Monday, May 07, 2012

How To Turn Terrorists into Honest Folk

The North American aviation transportation industry in conjunction with the airline industry has figured out something very important. Something that I think we can all learn from. Something the rest of the world can learn from. Something criminal justice systems can learn from. They have figured out how to turn terrorists and criminals into honest people in a very short time. In fact, they can do it in about an hour.

How do they do it? What's their secret? Easy. Just take any terrorist or criminal and put them on a flight. Any commercial aviation flight with a security screening area near the beginning and a baggage claim at the other end.

Not getting it? Don't worry.  You don't have to understand it. I don't understand it entirely. But they do.  I just know it works. It must.  Because they do it.

If you've taken a flight from a major aeroport in North America in the last few years, you've experienced it. When you check in for your flight, they ask you all kinds of questions like "Have you left your luggage unattended?" before you can get to the next step. If you manage to convince them you're okay, they send you onto the next phase: the security screening.

This is the part where, in the interest of equal treatment, they assume everyone is either a terrorist or a criminal - even public servants and airline employees. (I've been both and I still get the treatment.) They scan you with technology of questionable safety in order to see through your clothes. It doesn't matter that these screeners miss obvious things like guns and 12 inch steel razor blades. The point isn't to find anything. The point is to treat everyone equally - like criminals/terrorists. Neither the TSA nor the CATSA have ever caught anyone anyway.

If you make it through that part, you get to get on a plane - if your i.d. checks out. Some of these flights have air marshalls on them, so the criminals and terrorists aren't fixed yet.  But the plane takes off and goes to its destination.

Then a miracle happens. You land! You leave the plane! You go to baggage claim! Suddenly everyone is a saint! You just walk up to the carousel and take a bag! It doesn't matter if it's your bag. There's nothing stopping you from taking a bag at random. You might as well. Chances are, someone else's stuff is nicer than yours. At the carousel you're on the honour system.

An hour ago you were being searched like you were going to a maximum security prison, and now you're on the honour system. Like I said earlier, I don't fully understand how the flight acts like some sort of baptism that washes away your criminal intent, but it must. Otherwise, you'd have to claim your bags like you claim your coat at a coat-check: no ticket, no jacket. If you can't be trusted at the coat-check, but you can at the baggage carousel then it must mean you're more trustworthy and honest at the baggage claim. I'm not sure how it all works. Maybe it's an effect of altitude?

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