We do have new security measures, but Richard C. Reid (aka Abdel Rahim, aka Scary Freaky-looking Motherfucker) boarded his flight in France. France has its own aviation security procedures. I don't mean to suggest that American airport security would have been better able to stop him before he boarded the plane. Other than adorable hats and hourly wine and cheese breaks, French security procedures are an awful lot like ours.
Reid was able to board American Airlines Flight 63 Dec. 22 with bombs in his shoes because, even though he was singled out for extra inspections and interviews, he was never checked for explosives and his shoes were never inspected by hand. Reports say that his bomb was made from plastic explosives, a cord-like fuse and black powder. There was no metal in them to set off metal detectors. Detecting them would have required either bomb-sniffing dogs (in France, that would likely mean a poodle), an explosives detecting machine or hand-inspection of his shoes.
That French and American airport security officials are now inspecting shoes is comforting, but begs the question: Why weren't they doing it before? Smuggling things in your shoes shouldn't be a novel concept for aviation officials. When Reid traveled to Israel last July, Israeli airport officials hand-inspected his shoes. If Reid's facial grooming is an overall indication of his hygiene, that can't have been pleasant.
Congress passed legislation to improve U.S. airline security, but the legislation's requirements (air marshals on every flight, X-ray inspection of checked bags) won't take full effect until the end of 2002. Left out of the legislation are precautions such as requiring that "suspicious" passengers be checked for explosives or putting all baggage through explosives detectors (as requested by the Association of Flight Attendants).
Reid's freaky appearance suggests another possible security measure. In addition to current measures, let's put every passenger through the "Oh shit, I hope he's not on my flight" test. If you see a person who makes you think, "Oh shit, I hope he's not on my flight," then that person has to be checked for explosives. Doing so would keep people like Reid off airplanes, give passengers something fun to do while they're waiting and probably make people a lot nicer to each other.
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