Infants on the Terrorist Watch List
Imagine you’re in charge of airport security. You have a watch list of terrorist names, and you’re supposed to give anyone on that list extra scrutiny. One day someone shows up for a flight whose name is on that list. They’re an infant.
What do you do?
If you have even the slightest bit of sense, you realize that an infant can’t be a terrorist. So you let the infant through, knowing that it’s a false alarm. But if you have no flexibility in your job, if you have to follow the rules regardless of how stupid they are, if you have no authority to make your own decisions, then you detain the baby.
EDITED TO ADD: I know what the article says about the TSA rules:
The Transportation Security Administration, which administers the lists, instructs airlines not to deny boarding to children under 12—or select them for extra security checks—even if their names match those on a list.
Whether the rules are being followed or ignored is besides my point. The screener is detaining babies because he thinks that’s what the rules require. He’s not permitted to exercise his own common sense.
Security works best when well-trained people have the authority to make decisions, not when poorly-trained people are slaves to the rules (whether real or imaginary). Rules provide CYA security, but not security against terrorism.
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