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October 4, 2005
Prince Andrew Screened At Melbourne Airport
We are all more secure because everyone goes through airport screening, and there's no automatic white list.
Posted on October 4, 2005 at 7:11 AM
• 51 Comments
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Not a surprise, he's a plonker.
The airport should have told him to naff off home.
'We are all more secure because .... there's no automatic white list'.
I don't think this is completely clear. Obviously a whitelist adds an obvious avenue of attack, which is a cost. But it has benefits too.
Diplomatic immunity has been an expedient in international relations for a long while. Do we advocate an end to that?
Gestures of trust towards ambassadors and heads of state may smooth negotiations, and perhaps increase trust between the nations they represent. That might make us all more secure.
Surprise, suprise: I think it's a tradeoff.
It's 100% a trade-off.
But I think the security vulnerabilities that come from having a white list are much greater than the benefits. There's no real time savings benefit, as the white list is small compared to the flying population. The only benefit is that it makes important people feel special as they walk right through airline security.
I think this account, perversely, proves that there actually is a white-list. If an ordinary citizen were to make a row the way the Duke of York did, he'd likely be strip-searched, arrested, and subsequently blacklisted. We've seen an abundance of examples here. The Duke, on the other hand, gets let off with a respectful suggestion that he think about complying.
They should have given him the rubber glove treatment.
'The only benefit is that it makes important people feel special as they walk right through airline security.'
The immunities conferred by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations have no other benefits?
It's pretty specific that its purpose is not just to make important people feel special.
'the purpose of such privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions as representing States'
(The document is also not specific enough about the tradeoffs, but that's a different point.)
Good for him. If everyone refused to be searched we wouldn't have to put up with this giant waste of time and resources. I don't undergo a search to ride a bus, I don't undergo a search to sit in a crowded movie theatre, and I won't fly until I can do so while maintaining my privacy as well.
Last I heard, his Dukeship (or whatever one calls these types) is English, and Melbourne is a city in Australia. Regardless of how "royal" this kid is, why would he expect Australia to care what his status in England is? Aren't those two places separate countries?
This is the kind of behavior I'd expect from Courtney Love. He should be thankful he didn't land at JFK :^)
(The argument about diplomatic immunity is sound, BTW. One needs to think precisely about sovereignty and what it implies about how foreign nationals may be treated.)
"Aren't those two places separate countries?"
The Queen of England is still the chief of state of Australia. She is represented there by Governor General Maj Gen (Ret) Michael Jeffery.
Australia had a chance to cut this last link to England a few years ago, but decided against it for now.
Prince Andrew's mummy is the Queen of Australia.
England and Australia are part of the Commonwealth of Nations...
"Regardless of how "royal" this kid is, why would he expect Australia to care what his status in England is? Aren't those two places separate countries?"
Australia is subject to the British monarchy, in a figurehead but historically important sense. That's why Australian coins have pictures of the Queen of England on them - she is the Queen of Australia too. The Kingdom of the Netherlands works similarly; it includes not only the Netherlands proper, but also Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, all of which are "separate countries" with independent political authority. Many former colonies, although independent today, remain formally subject to the monarchy of wherever they used to be colonies of.
The situation is not directly comparable, but imagine how it would sound if you said "Why would George W. Bush expect Puerto Rico to care what his status in the USA is? It's not a State!"
Thanks for the info, folks. I thought that Australia *had* left the Commonwealth.
@Paul: I don't know what a plonker is (or naffing, for that matter) but I think I agree!
He's a prince of the realm, essentially chosen by God (within the logic of the relevant national constitution). This may not mean much to ignorant Usonian rebels, but claiming that he should be subject to the same rules as common folk is as silly and culturally ignorant as a foreigner questioning the constitutional "right" to free speech that Usonians hold so dear.
One doesn't have to agree with the idea of a monarchy to see that within a monarchy, certain folk of the royal blood can be treated preferentially.
