Friday, January 08, 2010

The Airport Pat-down

I would seriously like to know what the point of airport security pat-downs is meant to be.

  1. It's invasive. I've had pat-downs in the past, when I've been in a wheelchair for one leg injury or another, and the wheelchair was the easiest way to get through a long airport. The screeners were invariably nice, took me to a private area when I asked, and were efficient. It was still invasive. I didn't feel any safer.
  2. It's leading to massive, massive lines at airports, which just about puts the final death knell into any hope the USA had of remaining an attractive international tourism destination.
  3. The rigor of the pat-downs varies from airport to airport and country to country. The screeners are not trained in some places and are overwhelmed in others.
  4. It's invasive. Lest I repeat that again, it bears reminding that due to the overwhelming need, passengers who have paid good money are being treated similar to criminals, and many are being forced to undergo pat-downs in public locations. I understand that there's a transition period with these new measures, but news media across the board (domestic and international) is reporting that this is happening.
  5. And the bottom line is that it's not keeping anyone safer.
I'm all for civil liberties. I proudly support the ACLU. I understand that profiling is not a desirable option, don't get me wrong. But if I have to choose between profiling and being subjected to a pat-down, I'm going to choose the profiling. Even if I'm the one who one day is profiled, for some unknown reason.


Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I feel like this might be a controversial post! You may get some interesting comments today.

Angelo said...

Three minutes to midnight.. we'll see if I make "today" happen.

I am a former member of the US Navy. While I cannot speak for the armed forces, I believe I speak for its silent majority when I say these security measures make our country safer. The biggest problem is that they are not universally enforced. One person gets patted down; the next gets a "once-over" glance. I believe we should have tunnels--and this is going to get scifi, so bear with me--where, very similar to "Total Recall", we walk down and get "sniffed" and scanned and x-rayed until it is 99.999% certain we are not carrying bombs, bomb-making devices/chemicals, or any kind of weapons onboard an aircraft.

The alternative, which I would actually prefer, is to allow everyone to carry a weapon. The trouble is twofold: mob scenario (where a riot erupts and everybody hurts everybody, regardless of intent), or a hull compromise scenario, where a bullet passes through the hull of the aircraft, rips a giant hole in it due to air pressure differentials, and sucks 10-12 people out in the process. Everyone else gets high on oxygen while the plane descends. Neither scenario is pretty.

It is tough to say what the "right" answer might be, but these are two of my cents. Would love to hear other comments as well! :)

Colleen said...

I suspect you're going to choose the profiling because you are certain that you wouldn't be one of the profiled. Were you to be so profiled, to be judged guilty because of the tone of your skin or sound of your name, imagine your ire then.

AstonWest said...

They might ease up on the pat-downs once they implement full body scanners. Not sure which would be more invasive, though.

Jenny Rae Rappaport said...

I honestly wouldn't mind if I was one of the ones who was profiled. Simply because if there are a limited number of people being profiled, there will be more and better-trained screeners available to process those people. So even though you'll have to go through a more invasive search, it will be done more quickly, and in privacy.

Lesser numbers=better service, in my book.

barbarienne said...

My biggest objection is that it doesn't accomplish anything except to piss people off.

The security personnel are minimally trained, mostly in how to follow procedures, but not how to actually, you know, spot something.

I habitually keep matches--boxed wooden matches from nice restaurants--in my purse because there's no substitute for a match when you really need one. And yet no screening personnel have ever said a word about them. Are they obscured on the x-ray by my maxi pads?

How about the tin that formerly held mints, but now holds a thumb drive...but could as easily hold a knife?

I would say that they're not looking into this because they're de-profiling the middle-aged blonde white woman, except for the fact that I've been pulled for "extra screening" a couple of times. But no one searches the purse.

Profiling works if there is adequate training (c.f. the screeners at El Al). Profiling is NOT pulling everyone with a certain type of name, or a certain skin color or mode of dress. It is pulling people with certain behavior patterns, and getting proper training to understand what you are actually looking at. (e.g. turban most likely = Sikh, which is definitely =/= Muslim!)

annerallen said...

How about if they start by patting down the people whose fathers have reported them to be terrorists? That's not exactly "profiling" is it?

Jenny Rae Rappaport said...

E, I totally agree with just about everything you said. =)

Chris Redding said...

I have to say this.
I was profiled. I have an Irish Catholic face. I was pulled out to be patted down any time I flew out of Heathrow Airport in the early 90's.
Who was bombing London? Irish Catholics.
SO WHAT. These people were doing their job and frankly I, as a passenger, was glad they were doing their job.
And no I was not offended.

clindsay said...

I'd rather have the body scanner. I don't care if they see a ghost image of my nekid body if it will get me through the lines faster. I wish American were less prudish and more practical about this stuff.

KylieQ said...

I realise this is a late comment but I'm catching up on some blog reading and just saw this post. I'm flying from Australia to LA in a couple of months and quite honestly, the pat-down issue has not affected my decision. Yes, lines may be longer but that just means I need to get to the airport earlier. How quickly I am likely to get through immigration is never a decision in my travels and I have spent some very LOOONG waits in immigration lines. The pat-downs are just another part of travelling and the experienced traveller will take it in their stride.