The Computer Assisted Passenger Screening system, an airline security measure that uses software to determine which passengers to single out for extra screening, is so much easier to defeat that terrorists will seek out American airports that use it.

That conclusion was reached in Carnival Booth: An Algorithm for Defeating the Computer-Assisted Passenger Screening System, a fascinating paper by Samidh Chakrabarti and Aaron Strauss, two students in a Harvard Law/MIT course on ethics and law in cyberspace.

The paper provides some insight into the present state of travel security and the reasons for the success of the Sept. 11 attackers. Some details: Seven of the 19 hijackers got driver's licenses in Virginia because of its relaxed standards and the CAPS system only singled out half of the hijacker's luggage for extra scrutiny.

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