No easy fixes to terror

If you’ve been anywhere near an airport in the last week or so you will have seen the knock-on effects of the recent attack on the terminal building at Glasgow.

Those effects include an ever more visible police presence, even longer queues for security and the appearance of giant concrete blocks at the entrances.

These measures are meant to both reassure us and protect us, but they are relatively blunt weapons in an increasingly high-stakes battle.

As usual, the call that is heard loudest in the aftermath of such events is ‘send for the technology.’ It now almost seems to be a national reflex response to demand increasing levels of sophistication from the infrastructure in place to combat terrorism every time an incident occurs.

For example, it has been pointed out – and not unreasonably – that the queues of passengers waiting at check-in desks and to pass through security at airport terminals are among the most tempting targets imaginable for a suicide bomber with an eye on the main prize. So the security measures designed to eliminate threats air-side create a new area of threat ground-side. The logical solution is to have a whole new set of scanning devices at the entrances to terminal buildings, screening those coming in for explosives and weapons.

The technology to do this is available, but consider the consequences.

The queues inside the airport would be replicated by new ones outside. The air travel network would more or less grind to a halt as the system became one long series of scans, security checks and searches.

The same process could be replicated on our rail and road networks. It is already not uncommon to be filtered through a scanner while entering or leaving a London Underground station.

Unfortunately for those who would like to believe that technology can ensure our personal safety, the reality is that it could – but only at the price of our economy and mobility.

Advanced security technologies have an important role in a safer future, but the real solutions will have to come from elsewhere.

Andrew Lee, editor