TSA is out of Control
I recently went on a trip to Boston to watch my wife run the Boston Marathon. We took a flight out of Bloomington to O’Hare and on to Logan international. This was accompanied by the usual pre flight routine of security checks and scanning. It was particularly nice when the TSA agent told me to remove my outer layer of clothes. I like to strip as much as the next guy, but something about a government agent telling me to do it just puts me off. Just today there was a man in Portland who stripped entirely naked to pass through the security checkpoint. The man was protesting the invasion of privacy by the TSA after they asked him to submit to a pat down. There have been other concerns about the TSA recently. They confiscated a cupcake in a jar from a lady because the icing was too much like a gel that could supposedly be used as an explosive. The fourth amendment is supposed to protect citizens in their right to be secure in their persons and effects as well as limiting the government’s power to search. However, we are now entering an era where it is becoming acceptable for the government to force you to submit to a pat down or a body scan before you can travel. At what point does a pat down cross the line from an administrative search into the realm of invasion of privacy? I believe in the security at airports and I believe that they can keep me safe from terrorists. However, I also think that they have gone way too far in their regulations and in fact many of their regulations are pointless. For example, the 3oz requirement for liquids, I could take a while suitcase of liquids through the checkpoint as long as they are in 3oz containers. So how does this limit what I can take on the plane or make it safer in anyway? Then there is the remove the shoes requirement. The TSA already has metal detectors and x-ray machines. I don’t see how taking off your shoes is going to help stop a terrorist attack. It’s just like how schools suddenly needed to install metal detectors after columbine. The metal detectors would not have stopped columbine from happening and taking shoes off won’t stop a determined terrorist from taking out a plane. It seems to me that the TSA takes anecdotal cases and applies new rules after TSA has failed to detect a threat, for example the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. The new technology that TSA is bringing to the screening process is also causing a big controversy. They are bringing full body 3D scans for people that are selected for further screening. This will supposedly reveal any “threat items” to the TSA agents at the security checkpoints but detractors say it will also reveal things like underwear style, nipples, and every contour of the human body to an unknown screener sitting behind a computer screen in another room. Many people are concerned that these revealing scans could wind up on the internet or being used for inappropriate purposes by TSA staff. Below is a picture of a scan that was posted on the TSA blog website of both male and female scans. Although the TSA claims that these are images provided to them by the manufacturer of the scanning machines many of the comments below the blog seem to suggest that these have been manipulated so that they seem less revealing.
I appreciate what the TSA tries to do. But I also believe that at some point people are going to rebel against the oppressive nature of the security requirements we currently have. It’s a lot like the due process and crime control debate. The pendulum will swing from security to freedom and back again probably several times in my life. Right now because of the attacks of September 11th there is an increased focus on providing security. These policies and regulations that so many people find offensive or invasive will probably be ruled on in many court cases and legislative sessions until we are back towards the liberal side of the spectrum. Then another tragedy like 9/11 will happen and the government will again implement policies meant to keep us safe but really just providing a false sense of security. Should we submit to every requirement of the government in an effort to remain secure? Or should we refuse to comply with unreasonable requests? Many people think we are heading for a 1984 type scenario where the government controls every aspect of our lives, is this just the first step down that road? Or are these completely reasonable measures to take against the threat of a terrorist attack?