So the TSA doesn’t have enough staff to manage itself appropriately at major airports and expects things to be particularly bad this summer.
Their go-to solution? Dear Airlines: Can you drop baggage fees?
Give me a break. I hate baggage fees at least for the first bag checked and even I think that’s a stupid idea. The revenue impact that has on the airline is so large that I would actually suggest it more economically smart for the airlines to just fork over money to the TSA to hire people instead.
The TSA hasn’t managed itself competently. It has a long history of criminal behavior by its officers. The agency has never competently staffed itself at many airports.
I am reminded of the year I spent one afternoon in San Francisco last fall. I needed to change terminals at SFO and had to leave the security area to move from the International Terminal to Terminal 2. That took about 3 hours primarily due to standing in line for security.
Was the hold up due to that many people? Nope. If you had staffed the other 4 scanning machines I would imagine that things would have proceeded in a timely manner. But instead we had a 2.5 hour line wait at a major international airport on a Tuesday afternoon.
We don’t take security seriously and we don’t staff for it seriously. We don’t even use all the money taxed for it. Instead, we re-allocate taxes raised for security to reduce the deficit.
Care to guess who is responsible for that exceptionally anti-business move? That would be the Republican led Congress.
When we don’t adequately staff something like this, it is a billion dollar impact to our economy. We literally impede commerce within this country. This isn’t about people who should just shut up and wait an extra 10 minutes before taking a trip to Disney World.
To the contrary, most air travel is business related and contributes heavily to our economy.
We should have a big problem with how travel is impeded in this country. It’s not a “this is the wealthy” moment. It’s a “this is an economic driver for this country” moment. All too often we think the only people using the airlines and airports are the elite. That’s just not true. We think that only travelers are affected by what happens in our airline transportation network. That’s not true either.
A U.S. Air Marshal was caught taking photographs up women’s skirts with his cell phone and was caught by a passenger who took his phone and then notified a Southwest Airlines flight attendant immediately. The marshal was arrested by airport police.
The TSA says it is cooperating with the investigation of this man.
Would anyone care to place bets on how long it takes the Transportation SECURITY Administration to describe this as a one-off event and that the officer was terminated and it isn’t anything to be concerned with?
It is events like this that makes me want to create a category in this blog titled “Are you kidding me?”
Let’s examine the problems here. First, a person who was given great trust violated the public in a manner that increases the public perception that the TSA isn’t there to provide security but, rather, a haven for sex perverts. If that seems harsh, I won’t apologize. All too many encounters with the TSA devolve to someone getting groped or inappropriately photographed.
That badly damages public trust and TSA credibility.
Second, the passenger took the phone away from the marshal. Seriously? The passenger just grabbed the phone and took control of the situation along with a flight attendant. Let me point out the irony here: The passenger and flight attendants did what an air marshal should have done. Even if the guy was doing something bad, one would kind of hope that he had the presence of mind to not let someone take something from him.
That doesn’t describe the kind of person we want performing air marshal duties, does it?
Third and most important is that these kinds of things happen too frequently. For several years now, the TSA has promised that it is cleaning up its act. But, hey, we have air marshals photographing women under their skirts and TSA officers stealing parking placards and re-selling them. And many more things going on.
If this was the FBI, would we be tolerating this in a security force?
The TSA has not cleaned up its act. It has not provided security and it is not, by any obvious measure, attempting to build public trust and credibility.
When your security force is assaulting you and stealing from you, my first inclination is that you must live in a corrupt third world country.
It’s been a long while since I wrote about anything involving the TSA but I managed to catch wind of an interesting little thing going on at a local (to me) airport.
Evidently 9 people were involved in a theft ring where employee parking passes were being stolen and re-sold at DFW airport. These passes allowed people to use airport parking a great deal more economically, if you know what I mean.
What does this have to do with the TSA?
8 of those 9 people worked for the TSA.
Am I shocked? No. We have real world concerns about security in airports regarding legitimate threats to people. There are real and tangible security threats that exist and are even focused on the US.
What’s our answer? The TSA: Our front line security against these threats.
At least when they’re not stealing from co-workers cars.
Several weeks ago, the TSA decided to revise its position and allow knives, among a few other things, to be carried onto an airplane. These knives couldn’t be more than what would be described as a common pocket knife.
