Within the past year, the Transportation Security Administration and Massport have introduced three new security features at Logan Airport to make checkpoints more effective and efficient: a new security line that allows some fliers — like pilots, the elderly, veterans, children, and pre-approved frequent fliers — to keep their shoes on and laptops in their bags; a hologram named Carla who explains security checkpoint rules to passengers waiting in line; and a new behavioral screening system that allows security officers to detect potential terrorists through a few easy questions asked at the checkpoints.
Only time will tell if each of these techniques works, but the spirit of innovation is welcome. One of the more frustrating aspects of life in the age of terrorism has been airport security’s game of catch-up with would-be terrorists. One by one, aspects of daily life — first shoes, then toiletries, and finally underwear — became subject to inspection after terrorists attempted to use each item to smuggle explosives onto planes. Each of these security measures may have been prudent, but the reactive way they were put in place left the impression that terrorists were always one step ahead of airport security.
The new measures at Logan offer an antidote. TSA and Massport should continue to tweak their security measures — trying out new features, keeping ones that prove to be successful, and eliminating ones that don’t. Some measures play out in unintended ways. For example, while adding behavioral detection officers to its security checkpoints has resulted in several arrests at Logan, many of those arrests have been related to illegal immigration, not terrorism.
Airports don’t need to become de facto deportation centers. Exploring new ways to keep airport security focused on terrorists would be prudent. Even though the new methods may take time to perfect, the public should show patience. Enhancing security actively, as opposed to reactively, is both the right thing for airports to do, and the more difficult. The public and the media must cultivate a culture that rewards that innovation. Ultimately, it will make traveling safer and more convenient.