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Increase in checked baggage poses new security threat

You see it every now and then in an old cartoon. A hapless hero, trying to stop a small leak in a dam from bursting, plugs the hole with one finger when all of the sudden another leak appears. The hero plugs that hole with another finger, and then yet another new leak appears. He blocks that one with a toe, and it goes on and on until at last the dam bursts anyway.

It's funny in a cartoon. It's not so funny when you realize this is essentially what's happening to our increasingly strapped airport security system. The hapless "hero" here is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the dam about to burst—well, that's the one filled with more checked baggage than the system can reasonably handle.

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A side effect of the TSA's new carry-on restrictions is that more and more passengers are checking bags, to the tune of about a half-million additional bags per day since the new rules went into effect. This according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, which also points out that the checked-luggage security system at some airports is "so overloaded at times that security shortcuts are sometimes used."

Security "shortcuts." That's fabulous. The TSA says its shortcuts "don't compromise security," but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) disagrees, saying, "TSA's use of these various procedures has involved tradeoffs in security effectiveness."

The question has to be asked: If the shortcuts "don't compromise security," why aren't all bags screened using the shortcut methods? The answer is obvious: clearly the measures aren't as effective, or they would be the standard procedure.

Well, at least the TSA is still stopping everyday travelers from bringing bottled water into the cabin.

Feel safer yet?

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