Since then, quite a few people have weighed in on this decision publicly and I had decided to leave it alone because I felt the decision was really immaterial to any debate on security.
I say that because Bob Greene essentially calls Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security and the TSA idiots. Let’s be clear here: Bob Greene, a journalist and columnist with many years of experience, has decided that he has better judgement than the experts who have exposure to all the facts.
He also makes a specious argument in his piece when he says that the tragedies of September 11, 2001 were caused by knives.
Well, they weren’t. Knives were the instrument used by terrorists to take over multiple aircraft and were used to assault and kill flight crew.
Curiously, those terrorists didn’t succeed because they had knives. In fact, if the tragedy wasn’t so tragic, the reason for their success is nearly comical. They succeeded because we had spent more than 3 decades telling people to cooperate with hijackers.
Globally, we had told people that their best chances for survival when their transportation was hijacked was to cooperate. More specifically, to shut up, do as told and to not try to interfere with the hijackers. We, as a global community, couldn’t have been more of one voice on the subject.
Every airline (with the exception of El Al) told its crews to cooperate fully, get the aircraft on the ground and do your best to provide an opportunity for someone outside the aircraft to solve the problem.
And it was an incredibly successful strategy. Few people got hurt, there were very few violent episodes and it worked very, very well in getting innocents away from danger.
The terrorists used our policies against us. It wasn’t the box cutters they carried that killed people on those aircraft. It was the “cooperate” policies that did this.
It’s actually extremely difficult to kill someone with a box cutter who actively resists.
When we found out what the hijackers did on those aircraft, I made the statement to several friends the first night that we’ll never see another successful hijacking in all likelihood. I speculated that we may well see aircraft bombed or hit with missiles but that I didn’t think we would see one successfully hijacked.
And so far, we really haven’t.
Passengers immediately began actively responding to threats in the cabin and restraining people who intend harm on an aircraft. It works, too. In fact, those passengers have never gotten seriously injured either.
Our cockpits are now guarded with very strong doors that can withstand human force very well. Our pilots won’t be acting passively either. In fact, I fully agree with the idea of pilots being allowed to carry weapons in the cockpit and I think it should be encouraged. Pilots should be trained to use them as a defense if that door is penetrated.
Knives aren’t a threat on aircraft. No more so than many items that are already on that aircraft. There are countless items that exist on airplane that could be turned into cutting weapons that are at least as good as a pocket knife.
Now, in a rare exhibition of sanity, the TSA has rightly realized that it needs to focus on real threats in security lines and eliminate some aspects of the security theater that have been going on. And for their trouble, they get the likes of Bob Greene attacking them.
I have not approved of most of our security theater for the past several years in this blog. There have been a number of steps taken to drive the perception of security while not providing any enhanced security at all. I have vocally criticized those moves many times.
If you think you’re safer flying on an airplane in which pocket knives are banned, I have request:
Don’t fly. You’re really too ignorant to be allowed on an aircraft and, frankly, I cannot trust you to do the right thing should there be a real emergency. Take a car, please. Or a train.
And if you think Bob Greene is qualified to call a entire security department of the United States idiots, then I would ask that you definitely not travel at all. You’re a risk to too many people.
Personally, I would like to urge Bob Greene to go back to what he arguably does extremely well: Personal interest stories about real people.
ABC News did a little experiment where they put a large sum of money and an iPad in an secured bag and then sent it through TSA security in 10 different cities. In 9 of those cities, honesty was displayed. In Orlando, their iPad was stolen.
If anyone thinks is an exceptional circumstance . . . don’t kid yourself.
Items are lost due to TSA theft frequently and their response is *always* “Gee, sorry, you’re out of luck.” Items are lost out of bags that are secured with TSA approved locks. You know, the locks that the TSA is only supposed to be able to unlock?
But in the name of guarding against terrorism, they continue to get a pass from investigation and from Congress. At this point, I regard the TSA as more “mafia” than protection. They are a protection racket rather than security.
According to media reports a TSA screener decided to help herself to $5000 in cash from someone’s jacket as it passed through security.
Let’s take a moment to think about the brazeness of such a thing.
Now, think about this: How much does it cost to corrupt an FBI agent? How much would it cost or what would have to be done to corrupt an Immigration and Customs agent? How about your local police officer? In almost all cases, it’s pretty hard to put a price on that kind of act for most people.
