Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA gives "fear of flying" whole new meaning

I almost feel bad for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), whose new invasive pat-down procedures (done on passengers who opt out of going through the new full-body scanners now installed at most major airports) have been blog, t-shirt, and late-night comedy fodder for over a week now. After all, the TSA (in theory, and hopefully in practice) is only trying to protect passengers from security threats (i.e., being blown up, shot, knifed, or poisoned by their fellow passengers). Though it seems some TSA agents have taken to their new responsibilities a little too enthusiastically. (For examples, just type in "TSA pat down" into your favorite search engine.)

And while that Saturday Night Live TSA sketch is pretty funny, as are some of the t-shirts I have seen, there is nothing funny about the way some TSA agents have interpreted the new security procedures, inappropriately touching passengers, especially children. (To see TSA guidelines for passenger security checkpoints, click here.)

Sure, no one is forcing passengers to be patted down (unless an agent finds them suspicious or they have the misfortune of being subject to a random security check -- been there, done that). But the alternatives aren't all that appealing either -- i.e., full-body scans (which some feel are akin to virtual strip searches) or older, less effective screening methods -- at least for some people.

Sadly, I think that even with full-body scanners and pat downs, if someone really wants to blow up an airplane or inflict damage, he or she will figure out a way to do it -- and that it's only a matter of time until we hear about some case where someone posted full-body scan pictures of passengers (famous or otherwise) on the Internet and this whole thing really blows up.

But what do you think about the new TSA rules? Are they fair? Would you rather undergo a full-body scan or a pat down? Let me know via the Comments.

UPDATED: You can read the latest on the airport screening controversy here. Btw, I am surprised no one has used the headline "Pistole Whipped" to describe the beating the TSA chief, John S. Pistole, has taken in the court of public opinion and in the media. Also take a gander at this clip on how to protect your privates from prying eyes:

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Anonymous said...

I flew England to Ireland prior to 9/11 and was photographed going through customs, but it was the direct contact/questioning at check in, customs, seated at the Gate area, boarding that made me realize they were checking for terrorists. It isn't the machines that will find the new passenger/terrorist, but a human looking at someone and realizing something is off.

Me? Give me the machine. Post my scan. I just don't care that much, but I am not famous-so who would care?

Charlene said...

The security methods of Israel seem to work. They are direct contact and questioning as Anonymous said. Israel is a target and so is America. I'm not sure which is more so but America sure does react to every little nuance with lots of money and lots of hysteria.

It's like a child poking a bear.

Laura47 said...

I have a knee replacement, so I've been getting a full-body pat-down for five years now every. single. time. I go near an airport. Last time I flew, they had the full-body scanner, and to be honest, I was thrilled about it -- it only takes a moment, as compared with the 5-10 minutes the pat-down takes. If anybody (besides my husband) gets turned on by my 57-year-old body, more power to them, is what I say!

Although I also think the whole thing is total overkill. Every time they add something to the search, it's after a terrorist has tried a new tactic, so they immediately start searching for that tactic. But since it's been used, the terrorists aren't going to use it again anyway! So the vast majority of the searching is a day late and a dollar short, IMO. And it's VERY hit-or-miss; I've carried insanely sharp, pointy embroidery scissors aboard airplanes multiple times, accidentally carried large containers of lotion or other forbidden liquids, and generally managed to break the rules on numerous occasions, and have yet to have ANY of it caught by TSA.

But at least there are a few nice TSA people. Boise, Idaho. Seriously. Friendly, cheerful, HELPFUL, and made the whole experience far, FAR less painful as a result. Too bad they can't teach the idiots at some of the bigger airports how to make the whole thing easier on all of us, since we're all forced into it anyway!

J. said...

"It isn't the machines that will find the new passenger/terrorist, but a human looking at someone and realizing something is off."

@Anonymous: I completely agree with you.

@Charlene: I have been to Israel, on El Al, albeit years ago, before 9/11, and the security process was terrifying, and not something I would want to go through again, though I felt it was justified. Have we really come to that though? If so, very sad.

@Laura47: Your comment totally cracked me up (I am still laughing, in a good way) -- and I agree with you, on all counts. We should be investing in better screeners and training.

J. said...

P.S. Check out the clip I just posted on how to protect your privates from prying eyes.