TSA and invasion of privacy have been in the headlines. If you haven’t been exposed–no pun intended–to the controversy, I’m not going to update you here.
Here is the situation as I see it:
I’m all for–completely sold–on the objective of TSA, and that is safe and secure air travel. Nobody is disagreeing with that premise. People are disagreeing with the process.
But it seems TSA’s chief John Pistole is either missing or avoiding the most important question: are we REALLY that much safer because of the current TSA policies and procedures?
I regularly read about the lack of baggage and cargo monitoring. Only a small percentage gets screened. And yet there have been few efforts to address that potential security breach (despite the fact that the media regularly reminds terrorists of this problem). Instead we pat down infants, grandparents and almost everybody in-between.
Profiling is politically incorrect here in the U.S. Israel, where I’ve traveled and felt safer than in any other airports, is world class at airport security and, if what I read and have been told is correct, they profile. And I know lots of people disagree with profiling. So be it. But if middle age white guys start blowing up airplanes I’ll be the first to volunteer for secondary screening.
A TSA screener once told me that I was selected for secondary screening because I looked like a nice, reasonable person. “Who wants to select somebody who is going to be a jerk?” Think about the implication of that statement.
And here’s another thing: seasoned travelers have learned not to complain lest they be given a rash of grief by TSA employees who have carte blanche authority to make one’s life a living hell. Suggest that the lines are being managed poorly or someone is being treated unfairly and you run the risk of landing on a no fly list or getting booted from the airport. So many of us put up with service and behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated elsewhere.
Are all TSA methods flawed? Are all TSA employees unpleasant or unprofessional? Of course not. The fact that I meet lots of great TSA employees who are professional and helpful shouldn’t give those who aren’t a free pass, nor be an excuse for a system that needs to be improved.
Not many travelers I talk to feel much safer or more confident because of TSA’s efforts. And that brings me to my final point.
People would probably be a tad more tolerant of pat downs and invasions of privacy if they really believed that’s what it takes for security. But the perception is that it isn’t working that well and TSA hasn’t been able to sell us on that idea that it is. There is a big mismatch between the price being paid (inconvenience, loss of productive time and invasion of privacy) and the benefit (safe, secure air travel).
Be encouraged that fliers have FINALLY gotten the attention of TSA and legislators and those leaders are at least engaging in dialogue. Let’s hope that results in changes that make the system more effective and less invasive and ultimately keep everyone safe when they fly.