Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Airport screenings

I was all set to write a post about candida overgrowth (you probably have it! and don't even know it!) when I came across a few posts about the TSA's new screening procedures. I've been hearing for a long time about the new "back-scatter" scanners that use a low level of radiation to get a "naked picture" of you so that the security personnel can check you down to your skin without having to strip-search you.

I did not know the alternate option to this scan is not a regular pat-down, but an "enhanced" pat-down in which the TSA worker touches all of your body -- to the point that it would be considered sexual assault in another context. I was quite shocked to discover this.

What is with this?! Why are we being treated like criminals? What happened to protection from search and seizure without a warrant?

Well, the simple answer is, you are not legally required to submit to any of these searches. So you still have a choice. Except you can't fly unless you do. It's not force -- but it's rather akin to blackmail.

I've flown a lot. I've crossed the country more than 40 times. I've flown before and after September 11th. My first flight after 9/11 was pretty scary to me -- I had to take off my shoes and everything! Now all that is old hat to me and I grow impatient with those around me who fumble with their belts and shoelaces. I adjusted to pulling laptops out of cases, throwing away bottles of water before the checkpoint, carrying a ziplock bag with my chapstick.

But this is just too much. It was very hard to me to submit to the exams required by the doctors when I had the baby. (Can I just say -- ugh.) But that, at least, had a purpose.

This doesn't. There is no new security threat prompting the changes. Rather, it's just the development of new technology ... and to make sure we use the technology, the alternates are made even worse. Tel Aviv's airport, one of the most secure in the world, doesn't use the technology and manages all right.

I'm not sure what the best response is. Go along with it and get another dose of radiation every time I travel? (I'm more concerned about the baby than me, here.) Insist on a pat-down instead -- even though that's even more invasive? Boycott the airlines? This website suggests that will be effective, but since the TSA operates off our tax dollars, not plane ticket sales, I doubt anything will be gained. It isn't the airlines' fault this is being required. And if a movement insists on being strip-searched in order to slow things down, I still don't think that will change anyone's minds -- just continue to make air travel less and less convenient. When has the government ever given up a power, once it managed to gain it?

For my own benefit, though, I intend to limit air travel as much as I can. I can't visit my family (even once they are back in Seattle -- they are in Asia right now) without flying, practically speaking; but we do intend to drive when we visit John's family. I just don't want to go through all that.

This whole thing is just another loss of freedom. These are appearing faster and faster these days. I'll close with something my dad always says (not word for word, but the general gist): When terrorists cause us to live in fear and lose our freedoms, they have already won.


some guy on the street said...

It is an insanity; and one I have lamented recently! Fr. Z is also going to make some noise, I expect. Maybe private security firms should be banned? Or perhaps we need new airlines competing that don't require these invasions before boarding passengers? Maybe it's time to revitalize train service? Maybe it wants a revolution?

Sheila said...

All of those smaller solutions might help, but I think the problem is way bigger than airports. Our freedoms are being slowly encroached upon in a lot of areas.

Maybe it does want a revolution. Thomas Jefferson said that a little revolution now and then was a good thing. I just wonder who would start the revolution, and whether all the people who took part in it would agree on what it should look like.

Meredith said...

I seriously researched trains before finally, reluctantly buying a plane ticket home. Cobbling together a route from Kentucky to California was complicated, but it would have been about the same in cost. Too bad the little sleeping compartments are so expensive; I would have had to sleep in my seat for two days.

Sheila said...

Yikes. Yeah, we cross-country travelers are probably going to have to bite the bullet and deal, sooner or later. And my family definitely isn't coming back from Korea by boat.

Hopefully by the time I fly again, someone will have done something about this mess. Most people I know feel strongly about it, but of the people in power, only Ron Paul (that I know of) has brought the subject up. Still, when even CNN talks about it, you know it's got to be taken seriously.

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