I’m not a “frequent flyer” by any means.  Generally, between a few continuing education events, a conference or two, and a mission trip, I may get on an airplane eight times a year at most.  And while that is enough to become familiar with the routine, and know how to avoid delaying the security line, it is probably not enough to be exposed to much dangerous radiation from scanners, I haven’t developed the same opinion about hand checks as it seems some people now hold.

I have to get the pat down when I go through security because I wear an implanted defibrillator and the signal from the scanner could alter its settings.  It always takes a few extra minutes because I have to get out of line and wait for a screener to come.  They accompany you to the pat down area, usually just to the side of the security line, so you can keep an eye on your carry on stuff, and then proceed to check for anything you might have strapped to your body.  I avoid wearing bulky clothing, don’t carry much on board the plane, wear slip-on shoes and try to wear pants that don’t require a belt. 

Every TSA agent who has performed a pat down on me has informed me of what he is going to do, lets me know that he will be using the back of his hand in sensitive areas, and has been completely courteous.   I don’t mind.  I would much rather go through the security check, and have the pat down, knowing that the same procedures are in place for everyone else who is boarding, than to get on a plane that explodes in mid-air  because someone wasn’t checked adequately.  These are the times in which we live. 

I’m amazed at how people want to make this political.  They don’t like the current administration and its politics, so they gripe about this.  But keep in mind, what is being implemented now was planned and approved during the previous administration.  So if you’ve got a problem with current proceedures and equipment, blame Bush.  Scanners and pat downs were the plans of his national security advisor.  And I’ve heard radio commentators insinuate that, while average, everyday, red-blooded Americans are enduring security checks, Muslims are slipping through scot-free.  That’s a laugher.  The fact is, over the past few years, I’ve seen fewer and fewer Muslims, especially those identified by their dress, who are willing to endure what they must endure in order to fly.  What I’ve seen at airports, particularly in Houston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. is that anyone woman wearing traditional Muslim dress, and anyone accompanying her, is subjected to much closer scrutiny than other passengers.  

On one occasion, passing through Reagan National Airport in Washington, I was asked to step into a side room and remove an item of clothing so that I could be further screened.  I was wearing an ace bandage around my lower left leg.  The agents were courteous, two were required to be in the room, and they had to fill out a report, which I had to sign.  If that’s standard procedure, and it seemed to be, I don’t have a problem with it.  If a private search by two agents is required to keep air travel safe, then I’d be in favor of increased municipal taxes to fund the construction of the rooms at the airport where this would take place. 

Get real people.  Stop complaining.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

9 responses

  1. I could not agree more. As the guys who were on the 9/11 flights if they’d prefer everyone had been patted down. Or the folks in the twin towers.

    I have to go through the same thing. I have a titanium left knee, and usually wear a carbon fiber & aluminum brace on my right one. Occasionally I also carry a cane, which usually gets me around the lineup and right down to the pat-down area. Only problem I ever had with it was last time, when we went to Seattle for our cruise, I got some rookie there his first day, and the senior guy was there and they kind of used me as a test case.

  2. K Gray says:

    I don’t have any problem going through security; we’ve gotten used to it.

    However, there’s this: “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.” Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

    Yes there is caselaw outlining what this amendment has come to mean in modern times. But it is always worth reading the actual amendment for a gut-check.

    During the Bush years, the security v. privacy debate raged, with progressives often taking the side of protecting privacy rights. There was much talk of “shredding the Contsitution” or “trampling the Consititution.” Now, not so much. It’s all about security, and we are told to “get real” and support whatever is going on.

    I’m not sure what is more private than one’s private parts. Do I prefer that a lasting image be taken, or to be touched all over? If that’s the choice, I’ll go with the image but permit the touching. That permission is coerced, in a way; it’s not really a choice if you need to go somewhere and don’t have the luxury of several days to get there and back.

    So, I don’t know whether you had constitutional concerns over national security measures during the Bush years. If so, what has changed? and do you believe that any arguments under the Fourth Amendment have merit in scanning-or-patting-down every person who flies? Keep in mind that this sets a constitutional precedent for other security issues, e.g., national border crossings or a downtown Christmas tree lighting (Portland) or visiting a public school or voting at a polling place — all these places could one day require scans-or-patdowns depending on where suicide bombers attempt strikes. And keep in mind that the Fourth Amendment now guarantees a “zone of privacy” against government intrusion. (Different issues, but ironic!!)

    Security v. privacy remains a tricky balance.

  3. K Gray says:

    Almost as tricky as trying to type “Constitution.”

