Framing the Dialogue

TSA TNA

“Don’t touch my junk” has become as famous as “don’t tase me man” in the American culture as the Transportation Security Administration increased the level of “scrutiny” at airport just prior to the busiest travel weekend of the year.  The words of interrupted traveler John Tyner went viral as a symbol of the frustration many people feel with the new screening at airports.  Mr. Tyner decided not to travel rather than be subjected to an intrusive body search.  As usual Charles Krauthammer perhaps had the best take on the story in a recent column;

“Don’t touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don’t touch my junk, Obamacare – get out of my doctor’s examining room, I’m wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don’t touch my junk, Google – Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don’t touch my junk, you airport security goon – my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I’m a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?”

This list of horror stories grows longer every day;

Travelers do have the choice of a full body scan that can show EVERY nook and cranny of your body.  Don’t worry as the photos are destroyed except for the ones that weren’t and found their way on to the Internet.  If radiation is your concern you shouldn’t worry as the we’ve been assured that the dose is not harmful.  I can imagine the sleazy lawyer commercials in ten years trawling for clients, “If you have cancer and had TSA full body scans you may be eligible for a settlement.  You don’t have to pay unless we get money for you (or more likely your estate).”  Many small regional airports don’t even have the scanners so it’s pat downs for one and all. 

It’s hard to argue against the need for airport security as the Islamic terrorists have shown a deep desire to blow up planes.  Bis Sis (Homeland Security chief Janey Napolitano) has adopted a screw all passengers approach rather than focusing on the most likely profile of a terrorist.  Grope a nun or a three-year-old, but let the Yemeni student slide by.  In order to adhere to political correctness we subject everybody to invasive procedures.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations advised Muslim women to resist searches and report any incidents so they can claim racism.  That’s not the way they worded their advice.

The pundits have come out of the woodwork with their solutions;

  • Use the same procedures as the Israelis since they have what is considered the best security.  The problems is scale.  They don’t have anywhere near the number of flights that we have so it may not be practical.
  • John Stossel and Bill O’Reilly recently discussed privatizing the tasks figuring that a private company would be more efficient.  That’s true, but Stossel added that there would need to be government oversight.  So much for efficiency as government would make things just as difficult but would be able to blame big business.
  • Make the airlines responsible for their own security as they have a rather large stake in preventing their planes and customers from being blown to bits.  I am all for the free market solution, but my guess is that Big Sis would impose her will on the process.
  • Profiling.  It is hte most sensible, but the government seems unwilling to face logic and use the obvious tools. 

My proposal would be a stepped approach using all of the above in sequence;

  1. Contract with El Al security to develop and train American airport screeners.
  2. Make airports responsible for security.  Provide minimal government interference recognizing a strong market incentive to provide safe flights.
  3. Tickets would have to be purchased a month (or some other reasonable time) in advance.  This would give airlines time to vet passengers before the flight.  Remember that the underwear bomber was on a “no fly” list yet was allowed on the plane.
  4. Anyone on a no fly list who attempts to board a plane gets arrested.
  5. If you buy your ticket less than a month from the flight an additional fee will be imposed to facilitate a rushed investigation.
  6. No cash purchases of tickets.
  7. Last minute purchases will require those passengers and their luggage to be subject to full search and body scans.  Lack of planning on their part does not constitute and emergency on the airline’s part.
  8. Any changes to the tickets or the passengers would be subject the the above mentioned time-frames.
  9. All checked bags are screened.  Any suspicious items (batteries with wires, etc.) will require detainment of passenger for further investigation. 
  10. All cargo on passenger planes receive same screening as passenger items.
  11. Photographic identification
  12. Thorough background checks of all airline personnel and biometric security for all allowed to enter security zone using retinal scans.
  13. Strong security presence including dogs trained to sniff (explosives or fear).
  14. Armed guards on all flights.
  15. Since I don’t travel by plane very often these won’t bother me.  Frequent fliers would probably be able to opt for a security clearance to make their travel less intrusive.  Private firms could charge a fee for the service and would have to update their profile.  I think biometric security would be appropriate.

This will come to a head after this weekend as more travelers experience junk touching or naked picture taking.  The Associated Press reports that Florida Congressman John Mica has suggested that airports opt out of TSA screeners in favor of private companies.  They have this option under federal law.

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