A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health may answer a question that many annoyed air travelers have asked themselves when going through airport security: Do I really need to take off my shoes?
A team at the Harvard School of Public Health could not find any studies showing whether the time-consuming process of X-raying carry-on luggage prevents hijackings or attacks.
They also found no evidence to suggest that making passengers take off their shoes and confiscating small items prevented any incidents.
The Transportation Security Administration told research teams requesting information their need for quick new security measures trumped the usefulness of evaluating them, Eleni Linos, Elizabeth Linos, and Graham Colditz reported in the British Medical Journal.
TSA defended its security policies, saying airport passenger screening has led to the confiscation of 13 million prohibited items in one year. Yet, researchers say lighters make up a disproportionate number of the confiscated items.
Reflecting on the $5.6 billion spent on airport security a year internationally, one of the study's researchers, Elizabeth Linos, said: "We'd like airport security screening to be of value. As passengers and members of the public we'd like to know the evidence and the reasoning behind these measures."
As the report asks rhetorically: "Can you hide anything in your shoes that you cannot hide in your underwear?"