Airport security is important in the post 9/11 era. This paper will examine if the current framework of airport security and safety measures are effective. The discussion will explore a number of different measures in place, which include: (i) the interests of security of passengers and national security; (ii) the rights of passengers; (iii) the factors that are deemed important to passengers when there will be an erosion of civil liberties; and (iv) the 21 layers of security developed by the Transport Security Administration.
The paper explores the existing framework of security through identification of key area of literature. This will be supported by the consideration of some core concepts that are identified as important to the development of an airport safety and security framework. These concepts are proportionality, co-operation and effectiveness. It is illustrated in this paper that the main failure of the current airport security model is that it is fragmented with unnecessary overlapping layers of security. Therefore, it is argued that a streamlined framework is necessary to ensure the best possible airport and airline safety and security framework in the USA.
In today’s mobile and global society more and more people are traveling for both business and pleasure. In addition, today’s society has become more and more violent as demonstrated through actions such as the September 11th terrorist attacks by airplane, the homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon, and the most recent bombing attack in Volgorad, Russia.
With this being said, security measures have been stepped up around the globe in many capacities. This is especially true at airports since the tragedy of September 11th is the most destructive terrorist attack in world history and the weapon of choice was airplanes (History, n.d.).
This attacked caused the creation of the Transportation Security Agency in the United States which became responsible for transportation safety, with the main focus being on airport security. This agency is the group responsible for shoe removal, banning of liquids in carry-on luggage, explosive sniffing dogs in airports, and the most recent and controversial body scans (Transportation Security Administration, 2013).
These measures could be classified as both proactive and reactionary. They are reactionary in that it took a terrorist attack in order for these security measures to be implemented. However, they are also proactive in that they have the purpose of preventing anyone from carrying anything dangerous on an airplane.
As will be evidenced in the review of the literature, it is imperative that proactive measures continue to be the focus of airport security. These measures are what keep passengers and crew safe. While being reactionary make improvements for the future, it is necessary to continue forward thinking in terms of airport security so as to avoid the need to be reactionary.
Airport Security and the Terrorist Threat:
Airport security has become one of the most important areas of challenge when assessing terrorist threats in the 21st Century because the airways have been one of the core areas that have been focused upon (Blalock et al, 2007). The approaches to air security measures differ because airport specific baggage searches has had a negative effect on airport volume; whereas, the same negative effect has not been seen in Federal passenger screening measures (Blalock et al, 2007). The implication is that it is necessary to develop effective programs that meet the specific targeting issues that are associated with threats that were identified in the post 9/11 era (Blalock et al, 2007).
The rationale of enhanced passenger screening is that this is where the danger lies, as opposed to certain elements of baggage measures that increase the times to access the airports and are arguably without sufficient support of reducing the threat to the airways (Blalock et al, 2007). The fact that the distinguishing measures between airport specific and Federal approach have had a differential impact illustrate that there needs to be balance between security protections and the ease that an individual can engage in air travel. This means that air travelers recognize that security measures are necessary to reduce the risk of terrorism and crime on the airways (Blalock et al, 2007).
Nevertheless, the measures have to be proportionate and have a legitimate purpose. If there is not a legitimate purpose then there will be a situation where there will not be support for these measures, which can cause resentment against the enhancement measures (Blalock et al, 2007). The result of this is that there will be a reduced use of the facility and alternative means engaged. The second issue that is highlighted is that alternative measures and modes of transport will be used by terrorism, which can be seen in vehicle targeting and the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Therefore, the use of intelligence is important because it will ensure that there are better tracking methods on persons of interest through whatever form of travel that is used (i.e. passenger screening) (Blalock et al, 2007).
The Enforcement of Airport Security:
Airport security measures, as most will argue, have an important purpose. The question is who is the correct party to put these measures in place and enforce them? Traditionally in the USA, this responsibility has been that of the airlines (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). It is this factor, which has been identified as the basis for the targets being focused in the USA and not Europe (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003).
