In some ways, I miss college life. I earned my undergraduate degree at UCLA and relished the three years of intellectual stimulation while studying history and political science. As a political junkie, I was an avid reader of the Daily Bruin, a liberal rag when it came to the editorial page but still an exemplary student newspaper and often a valuable source of information.
Unfortunately, it seems like UCLA isn’t the only distinguished university that could use a bit more common sense in the op-ed department. Check out this piece from Opinion Editor of the University of Houston:
Earlier this month, a 6-year-old girl received a pat-down from a TSA employee while passing through security at the Louis Armstrong International airport.
According to a Reuters news report, the parents are outraged that their daughter, Anna Drexel, was subject to the physical security measure.
In a video that can be seen on Youtube, 6-year-old Anna seems clearly confused after receiving the pat-down procedure.
Commenting on the incident and his daughter’s confusion, Todd Drexel said, “we were struggling to explain it to her, because we had really stressed to her that it’s not OK to be touched in certain places, and now she’s been pat down in a public setting.”
The situation seems to be an inevitable product of a one-size-fits-all system. Airport security measures are never going to be perfect, and someone will always be unhappy with the procedures that are used. In order to reach a level of safety in today’s environment that protects the maximum number of people from the evil of others, we have to give up common freedoms.
TSA should constantly be trying to implement faster, more effective procedures. Designing a separate line for children may not be a bad idea to consider. Any policy that is redesigned must be given a strict, scrutinizing test to ensure that safety and efficiency are both improved.
This incident is a clear reminder that while some things may seem extreme or unnecessary, the freedoms we give up are for the benefit of our own safety.
The days of flying on a plane without being asked to take off your shoes in addition to being frisked may be gone forever. In today’s world you have to take all reasonable measures possible in order to prevent disasters from happening at the hands of the worst among us.
I think the poor reasoning and flawed logic of this article speaks for itself, but I’ll add a few comments of my own. Without justifying why, the column concludes that "in order to reach a level of safety in today’s environment that protects the maximum number of people from the evil of others, we have to give up common freedoms." I am not going to trot out Benjamin Franklin in today’s discussion, but I again point out the paucity of research demonstrating that the TSA’s security procedures, including full body scanners and invasive pat-downs, are keeping us safer.
On the contrary, as I have shared numerous times on this blog: the full body scanners utilize technology that was never fully tested and has repeatedly failed to detect weapons. The TSA patdowns, though invasive, are not invasive enough to catch everything and even the TSA can’t get away with making the patdowns any more invasive. So what are we left with? Nothing but security theatre.
The writer posits that "all reasonable measures" must be taken in order to prevent disasters from taking place, but what is the definition of reasonable? Is it simply what the majority of the public, who not coincidentally never or rarely set foot in an airport, say it is? Is what politicians want? Or should it be what well-respected security experts actually think (here’s a hint–they know we’re wasting our time now).
I’d like to see the Obama Administration work with Congress to create a bi-partisan (though partisanship or party affiliation should not play into this at all), independent airport security commission that could dedicate its resources to comprehensively examining the current state of airport security in America and offering solutions that exhibits prudence and common sense–like maybe simply making the public aware that what is really keeping us safe is better intelligence, secure cockpit doors, and the willingness of passengers to fight back if something goes wrong onboard. Notice that the TSA is not in the equation. The GAO is supposed to do this already, and has done a great job in highlighting concerns about the TSA, but I think a more high-profile body would be able to achieve better results.
Most troublesome to me (and also a bit redundant) is the writer’s statement that "[t]his incident is a clear reminder that while some things may seem extreme or unnecessary, the freedoms we give up are for the benefit of our own safety." That assumes facts not in evidence and it disturbs me to see a university student reason in such a simplistic manner, bereft of any mention of the concerns I outlined above and failing to at least acknowledge the Constitutional concerns of placing faux-security over civil liberties.
Looking past the TSA’s misguided policy and procedure, the agency’s lack of consistency, ignoring the agency’s ineffective implementation of security layers and live deployment of security practices and just focusing on the potential threat … the fact is a six year old girl may be an unwitting threat.
But in reality, his premise is unreasonable and frankly very disheartening. Yes, the TSO under fire followed procedure. My beef is not with her. My concern is this: are we as a society so scared of our own shadow, so scared of worst-case scenarios, so untrusting of our fellow citizens, that we are willing to justify a government official placing her hands inside a six year old’s pants because that child just may be the next Richard Reid (after another agent was able to look through her clothing as she walked through a full body scanner)?
This whole culture of fear just drives me mad. I find it disgusting that a society that purports to support freedom at home and abroad would complacently accept being treated as guilty until proven innocent. The fact that the "world has changed" is not an excuse–it was not Al Qaeda that decided that Americans cannot be trusted at U.S. airports.
The apparatus of airport security ultimately comes down to a cost/benefit analysis. I, for one, would be willing to take my chances with no passenger screening whatsoever. And I speak as a frequent traveler who logs 150,000+ butt-in-seat miles each year.
But in any case, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: something needs to change. Security theatre is NOT keeping us safer.
Speaking of redundancy, I know that if you read my blog, you have heard this argument from me before. But as news stories continue to demonstrate how bad the airport security situation is getting in the United States, you will continue to hear me preaching the same fire and brimstone sermon.