My “security interview” experience today

Like thousands of other I boarded an international fight this morning headed to the United States. All of us were “lucky” enough to participate in day one of the latest version of “enhanced” security screening for flights inbound from foreign countries. And if my experience is the norm I cannot help but wonder what the point of the exercise is.

A dedicated passport screening area in Barcelona for our flight to JFK
A dedicated passport screening area in Barcelona for our flight to JFK

With no checked bags and a mobile boarding pass I was able to go straight to the lounge when I arrived at Barcelona’s El Prat International Airport this morning. Eventually I made my way towards the gate where we had a dedicated passport control area. The third person to examine my passport in that line determined that I had not yet had the talk so I was ushered to a dedicated counter for questioning. After we established that I had no bags the fun began.

Please explain your trip to Barcelona.

I’m not much of a morning person and the security theatre rarely leaves me in a good mood so I’m sure my answers were short and grumpy. It also doesn’t help that I stayed in a random (but ultimately lovely) hotel I’d never heard of before booking it so when asked where I stayed I fumbled through the answer. I’m also sure my use of acronyms in describing the IATA WPS conference I was attending didn’t help.

Is New York City your final destination?

The questions about my professional life were slightly more interesting. Do I have an office or work from home and how far I live from the airport were among them. My answers were honest and vague, in part because I have no idea how far JFK is from the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. Apparently “About an hour on the train” was a sufficient response as I was granted the special sticker and cleared to fly.

The agent also had a printout on the desktop with the list of SSSSelectee passengers for the flight. I probably wasn’t supposed to know how many are on the flight or who they are, but there it was during my “interrogation” process.

Maybe I’m overly cynical when it comes to the little distractions that occur in the name of security at airports. How was I supposed to know that a small Kindle eReader is now considered a tablet to be removed from carry-on bags in France last week but not in Spain this week, or that my SLR is now subject to extra screening when it hasn’t been for the prior 9 months of this year nor the prior few years. Certainly being yelled at for those “mistakes” doesn’t engender a pleasant pre-flight experience.

But if we’re depending on people not knowing the name of a hotel and how far an airport is from the city center (two things I groggily fumbled through this morning anyways) to find the bad guys I think it might be time to reconsider what the game is and how it is played.

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