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Airline Pilots Allowed To Dodge Security Screening

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the dramatis-personae-for-the-security-theatre dept.

Transportation 285

OverTheGeicoE writes "Wired has a story about TSA's known crewmember program, which allows airline pilots to bypass traditional airport security on their way to the cockpit. Pilots will be verified using a system known as CrewPASS that relies on uniforms, identity cards, fingerprints, and possibly other biometrics to authenticate flight deck crews. Once they are authenticated, they can enter secure areas in airports without any further screening. Participation at present is voluntary, and applies at Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Pittsburg (PIT), Columbia (CAE) and now Chicago O'Hare (ORD) airports. TSA is hoping to expand the program nationally. Bruce Schneier thinks this program is 'a really bad idea.' Pilots are already avoiding scanners and patdowns at security checkpoints (video). Is the new program just a way for TSA to hide this fact from the flying public?"

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How is this a problem? (5, Insightful)

FunkSoulBrother (140893) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074694)

Couldn't a pilot who's convinced to pull off a terrorist attack just, well -- do it? They are at the controls and all...

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074790)

He just might have to kill off the rest of the flight crew to pull it off. Kind of like you-know-who did you-know-when?

Re:How is this a problem? (3, Insightful)

danceswithtrees (968154) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074900)

Can't they carry guns in the cockpit?
http://www.tsa.gov/lawenforcement/programs/ffdo.shtm [tsa.gov]

The guns are meant to be used against "bad guys" but they work just as well on pilots, co-pilots, etc. Once the rest of the crew is dead, and the door is already secured, fly the plane into whatever you want. No need for box cutters. Profit (just kidding).

Re:How is this a problem? (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074908)

Kind of like you-know-who did you-know-when?

No, I don't know when Voldemort took over an airplane!

Re:How is this a problem? (0)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074950)

Man you beat me to it.

Re:How is this a problem? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075512)

Kind of like you-know-who did you-know-when?

No, I don't know when Voldemort took over an airplane!

No, you fools got it all wrong! Motherfuckin' Snapes on a Plane!

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074918)

But with the new cockpit doors, the rest of the place has no access to the pilots. Right?

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

sabri (584428) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075140)

Theoretically no, practically yes. Remember the Helios flight that went down in Athens? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios_Airways_Flight_522) One of the flight attendants (but licensed as a pilot) was locked out of the cockpit but eventually found a way in. Besides that, if a bad guy carries a weapon on board of an airplane, it is pretty easy to take the captains favorite stewardess hostage and force him to open the door. Yes, you may have regulations prohibiting the captain from doing so, but ultimately it is the captains decision.

Re:How is this a problem? (3, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075274)

Captains don't tend to be dumb. Keep the door shut, stewardess dies. Open the door, everyone dies. Either way the stewardess dies. You can't really blackmail someone if you don't have anything to offer.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

RanCossack (1138431) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074928)

Yes. And if he at least goes through screening, the TSA can make sure he isn't carrying any weapons he could use to do that with before they hand him his pistol back on the other side!

Or he could just use said pistol... let's just hope nobody thinks of that. ;)

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075212)

the TSA can make sure he isn't carrying any weapons he could use to do that with before they hand him his pistol back on the other side!

Or, the pilots could be required to not carry anything through security that passengers cannot carry and are issued a gun at some point after they go through security. They return the gun at the end of their flight. There would be some security infrastructure regarding the inventory of guns, but perhaps it would be less than required to correctly "id" the pilots.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075038)

No they wouldn't. There are a lot of ways. here is one less imaginary way:
Co-pilot goes to take a leak,or pilot just point to nos straight up. no one getting into the cabin then.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075168)

>> just point to nos straight up.

Which would last for about for about 15 seconds... then the aircraft hard stalls, the nose goes straight down and every stewardess and trolley ends up in a mangled heap in the cockpit.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075444)

And the plane crashes. You example is exactly why I chose to point it up.

Re:Killing the rest of the crew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075102)

Yes he will. Or do you mean before the plane hits rock bottom? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990 [wikipedia.org]
This guy disagrees.

Re:How is this a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075420)

Who? When? What?

That's not the issue. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074798)

The issue is whether a terrorist can impersonate a pilot long enough to bypass the screening process.

Once you introduce multiple avenues for clearance, you introduce vulnerabilities.

Re:That's not the issue. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075006)

If he can do that, why not just keep on impersonating, then crash the plane?

Really? (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075078)

If he can do that, why not just keep on impersonating, then crash the plane?

