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  1. #1
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    News article: Airport 'pat-downs' cause growing passenger backlash

    "Airport 'pat-downs' cause growing passenger backlash"

    By Derek Kravitz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, November 13, 2010; 12:40 AM

    Airport travelers call it groping, prodding or just plain inappropriate - a pat-down that probes places where the sun doesn't shine. The Transportation Security Administration calls it the new reality of airport security.
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    As a wheelchair user, I always go 'ping' at security, so I always get a pat down. I don't know if it's just that having spent nine months in a hospital a few years ago, the first couple naked with tubes in every orifice, but I don't much worry about it. I'd rather that than end my days in a ball of flame over a Scottish village, or hitting the side of a New York sky-scraper at 400 mph! It's all very well saying 'we're not criminals', but even Al Megrahi is still saying that to this day! You wouldn't expect bombers and murderers to queue up at the "something to declare" isle at security do you? Mind you, with the level of diligence shown by most of the security people, I could probably smuggle just about anything I wanted, just by sitting on it ... they never ask me to stand up, only once have I had to take my shoes off and half the time, I don't even have to take my jacket off! But it's OK because I'm not a criminal!

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    There's an interesting video link to be found in the Washington Post article.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Crip View Post
    Mind you, with the level of diligence shown by most of the security people, I could probably smuggle just about anything I wanted, just by sitting on it ... they never ask me to stand up, only once have I had to take my shoes off and half the time, I don't even have to take my jacket off! But it's OK because I'm not a criminal!
    What you just said there is the reason why people object so strongly to such measures - it doesn't make the flight safer if a terrorist can just pretend to be wheelchair-reliant and get through with a bomb, while everyone else (including children - a major red flag) is subjected to what could be seen as x-rated probing/imaging.

    It's the lack of standardization... Which ironically is actually what makes it safer in the first place - to not have a standard set of measures that the terrorists can plan to foil.

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    The problems go way beyond standardization. Think of the trauma this can cause a victim of previous molestation by having their genitalia cupped, breasts squeezed and fondled by a total stranger. A persons religious beliefs can be easily violated and also there is the minor issue of the US Constitution:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    The TSA has gone through people wallets and hand bags counting money, looking through credit cards and sticking there noses into areas unrelated to weapons/bombs. It all comes down to how much of our freedom and privacy we are willing to give up for a little added security.

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    Frankly I'm puzzled by the outrage. There are tons of points but in an effort to get down to the important stuff here's two key issues IMO:

    1. Can someone hide something in their underwear area that puts the flight at risk?
    2. Who will we blame if something does go wrong with a flight because security failed?


    If they've found proof of devices being hidden in underwear then what's the alternative? Not scan or grope? Just roll the dice in the name of our "rights" (which I don't think include the right to fly)?

    Which leads to the second point, after the BP spill it seems clear that the government is who we want watching over big companies. Sure everyone blames BP but maybe more than that they blame the government for not being vigilant or strict enough with it's rules and regulations. People turned to the government for help and fixes so it wouldn't happen again.

    But when it comes to this, many of the posts I read are how people are outraged because it IS the government doing this. I've even seen people say it should be left to corporations like the airlines to handle security. Which just boggles my mind after the recent disasters that have been caused by big companies. I've seen people say it's considered illegal for anyone else to do this yet I can assure you that all of us who see a doctor actually pay for far worse groping when we get our physicals. It seems like just because it's the government people are made overly irrational.

    In a perfect world it wouldn't be so expensive to run an airline. I would love to see someone start an airline with comparable prices but very strict restrictions for safety whether it's body scanners or full non-invasive strip searches. I would like to see how many people would sign up for that airline knowing that at least their safety was not in question. Perhaps it would fail, especially if we are lulled into another sense of false security. But if all else were reasonably equal (price, service, reliability) then I would certainly opt for the more secure flight. The real beauty of this is that clearly it would be a CHOICE to fly on this airline and no one could complain about their lack of rights.

    In the end I think flying isn't a right. No one forced you to fly, you chose to. We already gave up some rights when we fly so why is this any different? Why are we fine with metal detectors and taking our shoes off? Just because it's grandfathered in or because we know we have to give up something to make sure the flights are secure? Is it just because these risks are obvious? If there also a risk by not scanning or patting down then unless someone shows me a better solution this seems like another thing we just need to do to be safe.

    The most disturbing thing to me about the complaints is the lack of a reasonable alternative. Heck, I haven't see anyone put out any alternative. If the risk is real (which I rarely see debated) then how else can we accurately avoid this risk without searches or scans?
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    This is what I like about the people on Tom Bihn's forums, always civil in discussion with respect for others opinions

    Anyway, scent trained dogs in the area would pick up the scent of explosives nearby without direct contact with the individual. They could then explore that person further without subjecting all individuals to anything beyond the carry on x-rays and walk through metal detector. In addition it would be a tad bit cheaper. That is just one option which would actually be more effective and less intrusive than what is presently in place.

