TRAVEL TERRORISM, THE TSA AND US
By Joe Brancatelli
I have never traveled in a time when terrorism wasn't an issue. When I began flying frequently on business in the 1980s, all sorts of groups were going after planes on Europe routes operated by Pan Am and TWA, our then flag carriers.
Terrorism is different since 9/11, of course. Every flight and every hotel and anyplace we gather everywhere in the world is a potential target. The Transportation Security Administration has changed how we approach our daily routine. It's all a part of the business-travel fabric. As the bad guys change tactics, we adjust--or at least tell ourselves that we do. And as threats wax and wane, our focus sometimes wanders.
But the possibility is always there. The threat never goes away for long. And it colors how we look at our lives on the road. Exactly how we act and react is detailed in the collection of columns below. And it makes me sad that I've pushed so many nouns against verbs to cover such an unhappy topic.
December 14: THE BACKSCATTER BACKSTORY
Now that full-body scanners have won legal clearance and the public outrage over privacy has subsided, the argument has moved to safety. Despite repeated TSA claims to the contrary, a lot of flyers (and a lot of medical types) think the so-called backscatter scanners aren't safe. The argument: No one is monitoring the machines and they emit a kind of radiation that messes with your DNA. It all sounds like an episode of The Outer Limits that scared me as a kid.
October 5: THE TSA PROGRAM DOOMED AT TAKE-OFF
PreCheck, the TSA's new known traveler plan, launched this week and it has none of the benefits an honest attempt at a "trusted traveler" program would offer the nation's elite frequent flyers. The TSA has made it so conditional, and it offers so little in the way of consistent benefits, that there's virtually no chance the pilot could ever logically be deemed a success.
September 7: 10 THOUGHTS ABOUT TRAVEL SINCE 9/11
The very first column I wrote after 9/11 was widely praised and reprinted. No one will remember this column or want to reprint it. It will not inspire confidence or defiance. Because when you have 10 thoughts about travel since 9/11, none of them are happy and none are particularly hopeful. The world in general, and the world of travel in particular, hasn't fared well since 9/11.
May 4, 2011: FEAR, LOATHING (& FATIGUE) ON TRAVEL TERRORISM
What makes us so blasé about terrorism in 2011 that the topic seems stale? Are our attention spans so short and our sense of personal safety so dulled that we simply don't care anymore? Is September 11 too long ago, the transit attacks in Madrid (2004) and London (2005) too far away, the terrorism in Mumbai (2008), Moscow (in January) and Marrakech (last month) too exotic? Some thoughts on why each new alert makes us less interested.
May 1, 2011: WHAT BIN LADEN'S DEATH MEANS TO US
President Obama has just announced that the United States has captured and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. That will change our safety and security outlook in the short term. Here's what to expect--and how to protect yourself--on the road in the next few days.
March 23, 2011: WHAT MIGHT GADDAFI DO?
Regardless of how they feel about U.S. military action in Libya, smart business travelers know one thing: If Muammar Gaddafi survives and holds on to power, our lives on the road will get uglier--and deadlier. Alone among crazy dictators, Gaddafi has planned and applauded terrorism against travelers. Here are some commonsense thoughts about what might come if Gaddafi doesn't leave.
February 23, 2011: THE TSA PACKS A PISTOLE
Observers were expecting a kinder, gentle Transportation Security Administration under the Obama Administration. Instead, we got John Pistole, who has adopted the mantra of his Bush Administration predecessor: The TSA is above the law, accountable to no one, disinterested in any security scenario that does not serve the bureaucracy and oblivious to political realities.
November 24, 2010: X-RAYS, BODY SCANS AND THE TSA
Since everyone else seems to be yelling and screaming and venting about the TSA's graphic new full-body scanners and intrusive pat-downs, I figured it was wise to lower the volume. So here's my primer on the TSA and its practices and how airport security got this way. You make your own decisions. I trust ya.
January 6, 2010: THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAVEL IN A TIME OF TERROR
There is a foolproof way to end terrorism against travelers: Ground the planes. Facetious as it sounds, the suggestion underlines an undeniable truth about traveling in a time of terror. The only air-travel system that is guaranteed to be secure is the one in which planes never fly. Anytime an airline puts a plane full of passengers in the sky, a complex web of political, financial, social, and governmental compromises have been made.
April 7. 2009: THE SECURITY SWAMP
Secure Flight, the latest bit of data mining by the TSA, kicked in last week in typical style: suddenly, with virtually no public discussion and even fewer details about its implementation. Soon, if you don't give the agency your date of birth and gender and the name on your ticket doesn't exactly match the name on your ID, you don't fly.
December 9, 2008: TOURISM AND TERRORISM
Put aside your fear and loathing for a moment, because we need to discuss the business of travel terrorism. Like it or not, acts of terror aimed at travelers and the places they frequent are very good business tactics indeed.
September 30, 2008: FLYING THE UNFRIENDLY SKIES
The nation's financial upheaval has sucked so much oxygen out of the media room that we've barely gotten coverage of a horrific bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. But we know what this stuff means to our lives on the road. We have a playbook, a set of time-tested rules honed during a generation of terrorism aimed at travelers in general and U.S. business travelers in specific.
September 11, 2007: THE ENEMY WITHIN?
Six years after 9/11, business travelers wrestle with an ugly reality: Our most intractable foe may be the federal bureaucracy we created to keep our airports and airplanes safe. The Transportation Security Administration treats us like terrorists until we're proven innocent. And while it vigilantly protects us from breast-feeding moms, frequent flyers with biometric IDs, and Ozzie and Harriet’s son, there's no sign that we're actually any safer from terrorism.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.