Bruce, you haven't really addressed the comments about trade-off. Diplomatic Immunity already creates a whitelist - you can't search a diplomatic bag at an airport, as far as I know.
This whitelist is much smaller than the ones that you've addressed before, and the stakes are much higher. These are people very close to heads of state, and quite likely to influence trust between nations. They're not just frequent flyers.
Along the same lines as Stephen's comment, this seems like a giant PR blunder by the Prince. He totally missed an opportunity to show that he supported screening, and everyone should go along with it too. Save that, he comes across as a new icon of anti-screening sentiment.
I am not sure what an ignorant Usonian rebel is, but I think I agree! ;-)
> you can't search a diplomatic bag at an airport, as far as I know.
Yes, that is correct. The only confidentiality clause for diplomats should concern documents. Carrying any other "device" not subject to inspection into a foreign land reeks of spying. Diplomats should be required to carry documents and laptop computers in a separate bag, with nothing else in them so they can pass through an xray device and not trigger anything. It is not a big deal at all to stipulate this, and they can be given an extra carry-on item privilege acccordingly. Today, their checked in luggage is subject to the same TSA searches as everyone else.
I also wonder if diplomatic privileges at airport security are accorded to every country equally. The staff assistant to the ambassador from Tajikistan is not likely to be treated in the same manner as the ambassador from Australia.
Also, what do you feel about the random laptop visual inspection employed today? Occasionally, I've had my laptop even turned on so the screen flashes for the satisfaction of the security guy.
re: Diplomatic Immunity
There are ways to "less insecurely" allow privileged people to fly without passing through the "normal" security procedure.
I agree with the idea that the security procedures for the general airline population should be uniform. A general purpose aircraft shouldn't carry "whitelisted" people... it could be argued effectively that "whitelisted" people shouldn't even use the same terminal as the general populace.
Airport security measures are aimed at protecting the aircraft and to a much lesser extent the individual passengers (the efficacy of the measures can be debated, but that's the general idea). We need to protect the "community" of the plane from the possibility of an aberrant passenger or three. Security measures for a diplomatic community should probably be reversed -> the individual passenger is more important than the plane. We need to protect the individual passenger from the community of the plane, if you get my distinction.
It would make more sense to me to have a diplomatic terminal with a different security arrangement altogether (much more emphasis on correct authentication and identification). Diplomats would have to verify their identity with appropriate credentials (here's an actual case where face recognition software would be useful, due to the small database size), but wouldn't have to go through the same screening process. Certainly some screening process, but the attack vectors and vulnerable populations are different. It's nearly an entirely orthagonal risk assessment process.
The economic burden of what you suggest is daunting. Your proposal is implemented for "VVIPs", typically heads of state and their entourage.
98% of the diplomatic community are people you and I have not even heard of. For these 98%, the few items they carry need to be safeguarded. And 98% of what they carry are not state secrets that attract eager opportunists.
"We are all more secure because...there's no automatic white list."
Methinks this is irony folks.
This is just too wrong. The Prince (not sure if it's capitalized) not only whines about getting searched, but isn't arrested for being a plonker (I hope I got that right, I'm from the states and don't speak English). Is the Prince for or against searches? How do we know if he's the real Prince, or one of his dopplegangers? (Ok, I went too far). Aren't some of those "terrorists" people who are pretty high up on the food chain themselves? What is the default safe person?
The thread on diplomatic immunity is fine, but isn't it required that you work for the Foreign Office to be considered a diplomat? It seems to me the Prince is not someone who must be granted diplomatic immunity (technically speaking) unless he was actually serving the Office. Moreover, I understood the Foreign Office actually advised Prince Charles since the late 1990s to steer clear of the US specifically because of his pro-Arabist stance on the Middle East, which, as an example, would make him something of a non-diplomat from a British foreign policy standpoint.
> 98% of the diplomatic community are people you and I have not even heard of.
> For these 98%, the few items they carry need to be safeguarded. And 98% of
> what they carry are not state secrets that attract eager opportunists.
