- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The head of British Airways has ripped U.S. air travel security policy as excessive and called on the United Kingdom to reject American calls for increased screening measures.

Martin Broughton, chairman of British Airways, said Tuesday during the annual UK Airport Operators Association conference in London that his colleagues shouldn’t “kowtow to the Americans every time they wanted something done.” He expressed anger about new screening measures required for flights arriving in the U.S. from overseas.

“America does not do internally a lot of the things they demand that we do,” Mr. Broughton said, according to a report in the Financial Times. “We shouldn’t stand for that. We should say, ‘We’ll only do things which we consider to be essential and that you Americans also consider essential.’”

According to the Financial Times, Mr. Broughton’s remarks referred to an extra screening of U.S.-bound foreign passengers implemented after a Nigerian man tried to detonate explosives in his underpants during an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight last Christmas.

Mr. Broughton said the extra screening is redundant and unnecessary. The paper reported he said the same about forcing passengers to remove their shoes and laptops from luggage during the screening process.

“We all know there’s quite a number of elements in the security program which are completely redundant and they should be sorted out,” Mr. Broughton said, according to the Financial Times.

Stephen Howard, vice president of credentialing at CertiPath, a company that focuses on airport security, bristled at Mr. Broughton’s anger over the screening procedures for foreign passengers.

“That doesn’t make any sense at all to me,” Mr. Howard said of Mr. Broughton’s comments. “If you’re coming in across the border to the United States we do have the rights to do something like that.”

Mr. Howard did criticize U.S. security policy for being “too reactionary and not too forward thinking.”

Specifically, he noted that the shoe screening was a reaction to the attempted 2001 attack by the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who had packed explosives in his sneakers that he unsuccessfully attempted to detonate.

“What is going on is our security posture is not driven by forward-thinking elements,” Mr. Howard told The Washington Times. He said a more effective security policy would focus on behavioral analysis of passengers and focus on those who seem nervous or do something that looks suspicious.

For their part, most Americans do not believe airport security procedures are too strict, according to a Rasmussen poll released earlier this year.

According to the March poll, 44 percent of Americans said security procedures are “about right.” Thirty-five percent said procedures are not strict enough and only 15 percent said they are too strict.

According to a survey conducted by the information technology company Unisys, 93 percent of Americans are willing to “sacrifice some level of privacy to increase safety when traveling by air.”

The survey reported that 65 percent of Americans are willing to cooperate with electronic full-body scans at airports. The full-body scans have been a controversial measure introduced by the Transportation Security Administration, which did not return a message seeking comment.

The country most accepting of the full-body scans was the United Kingdom, with 90 percent of its citizens saying they would cooperate with such a measure.

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