The Transportation Security Administration did what it could last Wednesday to dampen the impact of “National Opt Out Day” — a protest aimed at educating travelers on the invasive techniques being employed by the government as they pass through security check-points at airports. The principal tactic appeared to be simply turning off the naked body scanners. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported there was “limited, if any, use of the controversial full-body scanners.” A similar story appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger, noting that “a majority of Newark’s full-body scanners were idle throughout much of the day, depriving most passengers of the chance to opt out of the controversial screening procedure even if they had wanted to.”
The reactions elsewhere to the tide of opposition to naked body scanners and invasive “pat downs,” run the gamut from the disappointing to the absurd. Some supposed defenders of civil liberties on the Left are criticizing those who are questioning a policy of their government, saying in essence that objectors to the TSA’s policy should just accept a blatant violation of constitutionally-protected rights.
Others are taking the criticism to level of absurdity difficult to even comprehend. Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, co-hosts of the television show The View, for example, equated passengers opting-out to an “act of terrorism” creating a dangerous atmosphere in airports.
Even more discouraging are results of a recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute; a well-respected, non-partisan research center. In a comprehensive survey of air travelers just last month, Ponemon’s research found that travelers’ main concern is not safety, privacy, or unconstitutional government searches. Of concern to many passengers is something far more mundane and ultimately inconsequential – convenience; how long it takes to get through a security line.
According to this survey, even though 79 percent of travelers believe protection of their privacy is important, and two-thirds are not even sure the TSA policies are necessary, more than 60 percent still say they value security more than privacy, and only 30 percent of respondents say they would be willing to wait longer than a minute for a screening that did not involve a full-body scan or a groping by a TSA official. In other words, for seven out of ten air travelers, one minute is the cut-off point beyond which the only concern is convenience.
In the modern world, convenience and time trump everything. We would prefer to purchase an E-Z PASS to get through a toll booth quickly, for example, even though it creates a discoverable record of our private travels.
Thank goodness this mentality did not prevail at earlier times in our nation’s history, else we never would have fought the war for our independence, or won the Second World War. Instead of our children reading about Patrick Henry’s famous quote; “Give me liberty, or give me death,” they would instead read about how colonists told the British, “Take our liberty, just do not inconvenience us too much.”
-by Bob Barr, The Barr Code