February 24, 2011


Let's get serious about airport security
Bob Poe | Feb 22, 2011
In the '80s, I was probably the worst racquetball player in Juneau, Alaska. The way I played racquetball is a lot like the way the United States, and now apparently Canada, are practicing airport screening. In short, I always reacted to where the ball was, not where it was going. Good racquetball players anticipate where the ball will be next. 

Recently, I visited with a young man who emigrated from Israel to Canada, where he is now CEO of a security company based on a very different approach. His argument is effective security is based on a discipline of constantly anticipating where the threats are trending, not where they have been. Airport security based on a reactive, politically correct, mollification of public concern to what has happened does us no good. Rather, airport screening needs to be based on an intelligent anticipation of where threats are going to come from next. 

Now, admittedly, I know nothing about national security, but I’m pretty sure Alaska Representative Sharon Cissna does not represent a national security threat. Nor has she ever harbored the thought of bringing something aboard an aircraft that would endanger her fellow passengers, the crew, or national security. Recently, breast cancer survivor Sharon Cissna was invasively searched, after a full body scan mind you, at the airport in Seattle, because her prosthetic breast raised the concern of airport screeners. As a personal decision she chose to take a three-day ferry ride to return to Juneau rather than subject herself to further embarrassment from a full body pat down. I know Ms. Cissna, and my guess is she never raised the point she was an elected Representative in Alaska, and if you’ve ever met her, you know she doesn’t possess a threatening bone in her body. 

I’m married to a breast cancer survivor. Together we’ve been through this experience. I know the pain, humiliation, disfigurement and emotional challenge my wife continues to experience. Sharon Cissna, as do more women than we realize, has been through this challenge. The wonderful news is they are still alive today, when decades ago they would not have survived this tragic disease. We forget many don’t; our sister-in-law just succumbed to breast cancer after nine years of fighting this tough disease. This is where it brings it home for me. 

But breast cancer aside, America’s common sense in airport security has been lost for some time. Big news, the U. S. is now considering doing away with code Orange because it serves no useful purpose. Really? When was the last time you based your travel plans on whether the nation’s airports were under some color-coded threat? 

When the full-body scan machines became a point of national debate, most travelers in the U.S. and Canada said they were willing to submit themselves to yet another indignity in the interest of overall safety. My wife and I were among them. If these machines ferret out the next underwear bomber, the TSA can look at my body scan all day long if they really need to, but really, Sharon Cissna? The same thing happened recently to a seventy-something woman at the Calgary airport. Where does this end? 

One of the reasons Americans were supportive of the TSA is that passengers would no longer be subjected to the whims and other antics of private contractors. The TSA would be a professional government program that would constantly keep the security of the travelling public as their highest priority. 

The TSA has many good managers -- I personally know some of them. But if they don’t get focused on this needless, insensitive, abusive embarrassment of our travelling public, support for these more invasive screening technologies will quickly wane. 

Common sense is neither; it’s not very common and there aren’t very many people practicing it. So when airport security’s screening of Representative Cissna at the SeaTac airport was so aggressive that she chose to take a three-day ferry ride to Alaska rather than travel by air, something needs to be changed. 


Bob Poe has had a 28-year career in both the Alaska private and public sectors, including serving four governors in top posts at the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, Alaska Energy Authority, Alaska Department of Transportation and Alaska International Trade. He ran as a Democrat in the 2010 gubernatorial election and left the race prior to the primary. 

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail 



Anonymous said...

Link doesn't work for me.

Mule Breath said...

jeg, there are no links embedded in the story. A link to the Dispatch article is: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/lets-get-serious-about-airport-security

montag said...

Security is not the goal, selling overpriced dysfunctional equipment is the point. It's hard work getting rich by doing it right.

Anonymous said...

Dragging my pointer thingy over the Alaska Dispatch at the head of the article acted like a link - that was the one I referred to.
Thanks for giving it me in comments.

Mule Breath said...

Ah, I wondered if that might not be the link in question. The photo is embedded and the link just takes you to the root.

I probably should have included the links at the end of the story. Sorry about that.