No bottles containing more than 100 ml of liquid were allowed on board unless checked in, meaning passengers were forced to give up the holy water they had just collected at Lourdes. Many hoped to ferry the water back to sick relatives. Instead, dozens of plastic containers in the shape of the Madonna were left at security, while one man decided to drink all of his.
The spring at the sanctuary at Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in 1858, is famed for its miraculous healing powers and, every day, long lines of faithful wait to fill up containers.
As with those passengers, and all other passengers around the world who had to endure endless airport security theatrics, I have long suspected that these vexing measures, such as the confiscation of drinks and toiletries or the removal of shoes, are just go-through-the-motion policies that the airport security people impose on us to show that they are doing something, anything, in the War Against Terror™.
Bruce Schneier, a renowned security expert, had a conversation recently about that with Kip Hawley, US Head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Washington.
Bruce Schneier: By today's rules, I can carry on liquids in quantities of three ounces or less, unless they're in larger bottles. But I can carry on multiple three-ounce bottles. Or a single larger bottle with a non-prescription medicine label, like contact lens fluid. It all has to fit inside a one-quart plastic bag, except for that large bottle of contact lens fluid. And if you confiscate my liquids, you're going to toss them into a large pile right next to the screening station—which you would never do if anyone thought they were actually dangerous.
Can you please convince me there's not an Office for Annoying Air Travelers making this sort of stuff up?
Kip Hawley: Screening ideas are indeed thought up by the Office for Annoying Air Travelers and vetted through the Directorate for Confusion and Complexity, and then we review them to insure that there are sufficient unintended irritating consequences so that the blogosphere is constantly fueled. Imagine for a moment that TSA people are somewhat bright, and motivated to protect the public with the least intrusion into their lives, not to mention travel themselves. How might you engineer backwards from that premise to get to three ounces and a baggie?
We faced a different kind of liquid explosive, one that was engineered to evade then-existing technology and process. Not the old Bojinka formula or other well-understood ones—TSA already trains and tests on those. After August 10, we began testing different variants with the national labs, among others, and engaged with other countries that have sophisticated explosives capabilities to find out what is necessary to reliably bring down a plane.
We started with the premise that we should prohibit only what's needed from a security perspective. Otherwise, we would have stuck with a total liquid ban. But we learned through testing that that no matter what someone brought on, if it was in a small enough container, it wasn't a serious threat. So what would the justification be for prohibiting lip gloss, nasal spray, etc? There was none, other than for our own convenience and the sake of a simple explanation.
Based on the scientific findings and a don't-intrude-unless-needed-for-security philosophy, we came up with a container size that eliminates an assembled bomb (without having to determine what exactly is inside the bottle labeled "shampoo"), limits the total liquid any one person can bring (without requiring Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to count individual bottles), and allows for additional security measures relating to multiple people mixing a bomb post-checkpoint. Three ounces and a baggie in the bin gives us a way for people to safely bring on limited quantities of liquids, aerosols and gels.
Read the rest of this fascinating exchange here:[http://www.schneier.com/interview-hawley.html]