Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA Screening: Much Ado about Nothing

I don't like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  I've never liked them.  I didn't like them when I first got into traveling on a regular basis in 2005, and my opinion of them has only gone down over time.

Procedures are erratic, and not in useful ways that might confuse terrorists, but in ways that suggest cluelessness, like requiring at one airport that shoes go into bins and in another that they go directly onto the belt.

Most of the TSA agents are respectful, but some are surly.  I saw one berate an elderly Japanese man who spoke no English because he didn't understand that he had to take off his belt -- something not required by Japan's own airport screening.

I decided years ago that were I to run for public office, it'd be in part on a platform of drastically reforming the TSA.

So, when it comes to how you're treated, passengers, I'm on your side.

But let's be clear: my opposition to the TSA is based on ridiculous antics that don't make us safer.  I dislike absurd procedures like the way that hyphenated names are logged for special screening, or that legal marriage certificates aren't sufficient proof of a name change to allow use of a previously booked airline ticket.

I don't object to TSA actually doing its job, i.e. providing real security through effective screening.

I've had to deal with effective screening all over the world, including real terrorism hotspots like Kashmir and Tel Aviv.  Where it's warranted, even when it's annoying, good screening makes sense.

That brings me to the current, overblown hype about pat-downs and full-body scanners.

My fellow Americans, our country has been at war for nearly ten years.  While most of you go through your days completely unaware of it, hundreds of thousands of soldiers are currently deployed to combat zones.  We've spent over a trillion dollars that we don't have to fight terrorists, and we're doing it precisely because you wanted to be safe.

There is also plenty of evidence that the screening being done is absolutely necessary, from the so-called Christmas Bomber last year who demonstrated that explosives can be hidden in underwear to the long-known fact that women and elderly people can be involved in suicide bombing plots. 

As sick as it is, even those cute little teddy bears carried by three-year olds can be packed with explosives -- hell, drug cartels have long since been able to make "plastic" dolls out of molded cocaine! -- and while it's very unlikely that a three-year old is him or herself a bomber, can we be sure that someone hasn't set the tyke up to carry a weapon onboard?  No way.

So the next time that you start complaining that it's unfair that the government asks you to walk through a harmless full-body scanner, or you get angry because you need to be given a very thorough pat-down by a professional security officer, think about the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are freezing, bleeding, and enduring hell for you.

Yes, they volunteered.  But no one forced you to buy an airline ticket.

Get over yourselves.

2 comments:

Ms. Wray said...

I gotta agree. The error most people seem to make regarding screening procedures is literally to think only of themselves. "I'm not a terrorist," they say, "therefore it's unfair that I should be subjected to this."

People are actually arguing FOR racial profiling at TSA checkpoints so that people who 'obviously aren't terrorists' don't have to be checked.

Fantastic.

Michelle Mitchell said...

I don't think we can say anyone is obviously not a terrorist anymore. Think of the Oklahoma City bombings. Who thought Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols looked like terrorists. They killed 168 people. 19 of them were children. The police officer that gave McVeigh the citation for driving without a license plate only hours earlier certainly didn't think he looked like a terrorist. The American who killed 6 people on January 8th doesn't fit what most Americans would suppose a terrorist looks like either. There are Americans who need to get over themselves, shut up, and deal.