True story: On Dec. 23, while passing through airport security at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport en route to LA, my 8-year-old son was called over by a French security agent, who asked to see his backpack. I’d let the Lil’ Feller pack his own carry-on that morning, and sure enough, as the X-ray machine had revealed, in there with his markers and pencils, he’d included his brand-new, pointy tipped compass.
As the guard examined it, I explained to my son that we’d have to throw it away, while assuring the guard that it was no big deal since we’d found the thing at the school supplies section of the neighborhood supermarket. But instead, the guard put the compass back in my son’s backpack and good-naturedly waved us on.
I mention this because, for all the hue and cry about improving airport security in the U.S. in the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day plot, it bears pointing out that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Flight 253 in . . . Amsterdam. I can’t vouch for the rest of Europe, but my experience of French airport security going back over 10 years is that it’s approached with a far more casual attitude than what you find Stateside. That’s not to say U.S. security is more effective. It’s just approached more zealously. As for the French attitude toward U.S.-mandated security measures for transatlantic flights (the removal of shoes, for instance), I’d describe it as resentful humoring. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard complaints greeted with a “Don’t blame us, blame the Americans,” refrain.
In other words, closing off domestic loopholes is an illusory response so long as it leaves those same loopholes open on the international level.