What we do know is that when law enforcement people are poorly trained and poorly paid, the most we can expect is justice at a price and the worst is corruption.
So, if a TSA officer thinks its quite possible to take $5000 from a passenger putting a coat through security, how much would it cost to corrupt that TSA officer into permitting a threat to security to pass through unnoticed? Probably as little as $5000 is my guess. And that’s pretty cheap to a terrorist, I suspect.
If a TSA officer is willing to steal from passengers and if a group is found to continually have such lapses in a particular airport such as JFK in New York City, how good is our security?
Damn bad in my opinion. And instead of addressing security theater, our department of Homeland Security continues to insist that the vast majority of TSA officers are good. That may even be true but it would appear that there is enough of a rotten core to certainly be a serious weakness in security.
After flying for most of my life and that equates to approximately 41 years of flying, I feel no safer today than I did at the beginning and, in some ways, I feel a lot less safe because we don’t require ethics, training and strong morale in our security. Instead, we require sexual assaults in order to be permitted to get on an airplane.
Short of tarmac delays, lost luggage drives more hate of airlines than just about anything else I can think of. I frequently hear stories from people about their bad experiences with lost, misplaced and stolen luggage and, to be honest, I generally discard them as data points to evaluate airlines by.
I’ve been flying since I was 2 years old and I have flown as many miles as any of today’s frequent flyers. In that time, I’ve had luggage delayed or misplaced maybe as many times as can be counted on one hand. I’ve had luggage completely lost once and, believe it or not, that was on a train, not an airline.
With a few exceptions, I check my luggage. I have no interest in making my life more miserable navigating airports and flights with it.
There are times when airlines not only get it wrong but get it wrong consistently. US Airways wasn’t particularly good for quite a while in Philadelphia, for instance. London Heathrow has handled such things very badly at times as well.
To the traveler, I say this: planning for the event that has less than one percent chance of happening will only stress you out more than a single incident of it actually happening. And if you can’t afford to check your bag, you can’t really afford to travel.
Now, with all that said, I also think airlines do an atrocious job of handling these problems. Airlines have never handled the problem well and they’ve only gotten worse at it by compounding the problem with luggage check fees.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No airline should be charging a fee to check at least the first bag and as long as that bag is within some reasonable weight limit (50lbs domestic and 30lbs international strikes me as fair.) The very nature of getting on an aircraft to go somewhere implies that a passenger is carrying luggage. It’s silly and insulting to the traveler.
And to charge that fee regardless of whether or not you have delivered the bag with the traveler at the same time is also insulting. If you want to charge fees, you need to be prepared to answer appropriate for not providing that service. Airlines aren’t unique in that service sense. Do we expect to pay for a meal that is 2 hours later at the table in a restaurant?
Furthermore, not doing your job in delivering the luggage with the person can impose an expensive, time consuming and challenging problem upon people. Denying reasonable compensation in a timely manner is just wrong. Plan for the expense and fix the problems causing the losses.
Writing complex and unfair clauses in your contracts of carriage is wrong. I’m not sure the rules in place today are exactly fair to the airlines at times but they are the present rules. Not following them or trying to sidestep them is wrong. It’s bad business to cheat your customers.
There should be a time limit to how long an airline has to find your luggage and return it to you. That should be something like 48 hours for domestic losses and no more than 5 days for international losses. After that, you pay reasonable claims.
I don’t think it particularly fair for a person to be able to pack $10,000 worth of items in a suitcase and then claim their loss entirely either. But my solution would be to suggest to airlines that you charge insurance for any luggage exceeding $1000 in value. There, I just gave you a new revenue stream and an opportunity to keep passengers happier and more secure. Want to pack your Apple laptop in your luggage? Go ahead but take out $1500 in insurance at, say, $10 per trip against this loss.
And prove you actually put the expensive items in your suitcase.
The dirty secret in this business is that you, the customer, have a long history of inflating the value of your possessions during a claim. Suddenly a $200 Canon point and shoot camera becomes a $1000 Nikon in a claim. That wrong and it’s fraud.
I also think airports and the TSA have a *strong* duty to keep luggage secure while transiting airports. I know of already too many incidents where luggage secured with TSA approved locks were pillaged for their expensive items and then RELOCKED AND PUT ON THE PLANE. That’s theft and only people with TSA lock *keys* are able to get into those bags.
