Tag Archives: TSA Regulations
Almost two years ago, we made the decision that our daughter would attend college all the way across the country at the University of Alabama. It was a fiscally prudent decision. Our daughter was and is an excellent student – just the kind of student that ‘Bama rewards with generous academic scholarships. In fact, the scholarship they offered was so generous that even taking air travel into account, she’s attending college for a tiny fraction of the cost to attend our state’s flagship school, the University of Washington and will graduate after four years debt-free and with our savings intact.
Now we’re in the uncomfortable position of wondering if we made the right decision after all, not because of any financial concerns but because it has become all too obviously apparent that it’s no longer safe for young, unescorted women to travel by air within our own borders. The imminent threat doesn’t come from terrorists, although that’s not a danger that can or should be ignored, but from TSA workers operating under new guidelines for enhanced security.
I don’t believe I’m overstating the situation. At airports where the enhanced security procedures are in place, travelers have three choices.
The Naked Scan
You spend your daughter’s lifetime telling her that granting access to her body is at her sole discretion, then Uncle Sam tells her, no, sorry, it’s your duty to bare it all in front of a low level and poorly screened government employee even though everyone knows the chance that you’re an explosive-packing terrorist is next to zero.
The Public Grope
Should your daughter exercise her right to keep her privates private, she’ll be subject to the new enhanced pat-down. The TSA has declined to publish the full guidelines for the pat-down so your daughter will have no way to gauge whether or not the officer administering the pat-down is exceeding her authority. For example, your daughter is entitled to be patted down by a female TSA agent except in the case “extraordinary circumstances” but those circumstances are undefined in the guidelines available to the public.
The Private Grope
Finally, if your daughter doesn’t want to endure the humiliation of having her breasts and genitals groped in public, she can ask for a private screening room. Of course, she’s entitled to have a traveling companion with her during the pat-down. But – wait! – she’s traveling alone! What sane parent would advise their daughter to enter a private room with a stranger with the intent of letting that stranger lay hands on her body?
Which brings me back to my original question. The TSA has implemented a system where – for their own good – young women are subjected to security procedures that would be crimes were they conducted by private individuals. When faced with three equally abhorrent options, which do we advise our daughters to take?
I don’t really know all that much about Janet Napolitano but after her appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, I give her an F for her ability to evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. safety measures. Or as President Obama would say, she earns a solid B+. Napolitano’s assessment, from the transcript.
What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated.
So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.
I missed the show, so I don’t know if Napolitano managed to keep a straight face while letting this drop or not. I’m not sure how anyone could seriously say the system worked when a bomb was successfully smuggled onto a flight bound for the U.S. We have the incompetence of the would-be terrorist to thank for the failure of the attack as much as any success of the system. Still, I’m glad she’s is feeling good about how smoothly everything went and how everyone played their proper role, self-esteem being so important.
Apparently Secretary Napolitano sets a very low bar. I’d rather not have to rely on inept terrorists and brave, quick-thinking passengers to keep me safe on a flight. I’d rather that people whose behavior has become so problematic that family members report them to the U.S. embassy have their visas rescinded. Call me crazy.
Unfortunately, the new procedures being put in place (the ones we’re hearing about, anyway), appear to be regrettably misguided and reactionary. The measures, which seem designed to deny would-be terrorists access to and opportunities to deploy their cleverly smuggled bombs, seem more likely to inconvenience law-abiding passengers than thwart a determined terrorist. What’s to keep a terrorist from launching into action 90 minutes prior to landing rather than 59 minutes?
More importantly, will airport sales of Depends surge as passengers are forced to remain in their seats for the last hour of the flight? Should I buy stock?
Even sensible precautions such as pat downs become nonsensical when applied evenly across the board to blue-eyed grandmothers and young Muslim men with ties to al Qaeda who have recently returned from Yemen “vacations.”
Either Janet Napolitano deliberately chose to mislead the American people by calling this situation a success or she doesn’t have the mental capacity to perform her duties competently.
(As is becoming the norm, if you want all the details of a story that might reflect poorly on the Obama Administration, read the Telegraph. God bless the Brits.)
Update: Jimmie hits all the relevant points with his signature snark.
Update 2: Jimmie has more to say about Janet Napolitano, who plays the “out of context” card.