The New York Times writes:
Despite the increased scrutiny of people and luggage on passenger planes since 9/11, there are far fewer safeguards for packages and bundles, particularly when loaded on cargo-only planes.
Well, of course. We’ve always known this. We’ve not worried about terrorism on cargo planes because it isn’t very terrorizing. Packages aren’t people. If a passenger plane blows up, it affects a couple of hundred people. If a cargo plane blows up, it just affects the crew.
Cargo that is loaded on to passenger planes should be subjected to the same level of security as passenger luggage. Cargo that is loaded onto cargo planes should be treated no differently from cargo loaded into ships, trains, trucks, and the trunks of cars.
Of course: now that the media is talking about cargo security, we have to “do something.” (Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.) But if we’re so scared that we have to devote resources to this kind of terrorist threat, we’ve well and truly lost.
EDITED TO ADD (10/30): The plot—it’s still unclear how serious it was—wasn’t uncovered by any security screening, but by intelligence gathering:
Intelligence officials were onto the suspected plot for days, officials said. The packages in England and Dubai were discovered after Saudi Arabian intelligence picked up information related to Yemen and passed it on to the U.S., two officials said.
This is how you fight through terrorism: not by defending against specific threats, but through intelligence, investigation, and emergency response.
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