Hi! I'm Captain Jack! You probably didn't know that I was scheduled to fly this airplane what with you and the co-pilot being employed by the airline. But trust me. See my uniform? Obviously I'm a pilot and this is a plane and so forth. So don't bother calling security that there's some weird guy in a pilot's uniform trying to talk you out of the cockpit. Just give me the controls and I'll take over. You can have yourself a nice relaxing day off while I take the flight that you thought you were scheduled to fly.

Impersonating a pilot to get past TSA security is one thing.
Convincing the real pilot to let you fly the plane ... yeah, that's something else.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

aix tom (902140) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075180)

Hey, now I have figured it all out. The terrorist have just changed tactics:

They started impersonating TSA agents a few years back without anybody noticing. After all, those are the ones terrorizing people these days.

Re:Really? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075272)

What?!? There must be some kind of screw-up, let's see. Here it is, right on the schedule [PUNCH]!

Or get there early and just take the plane. The fighters probably can't scramble fast enough to stop it before it reaches the nearest downtown area.

Or, as was found in one airport, dispense with the whole thing and just jiggle the doorknob to the security area.

You've never flown, have you? (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075366)

Talk to anyone who flies regularly. They'll explain the situation to you.

Re:You've never flown, have you? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075478)

I don't need to, I talked to the people nobody notices who vacuum the planes out before the flight.

Re:Really? (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075396)

Hi! I'm Captain Jack!

Hi, Jack!

Re:That's not the issue. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075026)

The issue is whether a terrorist can impersonate a pilot long enough to bypass the screening process.

Once you introduce multiple avenues for clearance, you introduce vulnerabilities.

That's the thought in TFA. While true, for it to be a useful one has to posit that the TSA is at all competent in screening out the baddies. That's demonstrably false. Further, there is nothing in the current screening system that would prevent a 'fake' pilot to get into the secure area. He / She couldn't carry a bomb, but if they had the appropriately forged credentials they could carry a firearm. You can carry incendiary bullets in a .38 caliber pistol although I doubt they would do all that much.

The other members of the flight crew - the attendants and other pilots - would likely confront a fake pilot / terrorist unless they were incredibly good actors.

And again, the whole cabin cleaning / servicing staff has full access to the plane with very minimal screening.

This is finally a good idea from the TSA, albeit a tiny, halting step forward that won't change much.

Re:That's not the issue. (1)

ogl_codemonkey (706920) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075198)

You don't have to get on the plane; you can just carry weapons/drugs/whatever to a stash on the other side for pickup by a regular passenger.

I think you missed the whole point. (0)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075264)

While true, for it to be a useful one has to posit that the TSA is at all competent in screening out the baddies. That's demonstrably false.

Fuck no! Where did you get that idea? This all hinges around the TSA being unable to tell pilots from passengers from terrorists.

The ONLY way it would work is if the TSA could tell (with 100% reliability) who was a pilot and who was a terrorist.

Which is why EVERYONE should have to go through the SAME screening as everyone else. If it works,

Further, there is nothing in the current screening system that would prevent a 'fake' pilot to get into the secure area.

This isn't about stopping anyone from going through security.

This is about checking EVERYONE'S luggage with the same process.

You can get through security with a fake boarding pass. It's been done. Look on Google for people who have done it.

He / She couldn't carry a bomb, but if they had the appropriately forged credentials they could carry a firearm.

But under this new plan, they COULD get a bomb through. They could get multiple bombs through. And they could hand those bombs to terrorists flying on other airplanes. So ONE guy getting through security reduces the security of MULTIPLE flights.

This is finally a good idea from the TSA, albeit a tiny, halting step forward that won't change much.

No. It show a complete failure to understand basic security.

Re:I think you missed the whole point. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075348)

the common word in all your scenarios is TSA. how hard to completely replace the TSA shift with terrorists? not too hard, just have to impersonate a bunch of.....let's just say the bar is low.

Re:I think you missed the whole point. (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075490)

I guess that's why they still have to go through bio-screening?

sheesh, calm done and think.

Why does a pilot need a bomb?

No, you are showing an ignorant view of security.

Re:I think you missed the whole point. (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075510)

Even if TSA could tell with 100% accuracy who was a pilot, who was a passenger and who was a terrorist, it wouldn't solve anything:

"Hello, my name is Achmed bin Farteen. Your wife and son are with me. Would you like to speak to them?" <hands the wife the phone long enough to convince the pilot that he really does have the pilot's family with him.> "I will begin torturing your family by <insert fiendish plan here> unless you carry this package through security for me and leave it in the third stall in the second men's bathroom to the right after you clear security..."