More transparency, fairness and insurance is required on all sides. Everyone needs to quit addressing the problem with greed and most could stand to quit taking it personally. Even airlines have a bad problem of acting as if they are victims over any lost luggage and they aren’t.
Remember the woman who was removed from a Southwest flight because of some improperly perceived threat based on someone “overhearing” a partial phone conversation? She was actually kept off by the captain because the crew just didn’t feel “safe”. Get the details here with a Dallas Morning News Aviation Blog post.
The woman, Irum Abbasi, has decided to sue and I don’t blame her. You see, I’m not a subscriber to the idea that the 1% rule is valid and I sure don’t subscribe to the “abundance of caution” approach to safety. The woman was inconvenienced, humiliated and insulted primarily because she was a muslim and dressed accordingly.
A muslim woman dressed according to her religion is *not* a threat. It’s time that commercial businesses, even a nice one like Southwest, get their act together and start using better judgement. I do *not* disagree with the woman being questioned. That is, perhaps, appropriate. But once the TSA determined she was not a threat, she should have been put right back on that aircraft and into her same seat.
And the aircrew should have been told to settle down and do their jobs. And captains need to get over themselves and failing to do so, should be reprimanded for engaging in behaviour that would get most people fired today. If airlines continue to fail to exercise good judgement, I would recommend a few airline execs and airline captains go through extra screening, have their religions questioned and be inconvenienced with a voucher and offer to fly the next day.
The woman suffered harm and, possibly, damages. That’s what lawsuits are for.
28 TSA officers were fired in Hawaii in addition to one or two who quit before being fired all because baggage was allowed to proceed to airplanes without screening for explosives. Reportedly these lapses went on for as long as 4 months.
Just a week ago, it was reported that TSA officers in addition to other law enforcement officers participated in a drug ring that saw thousands of prescription drugs flow through airports from Florida to New York via airlines.
Tell me again how the TSA is doing a professional and responsible job?
Someone please explain to me why we are paying exorbitant “security taxes” as well as exorbitant baggage fees?
USA Today has a story about baggage theft by an American Eagle baggage handler and this gentleman managed quite a significant take.
Let me point out that when you charge fees in the name of security, etc, then there is an obligation to protect people from these thefts. In addition, IF THIS MAN CAN STEAL THIS KIND OF STUFF TO THIS LEVEL, ISN’T THAT A CREDIBLE SECURITY WHOLE AS WELL?
After all, he’s accessing baggage that is TSA processed. If you can steal from a bag, you can put a bomb in a bag. Food for thought.
The US Travel Association claims that airlines’ checked bag fees are making it more difficult to pass through security at airports and are calling upon airlines to reduce or eliminate them to improve this situation.
Do they add to security line time? I suspect that those fees added an incremental amount of time to waiting in lines but I don’t think it’s a prime driver of security wait times. The truth is, the business traveler has been running around with briefcases, purses and rollaboards for years and the business traveler comprises the major part of those passing through security most of the time.
Furthermore, no airline is going to do this to alleviate security wait times. If anything, they’ll (rightly) point out that security wait times are the problem of the government. Given the taxes and fees that are levied on travel already, I would agree that it isn’t the airline’s problem.
Security wait times are much more likely being driven by how those lines are designed, changed and/or increased security procedures and old airport infrastructure. I honestly look forward to the day we see a modern airport designed to accomodate security in the 21st century as I think that could be managed much better with design.
Another contributor to security wait time is the staff itself. Anyone who has traveled can tell you that some airports have fairly effective and efficient staff while others have very ineffective and inefficient staff. Again, that’s the government’s domain and problem.
Are people carrying more onboard aircraft? Absolutely. But changes in baggage fees didn’t drive 100% more carry on baggage. It was a much more incremental amount and I would make an off the cuff guess that it probably drove about 20% more carry on baggage at most. Remember that most business travelers already can avail themselves of free baggage check-in as a function of their membership in frequent flier programs. They simply choose not to.
Two TSA officers from JFK airport were arrested for stealing $40,000 from someone’s suitcase. The suitcase apparently contained $170,000 and was destined for Argentina (which is where the owner is now.)