    Regarding the "right" to travel, it is covered under inalienable rights which are considered universal and accepted by the signers. The constitution was not written to grant rights but to restrict government intrusion. Basically they framers took common law and then added additional restrictions on the governments powers. In a nut shell they said 'these are the rules, if it isn't restricted here or in common law your fine.....
    (yes, I paraphrased).

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    Scent dogs sound like a viable alternative except for the fact that they cannot be manufactured to meet demand. Plus I shudder to think how many puppy farms would spring into action if word got out that scent dogs were going to be used by the government in all airports to replace scanners. And let's not forget how many are afraid of dogs or allergic. Then we are back with the pat down? Or are we left with just rolling the dice and pretending like the risk doesn't exist?

    I'm still not sure how we have the right to fly but the line of our rights is drawn in a zig zag. Luggage inspection, metal detectors, and removal of shoes are all fine on one side but pat downs or body scanners are "clearly" on the other. And back to my previous point, if the government is going to take the blame for a security failure, why don't they have the "right" to state the requirements needed to make a flight secure?

    What if the requirement to remove your shoes was put into place prior to the attempted shoe bomber incident? Would the same outcry go up about the government stomping on our rights? If you flash back years before airplane security was such a hot topic the answer might be a resounding yes. But the times changed and people realized that certain steps need to be taken to make sure our flights are safe. Our shoe routine in airports is nearly accepted now because of the change in the times and I'm not sure why it's such a far step to see how other changes may also be needed.

    But I may be in the minority in thinking the government doesn't really have some kind of secret plot behind these checks. I honestly don't think the government wants to give me cancer with the scans or have semi-nude pictures of me. I really doubt any TSA agent is eager to fondle me and is probably as annoyed with it as I am. I just see no secret benefit to the government doing this beyond making flights safer. Going back to my other point, I really wish those who loudly complain could give their honest opinion to one question - if this were being done by the airlines would it be any different?

    Here's a link to an article that is getting a ton of buzz. I find the guy's complaint about "sexual harassment" to be nothing but hyperbole and shock value. I've never been arrested but I'm pretty sure the search done there isn't harassment nor is the annual exam given to me by my doctor. I would like to see more results on the health risks but I don't see that anyone has produced anything to show negative risks. Ralph Nader saying it hasn't been tested enough isn't really showing that it will cause health issues, but it's a valid concern.

    I still come back to asking if the risk is real then what should we do? Maybe the government should scrap it all and instead just give everyone a form to sign saying that they give up the right to sue if anyone sneaks in a device in their clothing. Sadly I'm sure even if you did sign the right to sue away you'd still be able to sue for damages. I really wish "Body Scanner Airline" would start up and see how many people choose to have the extra security and how many do not.
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    Well, there is another point worth considering. Consider the latest foiled airline bombing attempt from Africa. All the terrorists have to do is try any lame attempt to fashion a bomb out of crude materials and hide it in a shipping box or try some other trick and even if it doesn't go off they've still raised an alarm. All this traces back to the terrorist leaders.

    Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large, still hatching schemes, still sending out their propaganda, and they've been doing it now for over 15 years. We've been at war over there for almost 10 years, and we're still no closer to stopping them. As long as they run free like Geronimo, we'll still be running around putting out fires from their mischief.

    If can we manage to stop these fanatics at the source, that will end the problem. To do that, we'll have to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, get out of the Persian Gulf, and get Israel and the Palestinians to work things out. A tall order I agree, but it simply must be done for the sake of security.

    If we don't do these things, the terrorists will eventually find some clever trick to use on us and all that security screening will be foiled. Where there's a will, those fanatics will find a way. After all, they're willing to kill themselves to get at us.
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    I understand that flying is not a right, but if I want to go anywhere that is not my own county, I have to fly.

    The cruise ships that go between Hawaii and the mainland US, to my knowledge, do not allow you to get on in Hawaii and tag along on the remaining leg to Los Angeles. I do not know of any cruise ships that go from Hawaii to Japan or China. I suppose I could rent or purchase a sailing vessel and learn how to sail myself across the Pacific, but at that point I may not be able to make the trip because of being confined to the local psychiatric hospital.

    More on topic, I restate my opinion: If everyone was getting the exact same treatment, and people actually believed that it enhanced safety, the complaints and outrage would be minimal. Those who were uncomfortable with it would simply choose some alternate mode of travel in the first place, and those who were willing to go through with it would fly. In every anecdote or article about "screening outrage," it is mentioned that other passengers were allowed to go through without being subjected to whatever it was that the reporter was uncomfortable with.

    So I say bring on the strip-searches, and bring on the latex gloves.

