Dylan Matthews wants to fire the TSA.

The best literature review available on the efficacy of counterterrorism tactics found that, on average, adding metal detectors and security screenings at airports led to about 6.3 fewer airplane hijackings in the years examined (a hijinking-heavy period chronicled in Brendan Koerner’s latest book, in case you’re interested). But that was more than compensated for by an increase in “miscellaneous bombings, armed attacks, hostage taking, and events which included death or wounded individuals (as opposed to non-casualty incidents) in both the short and long run.” In fact, metal detectors and security screenings at airports led to about 6.8 more of these substitute events. “When calculating the overall weighted mean effect size for all of the findings examining the effectiveness of metal detectors, the positive and harmful effects cancel each other out,” the review’s authors conclude.

This is likely to fall on deaf ears in the US because, well, we haven’t seen a non-airport attack in a very long time. So people don’t think the terrorists would try to bomb a building.

As I’ve mentioned before, though, fortunately our adversaries are quite unimaginative, though, and it seems like they are focused primarily on planes (excluding attacks on foreign soil, though). I actually can’t help but wonder if the additional security isn’t a part of why. It’s like the bat-signal on Batman’s chest: It’s there to draw fire because it’s the most protected. Not that it’s the most protected because of the security theater, mind you, but it’s the place where people are on the lookout.

Of course, the primary victory of 9/11 wasn’t the hijacking of the planes at all, which has a tendency to get lost in the discussion. The victory was what they did with the planes. Something I doubt they will ever, ever be able to do again. But I’d much rather they try than that they reassess the places where we are actually much more vulnerable.

Category: Road

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