More Security Theatre?

I'd turned in today's column, in which a career cop views the TSA's effectiveness with suspicion, when I kept getting these Google Alerts about the agency rolling out random swabbing of passengers' hands to look for traces of explosions.

While it didn't fit into the piece, it's worth reporting just what the subject of the piece, former Montgomery Cty., Md. assistant chief Deirdre Walker, feels about this newest level of security, adopted after the attempted bombing on a Detroit-bound flight this Christmas.

Will it help? She wrote:

O my goodness - No. It is more 'random' stuff that looks good, but will be effective only by providence. More wasted resources, more rolling of the dice. It is probably technology that is very effective, but it's random application renders it just more 'theatre.' My general assertion is that unless an effective technology is either universally applied or applied in a thoughtful, targeted manner, we are relying on sheer luck for it to be effective. Generally, as it stands, we are relying on luck all the time.

Walker is an advisor for the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. In the column she recounts how she kept being picked for secondary screening and wondered if these random checks really were triggered by how compliant she seemed. So she started being less compliant to see what would happen. Since then she's not been selected.

By e-mail she wrote how she got home Friday from a trip to California. "When I got home, I found a 5.5 oz can of V8 juice in my bag - I had stuffed it in there in a rush the day before and had completely forgotten it was in my bag. The same from which I removed my computer for Xray. Luckily, neither this traveler nor 5.5 ounces of V8 is dangerous. Unless we are mixed with too much vodka."