Anyone who travels a lot by air will know that there's no glamour involved anymore, in fact, airports appear to be less civilised places these days than coach stations. They make the bulk of their money from charging motorists for parking and dropping off and have little regard for passengers. Amongst the least pleasant experiences before boarding a plane is the so-called security screening procedure. It has very little to do with security and a lot with harassment. It seems authorities want Joe Public to feel uneasy and on edge, for keeping the so-called terror threat alive is good for politics. So far, the only explosives ever detected by airport screening were those previously planted by security staff themselves. A couple of years ago a business man boarded a plane in Houston, Texas, with a loaded pistol in his hand luggage. He reported the security lapse on arrival. Lucky for him, they didn't spot it prior to boarding, seeing he goes by the Arabic name of Farid Seif. Had they found it, they would probably have turned him into a would-be terrorist, instead it was all embarrassment for them. He didn't intend to carry the gun, he just forgot it was there. I can sympathise. Twice I have travelled from a UK airport with a Swiss army knife in my pocket, having simply forgotten to remove it prior to setting out to the airport. On one of those occasions, they put me through a pad-down body search whilst the pocket knife happily passed through the x-ray machine unmolested with my jacket. On the other occasion, they took great care to swab my ipad for explosives. Ipads are much more interesting than Swiss army knives, I suppose. I've known other people who have travelled with box cutters left in their bag from some DIY project. Wasn't it box cutters after all which ushered in the ongoing security hype, not explosives?
As for people losing things, besides their nerves and their heads, I have seen them forget their mobile phones, drop their identity cards, leave their boarding passes behind, and the ensuing confusion and chaos must surely add a great deal to security, apart from being a great opportunity for the occasional thief.
There is no consistency either. At some UK airports they give you tiny trays where hardly anything fits in, at others huge ones, at some airports they let you sort your stuff into trays beforehand, at others they hand you the tray last minute, so you end up like a juggler trying to balance whilst holding your jacket, belt, laptop, ipad, hand luggage ready to be submitted in a hurry. At some airports they ask you to take your shoes off randomly, at others they have a separate shoe scanning machine. If you're quick enough you could place a hidden item from your shoe into the already scanned luggage before placing your shoes on the second belt, a great way of concealing contraband and exploiting a security loophole! At European airports they take away your drinking water, but on your return flight into Europe with the same carrier you can take your water with you - naturally, North African water, for example, is known to have a much higher safety record than, let's say, British water - I kid you not!
I remember that in the days before the terrorist threat they executed similar harassment for health and hygiene reasons. If you were to fly into Heathrow or some other UK airport from Africa, they would spray the plane with insecticide before opening the doors after landing. However, if your plane made an intermediate stop in Frankfurt, where they didn't disinfect the plane, then they wouldn't do it at Heathrow either, because you came in from Europe. A simple stop-over somewhere in Europe turned those deadly African bugs into benign European creatures not worthy of further consideration - amazing!
The so-called airport security measures, including the police patrols with machine guns, serve the same purpose. They are there to intimidate and cause anxiety; they allow the US and Europe to act like the tough world policeman they made themselves out to be and keep their populations scared of those lesser human beings living outside their borders. Last not least, even bogus security is expensive, so it's definitely good for business.