Greyhound’s pointless security


in Canada, Daily updates, Politics, Rants, Security, Travel

On my way to Toronto last weekend, I was subjected to Greyhound’s farcical new ‘security screening.’

People were made to stand in a line in front of a roped-off area. One by one, they removed metal objects from their pockets, placed them in a dish, and had a metal detecting wand waved over then. At the same time, another security person spent a couple of second poking around in the top few inches of the person’s carry-on bag. The person then entered the roped-off area, carrying their carry-on and checked bags with them, waiting for the rest of the line to be processed.

Ways to get a weapon past this system:

  • Get one not made of metal, like a ceramic knife, and put it in your pocket.
  • Put it below the top few inches of your backpack.
  • Hide it inside a hollowed-out book, inside a piece of electronics, etc.
  • Put it in your wallet. With a wallet that can take an unfolded bill, you could fit a few flat throwing knives.
  • Tape it to the bottom of your shoe.
  • Put it in your checked baggage, remove it while you are waiting on the far side of the line.
  • Go through the screening, ask to go use the bathroom, collect your weapon, and return to the ‘screened’ area.
  • Before entering the bus station, hide a weapon outside, in the vicinity of where your bus will pull in. Pick it up before boarding.
  • Use a weapon that is both deadly and innocuous: such as a cane, umbrella, or strong rope.
  • Get on at a rural stop, instead of Ottawa.
  • Get on in Toronto, instead of Ottawa, since they don’t seem to be bothering with the screening there.
  • Etc.

I am not saying that people should actually bring weapons on Greyhound buses, and I am most certainly not saying that Greyhound should tighten their security to make these tactics useless. I am saying that the new screening is nothing more than security theatre. It does nothing to make Greyhound buses safer, though it will add needlessly to ticket prices.

On a more philosophical level, it also perpetuates the kind of low-freedom, security-obsessed society that many people seem to expect. It would be far healthier to acknowledge that the world contains risks while also noticing that countermeasures to reduce those risks have real costs, whether in hard currency or in convenience or privacy or liberty.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

. January 19, 2009 at 10:04 pm

“The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Aggie January 19, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Funny, I was just talking about this new Greyhound security with a friend who found the measures equally ridiculous and was pissed about losing a brand new nail file. I have to say I was freaked out about of getting my head cut off the first time I rode the bus after “that incident”. But I think this fear is diminishing and doesn’t begin to match the depressing thought of going through more “security theatre”. You coined a great phrase there, Milan.

Milan January 19, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Sorry, but ‘security theatre’ isn’t mine. I got it from Bruce Schneier, and he may not have invented it, either.

Incidentally, when I went through the Greyhound security, I had a small multi-tool on my keychain. It included a knife and some scissors. The security person glanced at it, thought for a moment, decided it was harmless, and let me through. That security person showed more sense than Greyhound management has.

. January 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Use a weapon that is both deadly and innocuous: such as a cane, umbrella, or strong rope.

Self-defense Unbreakable Umbrella from

. January 19, 2009 at 11:02 pm
Emily January 19, 2009 at 11:26 pm

The logic behind this still escapes me. It’s obviously a kind of reconciliation effort more than any kind of sincere one, since the security screening measures implemented seem to be poorly thought out and inconsistent.

But it’s such a silly gesture. Why not just weather out the press-storm, lose a bit of revenue during the scare, and then continue on as is? In reality, riding Greyhound is probably less dangerous than riding on a downtown bus, or a bus through North Surrey. They must be losing money in the long-term when people consider the extra hassle that they need to go through just to go for a milk-run through rural Canada or the states. This seems to be occurring at the same time as a few other coach companies are getting in on the bus-tripping scene.

It seems like a poorly thought-out decision on all fronts.

Tristan January 19, 2009 at 11:31 pm

The only thing you’ve missed is what the product of these kind of security measures is.

“, it also perpetuates the kind of low-freedom, security-obsessed society that many people seem to expec”

Of course it does – that’s the product. Not real security, but the perception of security, which is identical with the destruction of freedom. That’s the point. The perceived product is increased security, the real product is destruction of personal freedom. “Real” security is something cared about only by people with specific technical interests – a small part of the population at large, and not a politically significant one (at least, this much is assumed by people making decisions at Greyhound – and we should be very naive to think that they believe the purpose of these measures is to increase real security).

