How far should authorities go to protect air travelers from terrorists?

The attempted attack on a Northwest flight to Detroit seems likely to prompt changes in security procedures. Getting on a plane may require more body scans and pat-downs. How far should authorities go to protect air travelers from terrorists?

Comments texted to MPR:

I think they should be more extreme in air travel from this scare. -Bob, Fargo, ND

I feel they should respect privacy but take security measures such as putting armed guards on the planes. -anonymous

  • John O.

    Personally, I have no issues with scans or pat-downs, if necessary.

    However, why don’t we pick the low-hanging fruit first: by several accounts, the father of this young man, apparently an individual within Nigeria who has some clout, contacts the U.S. Embassy to warn that his son’s marbles are not flying in proper formation–among other things. The embassy says (more or less) “Gee, thanks for the call.” The guy is apparently added to “the database,” but not put on a do-not-fly list.


    While we are at it, can we somehow find a way to let some of these other countries know that they need to improve their security? Aren’t there international treaties or agreements for these kinds of issues?

  • Amy

    I say send everyone through the full body scanner, pat down and metal detector. That way there is no room for racial profiling or certain groups feeling singled out. Other countries would see that level of security and hopefully model off it. I think that just about everyone would be ok with it and would have greater piece of mind about flying. I know I would at least….

  • bob

    I’d feel better if security was more robust in regard to cargo and checked baggage.

    I also wonder why the airlines haven’t banned metal silverware and glassware in Ist Class; a fork or piece of jagged glass could certainly be used to good effect by anyone so inclined. And if airlines are making the presumption that people in Ist Class are somehow above suspicion, shame on them.

  • Alex

    Anyone who has travelled to and from Tel Aviv will have a true sense of what the standard should be. Their own Israeli security people are at every airport that has flights into Tel Aviv. We could do the same. More jobs for Americans out of work right there. We clearly cannot trust other countries to do this for us.

    When entering a secure area in an aiport, I personally have no problem getting scanned to the bone if necessary. What the TSA scanners would see is their problem.

    I also definitely agree that the “where are we now” screen in-flight should be stopped. It’s fun to watch, but it’s also information that can be used against the flight, and is truly only appropriate for the pilots.

  • CS

    Here we go again…..

    Someone tried to do something again, so we better put on a bigger, more elaborate, and expensive show to everyone to make them feel like there is no chance of something happening on a plane if they fly.

    The problem is our own irrational fear of an event happening. Are we really willing to live in a world where we need to send the 85 year old grandma through the “body scan” to feel safer about air travle? Honestly?

    We can make it harder and harder, but the absolute truth is that the possibility of air terrorism can NEVER be eliminated, it will just change shape. That’s all we are doing is forcing change in tactics, not eliminating the threat. So we switch to body scans, ok… go buy a bag of balloons. Ever heard of a drug mule?

    So are we going to put guards and scanners at the entrance to mall after the first mall bombing? Security lines and screening for the bus? Where does it end.

  • beryl k

    Simplify the process and require standard dress codes…like orange jumpsuits.


  • Haleh

    I think the system is broken. We have all these screenings, taking shoes off, jackets off, and long lines, losing people coming to US for vacation because of it , and then we let a person who has “Red Flag” all over to board the plane.

  • C Jones

    If I get frisked one more time at the airport, I might scream. My infant’s bib overalls went off in the scanner and I got frisked because of it – the parent. I was not a happy camper. Once my underwire bra went off therefore they had to frisk me. I am going bra-less and having the baby only in diapers in order to avoid being frisked.

    It is invasive and I feel dirty afterwards.

    C Jones.

  • Amy B.

    There is no way to completely eliminate dangerous substances/people on aircraft. I among the many who have inadvertently or intentionally taken banned objects on aircraft–from toothpaste to pocketknives. But there is a bigger picture than getting places in the quickest manner. The exhaust from aircraft is also a huge factor in destroying human habitat on this planet. Rather than spending billions more on a failed system, while compromising our values of privacy, hospitality, compassion, and liberty, our society should evaluate and support more sustainable transit options.

  • Leon

    I agree with some of the other post…where do we stop? After 9/11 I was able to avoid flying until April of 2008 when I had a conference in Florida to attend and time was short. It was the worse experience of my life. Security was so backed up and security acted like I knew what I was suppose to do…heck I had not flown in years! Prior to that I always drove to my conference whether they are in Florida or Las Vegas. I just did not want to deal with all the stuff at the airport. Once again I have a conference in Florida this in March and plan on driving down to avoid the airport. Plus I get to see this beautiful country of ours.

  • David Schlenk

    Security screening is way too late to be ferreting out the terrorists. If you’re going to increase spending because of this latest attempt, put all of it into better intelligence resulting in better watch lists and improving the procedures for identifying security risks rather than such reactionary, specifically targeted screenings (shoes, liquids, etc). You can never screen for all possible ways to take down a jet, so why not spend all the money you can on preventing the people who would do such a horrible thing from ever setting foot on an airplane. Otherwise the only real protection is for everyone to be sedated, stripped and packed into the plane like cord wood.

  • Jo Marsicano

    After 9/11, I spoke to a British flight attendant who said that when he goes through an airport in England, they treat him like he’s a potential terrorist and that he never feels like that in America.

    His point was that American security procedures were lax and that English security procedures were right on.

    I hardly ever fly, but my take is that security measures should be based on real security, not on the image of security or perception of security.

    Also, until the United States stops contaminating other countries with its militarism and invasive capitalistic exploitation, Americans will always be in danger of a terrorist threat. We cannot keep doing what we do in the world and expect other nations and other people’s not to feel incredibly vengeful toward us.

