Listening to NPR this morning, I heard a report on the history of airport security that blew my socks off. It was difficult driving without socks, but what I heard is worth repeating.
The report was talking about airports before the advent of airport security. In the early 1970s, there were an average of two hijacked planes per month in the U.S., as the chart on this page shows. For the most part, it seems that the hijackers just wanted free rides to Cuba. But in the mid-1970s, hijackers smuggled guns and grenades onto a plane, and threatened to fly it into the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in Tennessee. That got peoples' attention. This was no longer a free ride - it was now a national security threat.
"The trouble with the plans is that airlines and airports will have to absorb the costs and so they will scream bloody murder should this be required of them," according to a White House memo from 1972. "Otherwise, it is a sound plan which will curtail the risk of hijacking substantially."
And it seems that the airlines did scream bloody murder. The NPR report quoted the airlines as saying something to the effect of "You expect us to inspect every passenger and all their baggage? It's outrageous!" And I suppose that before the era of airline security, it would have seemed outrageous. ALCU also put up a fight, saying that the search without reasonable cause would violate fourth amendment rights. But I sadly believe that in today's world, nearly no one will claim that airport security is unneccesary. Although we may wish it unneccesary.
Since most of this happened before I was born, and much of it happened while I was too young to know any better, I just found much of this fascinating - if not entirely happy.