What are reasonable and unreasonable security measures

As the United States gradually attempts to return to business as usual following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some of the security measures still in place make more sense than others.

Locally, we can point to restrictions on the Carson City Airport that have dragged on longer than should be reasonably expected. In fact, "reasonable" is a good word to consider when examining the long list of precautions being taken.

We understand the "better safe than sorry" philosophy behind the widespread restrictions. But grounding crop-dusters, for example, because of the possibility of using small planes for biological or chemical attacks seemed pretty far-fetched.

In Washington, D.C., Reagan National Airport remains closed - despite the fact other airports are operating within a few air minutes of the White House.

Now, many are calling for the federal government to take over air-travel security, rather than the airlines themselves.

To us, this falls into the "unreasonable" category, and the continuation of a trend putting responsibility for our safety somewhere other than with those who stand to gain or lose most by it.

The airline industry is receiving a $15 billion bailout package signed by President Bush to compensate for massive losses caused by Americans' fear they aren't safe to fly.

The airlines' lax security measures, we presume, were a major contributor to the terrorist attacks. A report by the federal General Accounting Office showed airport screeners hired by the airlines failed to detect 20 percent of dangerous objects hidden in baggage by inspectors.

In one infamous incident, screeners failed to detect a 6-inch hunting knife carried by a passenger on a San Francisco-Seattle flight until the man took off his shirt and socks and began cleaning his nails with it.

The airlines had little incentive to increase security before the attacks, in part because the Federal Aviation Administration seldom enforced penalties against airlines that violated safety restrictions.

So, is the answer to put the federal government in charge of security? How will that help?

The federal government cannot protect us from every imaginable threat - whether it be by terrorists or simple incompetence. We should have a reasonable expectation of security. But the more airlines hand over the responsibility for security to someone else, the less apt they are to take responsibility themselves.


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