To say that the new security measures being implemented at airports across America are stirring up a controversy would have to be the understatement of the year. More and more, we are seeing news stories about the new policy being used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of giving passengers about to board an airplane a choice. Either submit to a full-body scan or a pat-down search. It’s your choice, but no matter what your decision is, it is bound to be humiliating. There just seems to be no way around that fact. If a person is just browsing the news channels, they could get the impression that full-body scanners are a new fad, but that isn’t necessarily the case. I wrote an article almost a year ago that mentioned the scanners. They were beginning to come online at airports across the country and at that time, I had not reached a conclusion on how I felt about their use. The reason we are seeing so much about them in the news is the new security guidelines TSA started using on October 29 of this year. That’s when they started randomly choosing people from the crowd and giving them the choice between a full-body scan or a pat-down search.
As I write this post, I have been doing some research on the fly and it seems all one has to do is a Google search to come across all manner of news articles and blog posts that detail the horrors of what some travelers have gone through. I have seen a video of a three-year-old girl being searched, while being held by her mother and videoed by her father. Needless to say, the little girl wasn’t a bit happy at being touched like that by a stranger. As a father, I can honestly say our two daughters would have been throwing themselves a fit a situation like that. My wife and I always taught them to not submit to something like that. If a stranger touched them, they were to raise as much fuss as possible. Also as a father, I can tell you that someone would have had to bail me out of jail, had that been one of our daughters. At the end of the day, do you think the TSA employee who was trying to search the girl really believed her parents may have hidden an explosive on their child? There is no way I would stand by and allow it to happen, even if it meant renting a car and finishing my trip by driving.
There are also horror stories of women being selected to be scanned or searched because they have an ankle-length skirt on. Again, our two daughters would fall into that category, as either of them will be wearing such a skirt almost anytime they are in public. It’s just the way they dress. If TSA security personnel can not tell they are not a terrorist by the way they are acting, then I would suggest they need more training. I would like to know how travelers are randomly chosen for these scans or searches. What criteria do they use?
Some of the horror stories I have read include one by a rape survivor who was given the choice of be scanned or be searched. She submitted to the search, but says it feels like she was sexually assaulted all over again. If her description of the search is accurate, I would have to agree. Surely there is a way to enforce airport security, without subjecting men or women to such invasive searches. I understand the need to make sure our airports are secure and by proxy, our airplanes. I just fail to see how these scans and searches are anything but an invasion of our privacy.
What’s even more troubling, puzzling, bothersome (insert your own adjective here) is the fact that pilots and flight attendants are being subjected to the same security procedures as any normal traveler. Again, I understand the need for airport security, but pilots and flight attendants? Have they already not undergone security scrutiny? One would think so, given the amount of access they have to the planes. Why would they be required to be scanned or searched, as any other traveler? Just one more question that I have no answer for.
What is the answer to the problems we are facing with airport security? Some say we need to take the approach used by Israel, who has not had an incident with one of their airplanes for years. They use extensive profiling to spot and isolate anyone who may be a threat and everyone who works at the airport is part of the security team. It should also be noted that they only have one major airport that conducts international flights. I think their techniques should be studied and implemented, where possible, but it would be different in America. We have many more major airports and the attitude of their citizens is completely different than is ours.
TSA is certainly part of the problem. Their employees are not well paid and no doubt, their’s is a thankless job. I don’t fault the employees on the ground so much as I do the people in charge. It’s for certain that the full-body scans and pat-down searches are not going over so well, especially when you look at who is getting searched or scanned. There are plans for a national opt-out day on November 24, one of the busiest travel days of the year. You do realize that is the day before Thanksgiving? What some people are wanting travelers to do is to opt-out of the scans or searches. Maybe that’s a bit of an overkill, but it might also get the message across that something needs to change.