True, but also 98% of the diplomatic community don't need "diplomatic immunity", and could travel as normal airline populace.
I doubt that an assistant interpreter needs to have his/her baggage remain inviolate.
The class of people who need to be "whitelisted" for diplomatic purposes is quite small.
Let me self correct that last post ->
I *suspect* that the class of people who need to be "whitelisted" for diplomatic purposes is quite small.
I'm not an international relations security specialist.
Diplomats and suchlike do get certain special immunities from local law. But, this has been arranged in advance, by and among the respective governments. The intention here is to avoid embarrasing incidents such as a Saudi diplomat getting jailed for bigamy in Kansas, or an American diplomat being whipped for blasphemy in Riyadh.
If a diplomat abuses those privileges, they can be ejected as persona non grata by the host government, and then answer to their own (ticked-off) diplomatic or state officials. And a nation which actually stands by diplomatic misbehavior can face retaliation by other nations. Diplomatic immunity isn't a "hole" in ordinary security, it's an interface to a different regime of accountability
Officials of state, like Prince Andrew, may or may not be considered as de facto diplomats to friendly nations, or ex-colonies -- but that sort of thing should be arranged in advance, and all persons involved should know what rules have been agreed to!
Of course, there is also another point here, which is that any personal representative of a nation really ought to make it their business to give a good impression. That includes graceful responses to the "flexibility challenged" ....
They should have dragged "Airmiles Andy" round the back of the hangars and strip-searched him with an Alsation in full public view. He's a useless waste of space-time continuum, him and his parasitic, inbred German family. And there's no reason whatsoever to accord him any special treatment. Even if being heir to the throne was anything special, which it isn't, he isn't even anywhere near the top of the line of succession. He's merely a golf-playing joke.
The thread on diplomatic immunity is fine, but isn't it required that you work for the Foreign Office to be considered a diplomat?
Nope. When I was in the military (way, waaay prior to 9/11), I carried a diplomatic passport (part of my job involved being a courier), and when travelling I bypassed ALL airport security (and customs checks, too.)
Nice to read your well reasoned and unopinionated musings.
For a (slightly) less biased commentary on the affiar, the London Times ran this article today (4th October 2005). There are a couple of good points concerning airport security lines.
Diplomats need to be able to _smuggle_ sensitive information in, because without full access to sensitive information it is very hard for them to accurately and fully represent their home country. A diplomat must be able to carry things that the host country might consider full justification for all out war without anyone being the wiser. We long ago decided that it was worth letting diplomats take in seditious information, since the alternative would be very ineffective diplomatic relations -- perhaps so ineffective as to cause avoidable wars.
We are all safer on airplanes because there is no white-list, but I'm not sold that we are all safer from WWIII.
How many grievous terrorist attacks have been carried out by people with diplomatic immunity? How many acts of physical violence even?
Personally I think whitelisting diplomats is acceptable, especially since their every move will be closely watched.
@Z: Great link - thanks.
The Times article makes a point, but one that is not amenable to ingest and implement. If airline security screening establishes a whitelist, it is bound to be tainted by charges of racial discrimination and stereotyping: is that worth it emotionally, socially, and fiscally?
Any reasonably sized whitelist will allow loopholes for suicidal lunatics to exploit. Getting an underling job in the foreign office, avoding security checks, and finally exploiting it to engage in terror is feasible and requires a long-term mentality. The Saudi terrorists have shown that and more in good measure. As long as foreign policies are flaky and myopic, the danger will remain very real, even if it only rears its ugly head on our soil every decade or so.
I agree that security at airports is considerably for the feel-good-about-flying effect. Yet, because of the mass hysteria and economic ripple effect on a disaster,which make it an avenue of choice for the bloodthirsty, it is still a necessary evil. If we accept that, then it might as well be "equal opportunity" based where everyone feels its burden equally. And the inconveience burden is something quite small: Israelis, Indians, and Russians have been handling it for years. When 99.99+% of checks are benign, reducing the population checked by 5% is going to make marginal financial and resource consumption difference.
