Editorial: Airport security turns concern into anger
A groundswell against the Transportation Safety Authority's newest airport anti-terrorist screening procedures is quickly becoming a tsunami.
At the crux of the flap is Homeland Security and the TSA's change from using scanners to employing full-body image detectors and, at the same time, the introduction of pat-downs. Passengers' vexation is ramping up, so much so that at least one movement is gearing up to boycott airline travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, the busiest day of the year at airports.
Terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, dramatically changed America's approach to national security. Hijackers slipped past airport security and turned that day into one of America's greatest tragedies. Reaction was swift. Less than two months after the attacks, Congress created the TSA to handle screening at all of the country's airports. Silverware gave way to plastic. Airlines installed stronger and bulletproof cockpit doors. Pilots with proper training carry guns. More air marshals are on board during flights. Valid identification of travelers is crucial. Baggage undergoes careful scrutiny. Liquids permitted on flights are regulated.
Passengers have no choice but to arrive at the airport two hours ahead of flight time in order to get through security, and lines can be long, especially during holidays.
In spite of the inconvenience tightened security has added to flying, Americans haven't really grumbled much until now over having to take off their shoes and coats, showing their laptops, cameras and cell phones and surrendering other carry-ons to the trays going through X-ray.
But now revolt's afoot against the latest screening methods. The full-body imaging technology shows a body's contours on a computer in a private room removed from the security checkpoints. Supposedly, the screener reviewing the images cannot see the person's face or find out his/her identity.
While some object to the body scanner because they fear a greater risk to low-level radiation exposure, it is the pat-down that is provoking the most angst. Passengers who decline inspections by the body scanners are subject to the rigorous pat-downs, which include checks of the insides of their thighs and buttocks.
In response to public outcry, the TSA said Monday that while it is trying to be sensitive to people's concerns, everyone will be screened before getting on an airplane.
Don't let the uproar drown out this irrefutable fact: Air travel is still a target for terrorists.
You can put up with a 30-second scan, a two-minute pat-down - or you can stay at home.