Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Will Security Work Now?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Will Security Work Now?

Article excerpt

THE TERRORIST threat to Britain may have been downgraded, from "imminent" to "highly likely" today, but that does not mean that life for air travellers returns to anything like normal. In theory, the Department of Transport says that passengers will now be allowed to take a small item of hand luggage on their flights, but no liquids, apart from prescription medicine and baby milk. In practice, BAA, which runs the largest airports, says there will be no change in the present restrictions until 4.30 tomorrow morning.

The announcement will infuriate the airlines, which have been vociferous in their criticism of the way BAA has handled the security crisis. The chief executive of BA, Willie Walsh, exchanged strong words on the subject with Tony Douglas, the BAA Heathrow chief executive, and Mr Douglas subsequently threatened to ground any airline which did not stick to the rules.

And indeed, the airlines have reason to be upset.

BAA says the delay today in implementing the lighter restrictions on hand luggage is so that it can adequately brief its thousands of security staff.

But how much briefing is necessary to inform them about a change which can be summed up in a single sentence?

A more complicated element of the debate is whether full security searches are necessary for all passengers - or whether "passenger profiling" should be used to focus security efforts on those travellers who are more likely to fit a terrorist profile - notably, young Muslims. Islamic community organisations have already protested at the prospect of searches that are appearance-led, rather than intelligence-led.

The common sense approach would seem to suggest that searches should focus more on young Muslim men rather than elderly white pensioners.

But no approach can be absolute. Passenger profiling would also identify nervous or agitated travellers. And no one should be allowed to consider themselves exempt from security checks - recent suspects include white, middleclass converts to Islam. For now, the only good advice for passengers is not to travel to Heathrow with hand luggage and to stay patient in the face of infuriating delays. …

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