Re:That's not the issue. (2)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075090)

This should be launched in conjunction with the program where terrorists are required to wear badges and identification identifying them as terrorists. Then if they came in with the pilots badge, and also had a terrorists badge, the TSA could go "Aha! Caught you!" and make them go to the back of the line.

But their identity is all that matters (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075218)

The rest of the screening is stupid. The reason is that the pilot has hands on the controls and can crash the plane, if they wish. What's more they can get a license to have a gun in the cockpit, and many do because you get a pay bonus. So a pilot can kill everyone on board if they wish, you HAVE to trust them.

That means there's no point in screening them for weapons and so on, because who cares? It is a waste of time. All you need to do is screen their identity. Make sure that the person is who they claim to be. If so, then off they go.

And that is the logical failure. (2)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075330)

The reason is that the pilot has hands on the controls and can crash the plane, if they wish.

And that's the logical failure of your argument. You hear "pilot" and you think "has hands on the controls".

Meanwhile, a terrorist can impersonate a pilot to get through security (or get licensed by a small airline) and move multiple bombs through security to hand off to other terrorists on other flights.

The TSA introduces 1 weakness into the system and now every single flight is more vulnerable.

All you need to do is screen their identity. Make sure that the person is who they claim to be. If so, then off they go.

Again, no. You'd have to be able to tell who is NOT a terrorist. Not who IS a pilot.

And this system is not able to do that.

Re:How is this a problem? (2)

Tom_Yardley (587588) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074808)

Note the angry tone, echoed by the Headline. Pilots allowed to "Dodge" security. And how did they slip through? By having biometricial data and special identification. Oh! The unfairness! Don't let a pilot hit a retinal viewer connected to the national database and move on to his seat in the plane he is assigned to fly. Make him stand in line in front of me and make him boot his laptop!

Re:How is this a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074894)

Indeed. Written by bonafide slashsnot malcontents.

I've been on about two dozen flights since 9/11. Domestic, international, the works. I've never once been asked to step into anything more terrifying than a metal detector, never been strip searched, fondled or otherwise touched and no one has ever asked me to boot any laptop or other device. The worst I've ever experienced was cursory inspection of my carry on bag. That happened exactly twice. Both times were before 9/11.

Re:How is this a problem? (2)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074994)

I wouldn't mind if they jumped line and went through security ahead of me. after all, I need a pilot to get where I'm going. or the family next to me does.

But avoiding any screening at all defeats at the very least the sniffers and x-ray machines I get to put my laptop and cell phone through. Am I really that much more likely to try and sneak something bad onboard than a pilot? I look exactly like a pilot, minus a uniform I can steal from a dry cleaner every day the week and twice on Saturday. I can get an old catalog case out of storage and fill it with maps, handbooks, and something bad. I can even dress up the wiring and shape it like lunch, and I bet I get it onboard.

So pilots are above suspicion. Right. I get it. Since security is too time consuming and demeaning for the pilots, let them through. Clearly cabin crew need not also go through security. Nor mechanics or skilled technicians. the TSA focuses instead on screening the masses, mostly in a show of effort, and filling the 'no-fly' list with the names of people who are suspected of not liking the process. You can be sure a determined terrorist will not only fly their route over and over to establish a pattern of benign behavior, they will never ever make themselves a cause for concern to anyone anywhere. Only law-abiding, plain nomal citizens will get riled up at a patdown,and for that they will be dragged through a mitten to punish them for such hubris.

This is just not worth it. If only Amtrak worked.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075160)

This is sort or reminiscent of how everybody who is involved with HIPAA has to take pee tests...except doctors. Somehow they are above the law. Oh, some hospitals require them to take pee tests, but there is no general requirement.
Of course, various studies have shown that 8-15% of doctors have substance abuse problems, so they would flunk a pee test. Rather than suffer the embarrassment of making them flunk the pee test, we just don't make them do it.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075410)

Security, meatspace or computer based, is a game of minimums. The weakest link defines it. Not the average, not the best part. The weakest link is the definition of how secure your system is. If you build a castle with three walls and leave the fourth side wide open, take a wild guess where the enemy will attack from.

The more sides you have, read: the more angles of attack exists, the more hassle it becomes to keep things secure. Even things that supposedly create more security can actually lower security. Take a door. A good, sturdy oak door. Pretty solid. Now add a lock. That should add to the security of the door. It can well lower the security, though, if the door was originally only possible to open from the inside, and you also had to cut a hole into the door to install that lock, creating a weak spot.

