Airport safety more important than travelers’ inconveniences


    Traveling is usually stressful. Punctuated often by delays, missed flights and the hustle of weary nomads, airports provide anything but solace. Many would view increased security precautions merely as added hassle and hardly worth it. But the protection of countless people is of greater importance than bypassing a few safety provisions.Confused and harried air travelers are supposedly faced with tightened security and longer lines since the foil of a would-be terrorist attack just more than one week ago. However, the precautions being taken are not only inadequate, but unduly focused on traveler convenience.

    The conspirators of the terminated attack had planned to use liquid explosives disguised as ordinary liquids, such as beverages, and detonate them with items made to look like everyday electronic devices. The intended result was to be the explosion of multiple planes traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States.

    “The motto has to be, ‘Better safe than sorry,'” said Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I agree.

    So why, a week ago Sunday, was my mom permitted to board a plane at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport carrying both a cell phone and a digital camera enclosed in a thick, black leather purse? Such items clearly qualify as everyday electronic devices.

    In the United Kingdom, virtually all carry-on luggage has been banned. Only a few and very specific personal items will be permitted, and the bag used to contain such items must be “ideally transparent” plastic. On top of the rigid limitations placed upon what may be carried on board, every passenger will be hand-searched.

    In contrast, U.S. passengers face much lesser limitations. Only liquids and gels are restricted from carry-ons. Despite early rumors, electronics, such as cell phones and laptops, are still being permitted aboard the seating area of the airplane.

    I am aware that, as much of a hassle it may be to have to discard beverages and toiletries, it is an even bigger nuisance to be without a cell phone immediately available when traveling across the country.

    But we need to look past that. Pay phones are not obsolete. People have traveled without cell phones for years before they were first marketed to the public in the 1980s. We are overly concerned about being inconvenienced, when what should concern us most is the safety of our nation and the threat that this potential attack has imposed.

    On “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Chertoff said, “We would have seen a disaster on a scale comparable to 9/11, with hundreds, maybe thousands, of people being killed.”

    The repercussions of such a dangerous crisis should not be taken lightly. It is foolish and cocky not to increase precautions simply because of inconvenience. It wasn’t our stellar security systems that stopped the attack from occurring -it was an insider tip.

    Most liquid explosives cannot even be detected by the screening tests currently protecting U.S. airports, according to a recent issue of USA Today. So what makes us think we can distinguish all other means and methods of airport attacks? Since both liquids and electronics were to be employed as weapons in this mass murder plot, both should also be banned as carry-on items.

    Terrorists are trained to find loopholes, and by shying away from proactive behavior, we are only increasing their chances of success. We should never underestimate our enemies.

    Being a frequent traveler, and an unlucky one at that, I know what it means to depend on a cell phone to get from point A to point B. I also know how much faster a flight seems to go with the aid of an MP3 player. But the luxury of having personal electronics handy during air travel is one that could and should be relinquished for the sake of preventing more threats on the safety of our country.

    “You have to think where the terrorists will go next after you (knock) down one approach,” said Jimmie Oxley, a chemistry professor at the University of Rhode Island.

    It may be an annoyance, but checking your electronics instead of carrying them on is well worth the protection of thousands of people against a potential horrific tragedy.

    After all, “better safe than sorry.”

    Opinion editor Jordan Cohen is a sophomore English major from Lewisville, N.C.