The new catch phrase for airport security may become for most, “Your junk or your life”. People are expressing discomfort and in some cases outrage over the new security measures to meet the most recent attempts by religious fanatics to blow up our planes and their passengers as they traverse the globe. These measures include touching and viewing, by means of a full body screener, our private body parts. This clearly bothers some more than it does others and as a result people are refusing such security measures. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) representatives are then likely to express something along the lines of “no touching or no viewing – no flying”.
Air travelers are faced with the dilemma that the post-9/11 era has created; a need to feel safe with those who travel with them. Airport security was clearly too lax the day 19 religious fanatics seized three aircraft and commandeered them, taking nearly 3000 lives on the ground and in the air planes they used as missals on U.S. targets. Besides the victory the terrorist won that day they have achieved a greater victory by instilling fear in the general public that flew a combined domestic and international travel time of over 711 million miles the first 8 months of this year alone, according to Bureau of Transportation statistics.
It’s not only the flying public that is being put through this ordeal but many of the airline pilots are expected to be searched in a similar manner before they board their respective ships. This has been found offensive by many pilots who have not been through the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, a training program that allows those who pass it to carry a concealed weapon aboard their aircraft and are thus not subject to such searches. This number however represents only a small portion of air line pilots. “Capt. John Prater, head of the Air Line Pilots Association, said based on discussions with TSA officials on Monday that he’s optimistic the agency will soon approve a ‘crew pass’ system that allows flight attendants and pilots to undergo less-stringent screenings.” (Scanners and pat downs upset passengers, by Joan Lowy and Adam Goldman, MyWay News, 11/15/10)
TSA Chief, John Pistole told a recent Senate panel that “I think everybody will want to opt for the screening with the assurance that that flight is safe and secure.” Pistole, who has been subject to the invasive measures himself, assures airline passengers ” the procedures are necessary to detect devices not seen before”, like the bomb found in the underwear of Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. But not all air port security personnel think this is necessarily so. (Feds holding firm on intrusive airport security, by Eileen Sullivan, AP, 11/17/10)
Isaac Yeffet, former security director for Israel’s El Al airlines, says these measures are not useful and are having an “opposite” affect on catching terrorist bombers. Yeffet feels that trained personnel can interview all passengers as they wait in line to get their ticket. Only the most suspicious of these interviewees would be subject to more invasive measures. The approach is presented in a way that passengers don’t feel threatened and understand that the questions they are being asked are for their personal safety. Yeffet says his technique used at El Al conveyed the sense that encouraged passengers to help security personnel help them with safe air travel. “I’m staying on the ground. You’re taking the flight” was how the former Israeli airline security executive expressed the conveyance between him and those flying his airlines in a discussion with Keith Olbermann on his “Countdown” program Wednesday.
Clearly there needs to be a means by which passengers can feel safe aboard their flights across the country or across vast spans of ocean as it regards terrorists. Doing nothing is not an option and if the means are too lax and another terrorist threat is successful the public and their elected officials will attack airlines and the government agencies responsible for travel safety for failing to enact stern measures to prevent such atrocities. It’s a “dammed if you do and damned if you don’t” situation.
Apparently the invasive use of full body scans is more objectionable to people with deep religious beliefs about public exposure to their private body parts. Many non-religious passengers are equally embarrassed though about the prospect that a stranger will be viewing them in their birthday suit. But even though a “person’s face is never shown and the person’s identity is supposedly not known to the screener reviewing the computer images”, the traveling public has discovered that such anonymity may not be 100% assured. One report shows “that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.” (Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images, by DeClan McCullagh, CNET news, 10/4/10)
It should be noted too that the pat downs only occur when a person objects to a full body scan by equipment that some say poses a mild radioactive hazard. Clearly people need to decide whether their safety or their privacy is paramount. Is there a better way as Isaac Yeffet declares to insure secure flights or are the conditions different in a country that is the primary target of terrorist groups like al-qaeda? Many like myself don’t have to fly often and unless destinations are overseas, ground travel is preferred anyway over long delays at airports and cancellations due to weather or simply when a thoughtless person breeches security measures for personal reasons as Kaylan L. Policherla did last February in Detroit.
Whatever the solution is we can be sure of one thing. Somewhere in a cave in the Tora Bora mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, a bearded Muslim fanatic is enjoying the spectacle of people like John Tyner disrupting air travel, not only in San Diego but around the U.S. and other parts of the world as edgy travelers express their consumer disgust with the treatment they are receiving from the private sector airlines. For these theocratic types the defeat of capitalism may be a slow process but it has its side show benefits as their efforts continue.