Additionally, the more entrances you have into your secure area, the more you open yourself to an attack. In this case, the first angle is the passenger entrance, where someone might fool the system, and you have the pilot's entrance where someone might fool the system. You have two different systems to secure, and hence you have to distribute your attention and your resources to audit and secure both venues.

What would have been wrong with treating pilots and attendants like diplomats, first class passengers and other VIPs, providing them with a direct access to the security screening? They bypass the line, get straight to the screening and get screened. Also, remember that pilots wouldn't have to do this for every petty 15 minute flight, they, like most people, go to work, do their job, and go home afterwards, never really leaving the "secure" area the whole time. And from what I learned during my deals with airports and airport security, it's even not the usual "8 hours a day", rather "16 hours every other day" (sadly, for pilots, it gets closer to "16 hours a day"...).

So what's the big deal? It's not like pilots would have to spend such a big amount of time at security. Once you're at the scanner, the procedure goes by rather swiftly, twice so if you're used to it, and it's quite possible to fastpass pilots to the front of the line.

Somehow, I get the feeling someone's "friend" had something to sell and so we were looking for a reason to buy it...

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

4pins (858270) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074838)

Yep and "they" can already carry guns [go.com] .

The pilot, who both the TSA and US Airways declined to identify, was a member of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, an initiative put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The initiative allows authorized members of cockpit crews to carry weapons on board.

If the pilot goes bad, it is going to be bad.

They can carry guns? Oh no! (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074926)

Yeah, the pilot will put the gun to his head and hold himself hostage.

"Drop your guns, or the pilot gets it." "Oh that poor man, can't somebody help him."

  As the pilot drags himself to the cockpit and takes over the control from the pilot, the pilot would force the pilot to crash the plane into a building.

Re:They can carry guns? Oh no! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075034)

Yeah, the pilot will put the gun to his head and hold himself hostage.

No, the pilot will hand the gun to a terrorist who's going to use it to... well, I don't know, some kind of terrorist crap.

Re:They can carry guns? Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075398)

Or... use the gun to shoot the copilot (the only person on the right side of the cabin door to stop him), and fly the plane into a vulnerable target, such as a skyscraper.

Whereas a pilot-turned-terrorist with no gun would have to get minimal hand-to-hand training and get the jump on his copilot when he comes out of the restroom.

(In case you can't tell, I don't see armed pilots making a big difference one way or the other in almost any case...)

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074852)

Yes, but you're trying to stop people who are pretending to be pilots. Terrorists might think of this, you see.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074882)

Yes, but you're trying to stop people who are pretending to be pilots. Terrorists might think of this, you see.

Well gee, then it sounds like having screening specific to identifying pilots -- like they are doing -- would be a million times more useful than making them go through the passenger screening which is designed to keep weapons and bombs off the plane, which a terrorist-pilot would have no fucking use for!

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075004)

You think the Tards Standing Around are going to be capable of doing that?

You could probably get a reasonable pilot outfit from the nearest rental place and walk right on through.

How so? (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075020)

Well gee, then it sounds like having screening specific to identifying pilots -- like they are doing -- would be a million times more useful than making them go through the passenger screening which is designed to keep weapons and bombs off the plane, which a terrorist-pilot would have no fucking use for!

Why would it be "a million times more useful"?

Why NOT run the pilots and crew through the regular security? Including checking their bags?

Because once you create a group where you do NOT check their luggage, you create an opening for terrorists to move large amounts of weapons past security.

So, 20 terrorists want to take down 20 planes.
1 terrorist spends the time to get listed as a pilot for some minor airline.
Then that 1 terrorist moves 100 pounds of explosives (and detonators) through security without being checked.
The other 20 terrorists buy tickets and travel without weapons.
Once past security, the "pilot" hands the bombs off to the 20 terrorists.

And all that would have been avoided if the pilots had to go through the same screening as everyone else.

Re:How so? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075268)

Why would it be "a million times more useful"?

Because it actually addresses the potential threat of a terrorist posing as a pilot -- that they could take control of an airplane and use it as a cruise missile. You know, the thing we found out on 9/11 was a lot worse than just having the plane get blown up?

So, 20 terrorists want to take down 20 planes.
1 terrorist spends the time to get listed as a pilot for some minor airline.
Then that 1 terrorist moves 100 pounds of explosives (and detonators) through security without being checked.
The other 20 terrorists buy tickets and travel without weapons.
Once past security, the "pilot" hands the bombs off to the 20 terrorists.

