Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pat Downs All Around

I live in a country where I've heard of people using their work identification card to get through security at an airport and onto a domestic plane. Not some sort of government provided work identification card, but their privately-owned, company-provided card that they swipe for access into a building. My initial reaction was outrage. After all, what kind of place would allow me to use my work badge to get onto a plane? However, after thinking this one through a little more, I asked the question, "Who's the bigger threat - someone who is who their government provided ID says they are or someone potentially carrying hazardous materials?"

While my answer, to the average traveler, may make me sound risk-loving and somewhat careless, it's the obvious answer. I'd much rather someone be physically screened before they provide some sort of official identification. Granted, both are good, but let's be honest, if someone wants to do something bad on a plane and has the resources to do so, they're not likely to get tripped up with something as basic as an identification card.

Part of what makes me comfortable with my careless decision is that I also live in a country where every airline passenger gets patted down. There's no random selection; everyone gets patted down. Men pass through segregated metal detectors and stand on a platform for the wand and pat down; women pass through their segregated metal detector and into a partitioned area for the same.

Maybe I've been in India too long (after all, I got patted down on my way into brunch on Sunday), but I struggle with people's reaction to the TSA's new security procedure to pat passengers down. Granted, I haven't seen any footage of the pat downs so I have no idea whether it's as invasive a measure as some passengers cite. I tried to watch an NBC News feature online to get some idea; however, MSNBC would only show me the 30 second Tide laundry detergent commercial before telling me the segment was restricted for international IP addresses.

Maybe it's careless, but I guess what I'm saying is that if there is a security measure being taken which increases the chance that I walk off a plane, I'm good with that.


  1. I have a blog post "in waiting' on this very subject.

    It's ALL we're hearing while we're state side and its all OVER the papers ... seriously?

    I think it IS because we're too used to India ... but they're talking about AIRLINE security? And like you said, we get patted down (and felt up) just going to the mall!

  2. Believe it or not I am on a watch list. There is a terrorist named Robert Johnson, who bombed a building 25 years ago and has never been caught. Because of this I cannot early online check-in or check-in at a kiosk. I must wait in line EVERY time to see, not just an agent, but the manager to enter my information. For years I have tried to get off the list and sent the gov't all manner of documents and proof that I am not this person. He is 20 years older than I am and we are not even the same race. About 2-3 years ago 60 Minutes did a segment on this and had a dozen Robert Johnsons on stage off all ages and races who were having the same issue.

    I am using my situation as an example of just one of the ways the gov't is doing an inefficient job of securing our travel.

    While I am in agreement with you that a pat down or this scan isn't a big deal. The push back is more about the fact the TSA has really just implemented it without seeing if it is the most effective new measure to put in place. They were doing the additional screening/pat downs of the pilots until the news pointed out that pilots don't need sneak anything on the plane to crash it. And everyone seems to have a story of some 80 y/o grandma, 3 y/o girl, one legged man, etc getting 'roughed up' by TSA.

    Two things have made this whole situation worse though: if the gov't had done a better job selling the American people on how this system will work, how it provides better security, whether or not it will cost them more time in line, and is it safe (radiation). Maybe the gov't has a better explaination of how they decided on this system, but they have yet to offer one up. Second the news has blown it out of proportion. You have people who haven't even been through the system yet all up in arms about it. Add to that all the people who are getting ready to travel this Thanksgiving (like we are) and people are hungry for news on how 'bad' it will be over the holiday. So the news is playing it up as the hot topic.

    I would venture to say most, regular, American travelers are onboard with the additional screening. The uproar is more just the news looking for something holiday related to talk about. We will all know more in a week and I would suspect the TSA will quietly make some changes based on how things go after this holiday season.

  3. Naomi, I actually saw an article on CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/11/22/airports.holiday.travel/index.html?hpt=Sbin, written at least somewhat from the perspective of the TSA and airline workers (my favorite story told was of the woman trying to smuggle marijuana into Jamaica). Of course, when I went back to get the link, what do you think the lead story was on CNN's U.S. front page? And how many separate articles/videos were linked? 10 links. Can only imagine what's on the news there....

    RJ, I saw something about pilots being made exempt from the controls when they used the "look, we're already in control of where the plane goes" argument. Completely agree though that the scans/pats aren't the most effective method but think there are probably other battles to fight, like how any person named Robert Johnson can't check-in at a kiosk....because, you know, that's effective. Hope you guys travel safe at Thanksgiving.