Thursday, November 18, 2010

Solution to TSA's Crotch Grabbing Policies

Airport security measures have become a hot issue over the past few days.  There are heated arguments on both sides of this issue.  Do we want the best airport security and passenger scrutiny or do we want our privacy protected?  When listening to each side make it's points, you would think that it must be one extreme or the other - either we have safety on airlines or we enjoy light security measures and more privacy.

I believe there is a simple solution which accomplishes both goals.

First, you have to analyze the basic goal of our current policies used by TSA to manage airport security.  Our government has established a priority in the goal of finding each and every item and/or tool which has the potential to be used by a terrorist to take over a plane or bring damage to the plane and it's passengers.  This approach becomes very difficult as the list of potentially dangerous items is constantly changing.  This leaves TSA with an almost impossible responsibility of catching and stopping each and every item before it gets onto an airliner. 

It was not long ago that you could bring, in your carry-on luggage, bottles and tubes of liquids and gels of any size.  When it was determined that dangerous liquids and gels could easily be brought aboard, the public was restricted to very small containers which must be in a small, clear plastic bag.  Not long ago, no one considered shoes as weapons of mass destruction.  Now, since some guy tried to use his shoe as a tool, we all have to take our shoes off and have our them scanned.  More recently, underwear has become a weapon to be used against the passengers.  So, now the TSA has resorted to hand searches of the underwear and areas adjacent to underwear.

Can you see where this is going?  The government is always one step behind the terrorists.  What will be the security measure when someone boards a plane with a fake, false tooth that is filled with nitro, etc.?  Will TSA resort to dental x-ray exams in the airport?  What if the bad guys found a way to make a non-toxic fluid which could be exploded?  A terrorist could drink the fluid prior to passing through security and once on the plane, detonate his stomach.  Would TSA then require pumping of stomachs before flying?

We cannot play this game, their way.  The problem is not that TSA has airports full of incompetent employees or people who enjoy grabbing the private areas of passenger's bodies.  The real problem is in the goal set by TSA and Homeland Security.  We will never be able to keep all instruments and tools, which have dangerous potential, off of planes.  To make this the goal is automatically a losing proposition.

The goal must shift from tools to terrorists.  The list of items we are no longer allowed to bring onto an airliner is extensive and constantly growing.  We are dealing with an enemy who is crafty and has the advantage of imagination.  On our side, we cannot take all necessary steps to make us secure from anything they may dream up.  We must change our approach to something more realistic and secure.

The object of the goal must change to stopping the person who poses the risk from ever getting onto the plane.  Once we accomplish this goal, we do not have to worry about nail clippers, etc.  The people on the planes will have been determined to not be security risks.  We will not care if they need to have a quart bottle of shampoo in their bag, they are no threat to anyone.

If we focus on the potential passengers and reach a comfort level with each one, this will be easier and more successful than always trying to second guess the imagination of the enemy and never quite catching up with their latest plan. 

Why would anyone believe this changed approach could work?  Because there is a country that does just this and has been very successful.  When you fly out of Israel on EL AL airlines, the airport security consists of very well trained individuals who are using intelligence data to screen the passenger list and determine which individuals should be questioned.  Their agents will keep you there until you have convinced them that you pose no risk. 

They do not use the methods we use because they are not focused on items.  They do not feel (pun intended) the need to do open handed breast exams in the airport lobby.  They do not grab the crotch of teenage girls and boys just to randomly make sure this 13-year-old girl, who is already self-conscious of the changes taking place in her body, is not hiding a bomb between her legs.  They are not subjecting random passengers to radiation in the full-body scanners which basically undress the person in the images being watched on monitors by various TSA employees.  They are not engaging in government sponsored sexual assault on innocent people who are just wanting to get from Phoenix to Boise for a family visit.

The security in Israel is focused on people.  They do not allow anyone who they are not comfortable with, aboard the plane.  Once you have been allowed to board, they are not very concerned with items you may have because they already believe you pose no risk.  They do not have to stay one step ahead of the terrorist's latest trick gadget.  They just have to use their brain and common sense to screen the people.  They do not waste time on random passengers who clearly pose no danger, but focus on those who raise a level of suspicion. 

Let's change from an impossible goal to a realistic approach that has been proven to be effective. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. There are so many great points in here, I can only hope that these observations are considered by the public and policymakers.

    Your excellent observation on the psychological vulnerability of adolescents under eighteen is a great reminder to those who, I fear, have not considered with sympathy the trouble these procedures pose for the young.

    As early as 2007, Fareed Zakaria wrote how hostility to travelers had replaced sensible security decisions. This was damaging the US economy, and US appeal and reputation overseas. Zakaria, who became a US citizen in the summer of 2001, recalled, "I remember visiting the United States as a kid from India in the 1970s, at a time when as a country, India was officially anti-American. The reality of the America that I experienced was a powerful refutation of the propaganda and caricatures of its enemies. But today, through inattention, stupidity and bureaucratic cowardice, the caricature is becoming reality."
    On the damage to the economy, British paper The Telegraph published several reports of British travelers who choose destinations other than the US because of how they were treated at airports--before the scans (which the Brits are using too, sadly). In 2007, The Telegraph reported, "Telegraph readers have complained of being misidentified as terrorist suspects, held back for questioning or treated aggressively."
    One UK traveler told the Telegraph, "I shall never return to the US, where you can be intimidated, insulted and made to feel like a criminal by aggressive officials."