Or, 1 terrorists saves a lot of time getting a pilot's license and instead gets a job as a baggage handler. That terrorist opens a gate for a catering truck with 1,000 pounds of explosives.

And all that would have been avoided if the pilots had to go through the same screening as everyone else.

You know, at least the Maginot Line was actually big enough for the French to not be completely nuts to feel safe sitting behind it.

Re:How is this a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075148)

the passenger screening which is designed to keep weapons and bombs off the plane

I see very little evidence this is either the design goal of passenger screening. It's little more than theater and if I have to be harassed and treated like a criminal so that the flying public can feel safe, so should the pilots. Logical arguments don't apply to illogical systems.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075000)

You nailed it, thank you.

TSA is only in the business of producing a big show for the flying public. Terrorists are not part of their target audience, and they couldn't care less what terrorists might think of the play.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

sabri (584428) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075184)

You nailed it, thank you.

TSA is only in the business of producing a big show for the flying public. Terrorists are not part of their target audience, and they couldn't care less what terrorists might think of the play.

Are you suggesting that we stop screening passengers before they go onboard an aircraft? Bad idea. Someone needs to screen passengers. You might not agree with the TSA's methods and ways of working, but its a job that has to be done. I'm sure they will be open to suggestions for improvement.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074856)

Couldn't a pilot who's convinced to pull off a terrorist attack just, well -- do it? They are at the controls and all...

Yes, this is absolutely retarded to complain about, and I say that as someone who complains about the TSA all the time.

Re:How is this a problem? (0)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074956)

Yes, this is absolutely retarded to complain about, and I say that as someone who complains about the TSA all the time.

No, you're being retarded. A pilot who doesn't intend to crash his plane can still carry a bag of bombs or weapons into the airport and hand it to a terrist who wants to destroy multiple planes.

This is not an impossible event; I've seen airline pilots on another forum talk about what they'd do if some terrists got hold of their family and threatened to kill them if they didn't carry weapons through security (generally the answer was 'sorry kids').

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075122)

Yeah, I guess I must be retarded, because I can't see how getting one blackmailed pilot through security with a bag of bombs is better than blackmailing a security guard, TSA agent, or cop guarding a gate to the airfield and bringing a whole truck full of bombs in.

But I guess since some pilots were discussing what they would do in this hypothetical situation, that makes it the most likely thing, and terrorists wouldn't think of any of the easier and more effective methods. I'm too retarded to understand how that follows, but at least now I know!

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

hilather (1079603) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074934)

Couldn't a pilot who's convinced to pull off a terrorist attack just, well -- do it? They are at the controls and all...

What about someone impersonating a pilot? Or using some sort of duress to convince a pilot to smuggle something through checkpoints.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075040)

That is not the problem.

The issue is Mr. Terrorist could rent/steal/make a pilots uniform and get through the checkpoint then change into his terrorizing clothes before his flight.

Re:How is this a problem? (5, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075068)

The problem is not really preventing pilots from carrying guns on planes. It's preventing people who look like pilots from being given special security breaks and dealing with the costs associated with preventing that while reaping only minimal gains from not scanning pilots.

This essay: https://www.schneier.com/essay-130.html [schneier.com] by Schneier does a fantastic job at explaining the problem. The basic synopsis is:
1) Security is a system, and for all the easy changes you make ("Let's not screen pilots, that makes no sense!"), you actually need to build tons of other systems (Databases to validate pilot IDs, training for security personnel to access those databases, hard to forge ID cards to identify pilots, etc).
2) Because of those things you didn't think of in (1), and because security is a zero-sum game, all the dollars you spend building security systems to deal with pilots and all the minutes that you save not screening them could have been spent doing more impactful things that make everyone safer and reduce time at the security checkpoint for less money.

Basically, with limited resources and the hidden costs of not scanning pilots, is it worth it to not scan pilots? Probably not.

Mod parent up. (2)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075176)

And you left one thing off.

Basically, with limited resources and the hidden costs of not scanning pilots, is it worth it to not scan pilots? Probably not.

And the consequences of FAILING with a false positive (terrorist mistaken for authorized pilot).

I think the problem here is the same as with the TSA in general.
People hear "pilot" and they think "person flying the plane".
Which assumes 100% verification of every pilot, every time, at every location. Including 100% verification of NON-pilots.

Once you get past that assumption, the flaws are obvious.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075502)

This essay is Oh so wrong. Schneier is smart but not always right.

