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7/14/11

Safety vs. Privacy - The TSA Debate

Over the past few months, the TSA has come under heavy fire from the media and the general public alike. Social media has proven to be a significant forum for US citizens to air their frustrations with the new strict airport security measures, which include body scanning and full-body pat downs that seem to have no distinct boundaries in terms of who they can be used on.

It seems like whenever the clamor from one TSA news story finally dampens, another story pops up and the flames are simply fanned yet again, growing larger and larger.

In the most recent story, Andrea Fornella Abbott was arrested in the Nashville airport for first refusing to go through the body scanners, and then going ballistic on TSA agents when they were going to give her daughter a pat-down search (the daughter's exact age hasn't been released, but she's said to be 'young').

My feelings on this situation and the TSA fiasco in general are incredibly mixed.

As a parent, I sympathize with Abbott for getting upset about her daughter being subjected to a pat-down search. The pat-downs are definitely the most hotly debated aspect of the new security measures, and various stories, photos and videos have surfaced on the Internet that seem to indicate that they aren't being dealt out in a very logical fashion. Between a 95-year-old cancer-stricken woman who supposedly had to remove her adult diaper to an 8-month-old baby being patted down at my own hometown airport, the one thing that seems to be missing from these strict, calculated security procedures is common sense.

I'll be honest; if I were to be flying tomorrow and my daughter got randomly picked for a pat-down search, I'd probably flip out too. Pat me down. Please. I'm a grown man, I can at least comprehend what's going on and why. But to subject young kids who can't understand the procedure to an unnecessary pat down search seems horribly wrong. We raise our children teaching them that strangers touching their bodies is wrong, yet at the airport we are supposed to stand idly by and watch it happen and call it right. I have GOT to believe there's an alternative route that the TSA can take for screening young children to ensure safety of passengers. Do I understand that the government is trying to cover all of their bases to prevent any slip-ups? Yes. Do I think that doing full-body pat-downs of kids is necessary to cover these bases? No.




There's my skeptical side of it all. But to counter that, the common sense and logic in me doesn't understand why Abbott would even bother booking a flight if she wasn't prepared to deal with these potential scenarios during security screening. Let's face it, these procedures aren't new. If my memory (and the Internet) serves me correctly, body scanners were introduced in Fall of 2010. So coming up on a year after they were introduced, why would you even bother flying if you were opposed to a body scan? Quite frankly, Abbott's daughter probably wasn't even being considered for a pat-down until her mother freaked out and refused to go through the body scanner. She raised suspicion of the agents, and rightfully so. In fact, here is the TSA's explanation of pat-downs from their website, which in this scenario, they followed:

"Pat-downs are used to resolve alarms at the checkpoint, including those triggered by metal detectors and AIT units. Pat-downs are also used when a person opts out of AIT screening in order to detect potentially dangerous and prohibited items. Because pat-downs are specifically used to resolve alarms and prevent dangerous items from going on a plane, the vast majority of passengers will not receive a pat-down at the checkpoint."

People, face the facts: for the time being, body scanning isn't going anywhere. If you aren't prepared to go through one, then DON'T FLY. It's that simple.

Now before anyone cries foul, I'm not siding completely with the TSA here. There are two sides to every (well, almost every) story, and I believe that in this situation, there is fault on both sides. Abbott should have gone through the body scanner. And if she didn't want to do that, she should never have bought an airline ticket in the first place.

As for the TSA, I get that their response to the situation was probably just following protocol. A woman freaks out at the scanner and raises eyebrows. Everyone in her party had to get screened as a result, I get it. But as I noted above, I don't agree with young children getting pat-downs. And quite frankly, I think it's a little upsetting that the government hasn't made more of an attempt to recognize the public outcry in these situations. Every news story is met with the same canned response that the agents were following protocol. Fair enough, but maybe the protocol for children should be different. Following protocol gets a thumbs up in my book. The agents are remembering their training and doing things as advised. That's good! But it doesn't mean the PROCEDURE is good.

I'll be flying alone in September, and am fully prepared to walk through the body scanner without an issue. Hell, if a few TSA agents need to look at my bits and pieces in order to prevent someone else from potentially putting my life in danger, they can look all day as far as I'm concerned.

But when the time comes for my first trip with my daughter, I may be avoiding air travel. If news stories are still constantly popping up about children getting patted down, there's a good chance my daughter will instead be introduced to the classic road trip. Here we come, Wally World!

7 comments:

That's exactly how I feel. I'll just drive if my son has to have his balls felt up by some old man at the airport.

There's a thin line between pat-down and copping a feel. I'll drive when I can. Yet to see a hot female security guard at the airport. Might fly more and request a pat-down.

I'm waiting for a news story about a flight passenger and a TSA agent that fall in love after meeting during a pat-down search.

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You are right, We raise our children teaching them that strangers touching their bodies is wrong, yet at the airport we are supposed to stand idly by and watch it happen and call it right. Tsa should take care of in that kind of severe issues. airport parking gatwick

Security is a necessary evil at sensitive places like airports. But the severe measures being taken out for it should be condemned. gatwick chauffeur parking

Safety vs privacy is quite the factor at the airport. No matter how hard the authorities try they both keep interfering with each other. meet and greet gatwick

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