Are All Those 'Pat-Downs' Necessary?
After the terrible events of 9/11, airline passengers found that their baggage was subject to greater scrutiny.
Things that were previously allowed on airplanes, including such deadly implements of war as nail clippers, were being confiscated at the gates by the newly formed Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). A few people grumbled, but there wasn't any serious resistance. After all, it was in the name of security.
After an odd-looking goomer named Richard Reid tried and failed to bring down an airplane with a bomb hidden in his shoe, airline passengers had to remove their shoes and put them into a grimy plastic tub to be x-rayed if they wanted to get on the plane. A few people grumbled, but there wasn't any serious resistance. After all, it was in the name of security.
After another set of screwups tried and failed to bring down an airplane with liquid explosives, airline passengers had to bring any liquids in little tiny containers sealed in little tiny plastic bags. A few people grumbled, but there wasn't any serious resistance. After all, it was in the name of security.
After yet another loser tried and failed to bring down an airplane with explosives hidden in his undershorts, airline passengers were given a choice: They could walk through a "full-body scanner," which showed everything under their clothes, or they could go through what was called an "enhanced pat-down."
Now, after all this time, people are doing more than grumbling. They're getting downright angry.
It started with the pilot's unions, who began to advise their members not to expose themselves repeatedly to the radiation from the so-called "backscatter" or "millimeter wave" scanners, which they regarded with suspicion, even though the manufacturer insists that the additional radiation is no worse than what they get from a few minutes at cruising altitude.
Let me just stop for a moment and pose a question to the readership which no one has yet been able to answer for me: Why the heck are we screening the pilots for weapons anyway? Are we afraid they'll seize control of the plane? I mean, if a pilot really wants to kill all the passengers and himself, he's not going to need to hold a box cutter to his own throat to do it.
But I digress.
Passengers also expressed distrust of the scanners, not just for the radiation, but out of a suspicion that TSA employees might be getting their jollies from watching their nekkid bodies as they pass through. Having seen the ghostly quality of the images, I actually find it a little hard to believe that anyone could find them arousing, but, you know, there are some really strange people out there.
The Internet and the airwaves are full of stories of people, including children as young as 3, having their intimate areas aggressively poked, grabbed and squeezed by ham-handed TSA officials who don't even buy you dinner first, let alone send flowers the next day.
Finally, it seems, American airline travelers have had enough.
A video of a passenger declaring to a TSA employee, "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested" went viral. A passenger's-rights organization declared the day before Thanksgiving "National Opt Out" day, suggesting that people bring the airports to a standstill on the busiest day of the year by demanding en masse that they be given the "enhanced pat down." More whimsical protesters have suggested showing up in the airport in a Speedo or a kilt (sans underwear).
Meanwhile, a Senate subcommittee began hearings this past week on the new policies, during which Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill immediately wedged her foot in her mouth up to the kneecap when she dismissed the "enhanced" searches as "love pats."
I, for one, am glad to see more Americans finally questioning the TSA and the increasingly ridiculous demands of what security expert Bruce Schneier has dubbed "security theater" - measures that claim to provide enhanced safety but do little or nothing toward actually doing so.
And it only took having the government try to look under their clothes or grope their unmentionables to get them to do it. Hey, it's a start.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage.
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