We do not have the resources to properly scan everyone, so we end up doing a very shoddy and useless job. If instead we had some very good one way filters with no false negatives then we can spend substantially more resources on the truly suspicious cases.

Don't take my word, compare with the best security system in the world, the one with the most threats and the least attacks: the Israeli security system. They do not scan every one.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

AfroTrance (984230) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075070)

They could... but if they bypass security, one pilot could do much more damage than otherwise. They could easily bring in bombs or guns or whatever, and distribute them to other non-pilot accomplices. Then they could target multiple planes in one incident.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

Dillan (547965) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075150)

It's all theatre for the folks that don't do it every day. Six years ago I watched as two bus loads of paratroopers went through the screening program and put their rifles through the xray machines at a UK regional airport before mounting C130s to do some parachuting. Someone was satisfied but it was a pile of poo.

Re:How is this a problem? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075292)

It's not very egalitarian. One set of rules for royalty and certain classes of people, the rest of us peasants have to strip down (virtually of course) and get molested.

If the pilots don't like this idiocy at the gate, then they should stand with us and do something about it. The uber-wealthy elites with their private jets are already exempt unless I'm mistaken. Pilots are getting a pass now. Airline personnel and anyone else who has a strong interest in real, efficient security will too. They're not going to be lobbying for sanity there now.

TSA is also talking about allowing first class members to skip security, so then it really will be just us poor peons getting groped and prodded. Welcome to America, where it was once said that all men are created equal... of course some are more equal than others. You're not one of them. Now bend over.

Re:How is this a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075326)

Read Bruce Schneier's comment. Literally one paragraph: "I agree that it doesn't make sense to screen pilots, that they're at the controls of the plane and can crash it if they want to. But the TSA isn't in a position to screen pilots; all they can decide to do is to not screen people who are in pilot uniforms with pilot IDs. And it's far safer to just screen everybody than to trust that TSA agents will be able figure out who is a real pilot and who is someone just pretending to be a pilot."

Egyptair Flight 990 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075342)

Verifying the identity of the pilot is no defense against some sort of suicidal/terrorist/crazy action taking place. Check Egyptair Flight 990 in 1999.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990 [wikipedia.org]

And? (1)

digitalmonkey2k1 (521301) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074712)

Who the hell cares? Getting your flight crew to the cockpit as easily as possible is the best idea that the damn TSA has had so far, and I'm all for not pissing off the people that can make my flight god awful.

Re:And? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075472)

And getting the passengers in there swiftly would also mean I waste less time standing in the line 'cause that granny in front forgot she has a metal hip and keeps beeping the friggin' detector.

What? Oh, security, one of the passengers could be a terrorist and smuggle something in to blow the thing up, right. Answer me this: Why can't a pilot do the same?

Why is this a bad idea? (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074714)

1. Compromise the pilot via blackmail, family hostages, etc
2. Profit!

Of course the pilot is flying a big bomb, so they don't have to bring a weapon with them through security if they want to do damage. There's no real reason to screen them...so maybe this -is- a good idea after all. Hey, wait!

Re:Why is this a bad idea? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074912)

1. Compromise the pilot via blackmail, family hostages, etc

That's useful to steal documents or overlook something. Not so useful to fly airplanes into buildings. What makes these nuts dangerous is not only are they not afraid to die, they're committed to certain death. That takes it up a notch and completely bypasses numerous assumed limitations.

Re:Why is this a bad idea? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075088)

You don't need the pilot to be willing to die. Just to be willing to move some packages into the secure area where you the terrorist nutjob take them onto a different flight.

Re:Why is this a bad idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075152)

Even worse, just marry an airline pilot and pack their flight bag for them.

Re:Why is this a bad idea? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075508)

I dunno if I should mod you insightful or tell you to stop giving the nutjobs ideas.

It's actually scary how shortsighted the responsible parties are if a few /. posters can come up with a ton of scenarios how to use this to blow up planes. And I guess it's safe to assume that none of us actually think about ways to do that day and night and have the plan to blow shit up.

I still say every security company has to hire at least one role player for their Red Teams. They come up with so completely whacked out ways to game the system and subvert anything the "game master" (security officer) can possibly come up with.

Re:Why is this a bad idea? (1)

F.Ultra (1673484) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075080)

Why screen them if you still have to trust them with flying that plane, or the big bomb that you speak of. If the pilot is compromised and will deliberately crash the plane, no screening in the world will prevent that anyway. As passengers we are at the mercy of the pilot. And honestly, a scenario where the terrorists can convince a pilot to become a suicide bomber or infiltrate the airline is a movie plot and not the reality. Probably planes will not be used for terrorist actions again.

