There is no soft spot in my heart for the TSA, in fact, I have posted a lot about my disdain for their methods. After reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest piece on The Atlantic, I can’t say I’m holding out hope that things are going to get better any time soon.
Here’s a small excerpt from the article, though the whole thing deserves a read.
The pat-down at BWI was fairly vigorous, by the usual tame standards of the TSA, but it was nothing like the one I received the next day at T.F. Green in Providence. Apparently, I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, “Get new gloves, man, you’re going to need them where you’re going.”
The take-away from this single paragraph and really the whole article, is that the new pat-downs have little to do with security and a lot to do with intimidating people into using the backscatter machines. When a traveler opts-out of going through the x-ray machines, they will be subjected to a verbal demoralization as well as a pat-down that can be best described as borderline fondling.
Does any of this really increase security? After last week’s events in which explosive materials were found in ink cartridges being shipped to the United States, I would say it is all show and little substance. From what has been reported, the bomb plot was foiled thanks to information from a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner. That’s right, it wasn’t some TSA agent taking away your bottle of water while you got the frisking of a lifetime, it was information. Imagine that.
It may feel like there is not much we can do but I plan on making the TSA agents as uncomfortable as they make me in these situations. Maybe if their own employees complain enough, we’ll see some changes in these new pat-down procedures. Me, I’ll be opting-out of the backscatter every time I am at an airport that uses one. When they ask me why I opted out (had this happen the last couple of times) I am thinking about replying with an overtly sexual remark. Is that wrong? Probably. What’s worse is being groped so much that you finally submit to the backscatter machine.
In all seriousness, the TSA has the upper hand. You and I have destinations to get to and they are the gatekeepers. I have no problem taking out my laptop or taking off my shoes, but this is bordering on the ridiculous. Wait, it is ridiculous. I am sure we could do a much better job of making air travel safe by actually asking questions when people go through security and analyzing facial expressions, demeanor, etc. rather than taking naked pictures of everyone or worse, shaming them in front of others.
Let’s start sending notes to the men and women who work for us in government and ask that a serious look be taken at the procedures used at airports and oversight of the TSA. If someone in either House wants to make this their pet project, I’ll back them 100%.
For those of you who fly out of IAH, you can technically clear security at any checkpoint so long as your airline does not require you to go through a certain one (some international flights do). A number of the checkpoints do not have the backscatter machines, feel free to use those.