For all the billions of dollars (and hours of time) spent on airline safety, the actual take down of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was by people in the plane. It was adjacent people, using common sense and common reactions, that foiled the plan.
It occurs to me that we could think of this from the crowd sourcing perspective. It is crowd-sourced safety.
Fifty million people flew last year. That is fifty million potential watchdogs and actors. We could decide that only 10 percent of that population would be competent to act, still pretty good and likely enough.
If you see something, DO something.
Do I really think that civilians should be trained to disarm terrorists in flight? No. But it does seem to me that these passengers are likely one of the best lines of defense. Isn’t this what happened with the plane that was forced to crash into the ground, instead of into a building (the Whitehouse?)in a Pennsylvania field in 2001?
This the similar lesson for emergency communications. After Katrina, we understood that what was really needed was existing on-the-ground communications, owned, operated, and understood by regular people.
The experts aren’t everywhere. In fact, we can know with a pretty high probability that they won’t be where an emergency event is. Haven’t we spent time teaching everyday people how to do CPR and the Heimlich maneuver?
Homeland Security might think about a different approach.