Pittsburgh! (-1, Offtopic)

MMatessa (673870) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074730)

Pittsburgh [wikipedia.org] is one of the few American cities to be spelled with an h at the end of a burg suffix. While briefly named "Pittsburg" from 1890 to 1911 following a declaration by the United States Board on Geographic Names, the "Pittsburgh" spelling was officially restored after a public campaign by the citizens of the city.

Something more useful (4, Insightful)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074780)

Send them through a breathalyzer-only checkpoint and you will have satisfied me.

Re:Something more useful (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075522)

Considering the pilots I know, I'd rather test them for ... other substances.

Great for smuggling, especially narcotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074782)

This could make pilots very popular targets for becoming drug mules.

Is there really any significant advantage to not screening crew?

Re:Great for smuggling, especially narcotics (3, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074962)

Is there really any significant advantage to not screening crew?

Sure, for the crew. If you, the crew, have to go through the same tired, intrusive screening 3, 4, 5 times a day...you'd get pretty damn tired of it.

Re:Great for smuggling, especially narcotics (1)

boethius (14423) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075412)

Do airline crews really go in and out of airports 3,4,5 times a day? I'd think the vast majority of their days would be going between planes or waiting and therefore they are almost staying inside the security zone. Only time I'd think they leave is to either go home in their home airport or go to the hotel. Either way that only means they've entered an airport security checkpoint once that day, same as the people they're shuttling around. Unless you have air crew that are determined to always leave airport terminals during extended layovers between flights or they just really, really want to go somewhere other than the airport for food (not a bad idea, of course), then I can't see why they'd leave the airport all that much during their typical workday.

I am nervous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074796)

I am suspicious, there has to be a bad idea in there somewhere or I will call shenanigans. The US government could F up a cheese sandwich, or make it cost $20,000.

Re:I am nervous (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074864)

The US government could F up a cheese sandwich, or make it cost $20,000.

Could? You've clearly never eaten at one of their mess halls / no-bid contract cafeterias.

Oh no! (1, Funny)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074810)

But what if the pilot got hold of a weapon they could use to hurt people! Like an aircraft for example... Oh wait....

Re:Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075414)

Yay security theater...

how about not screening *anybody*? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074870)

So far, the TSA has stopped zero terrorists. Over the same period of time, alert passengers have stopped 3 I can recall - maybe more I'm not thinking of.

So how about we stop wasting billions upon billions that we can't afford for the mere illusion of security?

Re:how about not screening *anybody*? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074982)

So far, the TSA has stopped zero terrorists.

And you know this how?
Not saying they have, but we here on the outside cannot say that definitively.

Re:how about not screening *anybody*? (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075016)

And you know this how?

If the TSA had actually achieved anything at all, don't you think they'd be shouting across the media to publicise that fact?

Re:how about not screening *anybody*? (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075158)

Actually, we can to a high degree of certainty. It is as much in the nature of a disliked government agency to crow from the rooftops any small success it might have as it is for water to flow down hill.

They haven't crowed.

We do know that two terrorists slipped right through the TSA since 9/11. Both were stopped by the passengers.

In baseball, that's called an Ofer

Re:how about not screening *anybody*? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075222)

And you know this how?
Because it is impossible to hijack a plane and crash it into a building while you are rolling on the floor with laughter.

Simple theater (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075044)

I work at an international airport. There's only one gate between the street and the runway. The 'guards' routinely flag us through from over 100 feet away if we so much as hold up something that looks remotely like it might be a badge. I've held up credit cards, library cards, and once, the Queen of Diamonds. So why in the hell should I submit to a full body X-ray operated by someone without a medical degree, or submit to sexual molestation if I refuse that? Is that supposed to make me feel safe?

Tye ionly reason I dn't like this (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075056)

is that if security is equally inconvenient, more consideration will be placed on it's effectiveness, and efficiency. That why I think lawyers and judges should have to wait in line to get into the court house.

This is, put simply, a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075060)

The issue has nothing to do with a pilot's ability to crash a plane if he or she so chooses (excusing the fact, for a second, that the other pilot would have something to say about that, unless they work as a team (and what's the chance of you surviving that?)) and related to all the other parts of the security system. The TSA is the steward of security at an airport, and would have to be (a) trusted to identify actual pilots vs counterfeit pilots (lets call them) (b) that a new system is put in place to identify actual pilots in a resilient way. I put it to you that the calibre of TSA staff at airports is not at that level - I certainly don't trust them and I know many other security types with the same assessment. And with (b), not only does the summary above assume things that the original article does not state, a new central database somewhere will have to built and maintained, with close to 100% reliable airport and TSA access in real-time, and likely coupled with at least 3 factor authentication. I don't believe that can happen. Security is a system after all, and this creates new vulnerabilities in new parts of the system. Meantime, I'm all for just scanning pilots along with everybody else, so the counterfeit pilot with a case packed full of C4 cannot slip through and hand it off to an accomplice.

