It was my misfortune recently to have to pass through security at Suvarnabhumi airport twice in the space of a couple of hours or so. (Oh, how I love the long, slow moving queues!) Now, to get to security I have an option: take the left escalator or the right one. The first time time I took my usual route up the left escalator. Being very much a thrill seeker, on the second occasion I took the right escalator, expecting the experience to be the same. It wasn’t.

Left escalator: take off belt, but keep shoes on, pass through a metal detector.

Right escalator: take off both belt and shoes, step into a perspex tube which closes around you, and raise your arms.

I presume the perspex tube was to detect BO, in which case any terrorist with a personal hygiene problem and a shoe bomb would best be advised to take the left escalator.

My initial thoughts were: why the difference in procedures and (inherently) level of security? But then I thought: what’s the point?

Take off your shoes? There has never been a successful shoe bombing in the history of aviation.

Take off your belt? There has never been a successful shoe bombing in the history of aviation.

There has been a successful bum bombing (albeit not in the air), with the explosive device secreted in the bomber’s behind. In fact, so successful was the technique that Wahabi scholars have apparently issued a fatwah permitting future would be bombers to be well-and-truly buggered for the purpose of widening their would be bomb holders in the furtherance of jihad. If the authorities were serious about passenger security, surely they would ask all passengers to drop their trousers/lift their skirts, then bend over to have a torch shone where the sun never shines, rather than ask them to shed their shoes and belts.

Perhaps even more ridiculous is the continuance of “Duty Free”. On 9/11 (never sure why we call it that, given that it happened in September, not on November 9th) the hijackers were armed with box cutters. Quite frankly, a broken bottle of spirits makes a more formidable weapon than your average box cutter. (It also strikes me as ludicrous that in first class, the customers can have metal eating irons, yet in cattle class they have to make do with flimsy plastic knives barely able to cut an overcooked potato. As if a fanatic planning on bringing down an aeroplane with a spoon and fork would baulk at the cost of a first class ticket to have access to the implements of death.)

Of course, airport security isn’t really about security: it’s about creating a climate of fear, about making certain business owners very wealthy, about reminding the proles they are impotent in the face of authority.

So, it’s all security theatre. In fact, I can be more precise: it’s security farce.


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