The 9/11 attacks would not have been plausible in some states, such as Germany, where the government was in control of security and not the airlines (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). The main benefit that is present in state governance of airport security measures is that there is uniformity, as well as a fully integrated intelligence service with national and border police forces (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). This can be linked back to the US attitudes that are more supportive of the Federal passenger screening measures as opposed to the differential baggage measures (Blalock et al, 2007). The former, in its consistency, ensures that there is a clear rationale for the passenger (Blalock et al, 2007). The differential approaches to baggage requirements and screening make less sense because there is a lack of consistency (Blalock et al, 2007). The inference is that the development of proportional Federal measures can be identified as a more appropriate framework.
Proportionate Security Measures:
In the interests of not only national, but international security, it has been recognized that a Federal system is more effective because there is consistency and ability to share intelligence (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). Consistency and the passing of intelligence is identified as the core success of the European systems (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). This means that it is necessary that the security measures are retained, as opposed to giving into re-privatization pressures due to the falling passenger rates (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003).
In fact, it is highlighted by Blalock et al (2007) there is a lesser effect on passenger numbers in Federal measures than local baggage measures. This means that the Federal security measures, especially passenger screening should be retained (Blalock et al, 2007). Another important factor that needs to be recognized is that there should be such standards for baggage screening also. The role of consistency will infer that there is a truly proportional measure, as opposed to unwarranted invasiveness (Blalock et al, 2007). Unwarranted invasiveness is a core factor that has to be considered because if the measures do not have a proportional purpose then there will be a negative effect that can threaten the stability of the airline industry (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The different approaches to security may go into overkill and do not provide the appropriate cost-effectiveness because there is not full consideration of the purpose of the specific measures (Stewart & Mueller, 2013).
The TSA’s 21 Layers of Security:
The Transport Security Administration (TSA) has identified 21 layers of security, which have been identified as including both cost-effective and non-cost-effective measures (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The 21 layers of security measures set forward by the TSA include: (i) intelligence; (ii) international partnerships; (iii) customs and border protection; and (iv) joint terrorism task force (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The first four elements of the four layers are intelligence based, which are generally supported and seen as cost-effective (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The next layers are immediate screening measures of individuals that are flying. These layers include: (v) the no-ﬂy list and passenger prescreening; (vi) crew vetting; (vii) visible Intermodal Protection Response Teams; (viii) specially trained detection canines; (ix) specially trained behavioral detection ofﬁcers; (x) travel document checkers; and (xi) checkpoint/transportation security ofﬁcers (TSOs) (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). These elements are important, because they provide the link to the intelligence checks that have been developed (i.e. the intelligence plus these pre-flight checks are preventative, as opposed to reactionary).
There are a number of problems that arise with some layers that may be seen as less consistent and may overkill. For example, (xii) the obligations with checked and unchecked baggage (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). In addition, (xiii) transportation security inspectors may be hard to distinguish from TSOs and other screening officers that are present. The more fragmented the layers, the more difficult it can be to identify the cost effectiveness of the additional layer (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). However, additional layers, such as (xiv) random employee screening; and (xv) bomb appraisal ofﬁcers. These obligations indicate that it is necessary to ensure that passengers alone are not screened, but also employees and the general public and other persons that may enter the airport (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The implication is that cost effectiveness of security measures may need different levels and may overlap, but it is essential that additional layers have a clearly identified purpose.
One of the most debated areas of the layers of security are inflight measures (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). These measures include: (xvi) passenger resistance; (xvii) trained ﬂight crew; and (xviii) hardened cockpit doors (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). These measures are identified as the most effective, because they provide an application that is based upon security measures to ensure that the airplane has safety measures in place to prevent hijacking and appropriate resistance (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). There are three additional elements that are present, which are (xix) Federal Air Marshalls (FAMs); (xx) law enforcement officers; and (xxi) Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs). These three elements seem to unnecessarily overlap with each other, which indicate that there is a framework in place that does not delineate between the different roles that these individuals play (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). For example, FAMs are seen as non-cost effective, especially when there are potentially other player on board (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The implication is that it is necessary to develop a singular team to ensure that there is a framework in place to strategically implement a cost-effective monitoring of the airways (Stewart & Mueller, 2013).