One last question... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075072)

Does El Al screen their pilots?

Good (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075082)

Why am I apparently the only one that is happy that that the TSA are finally starting to back off a little?
I'm looking forward to the day when the TSA go away entirely and flying goes back to being as easy as pre 9/11 days.
I mean how many actual terrorist attempts (even failed ones) on aircraft have there been since 9/11 compared to the number of flights that happen daily? If not actually 0, its so small as to be statistically insignificant risk per flight. Isn't the continued perceived threat of terror completely just our own paranoia now? The more we continue to live in fear the more the ghost of Osama still wins. I say F him and lets live in freedom again.

They already control the plane... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075196)

I have a friend who is a commercial airline pilot. After 911, TSA insisted on taking his fingernail clippers because he "might commandeer the plane with them." His reply "I am the commander of the plane, who would I commandeer it from, myself?" was only met with blank stares.

They are talking about biometric verification, that's not the same as dressing someone up in a pilot suit and waving them through...

Joel

Re:They already control the plane... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075506)

Biometrics can be incredibly weak, actually. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman where shocked at how easily they where able to fool fingerprint readers (which are biometrics). It depends quite heavily on what they have in mind. They actually found the cheap readers in laptops where harder to fool then the more expensive ones.

But that's not the point, if 5 year old children have to be groped by the kiddy-fiddling TSA to get on a plane, the flight crew can damn well put up with it too.

CAPTCHA: informed

They already control *A* plane... (3, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075514)

Each pilot would normally have control of one plane, but each pilot that gets a special pass through security could, if they were inclined to do nefarious things, brings weapons through and deliver them to terrorists inside the "secure" area who had already passed through security (since they aren't pilots) but who would each board other planes.

Immediately after 9/11 -- with the reports from the planes of weapons including not only box cutters, but also guns -- there was a lot of speculation that this is essentially what happened with the terrorists in those attacks, that weapons had been brought through by one or more airline employees who were permitted to bypass the screenings that were in place for passengers entering the secure area of airports. That was one of the reasons given for federalizing airport security and eliminating the exceptions to the screening requirements.

yuo fail It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075200)

Also avoiding radiation (4, Informative)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075204)

Airline crews are limited to flight hours as a means to limit the radiation they receive to stay under OSHA limits. It is one of the careers that receive relatively high doses over their careers. Doses are cumulative (think about how people develop skin cancer supposedly from sun burns as a child).

For these reasons pilots try to avoid even small doses of radiation where they can, and walking through a body scanner several times every day they work over several years would add up.

Examples of industries with significant occupational radiation exposure:

  • - Airline crew (the most exposed population)
  • - Industrial radiography
  • - Medical radiology and nuclear medicine
  • - Uranium mining
  • - Nuclear power plant and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant workers
  • - Research laboratories (government, university and private)

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/53939/radiation-exposure/ [theenergycollective.com]

Pittsburg (PIT)? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075338)

Pittsburg? Last I checked we still had an 'h' at the end since 1911.

Perhaps they meant Pittsburgh (PIT)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_International_Airport

Everyone and everything must go through security. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075346)

What I don't understand is why don't the ground crew and the mechanics and the airport employee shuttle bus driver have to go through security too? They could potentially get on a plane!

And the things that go on planes are completely insecure. What about the cans of soda the flight attendants serve? Those are really dangerous. A coke employee could put a bomb on a plane by putting it in a can of coke at the factory.

And what about the airplanes themselves? A boeing employee could put a bomb in a brand new plane and no x-ray machine would ever detect it.

Yes, its true. We need to put everything through airport security. Even the airplanes.

Hide in plain sight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075350)

Is the new program just a way for TSA to hide this fact from the flying public?

As always, the best thing to do is hide it in plain sight: just make it official. Class-A citizens over there, Class-B over here. So the only ones complaining will be Class-B citizens, and who cares about those?

Note that the Class-A does not only include crew, it's certain high profile passengers as well.

OMG What? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075364)

You're telling me that the guy who determines whether the airplane stays in the air or not might be carrying a weapon? SCARY!

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