Milan January 20, 2009 at 12:14 am


That is precisely what I meant when I said that: “I am saying that the new screening is nothing more than security theatre.”

The most logical justification for these measures is that, if there is another attack and they get sued, the executives can argue that they took all appropriate measures to ensure security.

Tristan January 20, 2009 at 1:06 am



zoom January 20, 2009 at 8:08 am

I agree completely Milan. All this does is give the illusion of security to irrational people who are freaked out about their infinitesimal chances of being decapitated on a Greyhound bus. So many people these days seem unwilling to tolerate any risk, no matter how infinitesimal.

What happens if someone gets decapitated walking down the street?

Milan January 20, 2009 at 8:44 am

What happens if someone gets decapitated walking down the street?

Eight more years of Republican government.

. January 20, 2009 at 2:12 pm

The Cost of Fearing Strangers
By Stephen J. Dubner

January 6, 2009, 4:59 pm

. November 30, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Next Step For US Body Scanners Could Be Trains, Metro Systems

“The Hill reports that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists will continue to look for US vulnerabilities, making tighter security standards necessary. ‘[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,’ Napolitano said in an interview with Charlie Rose. ‘I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime.’ Napolitano added she hoped the US could get to a place in the future where Americans would not have to be as guarded against terrorist attacks as they are and that she was actively promoting research into the psychology of how a terrorist becomes radicalized. ‘The long-term [question] is, how do we get out of this having to have an ever-increasing security apparatus because of terrorists and a terrorist attack?’ says Napolitano. ‘I think having a better understanding of what causes someone to become a terrorist will be helpful.'”

Blackhelicopters August 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Hey op, my buddy used your guide to smuggle yellow cake into Mexico city.

Milan August 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm

For one thing, yellowcake uranium is relatively innocuous stuff, unless you have a huge industrial facility to separate isotopes. If you have that, why are you traveling by Greyhound?

Secondly, unless you were carrying it in your pockets, Greyhound’s new passenger screening procedures would not have any effect on your ability to transport it by bus.

josh March 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

After reading this article I have a different argument disagreeing that the Security is “pointless.”
I work as Security for Greyhound and I do agree that it is not the most secure Security in the world.
But on a daily basis through our terminal we stop violent, drunk and disorderly people getting on the bus. Imagine having to spend a 10 hour bus ride with some drunk guy running his mouth or someone with some weed on them stinking out the entire bus. It makes it unpleasent for everyone on board. It does frustrate me and many others on the job that we dont have the same equipment that the airports do but we make do with what we have and try to prevent various vagrants and other undesirables boarding the bus for the benefit of the rest of the passengers. We also assist various police forces in locating wanted criminals and missing persons. To sum up, sure we dont find everything, and there are many many ways to slip weapons, drugs, etc, past us, but we do have an effect, we do make a few discoveries and removals of undesireable passengers. Alot of our work goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

Notime March 18, 2012 at 1:13 am

This issue has had me boiling since they implemented it, complete security farce all in the name improving their public image after some statistically rare incident ( psycho decapitated some guy). So VIA who has way more at risk given their infrastructure doesn’t criminalize their passangers where as Grayhound puts on this farce withe a couple adolescent monkies in uniforms go through people’s personal belongings and cigarettes .

Today I lost it and insisted they’d tell me who their Grayhound boss was, the answer: regional manager Wayne Binda – we should take io our concerns directly with him and at the same timewrite to the editors of local newspapers with a critical analysis of their protocols and the disgraceful farce that it is. Personally- I will not be using Grayhound in the future as this level of personal invasion is not acceptable and simply not worth the 70$ ticket I pay.
Wayne Binda
265, Catherine Street
Ottawa (Ontario)
K1R 7S5
Tél. : 613 238-2172
Watt : 800 363-4231
Courriel :
Internet :

Well I asked today who their boss is and his name is

. March 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Aviation officials have questioned the need for such a strong permanent police presence at airports, suggesting they were there simply “to make the government look tough on terror”.

One senior executive said in his experience, the officers were expensive window-dressing.

“When you add the body scanners, the ritual humiliation of old ladies with knitting needles and the farcical air marshals, it all adds up to billions of dollars to prevent what? A politician being called soft on terror, that’s what,” he said.

. March 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

In the entire decade or so of airport security since the attacks on America on September 11th 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has not foiled a single terrorist plot or caught a single terrorist.

. August 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

VIA Rail considers heightened security measures — including background checks — after terror plot

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