You've heard from self-described security experts, spotlight-hungry politicians and a battalion of TV talking heads. You've probably heard an opinion from your neighbor in the cubicle next to you at work. How do we keep the next crazy with murder on his mind and explosives in his Jockeys off an airliner?
Listen for a few moments to Angela Gittens.
She brings experience as boss at major airports in Atlanta and Miami, both times as the first African-American and first woman in the job. Now she runs Airports Council International, which represents airport executives who operate 1,633 airports in 167 countries worldwide.
Her message: Don't focus only on airports; rather, target travelers whose backgrounds merit the most intrusive, time-consuming screening.
"We need risk-based, practical approaches," said Gittens, who spoke Monday at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Breakfast sponsored by the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs. "You're not securing a place. You're securing a process."
Lots of people are pushing airport body scanners that reveal what's under a passenger's clothing as a silver bullet against a hidden bomb.
The problem, Gittens said, is that lots of airports don't have the space at security checkpoints or floors strong enough to support the machines. Federal security officials came up with a catchphrase as they introduced new airport screening equipment after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: When you've seen one airport, you've seen one airport.
Government officials also must avoid making flying too much of a hassle, she said. Screening has to be consistent from airport to airport so travelers know what to expect.
Rules such as prohibiting passengers from using laptops for the last hour of a flight (wisely changed quickly to let the pilots make the call) would give business travelers another reason to teleconference rather than fly, damaging airlines, airports and related businesses.
"Airports are an integral part of any local economy," Gittens said. "Shut down your economy and it will affect your business and employees. It's no small matter."
Steve Huettel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3384.