November 23, 2010

Felt Up

You hear the one about the shy geeky guy who couldn't get laid? He wound up broke and on the no-fly list after buying weekly one-way airline tickets from New York to DC. Sure, he'd contemplated getting a hooker but realized he could just as easily get felt up by the TSA once a week without risking catching an STD.

The last two weeks have been rife with stories about the TSA and their latest round of intrusive security procedures, from the full body scans which leave very little to the imagination to the physical full-body pat-downs they've begun to subject people to. There are accusations of over zealousness and just as many arguments about safety.

But whichever side you come down on, there's something wrong with this picture. Specifically, a breast cancer survivor who'd undergone a double mastectomy who was forced to remove her prostheses. A bladder cancer survivor who was patted down and soaked in his own urine. A woman who was literally stripped down to the waist in front of a waiting line of people. 385 full body scanners are deployed in 68 airports in the US. Full-body pat-downs are employed at all airports across the country.

The response? You don't have to fly. It's true, I guess, but it's also a bullshit cop-out that covers for a half-assed, reactionary strategy the flaws of which are starting to be seen.

Where do you come down on the issue? Are the scans and pat-downs overly invasive or do you see them as okay? Is there a better solution?

Posted by Chris at November 23, 2010 6:32 AM

We don't have the option to opt out over here, In England, so I feel until they have sorted there act out over this my family will be using other means of transport even though its less convenient. I just don't feel comfortable having my privacy and my childs invaded in that way ( they say they don't do it to children... but how long until that rules changed...) I understand the safety of the public is paramount but this surely isnt the way to protect us ....

Posted by: Meg at November 23, 2010 7:31 AM

My question is this: If a Muslim woman shows up in line, covered in a Burka, do they scan her, pat her down? Or does she proclaim it against her religion to have any person touch her besides a family member and get a walk?
During the Cold War I made eleven trips into the East. I got frisked by the best of them, and I have to tell you, it was no walk in the park! But then, they were communists, right?
What is happening to America? And what is wrong with people that they allow themselves to be treated like this?

Posted by: Maribeth at November 23, 2010 7:32 AM

Some TSA people are out of line. I've now down both options and I very much prefer the pat down. I don't want the radiation, I don't want to be dealing with things like radiation which haven't been tested enough for my taste.

Posted by: Hannah at November 23, 2010 7:38 AM

I'm okay with the scanners, even though they make me uncomfortable, but I think the pat downs are a bit much, especially the stories to which you are referring.

Posted by: Elizabeth at November 23, 2010 8:41 AM

So we try to develop a less inhumane procedure. Something horrible happens. The terrorists win that round.

Or we go with more and more invasive procedures. We submit to these searches, the tapping of our phones, the reading of our online conversations. Perhaps we prevent a tragedy or maybe we don't. Still, the terrorists have instilled fear all across the country and cost us millions (billions?) of dollars we don't have. The terrorists still win.

I heard someone say last night that the long lines at the airports might be even more threatening to our safety. What would it take for one person with a concealed bomb to set it off before they passed through security? Not much if he or she is willing to die in the process.

Al-Qaeda calls it the death of a thousand cuts.

I call it the parable of the frog who was placed in a pot of cold water. The temperature was raised by a degree a day. Eventually - frog legs. Why didn't he just jump out? Because he didn't notice he was being boiled alive.

We're giving up freedom, degree by degree, in exchange for a dream of security. Is it a fair trade? Can any amount of "security" prevent disaster if a lone perpetrator is determined enough and welcomes death? More questions than answers.

We're between a rock and a hard place. Damned if we do - damned if we don't.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Seriously. You and I can't solve all the problems of the world; we might as well enjoy the holiday. Love to Beth and the kids from the left Coast.

Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at November 23, 2010 8:58 AM

P. S. It's a strange day when I find myself leaning toward the conservative position but that's what seems to be happening with this issue.

I may be as much Libertarian as progressive.

Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at November 23, 2010 9:02 AM

My wife is a Type I diabetic with an insulin pump. Pump wearers are getting pulled for explosives tests every single time they fly because TSA thinks somebody might replace the 100 ml of insulin in a vial with something that goes boom. If they opt out of the porno-scanner the full body grope also includes the TSA agent checking to see if the pump is really connected to your body. That can involve exposing some sensitive areas of the body, depending on where that particular diabetic has inserted the needle.

The pump manufacturer can't even tell its customers if it's safe to wear the pump through the porno-scanner. TSA won't tell then how much power is being used in the things and won't make a porno-scanner available for testing.

Thankfully, I have no plans to fly anytime soon.

Posted by: COD at November 23, 2010 9:24 AM

I hate the whole mess. That being said, I think the scanners should be the only option because having a stranger touch your privates is degrading and wrong. By eliminating the options, they eliminate the split-focus. Let people keep their clothes and shoes on and get people used to the scanners. I think it'll be an improvement.

Posted by: Brad at November 23, 2010 9:26 AM

I can't wrap my head around how this is OK. I just can't. I can't see how it's affective, I can't see how it's a deterrent, and I can't see how it's making us safer. It's leading to the next step - don't even bother bringing the bomb on the plane when one can be detonated in the busy airport. So then we'll require a ticket to enter the airport. It never stops.

Sorry to sound so fatalistic, but I really think these types of invasive procedures are ridiculous, and leading us down places we won't be able to turn back.

Posted by: Susan at November 23, 2010 9:31 AM

It all sounds super lame to me. I'm not traveling this year so I won't get the first-hand experience, but it's bullshit for anyone to tell you to "opt out of flying". When I lived out west, did that mean I had to opt out of ever seeing my family again? Thank God I moved back to my hometown this year... just in the nick of time.

Oh and if I WAS flying? I'd pick the pat down. I feel more comfortable being touched over my clothes than being seen naked in public. I think where it really crosses the line is when they pat down kids (I saw something on youtube... video from a phone) and when they go too far with people who have medical issues, like the insulin pumps or the prostheses.

Posted by: Erin at November 23, 2010 9:51 AM

I think it's ridiculous. Punish and humiliate the many because of the very, very, very few ill-intended and dangerous people (who are probably smart enough to figure out a new way to get through security so what good is this doing??). Bad things happen. It's hard to predict and impossible to prevent ALL of it, and we do a pretty good job of preventing nearly all of it without doing this kind of garbage.

I have not been able to fly since 1997 due to medical circumstances, and this is one of those times when I'm not at all unhappy about that restriction. Road trips are awesome!!

Posted by: Sandy at November 23, 2010 9:58 AM

I really don't have a problem with it. If people are hiding otherwise undetectable bombs in their undies, it seems like a small price to pay. I do recognize it's a slippery slope, and that when they start swallowing things or hiding them internally, then what? I also hate what has happened to some of these people with medical issues and definitely think that TSA needs to find a more sensitive way of dealing with those who have special needs.

The whining about someone seeing them naked or touching their privates, however, is overall just silly. It's not comfortable going to the doctor or hospital, where they are much more invasive. But it's necessary, and the docs, nurses, radiology techs are professionals, so we go. Shoot, women in labor are seen naked by cafeteria staff bringing in trays and custodian emptying trash! Men who go in for the big snip don't routinely complain that the urologists who "touch their junk" are sexually assaulting them.

Sure, some TSA agents do not behave professionally (just like some medical professionals), and they should be dealt with accordingly. Most, however, are just hard-working people doing their jobs, trying to preserve their dignity and yours as they do those jobs. Those who are calling them pervs and accusing them of making porn are just out of line, regardless of whether one believes that these scans and searches are justifiable.

Posted by: Kate M at November 23, 2010 10:10 AM

See, I think the option IS don't travel. My grandmother has been terrified of flying since she was born, and she won't do it. She only did it once for her nephew's funeral across the country. She and my grandfather have driven or taken the train to every part of the country, including from the northeast to Texas and California.

