I remember the first time I returned to my hometown after spending my first year abroad. My connecting flight was routed through Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, and the incredible security measures at LAX were so surprising I remember them every time I fly back to the US. Drug detecting dogs descended on the line of weary passengers. A sizable German Shepherd and a small pug weaved through the lines with their handlers, sniffing for all sorts of indiscretions. The pug succeeded in getting an apple confiscated from one of the passengers in line a few people in front of me. At the time I figured it must have been because Amsterdam was such a well known hub for illicit substances that drug smuggling from this location must be high on the radar for US authorities.
However, the security my flight from earlier today makes that incidence from five years seem mundane. Flying back from Tunisia, I was routed through Paris (CDG), followed by Amsterdam (AMS), as was the nature of my ticket, reserved because it allotted the shortest travel time possible. I was quite surprised, though reminded of my endeavors from five years ago, when each and every passenger had to undergo an individual interview with airport authority before being able to board the plane. I quickly discovered that my trip, which included traveling from Boston to Tunisia for the short duration of one week, (aka all the vacation time I was allowed), was highly suspicious to my interviewing officer.
What is the nature of your relationship with the people you visited in Tunisia? Why did they elect to live in Tunisia? Where all did you go throughout the middle Eastern region? Why did you travel all the way from the US to Northern Africa for such a short time? (I was asked this question many times). You seem to travel a lot, what is your profession? Are you traveling on an official or civilian passport? This line of questioning continued for about ten minutes, which exceeded that of the average passenger. Finally, the officer made me show him an electronic copy of my itinerary, and match my three return boarding passes to the e-copy to prove that no changes had been made, and an alternative official form of identification before allowing me to go through yet another security check point (where they confiscated my mango juice..).
Grumbles from my fellow passengers ascertained that those measures are atypical. According to this article, counter terrorism intelligence speculates the creation of new explosives embedded in apple and samsung products. Flights into the US from Africa, the Middle East, and select hubs in Europe are implementing these new security measures. This focus on enhanced explosive trace detections may coincide with current intelligence, however it doesn’t completely explain why we were all interviewed for several minutes. While I did use my iPad to show my flight itinerary, I don’t believe any chemical swab took place.
The stressful components of the security instilled to simply come back to my place of residence was both puzzling and seemed to extol a rather large effort on behalf of the Shiphol airport staff. Hopefully these measures will be deemed overkill soon.☼