Last week, I got a bunch of press calls about Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, who flew from New York to Los Angeles using an expired ticket in someone else’s name and a university ID. They all wanted to know what this says about airport security.
It says that airport security isn’t perfect, and that people make mistakes. But it’s not something that anyone should worry about. It’s not like Noibi figured out a new hole in the airport security system, one that he was able to exploit repeatedly. He got lucky. He got real lucky. It’s not something a terrorist can build a plot around.
I’m even less concerned because I’ve never thought the photo ID check had any value. Noibi was screened, just like any other passenger. Even the TSA blog makes this point:
In this case, TSA did not properly authenticate the passenger’s documentation. That said, it’s important to note that this individual received the same thorough physical screening as other passengers, including being screened by advanced imaging technology (body scanner).
Seems like the TSA is regularly downplaying the value of the photo ID check. This is from a Q&A about Secure Flight, their new system to match passengers with watch lists:
Q: This particular “layer” isn’t terribly effective. If this “layer” of security can be circumvented by anyone with a printer and a word processor, this doesn’t seem to be a terribly useful “layer” … especially looking at the amount of money being expended on this particular “layer”. It might be that this money could be more effectively spent on other “layers”.
A: TSA uses layers of security to ensure the security of the traveling public and the Nation’s transportation system. Secure Flight’s watchlist name matching constitutes only one security layer of the many in place to protect aviation. Others include intelligence gathering and analysis, airport checkpoints, random canine team searches at airports, federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers and more security measures both visible and invisible to the public.
Each one of these layers alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack. In combination their security value is multiplied, creating a much stronger, formidable system. A terrorist who has to overcome multiple security layers in order to carry out an attack is more likely to be pre-empted, deterred, or to fail during the attempt.
Yes, the answer says that they need to spend millions to ensure that terrorists with a viable plot also need a computer, but you can tell that their heart wasn’t in the answer. “Checkpoints! Dogs! Air marshals! Ignore the stupid photo ID requirement.”
Noibi is an embarrassment for the TSA and for the airline Virgin America, who are both supposed to catch this kind of thing. But I’m not worried about the security risk, and neither is the TSA.
Posted on July 6, 2011 at 5:53 AM •