Welcome to the age of heightened security

News item: "Officials at both Logan and T.F. Greene airports say they will install "face recognition technology" to scan the faces of travelers and others who pass through checkpoints and compare them with facial features of suspected terrorists."


I'd love to see how one of these systems work. I haven' seen much in the way of security at U.S. airports that actually works. This would be a first.

My wife, Barbara, and I flew out of Logan on a trip to Italy just 12 days after the attack in New York City. We had been advised by our travel web site to arrive three hours early in anticipation of the extra security measures we'd have to go through.

We arrived three hours early, all right, but there was no extra security. Our bags were passed along in record time (most likely because there were few fellow passengers dumb enough to fly under those conditions).

As our baggage sailed down the conveyor belt I asked the lady at the check-in counter if anyone was going to go through our bags. She looked at the disappearing bags and said, "I have no idea what happens to them back there. (When we arrived in Italy I checked and nothing had been disturbed in our bags.)

Next came the "heightened sense of security" at the gate. It took the two of us less than a minute to go through security. We spent the next three hours reading newspapers and waiting for the plane.

When we got to Italy it was a different matter entirely. They really do take security seriously. We were greeted at the gate by guards with rifles and submachine guns. Each of us was told to step aside and raise our arms over our heads, while they frisked us and a guard went over our bodies with a metal detector.

I'm getting the feeling that we just don't know how to do security in this country. I later saw a "60 Minutes" interview with a security expert who had been hired to study airport security in the U.S. He said his staff had gotten past airport security 444 out of 450 tries with weapons on them without being detected. One of them, he said, had gotten past security with a submachine strapped on his back. He simply walked around the checkpoint when the guard wasn't looking!

Arriving back into the states, U.S. Customs gave us a different view of security. As I walked along a voice yelled, "Stop." I was told to step aside with my bags.

A customs agent asked me if I had any food in my bag. I said I didn't think so. "You don't have a salami in there?" he asked accusingly.

It was then that I remembered that I had bought a six-inch piece of pepperoni-like salami to give to a friend. The agents opened my bag and removed the salami.

"What's going on?" I asked.

I was told that travelers cannot bring food into the U.S. I watched the agent walk off with my salami (and thought I spied him licking his lips).

I was baffled. How did they knew about the salami? Special canine patrol? Electronic salami detectors?

Maybe there's hope for us, after all.