Perhaps the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently has received reliable intelligence that al Qaeda has been busy recruiting cancer survivors as sleeper terrorists, and grade-school students travelling with their parents as suicide bombers. Or maybe TSA’s leaders recently reminded the agency’s many thousands of security screeners that using common sense when deciding which airline passengers to subject to the most intrusive and demeaning security check possible, would result in an unsatisfactory rating on their next performance evaluation.
Whatever the reason, and despite a rising tide of criticism and resistance from the travelling public, the parade of horror stories emanating from airport security check points continues.
A North Carolina breast cancer survivor was forced to remove her prosthesis during a “pat-down.” At Detroit Metropolitan Airport a male bladder cancer survivor was forced to remove his urostomy bag, during his screening by a TSA agent so devoid of decency that the passenger wound up covered in his own urine.
In Salt Lake City, a young boy was pulled aside for “secondary screening.” A video of the incident shows a TSA worker patting down the shirtless child while his father stands behind him watching.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently has documented more than 900 complaints from passengers, whose experiences at the hands of TSA left them feeling violated and humiliated by screeners who went too far in carrying out their duties.
Sadly, these stories are becoming all too familiar as the government refuses to back down from these invasive tactics; largely a show of security theater.
Yet even as TSA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are sticking to their story that the full, naked-body scans and the intrusive manual body searches are absolutely essential to maintain the security of commercial air travel, questions abound.
Reports are surfacing, for example, that in response to a pre-Thanksgiving Day call for air travelers to “opt out” of the full-body scanners, at many TSA checkpoints the scanners were purposefully turned off in order to minimize the chance for a successful “Opt Out Day,” and to ease the PR problems faced by TSA.
In another incident, Adam Savage of the television show Mythbusters, was subjected to a full-body scan as he was making his way through security to board a flight to speak at a conference. In a video available on YouTube, Savage explains how he usually goes through his luggage to remove any items that may be potentially harmful; noting that in this particular case he forgot to do so. Savage pulled out two 12-inch steel razor blades that were accidently left in his inside jacket pocket. Holding the razor blades at the audience, he says, referring to TSA, “You’re going to look at my junk, and somehow you miss this?”
And it is not just at airports any longer. Some federal office buildings apparently are turning to the naked-image body scanners.
For DHS, the airports may be just the starting point. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano already has floated a plan to add additional security measures to mass transit, trains, and boats. While it is not yet clear whether such measures would be as invasive as those now employed at airports, I would not recommend holding your breath waiting for a more reasonable approach.