    But I would feel better about it all if the TSA weeded their ranks a bit better first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just View Post
    More on topic, I restate my opinion: If everyone was getting the exact same treatment, and people actually believed that it enhanced safety, the complaints and outrage would be minimal. Those who were uncomfortable with it would simply choose some alternate mode of travel in the first place, and those who were willing to go through with it would fly. In every anecdote or article about "screening outrage," it is mentioned that other passengers were allowed to go through without being subjected to whatever it was that the reporter was uncomfortable with.
    That is a good point. But I think one TSA spokesperson had an good reason for that. I can't find the quote but in a nutshell the idea was they didn't want to expose a pattern that could be exploited. My interpretation was if a bad person knew the correct thing to say and do to avoid a scan and pat down then they could plan for the underwear explosive device.

    But I do agree that an easy solution to that line of complaints is to force everyone through metal detectors and body scans with pat down being the option if you wish to avoid either. I'd be fine with that.
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    Why not use the million of dogs languishing in shelters and dying everyday to be trained as sniffing dogs?

    People who are fearful or allergic could choose the xray or pat down.

    3 solutions are better than one.

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    I personally opt out of the new xray machines because there is no compelling evidence that they are safe and considerable concern has been expressed by responsible scientists like the four University of California science professors who wrote this letter: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/defa...jph-letter.pdf

    Now, I don't for a minute think there is a government conspiracy here, but then again history is replete with cases where governments assured us that something was perfectly safe, only to have to later admit that it wasn't. (I spent a lot of time in the UK some years ago and remember well the repeated government reassurances that there was no way that people could get mad cow disease from eating infected beef. Oops...) Thing is, I have a family history of susceptibility to cancer, and have already had one brush myself, so for me, the risk is unacceptable and the benefits unpersuasive. There are so many ways that a determined terrorist could foil the current system--Cargo in the hold of planes is still woefully underscreened, airport personnel ineffectively screened and policed, explosives could be secreted in body cavities that the xray's can't catch, etc. etc. Not the mention the risk that, while the long lines of passengers are obediently waiting for our frisks and xrays, a terrorist will detonite a wheelie full of explosives while in the line.

    The point is, escalating more and more security is costly, not risk free itself, and inherently incapable of guaranteeing safety. After the bombing of the London Tube, British officials considered implementing screening security to catch future bombers, but in the end they realized that you could spend billions of pounds on equipment and personnel and annoy and inconvenience Londoners in doing so without being able to prevent potential bad guys. So in the end, they decided not to implement any screening devices and instead to invest in intelligence gathering as the best way to prevent terrorism. I wish that we'd give that option a try, because after some rectal-cavity doofus tries to blow up a plane that way, I'm dreading the security lines we'd get then!
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    It sounds like this article from Wired goes along with the "intelligence" approach. But I have to say that Wired is starting to really disappoint me lately. The title says "won't keep us safe" yet the article makes no points that a scanner won't help. The author does say that the scanners don't protect against someone hiding something in a cavity but that seems like faulty logic. Along that line of thinking shouldn't we also give up on metal detectors? It won't stop an explosive so why bother right?

    The author's main point seems to be that the government should be less reactionary. While I agree it's not that easy. I'm not sure what the culture is like in England but it seems like in America we are obsessed with reactionary thinking. Spending resources on prevention is a more sound approach but I think the general public is more interested in seeing and hearing about what is being done to address the last security issue we found.

    But the author seems to think we can solve the issue by acting intelligently. The quote of
    The next step would be questioning passengers and employing high-sensors when travelers’ behavior or specific threats warrant — instead of making us all get digitally nude.
    implies that you have some kind of warning ahead of time that would key you in on a threat. The example given is the printer cartridge issue where intelligence learned of the plot and agencies launched a series of actions in response.

    Doesn't that imply that you CAN or WILL get that intelligence ahead of time? Sure you can focus on that, and I assume everyone in the world does, but isn't the security in place now there to help provide a safety net?

    If the intelligence fails what is the "fix" then? Get more intelligence? Be smarter? Plus, are we really so sure that terror is the only threat? Isn't it possible that a disturbed or depressed or suicidal person is also a real threat? How can you gain intelligence on something that isn't a plot but just the random act of a disturbed person? Would someone who looks depressed or sweaty in line be a trigger for behavior that warrants a scan? Are those who don't trust TSA to do anything correct suddenly going to trust them on judgement calls for those who exhibit questionable behavior in line?

    The safety net routines we have at the airports may appear to be taking the focus away from the preventative measures of intelligence gathering, but I can't see how they aren't still critically important for all types of dangers.
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    I need to quit reading about this topic but I did find a very interesting article about how the Israelis do airport security. It's from January of this year so it's old but still a good read.

    The logic is sound and I suppose the results prove that it works but sadly I am not sure if it would work in the US. People have such a low opinion of the TSA that I don't think anyone would believe or trust in the ability of a professional trained screener like those described in the article. That doesn't even begin to touch the outcry of trying to make people arrive 3 hours in advance of their flight.

    I am annoyed that I had to search for this article. You'd think all the people who write about how bad the system is (like the author from Wired) would at least suggest this as an alternative.

    Now let me shop for some TB luggage again.
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