Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Airport (Lack of) Security

I continue to be amazed that we give terrorists an advantage when moving around our country. An outside observer might be shocked that nine years after the worst terrorist attack on American soil, we would continue to give terrorists access to the very weapon they used on September 11th. We continue to fight terrorism with one arm behind our back when it comes to airline security. In an effort to be politically correct, we insult grandmothers, families, and business travelers while ignoring terrorists. "Ignoring" might not be the right word here. That hints that we have already identified the terrorists but have decided to do nothing about it. We haven't gone that far.

Both my wife and I have frequently traveled with infants. We have taken both my daughter and now my son on trips to see family members. Traditionally, when we get to the gate, we get "infant in arms" added to one of our tickets. If you are traveling with an infant under two, the infant doesn't need a separate ticket. Instead, they are allowed to sit in your lap. On a recent trip, the TSA agent kicked my family out of security because none of the tickets said "infant in arms". My wife and daughter stood next to the TSA agent while I went back to have the appropriate language added to my tickets. Once back, the TSA agent subjected my ticket to extra scrutiny, then subjected my wife and daughters tickets to this same level of extra inspection (even though he had previously approved them, and they stood next to him the entire time I ran back to the ticket counter). What a pleasant way to start a trip.

To some degree, I can understand the TSA agent's caution. After all, none of my family fits any profile of a terrorist, but you never know when we may. My 8 month old son did refuse to divulge any information to the agent after repeated questioning, so he went to the top of the "suspicious" list. If I could have gotten him on the "no-fly" list, he probably would have skated straight through security. If the New York City bomber is any indication, the no fly list will get you right though security.

There are a number of threads that connect 9/11 members, Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan, the attempted NYC bomber Faisal Hassad, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and shoe bomber Richard Reid. For example: they are all relatively young, most of them are well educated, they are all Muslim, and most (if not all) received training in Pakistan. They do not all look Arabic. Do you see the beginnings of a pattern? Instead of exploring, and exploiting these similarities, we have decided to install cameras that allow TSA agents to see black and white (for now) nude pictures of little kids traveling in airports, and Mayor Bloomberg has decided New York City should install a vast array of closed circuit cameras. I wish Mayor Bloomberg the best of luck finding the money to pay for his new cameras.

The nude scanners also have their own set of problems. Recently, a TSA agent "lost his mind" after co-workers viewed him on one of the new full-body scanners. The other TSA agents viewed screener Rolando Negrin on the scanner and then subjected him to, "…daily ribbing about the size of the screener's genitalia." We are assured that, "…screeners in a separate room view images of the human body, private parts and all, with the person's face blurred." That appeared to fail as a precaution in this case. If the TSA won't protect the identity of their own, why should we believe they will protect the identity of your family?

Terrorists are still able to get on our airplanes, even after leaving the site of an attempted car bomb in New York City. We are told the New York City bomber was "amateurish", which is what we are told after each of these failed attempts. But what happens when one of these terrorists gets it right? And with the number of terrorists getting on our planes, with the heightened security on infants traveling on airlines, and with TSA agents going crazy because they look at each other's genitalia, who really sounds "amateurish"?

1 comment:

Felisa Daskeo said...

Tough way to start a supposedly pleasant trip with family. I know how you feel. Sometimes security is just too confusing. They think they are doing strict security but they end up losing the real terrorists. Great blog.