Proportionality in Safety and Security Measures:
The impact of the security measures have to be fully understood because they are invasive into the rights and freedoms of the users of airports and airlines (Blalock et al, 2007). This means that a tradeoff is present, which has to be sufficiently justified (Bruck et al, 2010). The justification to airline users means that it is necessary to ensure that the measures are cost effective without unnecessary incursions into the rights and liberties of airline users (Bruck et al, 2010). The links between the freedoms of individuals, cost-effectiveness and proportionate security responses are inextricably linked. The requirement to have a proportionate response to civil liberties ensures that the most effective measures are in place. The 21 layers of airport security highlight the problems that are present with the current framework, because security has become ineffective (Stewart & Mueller, 2013).
In addition, by having too many layers of security there will be a framework that needs to be developed that brings together cost effectiveness, the security of the airways and airports and the rights of airport and airline users (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The development of new technology can be a route to ensure that a better security framework is in place. The use of body scanners in the UK has been identified as a cost-effective and acceptable route of ensuring airline and airport security (Mitchener-Nissen et al, 2012). Mitchener-Nissen et al (2012) highlight that in a study with airline passengers, there is a preference to a full body scan than a pat down and other measures. Although, the full body scan may be collecting more information and data from the individual (i.e. it is more invasive). It is seen as more preferable because there is not actual physical invasiveness (Mitchener-Nissen et al, 2012). Consequently, the use of new methods that are based on intelligence or investigation of the individual at an arm’s length then there is greater acceptance of the measures (Mitchener-Nissen et al, 2012).
If one considers the role of multiple approaches to bag searches and scanning and then links it to the preferred approach of body scanning then it can be identified that there needs to be consistency, in order to ensure that the least invasive method is taken (Blalock et al, 2007). The 21 layers of TSA indicate that the move towards checked baggage is preferred because it allows security checks when the traveler is not present. The problem is that checked baggage has limits and costs to the passenger, which means if there are to be limitations to carry-on luggage then the allowances and costs of checked-in luggage would have to be considered. Security measures should not be limiting the rights of the passenger or resulting in exorbitant costs (Blalock et al, 2007).
Bruck et al (2010) indicate that there needs to be proportionality in security measures because simply implementing numerous layers of security will not necessarily increase security. In fact, there can be a net reduction in the security protections (Bruck et al, 2010). The over-investment in airport security measures is clearly an area where this is such a problem. This is seen in the 21 layers developed by the TSA, which indicates that it is important to ensure that there is framework in place that engages with smart security and not simply implementing layers in the hope that it will increase airport and airline protections (Bruck et al, 2010). The inference that is present is there is a framework in place that is not enhancing security of airlines. In fact, without proportionality there can be degradation of the security measures (Stewart & Mueller, 2013). The best approach to ascertaining the appropriateness of security protections is that there is a net cost-analysis framework. The net cost-analysis framework will engage with a number of stakeholders to determine if the measures are in fact increasing protection whilst engaging with passengers to ascertain if the particular measure is to invasive (Mitchener-Nissen et al, 2012).
Why is Proportionality Important to Security Measures:
The impact on the passenger has to be carefully considered because it is an important indicator on how the security measures will impact on the airline industry (Mitchener-Nissen et al, 2012). The important factor to remember is that the passenger is seeking safe air passage, which means if the activity is proportionate then the passenger will be happy to subject his/herself to some security invasions. However, if the passenger deems that there is a more appropriate approach, or if there is lack of consistency then the security measures may negatively impact on the use of the airport (Blalock et al, 2007; Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). It is important to remember that there are elements of the US security measures that are locally determined by the airport (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). The result of this is that these airports will be negatively affected, which will mean that other airports will be chosen for greater ease of access (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003).
The problem that arises is that the ease of access of the airport may mean that there is not sufficient protections in place (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). This means that it is important to develop uniform obligations, in order to ensure that this consistency provides the passenger a feeling of security in the measures themselves and their own liberties and freedoms (Hainmuller & Lemnitzer, 2003). Liberty and the rights of individuals have been significantly encroached upon in the post 9/11 era, especially in airports (Bruck et al, 2010). This in itself is not a negative occurrence, especially when there is the potential that there will be increased safety in the airways. However, by having too many layers that undermine the effectiveness of intelligence or to focus on a reactionary basis will mean that the security protections are undermined on three levels. These three levels are: (i) there are too many measures in place, which undermines their effectiveness; (ii) the measures are placing too much cost on the passenger, both on the rights of the individual and monetarily; and (iii) the measures are not consistent because certain elements, such as baggage screening, are locally based. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that there is fair and balanced approach to security measures, which are consistent and cost-effective. The cost effectiveness has to be based upon both a civil liberties and monetary basis.