I don't care about the scans or the pat downs. People go to the doctor and get the same treatment for mammograms and "turn and cough". Those are safety measures. They don't always work, they don't always turn up something and they sure as hell are invasive. Office staff aren't doctors, and they see a lot of files and are in the room for a lot of tests. I had a sigmoidoscopy with a med tech, a doctor, and a resident all the room, all male. Wasn't fun, can't get much more invasive, and they didn't find out what was wrong. But it needed to happen.

I guess I come from a different point of view. My friends have to travel internationally a lot to either see family or for work. Most of their opinions come down to: "Fly to Israel and see how nice they are there."

Posted by: alektra at November 23, 2010 10:21 AM

Well, I find it highly suspect that TSA security measures are being ramped up significantly the week of Thanksgiving when there are tons of people flying. Now, I don't know anything about national security, but I feel as if there is something behind the scenes going on. There is a history in recent years of threats escalating near the holidays.

Would an individual with prostheses rather remove them knowing that everyone was being screened to a high degree or maintain their privacy and run the risk of flying less securely?

What is the ultimate price is the public willing to pay to fly? What would passengers be willing to put up with? I'm sure the airlines are not happy about the policy changes.

My own personal thoughts--bring on the full body scans. I highly doubt that any TSA agent will get their jollies by looking at my image. Just take a look at the public, do you think the TSA agents will find any pleasure in looking at the full body scans? Just one thing--the TSA should vigourously make sure their agents are not sex offenders.

Posted by: laurs at November 23, 2010 10:26 AM

I have personal belief issues with being touched in intimate places by anyone who isn't my partner. I realize for other people this just isn't a big deal, because it's not a touch that (should be) sexual in nature, but it is a huge deal to me and I would rather show up naked on a scan than be touched for a pat-down.

Right now I'm totally against the idea of flying until this is sorted out and I get all my facts.

Posted by: Poppy at November 23, 2010 10:46 AM

I have two observations:
(a) It seems like, with airport security, we are always fighting yesterday's battle. Okay, so you can full body pat down or scan me - but there seems to be widespread agreement that we still don't know how to detect the kind of explosives that were recently hidden in printer cartridges on cargo planes, and we got really lucky with our intel on that one. How much safer are we for these precautions? It seems like, in part, it's just to make us feel better.
(b) The TSA has, I think, totally bungled this one. It's nearly impossible to find information about the new scanners and how they work (I'm pregnant, for example, and the machine says "X-ray" on the side- does that mean I shouldn't go through it? One TSA guy says its fine, another says best opt out to be sure- total clusterf*ck)and the defiant "well, if you don't like it, don't fly" is not really good at assuaging the concerns people have. It seems like this could have been handled waaaaay better.

Posted by: pseudostoops at November 23, 2010 10:48 AM

I think there should be a better way to do things. In theory the pat-downs shouldn't be that bad, but I think it's a few really messed up people who take advantage and ruin it for everyone else. I mean, isn't that always the way of it? Bah.

Posted by: Heather at November 23, 2010 10:52 AM

I was bothered by security previously. Now I"m just plain pissed off.

I'm pissed off that I am being forced to choose between being seen naked and being felt up. I'm pissed off that TSA's response is so out of tune. I'm pissed off that no one can actually give us an agreed upon answer about whether the scanners are safe or not.

We aren't flying for Thanksgiving, but we are for Christmas. I'm hoping the Thanksgiving brouhaha will mean changes by Christmas. If not, we will probably choose the scanners because a pat-down would scar my shy three-year-old for life.

Posted by: Cherie Beyond at November 23, 2010 11:35 AM

I read a fascinating article about how Israel handles their airport security: they use like, 6 layers of behavioral profiling and haven't had a security breach since 2002. They're better equipped for if they DO find a bomb, and they can have people from the parking lot to the door in 20 minutes.

Granted, we'd probably need to make some adjustments to the method since we have bigger, busier, and more airports, but how have we STILL not figured it out after so many years?

