a clear plastic baggie no larger than one quart in size. Finally, only full containers of toothpaste or gels may be carried aboard the aircraft, because of concern that empty space within flexible tubes and other containers could facilitate the mixing of dangerous chemicals aboard the aircraft (Dyer, et al. 2007).

The latest addition to the security layers imposed by the TSA now includes backscatter scanners capable of providing high resolution X-ray images of passengers designed to reveal anything concealed under external clothing. In principle, backscatter scanners employ thermal imaging technology to display images assembled from the relative difference between inanimate concealed objects and body temperature. Because the composite images display the entire unclothed outline of every passenger, civil rights groups have argued (unsuccessfully) that the procedure is a violation of personal privacy.

Finally, several American airports where drug trafficking is a greater concern, (such as in Tampa, Florida), and where the facilities are in close proximity to sensitive airspace, (such as Washington, DC) have deployed the first series of equipment capable of identifying the presence of minute quantities of explosive residue on passengers or their clothes. The devices consist of phone-booth-sized single-person compartments into which passengers enter one at a time immediately prior to boarding aircraft. A small puff of air is them directed at several areas from head to toe and analyzed almost instantaneously by sophisticated sensors.

Federal authorities have even more latitude with respect to their legal right to screen international passengers (including U.S. citizens) seeking entry (or re-entry) into the country pursuant to the border exception to Fourth Amendment search and seizure limitations. Specifically, all forms of digital media such as laptop computers, PDAs, I-

Pods, and virtually any other information-storing device are susceptible to closer inspection by federal border agents without probable cause, search warrants, or any specific suspicion of criminal behavior or terrorist association on the part of the passenger (Bulzomi 2007).

Fundamental Flaws in Design:

Unfortunately, aviation security experts and counter-terrorism professionals with more experience than the TSA question the value of many of these costly (and invasive) post-September 11th changes in U.S. airport security. In many respects, they demonstrate the age-old observation that most armies are prepared perfectly to fight the last war in their experience rather than the next war facing them.

In other (equally disturbing) respects, most of the security procedures implemented after September 11th accomplish little more in the way of actually increasing airline security. Instead, they merely provide passengers and the media alike with an entirely false sense of increased national security, mainly for the purpose of maintaining public confidence in the ability of the federal government to protect them from international terrorism (Larsen 2007).

The institutionalized ineptitude in the entire design of current airport security measures is easily illustrated by media reports of elderly American citizens in wheelchairs being randomly selected for in-depth searches of their persons and effects while other much more sensible candidates for heightened security attention are not for various reasons of dubious merit on the bases of supposed justification examined in Section III of this report.

Similarly, TSA authority to select candidates for additional screening based on criteria logically related to addressing the specific nature of the contemporary terrorist threat represented by Islamic extremists is severely constrained by limits imposed under current interpretation of constitutional principles. Meanwhile, airline pilots and crew are prohibited from carrying the same types of "contraband" as passengers and subjected to the same screening procedures, notwithstanding their access to a full-size fire axe maintained in every cockpit by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, not to mention the fact that pilots who are already in possession of flight controls hardly require any weapon to destroy the aircraft should they desire to do so (Sperry 2003).

II. Conceptual Problems in the Post-9/11 Approach to Transportation Security the Nature of the Current Threat to American Air Travel:

With the exception of one specific aspect of post-September 11th airport and airline travel security measures, the vast majority of changes implemented since 2001 have been obsolete in design almost… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Transportation Security in the United States.  (2008, August 3).  Retrieved December 12, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/transportation-security-united-states/65319

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"Transportation Security in the United States."  Essaytown.com.  August 3, 2008.  Accessed December 12, 2018.
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