    If another country came over here and bombed us – under the lie that they’re “protecting themselves” and killing my innocent loved ones in the process, you bet I’d be planning revenge on them big time.

    Let’s drop the “we’re special because we’re American” moniker and start acting like responsible global citizens, for once.

  • Sarah Jane

    Flight 93 & the most recent attempt were foiled by passengers. Who doesn’t have at least some idea of what the person next to them is doing? My thought is there needs to be more education of flight pssengers on what can be done in these terrorist situations. The only people they have to deter an attack is themselves and only in that appropriate minute. Security routines can only go so far and are a great assistance in limiting what options terrorism has. Perhaps additional card of emergency procedures? (Lol @ flight attendant enactments; something to be done while awaiting takeoff!)

    I love to fly and have never felt hasseled by other humans doing their jobs at the airport. I certainly believe it is an individuals responsibility to know the procedures for each airport and to participate courteously with dignity. Especially now that thry will be more random and confusing. Maybe that’s just my Minnesota nice showing through.

  • Tom

    Does MPR not think that the public commenting, via invite from MPR, on their experience at the airport since Christmas 2009 is not giving information to the enemy?

  • beryl k

    Even the Pentagon got stuck during the Christmas blizzard_”Air Force enlisted leader experiences N.D Blizzard, Minot Daily News, 12/29/09″

    Now there’s a headline that doesn’t tell you much but…read the story and…

    Seems like there should be a citation awarded to the Minot snowplow driver for getting one Pentagon official out of town or at least to the depot on time.

    Official was Chief Master Sgt Jim Roy Air Force’s chief personal advisor to Chief of Staff Gen Norton Schwartz and Secretary of the Air Force Robert Gates.”

    “Jim” was out in North Dakota to see the troops at the Minot base for Christmas. Probably it was the weather but he decided to cut short his trip but couldn’t get out of town since the state (North Dakota that is) had closed down all roads due to a blizzard and airlines grounded and Air Force too I presume…so maybe the Pentagon travels commercial sometimes…who knows?

    So the governor says, “No Jimmy Roy you can’t go”?

    Call it the power of the ‘state’, North Dakota, over the power of the ‘state; the Pentagon.

    To the rescue came one snowplow driver who cleared a path and got Jim to the depot on time!. Empire Builder (train’s name) for empire builders one could say.

    Another award should go the the-little-engine-that-could, for riding him out of town on the rails, the Pentagon man,eh? Not exactly first class but a class act either way.

    Add all this to the foiled follies that have happened lately at the center of our nuclear arsenal, Minot Air force base (feed Minot into the Air force Times ‘search’ and the history flows like a bad dream.

    But they’re cleaning up their act lately so not to worry…and if the bus with wings, the airlines bother you, take the train. May be the latest transport for the Pentagon boys too.

    You’ll be in good company, depending on your point of view.

    Don’t you just love this crazy world with all its slip-ups… and we’re still around still, for another mad and not too Happy New Year…//^;^\\

  • Steve

    Maybe it is time to be honest and start a discussion about openly profiling the high risk culture of Islam.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, how awful, how shocking. How racist. How intolerant. Well, sorry, but I am becoming very intolerant of a culture that views me as an infidel and my dog as unclean.

    Make fun of Mohammad? There are demonstrations against those awful Danish people.

    Where is the outrage from the Muslim clergy at the actions of their “devout”? At what point do we stop pretending that Islam does not condone terror?

    No culture should be exempt from criticism. When the actions of the ‘devout’ are so reprehensible, contempt is appropriate.

    It gets really old seeing the TSA’s screen the elderly and children, while we all pretend that it is only being fair.

  • Ethan Sommer

    You are more likely to get hit by lightning than be killed in a terrorist attack by a significant margin. It is important for would-be terrorists to think there is a good chance they will get caught as a deterrent, but there are far more serious threats in the world and we would be better to focus on those.

  • ray

    Sure it would be nice to eliminate all risks, particularly those posed by deliberate acts, but what is the cost benefit relationship of the billions spent on the war on terror vs better safety on roads, or better public health inspections of food, or any number of activities that kill and injure far more of us than the efforts of a terror group. Lets get real, if the airline industry is concerned about safe travel they would eliminate carryons and provide security on their own, but they have convinced the taxpayers to do it for them.

  • Frank B

    Birds, bats and bees have the right to fly; but for us humans it’s a privilege. It is rational to expect those, who announce they hate western values and design attacks on our commercial aircraft, will in fact continue to attack our commercial aircraft. To prevent such anticipated attacks is government’s responsibility, permitted under police powers. Exercising my privilege to fly, I’m happy to be inconvenienced, delayed and even patted down in order to substantially reduce the risk of a catastrophic outcome. Everyone who doesn’t skydive wants to continue their perfect record: number of takeoffs = number of landings.

  • Douglas Burt

    News reports of this incident often include discussions of why this person was on that list and why he was not on some other list. Maybe we are using the wrong methods to solve the problem. Let the security system be based on only one list, a list of people who have been qualified to use an airline.

  • justacoolcat

    The question “How far should authorities go to protect air travelers from terrorists?”

    The answer, Too far.

    Really, it’s the only way authorities know how to operate.

  • Ed

    It is about time we recognize that we are at war! I’m sure we didn’t continue scheduled airline service to Japan or Germany during WWII. Maybe if we isolated the taliban and al-quida the citizens of those countries would take action.

  • Ed

    It is about time we recognize that we are at war! I’m sure we didn’t continue scheduled airline service to Japan or Germany during WWII. Maybe if we isolated the taliban and al-quida the citizens of those countries would take action.