There is nothing okay about the direction the TSA is going, and they're not even effective. The underwear bomber? Stopped by attentive passengers, not airline security.

Buying a plane ticket should not make me a terrorist until proven innocent.

Posted by: Katie at November 23, 2010 1:04 PM

Hubby has been to Israel on business. Totally different screening there. Very involved, frightening and direct. Risks are different, Israel is well trained and knows what they are doing.

Here, we don't. This is to make us feel safe. I love to travel and fly. I hate all of this. I'm sick of planning how early I have to get myself back to the airport and wondering what I will have to put up with to fly. I did a pat down after 9/11, I won't endure this one.

I see lots of long, cross country driving in my future. This is a major problem for all kinds of reasons. If people like me stop flying, the airlines are in trouble. The terrorists are smart. I don't have faith in the TSA that they are improving keeping us safe nor are they protecting our privacy. Remember when naked pictures were going to remain private and never be saved? I'm appalled at what they did to that woman and more so to that man. Sickening.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at November 23, 2010 1:52 PM

It's scary. The bf was researching this last night and it was horrifying to realize how much power the Dept. of Homeland Security (TSA is under them) actually has.

Of course, we've become dependent as a society on air travel so at this point it's not as if we can easily stop flying. many people's jobs depend on it.

Posted by: Jess at November 23, 2010 2:11 PM

ya know..originally I was ok with the full body scans.. but the more I think about it, the more I am not. I mean I get it.. but I don't like it.

I am absolutely anti-pat down. I think I could deal OK with it being me, but there is no reason I would subject my daughters (11, 9 and 6) to a full body pat down (groping)

I'm ok with not flying until some sort solution is found. I don't know what that is, but I guess I'll wait and see.

My husband flies all the time for work. He says - its not that bad.

Posted by: molly at November 23, 2010 3:31 PM

I think it's too late to take away the TSAs power. We let ourselves believe that they were actually adding value and safety to our lives and now they are drunk on power.

But. Not EVERYONE is going to get the pat down or any extra security. For most people, it'll be just like it always has been. You take your shoes off and go through and get your shit. People are acting like everyone is going to get felt up every time they fly.

We are flying in a couple weeks to Disney World. There is no way I would give up my vacations in protest of something like this. It won't do any good anyway. Not traveling does not do any harm to the TSA.

Posted by: donna at November 23, 2010 4:57 PM

But if the airport has a scanner you do HAVE to go through it or have the pat down.And we don't know the safety of the machines or quite what happens to the images so I guess that's where there is a problem especially in regards to Children and people who are ill or have prothetics, cathetas ect. I know I don't even have the option of a pat down.... so I don't actually know what expectant Mothers do :S

Posted by: Meg at November 23, 2010 5:42 PM

I think the U.S. should go take a look at Isreali security. Less intrusive and it seems to work.

Me -- well, we have flights booked to Arizona in January. No clue what's up there. Hope they sort all this out by then.

Posted by: Nat at November 24, 2010 12:36 AM

Personally, it makes me uncomfortable true, but in the long run it's necessary. Terrorists use inhumane methods even if that includes little children, the Irish used to do it at the hight of the 'troubles' and the muslims do it in Israel and Afganistan. The security personnel are just doing a job, they dont care a bit what shape you are or whether you are fat or not, they only care about identifying any suspicious lumps or bumps, beyond that, it's just a job. As a mother, I've been far more embarrassed in the birthing suit by being spread-eagled, utterly naked in front of a teaching class of 15 including some males. The fact that a female security guard asks to run her hands over the outside of my clothes for ten seconds doesnt bother me in the least. I blame the Muslims for this mess that we're in. Direct your anger there, not the security guards who are responsible for making sure your plane doesnt go boom over the ocean.

