Fairfax has this scoop on aviation and shipping security recommendations this morning, which for many air travellers may provide a lesson in what happens when sincere intentions succumb to security hysteria.

The major issue will be compulsory showing of photo ID at airports.

Photo ID doesn’t necessarily do any of things claimed for it.

  • It doesn’t prove the identity of the holder
  • It doesn’t prove that the holder is a terrorist, or about to become one, and
  • It doesn’t prove that the holder doesn’t have a criminal record, is a tax evader, or is someone who should have a criminal record.

In fact tax evaders, criminals and drug users are legally entitled to travel by air, bus, train, bicycle, kayak and on foot anyhow.

Assuming the Fairfax story is correct these recommendations would push Australian transport security down the same slippery slope to insanity that visitors to the US are already familiar with.

It does however contain some good elements, in that it appears to involve shifting much of the activity away from the private security sector, which has been found wanting on a number of occasions, all of them leading to the compulsory evacuation of entire terminals because some illiterate fool can’t stop confused travellers entering through the exit doors, or avoid tripping over power cords and unplugging screening machines which are almost useless anyhow.

There are a number of other points to be made too:

There is no real capability by government, airports, shippers, truck companies or airlines to screen all freight containers or checked luggage for atom bombs, germ bombs, or just wicked combinations of acetone, chicken poo and ball bearings.

Similarly, there is no  real capability, never mind will, to extend such measures to sporting stadiums, rock concerts, underground railway stations, popular parks, road tunnels, shopping malls and so forth.

The point is that the focus on introducing flawed measures to the high visibility transport totems offered by airports and air travellers is useless.

What is not useless is a continued investment in policing intelligence, intuitive actions, and appropriate profiling.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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