Security Theater at Brussels Airport

In a previous post, I called the “security” measures enforced at Brussels Airport stupid. In this post I am trying to explain why I consider them as such.

First a definition from Wikipedia: “Airport security refers to the techniques and methods used in protecting passengers, staff and aircraft which use the airports from accidental/malicious harm, crime and other threats”. Notice that passengers are listed first.

Next a short description of security zones in an airport. The basic idea is to allow only legitimate passengers to enter the boarding area, and also to prevent them to bring dangerous materials.

As a passenger, when you arrive to the airport, you are still unknown. You have to check-in (which is basically identifying yourself) and pass trough security checks to reach the boarding area.

The boarding area is secure, only legitimate travelers should reach it. The public areas are by default insecure, anyone can be present here, including potential attackers.

As a passenger, to be secure you have to move as quickly as possible from the public areas to the secure boarding areas. An efficient security system should allow for rapid identification and verification of valid travelers, and rejection of everyone else. When you arrive at the airport, you don’t want to spend too much time in the public insecure areas.

What they did at Brussels Airport is the following: They added two extra identification and baggage scanning layers before check-in. This does not add any security for the passengers for the following reasons:

  • The people standing in the queue are still unknown (not identified).
  • Their baggage is only scanned at the end.  
  • Passengers are forced to spend 1-2 extra hours in the public insecure area.

In my personal opinion, this cannot be called “security”. It is just a security theater.

Another definition from Wikipedia: “Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it.”

The queues in the parking lot are the ideal target for potential terrorists. If you are planning to travel from Brussels, I strongly suggest you avoid those queues, and choose a different airport.

Disclaimer: I am not an airport security expert, but I have good knowledge of physical security. I also have common sense.

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