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AIR SECURITY: We must get ahead

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After all the worries and media speculation surrounding new, intensified passenger screening procedures at U.S. airports, it seems very few problems were encountered during the Thanksgiving holiday - which just happens to be the busiest air travel time period of the year. That, however, doesn't necessarily mean the Transportation Security Administration has found its security answer.

Far from it.

The full-body X-ray scans and intimate pat-downs at airport security stations are invasive. They can be embarrassing. They certainly can be time-consuming for travelers. But these increased measures do provide an extra layer of security for air travel and that is important. Also, travelers themselves reportedly felt safer - which is just an added benefit.

But even with these increased measures, is air travel significantly safer? Most experts will tell us no, for the simple reason that the TSA is reacting to threats instead of heading-off threats. There is a significant difference.

These new procedures were put into place in response to previous attempts at terrorism - either in this country or abroad. And it is certainly a positive step that the TSA has recognized those attempts and is responding to them.

But while the TSA devises better ways to stop previous threats, the terrorists are always looking for new ways to strike at America. Forget the box cutters and shoe bombs, the bad guys are simply searching for ways to make an end-run around America's security forces.

When and if they do find the end-run, will the TSA - or whatever authoritative branch of the government is being targeted - be ready? Or will America still be responding to old threats?

Air travel will never be completely safe. We could force passengers to fly naked and with no bags and there are still no guarantees. The terrorists are determined and determination is hard to stop. But we can be prepared - and that means being  one step ahead of the terrorists instead of one-step behind.

And it means targeting potential terrorists by their actions (not race profiling), instead of searching Granny and her artificial hip. Staying diligent and ahead is the key to safe travels.




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