The officers spotted the money during an x-ray of the bag and helped themselves. The money was recovered (all but $20) after a third TSA officer reported the deed (and may I say kudos to whoever that was.) Law enforcement are suspicious that the $170,000 was drug related and want to talk to the owner who, as was previously noted, is now in Argentina and firmly outside the reach of the long arm of the law.
Regardless of the origin of money, this points up what I and many think is a continuing problemwith the TSA. They steal.
They examine contents of bags and steal. I’ve heard far too many instances from readers of this very blog for this to be characterized as isolated incidents. Truth be known, your possessions may be far safer locked in a car in downtown Detroit than going through the TSA security system. And the TSA’s customary response to this kind of theft extraordinarily disappointing because the common response is “Gee. Sorry. But we do care”. Obviously I’m paraphrasing.
More importantly, when thieving is taking place among the corps of people who are tasked with guarding the population against threats in the air system, how do you trust them to do their basic job? After all, would you trust a guy who stole your prized wrist watch to guard your house against someone who wants to throw a brick through the window?
A 50 year old anonymous airline pilot decided to video what passes for security at SFO airport and post it on YouTube. He (rightly) pointed out that what passes for security for ground personnel at the airport (and not just this airport) isn’t what you might expect it to be. See the video below (and I apologize for the commercial):
In response to this, federal air marshals and sheriffs showed up at his home to confiscate his federally authorized handgun (the pilot is a deputized federal air marshal). The pilot believes this was done as retribution. The pilot videotaped this visit as well but I can find no copy of it so far on the internet.
To anyone who understands airports, this comes as no surprise and its one great reason why I call the security done by the TSA theater. It is very much a weak spot and very much a hole that people are, at best, cursorily screened can bypass security with evil intent.
Over the past week, I’ve seen several more examples of TSA Security Theater make the news. First up is the businessman who managed to accidentally carry his personal handgun through security and onto an aircraft where he discovered his mistake during the flight. To the man’s credit, he reported it upon arrival at his destination. One has to ask how any TSA agent misses a handgun inside someone’s carryone baggage going through a scanner.
Then there was the small child who was frisked in Salt Lake City, Utah and who had to remove his shirt. Originally, the reason cited was that he set off the scanner. Later, it was revealed that it was because he was wearing “bulky” clothing. One has to ask how a sweat shirt qualifies as bulky clothing.
Finally, it was reported in the news that a TSA agent who was stealing laptops in Philadelphia has received probation for his offense. The agent was reported by a baggage handler who saw this man hiding these items. The irony of a baggage handler reporting theft is left to the reader.
These aren’t minor, one time occurences. They’re endemic to the security situation at most airports and representative of just how incompetently our security is being handled. The government and, more specifically, the Department of Homeland Security has presented the new body scanners and thorough friskings (aka sexual assaults) as necessary to the security of air travel.
There are too many incidents of incompetence and dishonesty on the part of the TSA to see the new procedures as anything but additional layers of inconvenience that, considering who is performing the work, adds nothing to real security. People have been trying to carry weapons onboard aircraft to commit serious crimes for nearly as long as airlines have been in existence. After the spate of hijackings in the 1960′s and 1970′s, we introduced baggage scanning and metal detectors. However, despite being given nearly 40 years to perfect the detection of a handgun, they still get through alarmingly easy at times.
Instead of ensuring that people actually do feel safer, our security apparatus has managed to make people feel even more annoyed at the idea of travel and that is saying something in this day and age. If anything, we’ve gone from mere annoyance at our security theater to being often humiliated through the process.
More machines and more procedures isn’t going to make us safer. Having honest, vigilant and intelligent people run our security processes will. Instead, we’ve created a new civil service job that pays poorly and attracts the barely qualified instead of the best of the best. There is no esprit de corps inside the TSA and there is no honor in the job. All too often we see these agents performing their roles with contempt for the very people they’re supposedly protecting. Contempt that is justified with “terrorism” as a watchword.
It’s tolerated because the situation is presented in a manner in which people see no alternative. When you have to travel 500 or more miles, there are few realistic options other than air travel for most people. What is more insulting is that we have tacitly agreed to let the US government present the idea of air travel as a “privilege” rather than a “right” contingent upon you agreeing to let them do whatever they want to do in the name of security.
I don’t think any rational person objects to real security work being performed at airports, including me. What we do object to is the placebo approach to security veiled with threats and intimidation and conditional upon giving up constitutional rights such as the 4th Amendment.
