Does dividing passengers according to risk work?
Was new IATA head Tony Tyler serious when he called for passengers to be divided into different categories of security risk and treated accordingly?
There are no functional ‘trusted traveller’ programs working in regular air transport. In the US where a series of special private owned security channeling programs were set up the customers were still subject to security delays and the companies ceased operating.
There is simply not enough information available to accurately divide passengers into risk groups. Police records, ethnicity, food preferences, and all such similarly childish categorisations, do not tell us who is moving to commit acts of mass murder.
No-one can be implicitly declared to be low risk, as shown this year where trusted US spies in Afghanistan have blown up CIA operatives in the ultimate sting on at least one occasion, while trusted Taliban negotiators blew up former Afghan president Mullah Burhanuddin Rabbani last month.
But Tyler is respected as one of the sharpest of intellects in the airline industry because of his previous stellar career with Cathay Pacific.
It is reasonable to conclude that he was really trying to edge the discussion of the massive and useless investment in anti-terrorism security in aviation toward a more mature debate, and one after which most of the apparatus and sham security theatrics of airort security is dismantled and serious behind the scenes profiling by police and intelligence agencies continues, as it does in this country, much of Asia, and in Israel and throughout Europe.
Terrorism is not confined to issues concerning the Middle East either, as long known in the UK and Europe, and pre 9/11, in the US, concerning extreme right wing anti government views, religious confusion and attacks on abortionists.
There is a view that the best course of action is just to get on with the theatrics to keep the politics of terrorism exploitation working neatly in the background while taking the risk that nothing real and evil will slip through the net.
By rocking the boat the way he has, Tyler has sent a clear signal that IATA members think it is time to roll back the costs of this, and take those risks as a constant that is unaffected by security spending that comes out of the airline pockets.