Several emails in response to my post on “Security and privilege” convinced me that I had made myself obscure.
This isn’t a security problem. Elite travelers don’t get less scrutiny than others; in fact, they probably get more, because the people searching their bags aren’t trying to keep long lines moving. The advantage they (we) get is not having to wait to be searched.
My colleage Andrew Sabl points out a parallel problem: if citizens had to face the random and arbitrary malice to which the current immigration rules expose long-term residents who aren’t citizens, that system would be politically unsustainable.
Notice that in both the airline and the immigration cases, the problem isn’t just a two-way tradeoff between security and convenience, but a three-way tradeoff, where the third term is resources. For only money, we could have a ratio of TSA personnel to travelers that let everyone go through as quickly as the privileged now go through.