But as this holiday season goes on, people continue to be bullied, humiliated, insulted and intimidated all for the privilege of getting on an airplane to travel for pleasure or business.
Before anything else today, let me say this: I’m quite sure that very few security officers in the TSA are truly evil or have even bad intent. I suspect most are just trying to earn a living in a world where that has become quite a bigger challenge in the past few years.
After reading a CNN story found HERE, I got curious as to what we’re buying when it comes to security. So I checked jobs at the TSA website to see what was being advertised. What I was interested in was the going rate for a TSA officer.
I was more disappointed than I expected and that’s saying something.
Apparently most of these jobs start as part time and can continue to be so for as much as 3 years. That means less benefits and the officer will almost certainly be working another job to make it in this world. Anyone who has worked 2 jobs will tell you that that is a draining experience. Even if you’re working a steady 40 hours as week, a 2 job lifestyle is much harder on a person than a single steady one job lifestyle.
We pay these vaunted officers $14 / hour roughly to do this job part time. Again, in this world we actually life in, that ain’t much. Do people survive on less? Sure. Do many people survive on less? No. We have this idea that honest work at low pay rewards and frankly as someone who has done honest work at low pay, I can tell you it doesn’t reward you. It just stresses you out and generally depresses you.
I wonder how vigilant the average person is working 2 jobs (at least) for pretty low pay in an environment that places them on the frontline for abuse?
If a worker gets a full time gig, they earn about $29,000 a year and they stop out at a stunning $43,000 per year. These folks can make a maximum of $43K per year and that equates roughly to someone over 25 years of age who has achieved an Associates Degree.
Look at it differently. The median income for an officer lies somewhere in the vicinity of $36,000 / year. My point is that we are, at the very best, hiring the middle section of people who below average in capability as determined by earnings.
Then we abuse them a bit more with lackluster benefits (their healthcare can cost hundreds of dollars per month if they think they can afford it and they probably cannot without working a 2nd job again.)
Let me suggest that we want security officers who are *more* capable than average. We want officers who are more vigilant than average. We want officers who we would at the least hire to be police officers in a major city (and they aren’t) and we probably want a better person than entry level police material.
Because good security involves critical thinking and the exercise of good judgement. That costs something. Instead, we’re hiring a person who is roughly qualified to work at a Sears department store.
Update (Nov 22, 2010 / 3:12pm CST): I just saw this quote from Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security:
“I think we all understand the concerns Americans have,” Napolitano is quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “It’s something new. Most Americans are not used to a real law enforcement pat-down like that.”
Yes, please. Insult our intelligence a bit more for the holiday season. More to the point, let me point out that even if that were similar to a “real law enforcement pat-down” (it’s not and, yes, I know), no one in a line for security at an airport is under arrest or under suspicion and aren’t subject to such overstepping anywhere else in their lives.
I don’t know if I would recommend “joining” the “boycott” being suggested for Wednesday, November 24th, where people are suggesting that all passengers opt out for being scanned in favor of the pat down as a form of protest.
It’s a poor choice of day because many do have something to lose in being either late or exceptionally inconvenienced traveling someplace for the holiday. It would feel more smart if it were on another day. On the other hand, I can’t actually discourage it either because this needs attention and quickly.
Take a look at what the Denver Post photographed at the local airport HERE. In particular, I think this photo HERE represents all that is wrong w/ these procedures. I’m not sure where exactly the line is but I’m certain that the line has been crossed by a good margin at this point.
TSA chief, Joe Pistole, keeps saying that relatively few people object. I say that this is too new for us to know how everyone feels. In fact, every time I see interviews of people on the street asking if they would subject themselves to this kind of patdown, I believe their “yes” answers come before experiencing this process.
Let’s put it another way. If you saw your family being put through this, would you stand for it anywhere else? I wouldn’t. Take a look at this video:
The father removed the shirt because the boy was too shy to lift his arms for the patdown. Regardless, this is getting more offensive as time goes by and it still happened because of invasive search requirements by the TSA.
And I’ll reiterate my own feelings that whatever a passenger is required to go through, the same should be applied to everyone including flight crews regardless of background checks, etc. If this really is about security, then it should be applied with no holes. I’ll include the President should he ever fly commercially during his tenure in office.