Two points not addressed in the Times article are: (i) If Airmile Andy and his ilk are not scrutinized, is it likely that the trace of saved labor could have been easily repurposed elsewhere? Granted, as a whole we are unduly emphasizing airline security, but doing it more smartly is not going to cause either the budget or labor involved to appreciably shrink. (ii) Andy should have thrown his tantrum within his own borders. Grandstanding in a country he no longer has dominion privileges over is stupid.
I've carefully read the previous threads on airline security on this blog and am touching on something repeatedly debated. Am I the only one confused as to where exactly Bruce stands - references would be helpful, thanks.
What a tempest in a teapot. If you have access to a private plane you will never see the inside of a TSA security checkpoint – at least in the states. This article seems to be more about class and privilege than security.
To add to my earlier message, on 12/6/04, Bruce mentioned: "I don't advocate zero screening. I advocate a basic level of cursory screening. More screening might be more effective, but it quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns in cost-effectiveness. Screening is meant to deter the idiot copycats, not the smart ones. And a cursory screening will do that."
I am unsure what this cursory screening entails, and for exactly whom it does not apply.
Aha, I stand corrected. He would have to work for the Foreign Office or the War Office, and presumably the Colonial Office is no longer accepting candidates for overseas work.
I assume you were performing duties that were at least marginally related to diplomacy. On the other hand I seem to remember that during Bush's recent visit to the UK the government very clearly stated that his very large security entourage would not be offered diplomatic immunity. In other words if the Secret Service killed or injured anti-Bush protestors they would be prosecuted under UK laws.
Funny article. Seems similar to Huge's perspective to me, just with the opposite conclusion. Neither make much sense to me. If he had no reason to be given immunity (no representation of the state, or duty to fulfill) then it only makes sense that he not be given immunity. He is no different in that sense than any movie, music, athletic notable, etc. who protests for being treated as a peer to the untrusted (although not untrustworthy) rather than a star.
After 9/11, we started with indiscriminate searching. Now some people think they are too important to be subjected to the searches. Exempting them would be unfair to the great mass of unimportant people.
If it is any citizen's civic duty to submit to searches, then every citizen should submit, as a price we pay, just like serving jury duty.
It may turn out that indiscriminate searching is a bad idea, but as long as most people are stuck with it everybody should be stuck with it.
Maybe we should consider an incentive-based system. Everybody gets looked at, but the guards can pick and choose who to look at further, and how much further. Reward the guards for catching weapons and terrorists, and punish them for bothering nice people. Let economics rule.
"The intention here is to avoid embarrasing incidents such as a Saudi diplomat getting jailed for bigamy in Kansas"
Ouch. Speaking of Saudi diplomats, I'm surprised no one has bothered to mention Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and Turki al-Faisal, both Princes who claimed immunity from 9/11 law-suits let alone airport security screenings.
"Ron Motley, lead attorney in the case against the Saudis, said the Saudi government and the two princes were told at least three times by U.S. and French officials that their contributions were funding terrorism."
Of course there's no mention of whether they were informed about the "good" terrorism (for the US -- e.g. to support the guerrila war in Afghanistan) or "bad" terrorism (against the US).
That was when they were just Princes, not diplomats. However, Turki al-Faisal was actually appointed to become Saudi ambassador to the UK in 2002, but apparently there were some objections based on his record as head of Saudi foreign intellegence until his abrupt departure just before 9/11:
Oddly there's no mention of that appoinment in this BBC news item that says he is now "set to become Saudi ambassador to the US":
Something tells me he will definitely have immunity in that position.
"Air miles Andy" is fourth in line to the British throne. The Australian constitution doesn't recognize anything other than "The Queen" (Victoria at the time of writing) so he's just plain old Andrew Windsor as far as Australian law is concerned. He was on a 'private' visit to Australia (as reported anyway) so I cannot see he'd be accorded any diplomatic status.