  4. Jack Matthews says:

    The idea that screenings and scannings at an airport present precedent setting constitutional implications has been raised on several occasions, and if I am not mistaken, court rulings have come down on the side of the screenings and scans not being a violation of the principles related to unreasonable search and seizure. Though the constitutional principle involves warrants and written documents, the fact is that approaching a security screening outpost in an airport is not the same as being searched without a warrant, and that any individual who steps forward into the line is giving consent to the search, which is the equivalent of a waiver. No rights are violated, since the individual is free to walk away from the line and take an alternate form of transportation. It is different than, say, the violations of the constitutional rights of those imprisoned at Guantanamo, or even the wiretapping, because in this case, the person submitting to the search is fully assenting to the procedure and it falls under another constitutional provision requiring the government to protect, and defend, its citizens.

  5. K Gray says:

    Certainly it is not analogous to torture, I was thinking of the Patriot Act debate concerning U.S. Citizens.

    The Washington Post has an opinion item today suggesting that our full-body scan or search may not pass constitutional muster, based on pastCourt opinions, based on its overbreadth of search, especially if the government retains copies of scans.

    Does consent work if the search is deemed unreasonable?

    I don’t know these answers. We’ll see. My point is that the debate is worthy. I hope we wll continue with respectful, reasoned arguments, and listening, in balancing constitutional rights.

  6. Lee says:

    The subjective language, i.e. “reasonable, unreasonable” is certainly up for debate. What is reasonable, when the ultimate goal of the search is to protect the lives of all of the passengers boarding planes, particularly those within the boundaries of the United States which the government is directly responsible for protecting? I would say that whatever is necessary to enable agents charged with the responsibility of passenger safety to detect anything that would pose potential danger is reasonable. In cases of constitutional rights, it is not the government or its agents which must prove what is reasonable or unreasonable, the burden of that proof is on the one challenging the action in question. For example, individuals who are conversing about hijacking or even making jokes about security and terrorism are subject to having their flying privileges revoked at the least, and to possible arrest. That stems from the principle that free speech and personal responsibility for what it said go hand in hand, and are equal aspects of the same principle.

    Ultimately, whether or not your rights were violated by a search that kept you from dying in a sabotaged airplane only matters if the measures that were taken provided you with the means to arrive wherever you were going safely, in one piece. If you happen to be blown up in mid-air, or are riding on a plane that is hijacked by a terrorist who used a box knife to take over the cockpit and crashes the plane into a building, the question of whether or not your constitutional rights were violated would be moot.

    I think the Israelis have this one right. El Al is probably the most terrorist targeted airline in the world, and yet it is also probably the safest. Looking at the precautions they take before one of their flights takes off will tell you why. And from personal experience, I can say that my slight unease at boarding a plane in a domestic airport is almost completely erased in European airports where soldiers are on patrol with loaded machine guns held in a “ready to fire” position. And I didn’t feel “violated” at all when, as a male traveling alone, boarding a plane in Zurich, I was escorted into a private room and questioned by an agent who then followed me, and the rest of the passengers, through the security process and right on to the plane, freely opening bags and packages. The Swiss have had one plane brought down by terrorists, and they are quite determined not to have another one.

  7. K Gray says:

    What makes you feel safe (patrolling soldiers ready to fire) might make others feel more endangered, so continuing the debate is a good thing. I’m not sure what Israel does, is there profiling?

    You are right that “whatever is necessary for safety” — although not the constitutional standard (there are three factors to be reasonable; one is the least intrusion necessary using current technology) — is becoming the legal result as fear of terrorism inexorably affects personal liberty. We don’t like government agents taking a naked picture of us (that’s essentially what the new scanning technology produces), but we’ll do it if necessary; famous people might disagree, think Wikileaks!

  8. K Gray says:

    For more TSA fun: the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has joined a lawsuit against TSA body scanning procedures, on First Amendment grounds that it violates Islamic modesty requirements. Some arguments just go full circle!

  9. Lee says:

    Israel does profiling, though not to completely eliminate Muslim passengers. Those Muslims who would be most likely to blow up or hijack an airplane would also be the least likely, by religious reasons related to personal defilement, to get on board an Israeli airplane. I’ve never flown on El Al before, but I’ve heard that there are disclaimers and waivers galore, and they are adept at revoking tickets at a moment’s notice. I would guess that there are Mossad agents on every flight and that you’d better avoid quick, suspicious movements on the plane, lest you find yourself flat on your back, or face down on the floor. They use the high powered scanners, and from those who’ve flown on that particular airline, I’ve heard that your suitcase and carryons will be hand searched for sure. But then, Israel isn’t as concerned about American constitutional rights as it is about the safety of its citizens.