To summarize, the literature highlights that airport security is important. However, these measures have to be cost-effective. Those measures that are proactive and least invasive are the most cost-effective to the passenger. It is recommended that there is streamlining of the measures through the TSA’s layers of security because the layers are undermining the effectiveness and proactive nature of the protections. In addition, if there are technologically equal or more effective measures in place that is the least invasive choice then they should be employed because the passenger will accept this is an acceptable invasion into his/her privacy and civil liberties. Therefore, although airline security measures are important, it is necessary that these measures are certain and proactive.
Security and safety measures in airports and on airlines have to be proportionate and have a clearly delineated rationale, otherwise, there will be a systemic failure to have passengers to cooperate. The cooperation of passengers is necessary, in order to ensure that there is acceptance of the actions that will invade into the individual’s privacy. Cooperation will be determined on the time effect, cost and the level of invasion that the passenger is subjected to. For example, the body scanner can be a more effective manner in examining individual passengers with the individual not feeling overly invaded. Another particular problem that is identifiable with the airline and safety measures is how they impact on the passenger’s right to travel. The use of arm’s length intelligence techniques can be deemed as particularly beneficial. However, there may be a particular problem if there are too many overlapping safety and security measures in the airport. The inference is that there needs to be a streamlined model.
The streamlining of security measures can come in many forms, which includes a single agency or co-operative model that applies the same standards in all airports. There is too much diversity in US airports, which would benefit from a single Federal framework. This does not mean that the Federal Government will have to manage all airport security. The privatized model of US airports is important, which means that cost effectiveness is essential. Consequently, it is necessary to provide a set of Guidelines, in order to maintain the common set of standards. However, one the problems is that there is too much overlap in the 21 layers of the TSA, which is especially highlighted with respect to the on-board measures. This is enhanced by the issue that there are different agencies at play. Thus, it is necessary that all the interested agencies and the commercial voices of airports to create a streamlined set of layers (i.e. is 21 layers really necessary).
Airports may be concerned with a set of guidelines because capacity differs, as well as the type of aircraft and routes that are facilitated. These guidelines need to be flexible enough to cater for small local airports, which are private or only fly local commercial routes, and the large international airport. Collaboration with commercial airport representatives is necessary when redeveloping the TSA’s layers of security. Another important area of collaboration will be passenger representative groups, which consists of civil liberty and pro-security lobbyists. Therefore, it is essential that security of airports is reconsidered, because the current framework is too cumbersome and may be unduly harming the rights of passengers as well as undermining the security framework itself.
- Blalock, G, Kadiyali, V & Simon, DH. (2007). The Impact of Post 9/11 Airport Security Measures on the Demand for Air Travel. Journal of Law and Economics Vol. 50, pp. 731
- Hainmuller, J & Lemnitzer, JM. (2003) Why do Europeans Fly Safer? The Politics of Airport Security in Europe and the US. Terrorism and Political Violence Vol 15, pp. 1
- History (n.d.). 9/11 attacks. Retrieved January 15, 2014, from http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-attacks
- Mitchener-Nissen, T, Bowers, K & Chetty, K. (2012). Public Attitudes to Airport Security: The Case of Whole Body Scanners. Security Journal Vol 25, pp. 229
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- Tilman Brück, Olaf J. de Groot, Neil T.N. Ferguson (2014), Measuring Security, in Raul Caruso, Andrea Locatelli (ed.) Understanding Terrorism: A Socio-economic Perspective (Contributions to Conflict Management, Peace Economics and Development, Volume 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.69-95
- Transportation Security Administration (2013). About tsa. Retrieved January 15, 2014, from http://www.tsa.gov/about-tsa