Another issue at play here is that if royality get screened, nobody else should complain about being screened regardless of celebrity status or high levels of self importance etc.
I think the Times article makes a valid point, when they describe Prince Andrew as "a man who spends every waking hour flanked by MI5 and Special Branch heavies". So, rather than looking at the diplomatic immunity side of things, how about the law enforcement angle?
I don't know what the current policies are (which may vary between countries anyway), but it seems reasonable to say "We trust uniformed police officers, so we don't search them". From there, you could also say "If a prisoner is being transported on an aircraft, accompanied by police/marshalls, then we don't need to search the prisoner, because we trust that their escort has already done it". After that, it's a small step to "If a VIP is being guarded by trusted people (e.g. MI5), then we don't need to search the VIP".
@Davi - I don't know about security details and immunity, I do know that several countries don't allow US Presidential security folks to go around armed (which has been known to stir up some diplomatic dust on occasion) -- I think this is pretty much for local political consumption, as if something bad were to happen to a foreign head of state while they were visiting it would be a Very Bad Thing Indeed for the host country (to say nothing of the head of state involved.)
"If it is any citizen's civic duty to submit to searches, then every citizen should submit, as a price we pay, just like serving jury duty."
That's hysterical. It's any good citizen's duty to refuse any and all unfounded searches. With all the bad citizens out there, more concerned with their own perception of safety than with civil liberties, we need those who are still patriotic to group together, unionize, if you will, against these injustices.
"it seems reasonable to say 'We trust uniformed police officers, so we don't search them'"
Hmmm, it's actually the opposite unless some pre-existing trust has been established by the diplomats. Generally speaking a sovereign nation defines its borders in part by the ability to keep foreign nations, and their uniformed police officers, at bay.
Historically speaking, people in tourist "uniform" were usually a different story, as were students and other people with a plausable reason for visiting. An excellent example of this was the botched coup attempt in the Seychelles many years ago. If one of the mercenaries hadn't accidentally gone through the "goods to declare" line with a machine gun disguised by a golf bag...
"if something bad were to happen to a foreign head of state while they were visiting it would be a Very Bad Thing"
That's true, but definitely no reason to bring your own armed soldiers and/or claim that your soldiers should be given immunity for killing locals...talk about a radical departure from common sense. Besides that, if you do not trust your life to the state you are visiting and expect you might have to shoot people to defend yourself, then why exactly are you visiting?
I said 'If it is any citizen's civic duty to submit to searches ....". My bad, the sarcasm didn't come through.
This idea of forming a union -- didn't they try that in 1776? So many complaints in the Declaration of Independence have a familiar modern ring.
Maybe somebody should corner US AG Alberto Gonzales and pin him down on what parts of the Constitution have been 'rendered quaint' in his opinion.
I went through the Melbourne airport on the same day as Price Andrew, albeit at the domestic terminal and checkpoint. Since it was only a short flight and my bag seemed to fit the height, width and weight of carry-on luggage I brought it with me through the checkpoint though I originally planned to check it in.
When it was my turn in line, I was asked to take off my jacket, belt and shoes, to be put into a box and through the xray machine right off the bat. I was also asked if I had any aerosol cans in my bag, to remove them and place them in a box too. While trying quickly to get undressed, empty my pockets of keys, coins, wallet and anything else it occurs to me I do have my toiletries bag in my luggage. So bare footed (well, with socks on) I unlock and unzip my bag and remove my toiletries bag taking out the deoderant and shaving cream cans and putting them in the box. I then throw the whole toiletries bag in the box as well. The security guard picks up the bag and looks through it while the boxes full of bags, shoes, jacket, coins and forgetmenots goes through the xray machine. I step through the metal detector, no problems, I collect my boxes and start repacking and getting dressed. The security guard hands me my toiletries bag and says 'thanks, no problems'. I take the bag from his hand it hits me. I've got my cutthroat razor in there.