In addition, there is too much evidence that how these procedures are being applied at various airports is inconsistent and indicates, at the least, poor training for TSA agents although I’ll continue to maintain that the people I’ve encountered in the TSA uniform continue to appear to be doing their jobs without real vigilence and seem to be following a policy rather than acting in real concern for security. Read this ABS news story for the latest example (and at an airport where policy just should be flat out known) HERE. If that isn’t enough, see Scott McCartney’s Middle Seat Terminal blog entry about TSA training and an audit on it that was performed recently.
I would suggest writing your congressmen and senators. They are easy to find and easy to email and it is well known that they pay attention to trends in communications they receive from their constituents. In addition, I would suggest sending an email to the ACLU and to your local newspapers. And do it multiple times. These communications go farther in the long run.
The great argument driving TSA rules on x-ray machines and patdowns derives from what was, quite honestly, a horrible act on September 11, 2001. We’ve been treating air travel with high security for 4 decades starting with hijackings that resulted in bombs and deaths resulting from other horrific acts. You have to acknowledge that air travel has, in fact, been used as a weapon and as a terrorist act more than once.
These acts have, in my opinion, driven us to accept conditions upon our free movement inside this country that we don’t accept anywhere else. In fact, we are asked to accept conditions in order to travel by air that we don’t accept in virtually any other place in our lives. Let me point out that we aren’t asked to accept this level of scrutiny in order to enter a courthouse, the Capitol, a military base or even the White House. Even with respect to the real world, we aren’t asked to endure this scrutiny to visit a federal building or a movie theater or restaurant. Think about that for a minute: we aren’t groped (sexually or otherwise) in order to proceed about our lawful business in virtually any other setting.
I am far from suggesting that there be no security checks in airports. To the contrary, I believe that there is a level of security that should be applied and applied evenly and without regard to race, religion, etc. There should be absolutely no exceptions for anyone including flight crew.
But I do think we’ve gone too far and I do think that we, the public, have been far too accepting of the latest indignities and, quite frankly, inappropriate searches of ourselves and our personal belongings all in the name of “security”. This is making the free movement about our country a privilege rather than a right and I’m extremely uncomfortable with that. And to argue that there are other choices is disingenuous at best in this modern age.
What we’re really doing is carving out exceptions to basic and derived rights on the basis of security theater rather than real security.
It doesn’t just exist at airports although I think airports are the most extreme case. Recently, I’ve made a number of trips to McAllen, Texas. Ironically, by car and I’ve witnessed behaviour on the part of several law enforcement agencies that I honestly believe would not only not been tolerated but soundly stopped just 20 years ago. Imagine traveling 90 miles and seeing 18 State Trooper cars, 5 Border Patrol cars and a mandatory checkpoint where you are interrogated and potentially asked to consent to a search before simply proceeding about your lawful business.
Privacy in this country has traditionally been a very sacred subject. The right to privacy, to not incriminate oneself and even the right to engage in lawful business between two areas has been infringed upon to a degree that I think it’s changing our country.
It’s time we start accepting that this world is not and has never been a perfectly safe place and to attempt to make it so does far more harm than it does good. I’m rather shocked that people haven’t challenged these acts in the courts (is the ACLU really that docile now?) and that we haven’t complained rationally and loudly to our lawmakers and policymakers.
For the record, I have written Congressmen and Senators and I think others should too. Also for the record, I am not a libertarian or conservative or liberal. If anything, I’d be identified as a moderate Democrat that find himself largely unrepresented by either side.
My standard in feeling revulsion at these developments has come from the fact that I’ve realized over the past few years that I actually feel more exposed and less safe as a result of these security measures. They don’t reassure me and they don’t make me feel that my plane has been adequately protected from threats.
I do think there are measures we could take and if we’re really serious about security, why aren’t we hiring bright and capable people to perform our security roles? Furthermore, why are we endorsing a para-military approach to security at our airports when we find that, time and again, this mindset doesn’t result in greater security to ourselves.
I have a great fear that we are going to abrogate more and more rights in this quest to perceive ourselves “safe” that any value we derive from being citizens and residents in a country with uniquely protected basic civil rights will be simply gone. And I wonder if that isn’t a “win” for terrorists as well.
Just in case you think I’m the only one out there disturbed by these many farces, read FL250′s post HERE.