Posted by: ChocolateChip_Wookie at November 24, 2010 2:44 AM

Personally, it makes me uncomfortable true, but in the long run it's necessary. Terrorists use inhumane methods even if that includes little children, the Irish used to do it at the hight of the 'troubles' and the muslims do it in Israel and Afganistan. The security personnel are just doing a job, they dont care a bit what shape you are or whether you are fat or not, they only care about identifying any suspicious lumps or bumps, beyond that, it's just a job. As a mother, I've been far more embarrassed in the birthing suit by being spread-eagled, utterly naked in front of a teaching class of 15 including some males. The fact that a female security guard asks to run her hands over the outside of my clothes for ten seconds doesnt bother me in the least. I blame the Muslims for this mess that we're in. Direct your anger there, not the security guards who are responsible for making sure your plane doesnt go boom over the ocean.

Posted by: ChocolateChip_Wookie at November 24, 2010 2:46 AM

I don't fly that much. When I got married 10/27/01, we were greeted with the pat down at both airports. In light of what had happened a month earlier, I was ok with it. In a sense, I still am, but the exceptions are noteworthy. It would be nice if they had a medical exception line for colostomy bags, prostheses (sp?), etc. Something a little more discrete. But for the general passenger, it shouldn't be a big deal.

Will they pat my ex-fiance down for the metal plate in her skull? She could be packing heat int here. More than likely it's just the place she thinks about illicit sex.

But then again, I don't trust the government or the caliber of the people performing the procedure. I used to think bus drivers were really careful people until I learned it's just another job they let just about anyone do. I doubt I'll let my daughter ride a school bus given their hiring practices.

And I haven't been felt up by a strange women in a while, so, maybe I don't mind the pat down.

Posted by: Knot at November 24, 2010 8:15 AM

I live in Maryland and we are taking a cruise for New Years and we are driving to Florida. The drive is gonna suck but as a very private woman I'm not exactly sure what they will see on the scanner and I know I will not survive the pat down. Not only do I have a hard time with a crowd of people around me, I darn near have a panic attack when examined by a doctor. So some strange person feeling me up in a public airport......They will likely haul me off by default.

Posted by: Shawntay at November 24, 2010 8:42 AM

In the world of security theater (which all of this is), the TSA is like your high school drama club: Enthusiastic, but utterly unskilled. They are fighting yesterday, heck, last year's battle.

I used to work as a reporter covering the military. Once, while returning from covering a week-long exercise in California, I was chosen for extra screening. Now I was kinda concerned about this since I'd just spent a week in the desert covering a live-fire exercise and I, and my gear, was covered in explosive residue. Several different types in fact. Needless to say, the whizbang explosive sniffers that are suppose to pick up even the tiniest trace of residue who've been handling explosives failed to someone who'd rolling around in the stuff for a week.

Ask any prison guard, convict or drug mule where the best place to hide something is and you can see where the TSA security theater is going. Personally, I find the whole thing a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment and I can't imagine why these searches haven't been challenged in court yet.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

Posted by: Foggy Dew at November 24, 2010 1:04 PM

I think that pilots and flight attendants should not be excused. As my husband said, he easily procured a fake idea back in 1988 so if a terrorist with mad connections and years of research wants to get a fake staff I.D. and uniform, how hard would it be?
I still don't understand being allowed to bring scissors and screwdrivers on board.
There is no need to invade basic dignity and privacy with routine security scans.
No, we don't have to fly... but how many of us could manage a swim to Europe or Asia, or have the time and funds, or ability, to yacht or sail overseas?

Posted by: Karen at November 26, 2010 11:32 PM

Maybe I am waaayyy off here but I would rather a dog sniff my crotch than a human feel me all over. Can we train the thousands of dogs in shelters to do this? A kennel and a couple employees at an airport to take care of them would be cheaper than these scanners.

Posted by: Andrea at November 28, 2010 8:27 AM

I don't hear that airport security in Israel involves this level of privacy invasion for everyone. And, airport security works in Israel.

Why can't the TSA take some lessions from the Israelis?

Posted by: Bob Chapman at December 3, 2010 10:33 PM