Seventeen years after September 11, we should re-evaluate what we're investing in airport security

In the almost seventeen years since the terror attack on September 11, Canada and the United States have spent billions of dollars on airport security and other measures to fight terrorism.

It might be time to evaluate how much value we’re getting for the money we’re investing. There’s no question we have to protect against the danger of ideological and religious violence. But the number of civilians killed by terrorists worldwide dropped 33% in 2017 from the previous year. Of course, that could mean that security measures are working well. It could also be due to a lot of other factors. But the amount we’re spending on security far eclipses what we invest in many other areas that cause a greater loss of human life.

Airport security, in particular, seems like a lot of overkill given the rare number of threats and the ease at which deadly violence can be initiated on sidewalks and streets. Much of what happens at the airport can be described as security theatre, designed more to give passengers the aura of safety than to stop real attacks.

We should always fight violence, but we should also make sure our response is proportional to the threat. And we should never let security contribute to a climate of fear.

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