More often than not, I have traveled via air for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Fortunately, I am staying home this week and will not have to confront the anti-TSA Security travelers exercising their First Amendment vocal cords. I do travel quite a bit and the security process is a complete and utter pain in the rear end. Just because some 6 foot five guy lights his shoes on fire hoping to blow up a jetliner, we are forced to walk barefoot through security. And, as the result of a traveler mixing liquids in the plane’s bathroom, we must bring liquids in containers of 3.5 ounces or less. Taking off my coat, pulling out my laptop, extracting my phone, taking off my shoes, pulling out my liquids and checking for anything I missed, all while trying to make a flight for which I am usually late, takes years off my life.
Not as many however, compared to the years taken off if an explosive device detonates while airborne.
And let’s be real clear; at least three attempts at blowing up airplanes failed in the last six months. No one wants to enact enhanced security regiments just because. Rather, terrorist still want to kill us and for whatever reason, blowing up jets seems to be the preferred method.
Let us also be real clear on one other point as well. The U.S. airport security system can be less invasive and cumbersome. TSA critics point to the Israeli system of security as the model of how to defend airplanes, and much can be and should be learned from them. Most effective are the security personnel who interview each and every traveler applying sophisticated psychological training to identify potential threats. Israel though has one major airport while the U.S. has thousands. And our political sensitivities make “profiling” a third rail for various ethnic groups.
Profiling is really not what most people think. Most security organizations do not look for just ethnicity, but origin of travel, length of stay, purpose of travel, date of ticket purchase, and the manner in which the person answers these basic questions. I have a feeling our airport security already looks for some of these elements, in addition to other criteria. Nonetheless, the threat of terrorists slipping explosives into an unaware traveler’s belongings, deceiving travelers into carrying devices, or not resembling the “terrorist” profile at all, remains a credible threat.
Thus, physical screening becomes a necessary evil of air travel to ensure our collective safety. This does not mean TSA agents can grope and feel around at will. The recent stories of such personal invasions, however, spread like wildfire igniting the already high flame of government distrust. I read these accounts as well as the threatened boycott (of what, I really don’t know) with a great deal of cynicism. First, only those refusing to enter the scanning booth will undergo a pat down. Unfound fears of radiation and privacy cast great doubt on the safety of the new and efficient body scanners causing many to choose pat down over scan. As I understand from independent experts, a person would have to use the body scanner equivalent to the amount of sweet n low given to mice to give them cancer. Meaning, one would need to spend an exponential amount of time inside one of these baby’s to have a problem. The privacy argument encounters similar challenges. Rumors of what the readers can and cannot see lack veracity except to those seeking a prurient take on the job of the TSA agent.
Second, I sense jealous former suitors engaging in some public relations maneuvers aimed at removing TSA’s monopoly on airport security. Remember, prior to 911 airports essentially hired a screening firm of its choosing. Due to the lack of uniform procedures and training, these private firms were scrapped in exchange for the TSA. However, these same firms apparently want back in, and are lobbying Washington for that opportunity. What better way to move Congress than to discredit TSA with incriminations of inappropriate sexual contact?
Finally, I sense that the anti-government tea party types see TSA as a ripe target for ripping “Government” a new one. The same government, by the way, charged with protecting us from terror organizations. The results is a blurring of the lines between reasonable and appropriate government criticism and neutering government’s ability to defend against terror. And if we see the smeared chalk, no doubt the other guys do to.