Now that U.S. mask requirements on planes have generally been lifted, some people are starting to realize that not all restrictions are permanent and that at a minimum we should be doing cost-benefit analysis … and that much of the security theater we engage in wouldn’t pass critical scrutiny.
My immediate concern is the testing requirement for travel to the U.S. It’s time to end that, because there’s no public health justification for it. A Covid case on a plane isn’t that different than a Covid case somewhere else. Testing didn’t keep Omicron or other variants out of the country. Hospital ICU capacity isn’t being taxed by Covid cases the way it was during much of the pandemic.
But what benefit are we really seeing from taking shoes off at airport security, or dropping bottles of water in trash bins next to the security checkpoint? If those liquids were actually considered a risk by the TSA itself they’d have crew in hazmat suits handling the liquids, leaving the bottles piled up next to crowded security lines.
We’re still going to keep taking our shoes off at TSA checkpoints forever though? Just to be safe?
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) April 19, 2022
Also occasional reminder that if you're actually worried about catching covid you can wear a p100 to reduce the chance to basically zero.
— Misha Gurevich, Futurist (@drethelin) April 19, 2022
Can we ___-and-relax on all the other airport security measures (take off shoes + sweater, take out phone + wallet + laptop, also the on-plane safety videos) at some point? I would bet they save fewer lives per unit inconvenience than mask mandates do.
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) April 19, 2022
With PreCheck – and indeed CLEAR – security is often less of a hassle for me. I don’t take my shoes off, take my laptop out, or remove my Freedom Baggie of liquids from my carry on bag. Sure, I have to buy an overpriced bottle of water landside (or fill up an empty bottle at a hydration station, though many of those were turned off during the pandemic) but the inconvenience on me is slight, and as an international traveler I’m more concerned about the hassle of testing to fly.
But most travel is domestic travel, and most travelers go through greater hassle at the checkpoint. There’s more life-years wasted waiting at security. In fact over 19,000 life years, equivalent to 242 full lives have been wasted taking off shoes and putting them back on for the TSA. Richard Reid may have won in the end.
We haven’t seen shoe bombings used against other targets in the U.S. that lack a shoe screening requirement. TSA accidentally filed a security assessment in court documents in 2013 revealing that “as of mid-2011, terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports.” And the TSA found in 2013 that “there have been no attempted domestic hijackings of any kind in the 12 years since 9/11.”
Of course none of our long-standing security theater is going to change. Meanwhile Covid-19 cases are going to rise in the U.S. in the next few weeks, which they were going to do anyway (and was already starting to do before the mask mandate was lifted). Some people will blame that on the end of the transportation mask mandate, and it won’t matter to them that they’re wrong.