Last Friday, I went to my local airport and got to go through the 'naked scanner', but not before I took my shoes off, took my quart size bag of 3 oz or fewer toiletries out of my carry on, along with my laptop and put all of those things, along with my blanket and jacket in separate tubs to be scanned. I say 'hi and good morning' to the TSA person checking my ID because it gets them to actually look at me so they can actually compare the face on the license to the face in front of them, after they check for the hologram to make sure my driver's license is legit. I was thinking about El Al, the Israeli state airline and their security procedures as I was going through security. I was having a conversation with myself that went something like, 'self, wouldn't it be a whole lot easier to have them ask me questions like they do with El Al?' Self did not answer me back. Me, myself and I were in agreement at the lunacy of the whole scene.
I got to the naked scanner and balked because I'd never seen it before. Honestly, 'Beam up Scotty!' comes to mind. Then I had the utter nerve to ask about it. The nerve of me, I know. I'm such a rebel! The TSA officer said, 'Oh, it's been here for years'. I walked through. I missed my hometown and wanted to be there more than I wanted to argue. "Really?" I thought. "When I flew 2 months ago it wasn't here!" I know people who work for the airlines and they have asked for pat downs in lieu of the scanners and contrary to news reports, the TSA people do in fact yell loudly that someone's refusing to go through the scanner. Lovely, because you need every set of eyes on you. That the TSA puts airline employees, you know the ones vetted by the FBI, through the same screening is disgusting. I mean, I realize that the FBI's screening process isn't very thorough but really, if you can't even trust the airline personnel, why the hell get on a plane in the 1st place?
So, while I was on vacation, I was watching CNN and there was a debate regarding the new scanners and TSA pat down procedures. I suggested to my mother and our suite mate that it's not the most effective or the most secure way to do things. The person we were rooming with, smart as she is, was decidedly in favor of it and said that the government must know more than we know. I retorted, 'Well, we've been offered El Al's training services gratis and have said "no"?. Repeatedly.' Anderson Cooper was getting opposing viewpoints on security, the new scanners, their effectiveness and the effectiveness of pat downs and 'touching [people's] "junk". The gentleman in favor of it said it's the best we have and that it's in keeping with the most current intelligence. The counter opinion expressed by the other gentleman suggested otherwise, saying that these new scanners won't pick up a variety of chemicals and are, in fact, too invasive. He also suggested that El Al's methods were proven and were in fact more thorough. Cooper then asked the 1st gentleman for his reaction and he said, predictably, "What El Al does is profiling!" Really, that's the best you got?
A millimeter wave scanner is a whole body imaging device used for detecting objects concealed underneath a person's clothing using a form of electromagnetic radiation. Typical uses for this technology include detection of items for commercial loss prevention, smuggling and screening at government buildings and airport security checkpoints. |
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, profiling is defined as 'the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior '. Profiling has become a dirty word, up there with racial slurs and cuss words on the list of words that, in our overly politically correct society, we don't say. Or, if we dare say them, we immediately get verbally slapped down. With an official definition of profiling in hand, what El Al does is NOT profiling. You're asked many questions by highly trained security personnel. TSA officers don't need to be highly educated, by the way. But I digress. El Al asks questions of every passenger, including who you are, where you're going and why you're going and how long are you staying. They get your story. If you have to remember a story or if yours is a one way ticket because you're planning something sinister, yes, you're going to get pulled and go through a more intensive interrogation. So, what's wrong with that? Personally, I'd be thankful for that. If they find something funky in your luggage and you're pulled off a flight or not allowed past screening, is that not "profiling"? or is that effective security in action? You tell me. Personally, I'm more concerned with the safety of the flying public than I am with whether I've 'offended' someone by singling them out.
Now, if I'd been questioned by anyone, I'd have been able to tell them all about my last trip, more than they wanted to know in fact. I was going to Boston for 5 days to share a business trip with my mom. How detailed do you want me to get? I was looking forward to seeing Fenway from the air and seeing the fall foliage from the air, too. Yes, I booked my own ticket with a Visa card and yes, I have it if you'd like to see it. And so on. The point is that if you're legit and your intent is simply to fly from point A to point B, you can answer the questions they ask. Wanna pat me down? I've been through that before, too. Go for it! I used to get pulled and scanned with the wand. When I told someone about 4 years back that I always get called wanded, the person suggested that I was on a watch list and should write the TSA to get off it. Huh?! Then one day, as I was again being wanded, a kind TSA employee said, 'next time take off your hoodie and you'll be fine'. Why thank you for sharing. Easy enough. I have taken off the hoodie ever since. I wear a fitted tee underneath it. I can't hide my less-than-firm triceps never mind anything else. My hoodie's the only baggie thing I wear in public.
So I flew to Boston. Gorgeous day, great mini-vacation. Logan airport's gotten a lot of upgrades since 9/11. However, they're on the backside of your flight experience. Since the naked scanner's in T2 but not T1 at my local airport, security may be stronger in other terminals but at the Delta terminal, it's the standard security door jamb, if you will. I had a security guy take apart my luggage last year because of an object that happened to be a jar candle. I said I had put in in the clothing layers, unwrapped, so it wouldn't break. He opened everything up and went through it. DO I care? No, I really don't. Not about that part. But I go back to, if you've got nothing to hide, tearing apart carry on bags becomes unnecessary.
What I do care about is government officials like Janet Napolitano and the TSA chief saying they're doing everything they can when they aren't. Saying they're using every method available to them, when they're not. Retired agents and the retired head of El Al have volunteered to train people for a month in any of our nation's airports. Let's see if their system is reasonable and feasible. It can't be any less feasible than being body scanned or patted down as though we're all criminals. It can't be any less effective than scanning our beauty products, shoes and laptops. What it can be is better than what we have, proof that our security system is in fact a farce when it's a waste of money, payback to various factions via million dollar scanners and a bloated bureaucracy known as the TSA. It can, and would, I venture to say, be egg on faces of Napolitano and others who staunchly defend the status quo.
Before the left starts to scream again about profiling and civil rights violations, we need to calm down and think. While I agree that the new, current procedures are in fact going overboard, and though flying is a necessity for many of us, in the due course of our business and life, it's neither a right nor a privilege, it's a choice. You can also travel by train, car, bike or boat. The point is, but for the fact that it's convenient, more of us might eschew airports and planes for another less invasive mode of transport. I agree that the new, more invasive pat downs are a bit much. Nobody needs to be grabbing your anything unless they have reason to believe you have an ulterior motive. However, I also believe that our government is doing far more to invade our privacy with their new 'security measures' than they're doing to protect our interests.
When it comes to our safety, Napolitano and her crew of merry fools are doing nothing to engender trust or confidence in the flying public with these new rules and scanners. If they're not careful the rebellion against their ignorance will affect the airline industry, another failed experiment on the road to hell that's paved with good intentions and unforeseen consequences. Our airport security measures are just like our president. They look useful and we'd like to believe in them. However, upon closer inspection, they aren't and we don't. We the flying public deserve better and we deserve it now.