Taking airline security in stride

Let's hope we don't get "shoed" again. Most of us remember what happened to airport screening procedures when Richard Reid hid an explosive device in his shoes on a flight from France to Miami in 2001. Flying was never the same after that. Things only got worse in 2009 when the "Underwear Bomber" attempted to smuggle an explosive device beneath his clothes on Christmas Day.

Now comes word of another attempted shoe bomber — this time in Detroit. The incident comes as new, enhanced security screening is announced for international flights in response to intelligence that a terrorist group in the Middle East is thinking about new ways to bring a bomb onto an American jetliner. This time the added security requirement will be powering on electronic devices to ensure nothing is hidden in your computer that might activate an explosion. Travelers will have to be fully charged before boarding.

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Americans are getting used to putting every item they own onto the security belt. We pack ahead with an eye toward minimizing hygiene — small bottles of shampoo, no deodorant cans or large tubes of toothpaste. We tolerate pat-downs, scanners, metal detectors and probing questions. Now we need our chargers as well. At least, so far, we can still hold onto our "soles."

The question looming ahead is: Will other countries meet the new enhanced standards for powering up? Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is hoping countries in Europe and the Middle East will beef up security measures on U.S.-bound flights. France has already gotten on board. But to truly be effective, every airport from Rome to Riyadh has to enhance security. That takes resources and political will. The Transportation Security Administration can control what happens in its territory, but not every airport will buy into the new procedures.

The good news about all this preemptive security is that it points to the growing sophistication of U.S. intelligence and its ability to foil terrorism plots before they occur. It's worth remembering that the Department of Homeland Security didn't even exist before 9-11. (It came into being in 2002 to coordinate a national strategy to safeguard America against threats from terrorists.) The prospect that we are getting ahead of the bad guys is comforting.

The bad news is that security is becoming a way of life. We don't want to become Israel where security trumps everything. We want to be American frequent fliers traveling with bulging backpacks and an extra suitcase for the souvenirs we plan to bring home from overseas.

Americans will have to take these new security measures "in stride." It could be worse. They could be charging us more for security enhancements!

Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. She previously served as under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs.