The announcement of the end of the farcical ban on liquids, aerosols and gels at international airports in Australia by 2013 leaves a number of difficult questions unanswered.

Such as, what happens when the new liquid explosives detecting scanners reveal that a person is carrying a litre of nitro-gylcerine or a half kilo of plastic explosives in their carry-on or vest?

Our airport security processes, designed by morons, pack people into screening queues that are the natural target of terrorists. Not the aircraft. The screening.

Does the screener suddenly make a bolt for the the nearest door? Is there a mass stampede? How do you remove that person from the confines of the check point to custody? The answer in some places is apparently a sharp shooter, yet that raises terrible risks too. The truth is that airports, and other places of public congregation cannot be protected from acts of terrorism, and the only real security improvements are those of lifting the general community awareness of risk and the reporting of suspicion circumstances, and police intelligence that closes down a threat before it turns up at a target.

Save up to 50% on a year of Crikey

Choose what you pay, from $99.

Sign up now

It is only when the public realises that they are not made more secure by silly theatrics at airports that it becomes possible for the authorities to better mobilise individual responsibility for keeping transport and entertainment infrastructure as safe from terrorism as possible.

This is essentially what happened in the late 60s and 70s at the height of the horrors of Black September, the IRA and the Red Army Faction. Life went on, but it went on more carefully than it does today, with its mindless ritualistic implementation of scanning processes and equipment that are the outputs of an industry that feeds on paranoia and the political leveraging of public perceptions.

There is another question, one of honesty and transparency, that this reporter has raised several times with the various authorities, as to what really happens to seized bottles of champagne, expensive perfumes and in another context, Swiss Army knives, sharp work place tools and so forth.

Where is the itemised proof that the confiscated goods were indeed destroyed, or consigned to land fill, or incinerated, rather than as widely suspected, sometimes appropriated by security personnel?

The idea that the state can order the confiscation of individual property for security purposes is supportable. But the failure to prove the destruction of that property is insupportable.

The questions were never answered, clearly because once the goods were taken, accountability capable of verification ceases.

 

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.

Jess
Singapore

Join us and save up to 50%

Subscribe before June 30 and choose what you pay for a year of Crikey. Save up to 50% or, chip in extra and get one of our limited edition Crikey merch packs.

Join Now