Airport security has been all over the news the past couple of weeks. Seems that a lot of people are upset about the latest intrusive steps being taken by the TSA to insure the safety and security of airline passengers and crews. But why are so many people upset about the new measures? Take a deep breath, calm down, and let's look at the situation rationally. Bear in mind, every security measure instituted by the TSA has been in direct response to a threat.
We need to go back, all the way to 1988, when PanAm flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland. That's 22 years ago, and one's memory fades a bit over the years, but isn't that when Americans began having to produce travel papers--excuse me, proper identification--before boarding a domestic flight? And isn't that when carry-on luggage began being searched?
Realistically, now, PanAm 103 was brought down by a bomb put in the cargo compartment by a baggage handler in Frankfurt, Germany. You can clearly see the connections, can't you? Baggage handler in Frankfurt equals Americans on domestic flights. A bomb deliberately placed in a cargo compartment equals carry-on luggage. Got it? Totally clear and absolutely understandable.
Again, my memory is faulty, but I think the next increase in security measures followed hot on the heels of the horrible tragedy (not to mention act of war) that we memorialize as 9/11. That was when the travel papers--damn, I did it again, proper identification--was upgraded to government issue identification such as a driver's license or passport. An employer's ID card, Social Security card, credit cards, etc., were no longer acceptable. And, since the terrorists used box cutters to commit their crime, carrying anything with a point was banned.
Now follow the logic here. The monsters who crashed those airliners and murdered thousands of people were Arab nationals, all but one from our good ally Saudi Arabia. Many of them were on Federal watch lists, and were supposed to be kept off of flights. Now, if they were traveling with counterfeit passports, as several of them were, they wouldn't have been caught. But some of them, including some on watch lists, were traveling with their own real passports and should have been stopped at the gate. But they weren't.
Again, the logic is crystal clear. Known or suspected Arab terrorists traveling on their own or counterfeit passports equals a serious need for Americans to produce government issue identification to get on a domestic flight. Not withstanding the fact that the counterfeit passports which some of the terrorists used were fake government issue. That's beside the point. And pointed objects, well. Brigadier General Joe Foss, USMC (retired) was traveling crosscountry and carrying his Medal of Honor in his jacket pocket. The TSA agent took the Medal away to be destroyed, because it has points. If the Medal had actually been destroyed, it would have been General Foss' fault, right? After all, he should have known better than to carry the nation's highest military honor in his pocket instead of stowing it in his checked luggage.
I do find it curious, though, that the TSA allows people to board airliners with keyrings (improvised brass knuckles) or pens (improvised daggers) in their pockets, or for women to wear spike heels (they aren't called "spike" for nothing).
Later in 2001, Englishman Richard Reid, a self-proclaimed al Qaeda operative, attempted to set off a shoe bomb on American Airlines Flight 63 en route from Paris to Miami. He is currently serving three consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole.
But he used a shoe bomb! It's obvious. If a foreigner on an international flight attempts to set off a shoe bomb, it just naturally follows that everyone boarding a domestic flight in the US has to send their shoes, sandals, slippers, whatever footwear they have on, through an x-ray machine to prove they aren't shoe bombs. Never mind the fact that x-ray machines won't detect PETN, which was the primary explosive in Reid's shoes. That's immaterial!
Oops, I almost forgot. Since Reid had used matches to attempt to light the fuse on his bomb, cigarette lighters were banned from airliners in the US. It was all right to carry a book of matches, though. Fully logical.
Next up is the 2006 Transatlantic Airline Plot. A group of plotters in the UK were arrested for plotting to blow up several aircraft flying from the UK to various locations in the US and Canada. Their intended bombs were peroxide based. Therefore, all liquids and gels, including toothpaste and sun screen, were banned from all UK and US flights.
This, of course, meant that passengers had to buy toothpaste, hand cream, sun screen, lipstick, etc. when they arrived at their destinations. A small price to pay. Hey, parents with nursing infants could carry baby milk! Provided they tasted the milk in front of the TSA agents before being passed through.
Actually, many countries put bans on liquids and gels after the plot was discovered.
We finally reach the most recent, the Christmas Day bombing attempt of 2009. This time, a Nigerian national, flying from Yemen to Detroit via Amsterdam, attempted to set off a bomb in his underwear(!). Fortunately, he failed, and passengers subdued him when what he was trying to do was discovered. Bombs in undies. My God, what will the crazies come up with next?
Quickly thereafter, "quickly" being a very few months, full body scanners, able to see what people are wearing under their clothes, began getting installed in airports. I went through one myself the last time I flew. But many people object to being seen "naked."
So the TSA came up with a new rule. Anyone can avoid going through the scanner. All they have to do is submit to an "enhanced" pat down. Now remember, this is being done to ensure mine and your safety when we travel. So you don't object to your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, having her breasts felt up by a stranger, or her most private parts being patted down by said stranger, do you? And you can't possibly object to some stranger manually checking out your junk or feeling between your cheeks, can you? After all, this is to keep you and me safe when we fly. Really! Honest! Safety is the catchword!
Come on, we have the safest, least intrusive security measures in the world, don't we? Actually, no. That ranking belongs to Israel. The Israelis don't body-scan or grope passengers. They start checking people outside the airport, asking them questions and observing them. They don't need to get physical, or greatly inconvenience people who are flying. And, unlike in American airports, where the checking is done in crowded locations where a terrorist might set off a bomb, the Israelis do their checking in places that aren't so crowded.
I don't normally get political in these "Opinions," but I'm going to now. I think all the crap we have to go through to get on an airliner has nothing, little anyway, to do with security. I think a lot of it is a plot by a certain right wing element to keep the American public frightened, so that they can slowly strip away our rights. And the elements on the left are too cowardly to call them out on their more egregious outrages. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley had it right when they wrote 1984 and Brave New World. Only it isn't the Communists who are doing it to us. We're doing it to ourselves.
A final, personal note.
I used to live in Philadelphia, now I'm in South Florida. Over a several year period I traveled back and forth between the City of Brotherly Love and the land of sun, sand, and palm trees. Once the TSA rules started getting intrusive, I stopped flying and took the bus back and forth rather than put up with what I considered the nonsense at airports. Not a pleasant experience, as anyone who's suffered through a multi-hour layover in Fayetteville, NC or Jacksonville, FL can attest. But flying is so much faster than the bus, and can be cheaper as well, so I started flying again a couple of years ago. I think the next time I go north, I'm going to ride the Dog rather than subject myself to the indignities of the new security measures.