I'm sure if I decided I was going to hold up a plane, a long sharp blade would be on my list of things to have. I'm not sure if the guard didn't see the object, or he decided I didn't look like a threatening terrorist (hard to do when you're half undressed and fumbling to get to your luggage repacked) and just let it slide.
Either way Martin Samuels was correct that the whole thing is a sham. The Prince shouldn't have been searched, and wouldn't have been in a perfect world. Melbourne airport just seems to want to look hard on security. Make a few people look stupid and everyone feels safer flying.
So a tip to the terrorists, look like a bumbling idiot in a confused rush and you just might be able to sneak through the superficial 'hardline no white list' security at the airport.
To the best of my knowledge, the Secret Svc officers guarding the President have never "killed locals" while in a foreign country -- in fact, I don't recall that they have ever "killed or injured anti-Bush protestors", even in the US. Their job is to protect the President (regardless of political persuasion) -- and the main way they do this is by being a shield (in essence, they are being paid to "take the bullet" for the chief executive.)
It is not uncommon for heads of state to have their own security detail with them when visiting another country -- whether or not that detail is ARMED is a matter for negotiation between the two countries involved.
@ Ed T.
Yes, they carry their own security forces. Bush generally has more than 250 armed guards with him. The question is not whether they should be allowed, but whether these guards should carry immunity from the laws of the country they are in.
FWIW the Secret Service has in fact shot and injured anti-Government citizens. Robert Pickett in Feb 2001 is a fairly good example because they tried to negotiate with him for a long time before finally shooting him in the leg to disable and disarm him. But again, note that they were acting under US laws and not with immunity.
Forgive me if this question has been asked before, but if "there is no white list" does that mean President Bush gets searched like everyone else when he enters a foreign country? If not, why not?
As others have pointed out, as long as some people can travel by private aircraft (for instance) there is a de facto white list. It seems the source of Prince Andrew's embarrassment was, in fact, his decision to travel by public transport with everyone else. However Mr Blair, who is of course much more important than any mere prince, would never - ever - be searched by anyone even when he does fly on scheduled flights.
As for plonkers and inbreeding, some people show a rather hysterical dislike of royalty which may not be justified by the facts. The British constitution has lasted a long time, and so far has proved one of the world's most stable and flexible ("no revolutions for over 300 years"). The monarch is an essential part of that constitution.
There is no white-list. Everyone is equal.
It's just that some are more equal than others.
Apply for security guard job
Irrespective of the furore over ones 'rights' and feelings of indignation at being classed as untrustworthy to enter a sterile area without being screened, the cold, hard, time proven fact remains that over the near three decades I have been in the airport security environment our teams daily remove from innocent travellers MANY hazardous goods. These items may be harmless in appearance and in every day use in the home or workplace that is the case.
But in a very unique environment which a high speed and sealed pressurised aircraft places it's occupants these seemingly 'harmless' items can be quite deadly.
Aircraft travel is deemed safe but it is not at all guaranteed as such.
My suggestion: research a few aircraft disasters brought about by contributing factors involving chemical problems, evacuation hazards, etc.
It's easy to be an arnchair or business class expert but I've met a few travellers over the years who have been on the flights that were hijacked or were involved in emergencies such as fire on board in flight. These passengers without exception stated their gratitude that we time consuming, bothersome screeners do what we do each day. And each day we are withstanding contempt, abuse and threats from the very people who claim to be the peaceful, innocent harmless passengers who tell us ad nauseum "This is rubbish".
Some few examples of what I have seen as carry on hand luggage and confiscated from passengers in our quiet part of the world are as follows - petrol filled chain saws (believe it or not, on Tasmanian flights at Ansett gates), bottle of sulphuric acid, cardboard box of bees, fireworks, loaded revolver, phial of mercury, camping stove fuel, gas cylinders, samurai swords.
It's an interesting debate, one I'd rather have in this forum than on board an aircraft with a hijacker or a rescuing fire fighter.
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