Opinion: Airport Security Needs a Rethink

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Imagine a wheel chair bound three year old crying and being taken away from his parents for a pat down. Sounds like something that would happen in a hostile country doesn’t it? Its actually happened right here in America thanks to the Transportation Security Administration more commonly known as the TSA. The TSA was put in place in 2001 after the September 11th Attacks. America was in shock and rightfully so as the event was the first of its kind. The TSA was put in place to keep an attack like 9/11 from ever happening again. Has it worked?

The TSA is sprawled throughout Americas commercial transportation system, but its main application is commercial aviation otherwise known as the airlines. This article will focus on airport security because it is in the most desperate need of the rethink. Everyone hates to go through TSA. Unless you loose your bags or get diverted on your flight it’s probably going to be the low point of your travel day. Even though you hate it you probably go through thinking something along the lines of ” well at least they’re keeping me safe.” In many cases this simply isn’t true. You will find reputable news websites saturated with articles depicting someone taking a firearm through a TSA checkpoint and onto a plane. Why you ask? Because the TSA simply missed it. Even with all of their fancy expensive equipment they miss loaded firearms on a regular basis. Most of the time people forget that they have the firearms and don’t have any bad intentions but its still worrisome that they are able to get firearms on the aircraft with ease. This is also a hazard for the people flying in the future because it shows the people with bad intentions that the TSA is easy to get around leaving aircraft in the United States vulnerable.

 

American citizens pay lots of money for the TSA to miss firearms. 7.39 billion U.S. dollars to be exact. Yeah. You read that right. 7.39 billion tax payer dollars were spent on the TSA last year.  I think all Americans agree that an investment in safety is a good investment. The problem is we’re investing but we’re not receiving a return.

 

The TSA system has also received criticism for their questionable treatment of some travelers. The example above of the three year old wheel chair bound child being taken from his parents while crying is an excellent example. His name was on a watchlist. The TSA uses watchlists to know what to look for. This might work fine if they had precise watchlsits. Problem is they don’t. For some subjects they only have a name. That’s it. No pictures. No date of birth. They might not even know the nationality of the person they are looking for. All they know is the persons name. That means that when one of the thousands of people in the country with the same name goes through the TSA checkpoint they get flagged. They may be subject to extra screening or in the saddening case of the toddler above be taken to a private room for a more “extensive” and usually more intrusive physical inspection.

 

The three year old mentioned above is most certainly not the only case of this bad treatment. Survivors of breast cancer have been required to remove their artificial breasts in front of hundreds of fellow travelers while the male TSA agents laugh at them. Double leg amputees have been lifted out of their wheel chair by TSA agents so that their torsos can be inspected. Although not as offensive it is common to see a TSA agent shouting at a traveler in a demeaning matter. It is unacceptable to treat a fellow human being this way.

 

Another major issue is lack of standardization. Airports throughout the country have slightly different rules and slightly different setups. This causes confusion among travelers. A great example would be the difference between my home airport in Albuquerque New Mexico and an airport I’ve visited many times over the years which would be Phoenix Sky Harbor. In Albuquerque the rules change often. You get on a flight one day and you are permitted to leave your shoes and belt on. You get on a flight 3 months later and they make you put everything aside from your pants and shirt in a bin. You get on a flight in another three months and the rules have changed yet again but if you don’t know them immediately you get yelled at in front of the whole line. The rules at Phoenix are far more consistent in that they don’t change but they are slightly different then they are in Chicago or Seattle. That means that yet again if you don’t know the rules off the top of your head (which you probably won’t) you will get shouted at.

 

Perhaps the largest problem with the TSA issue is the fact that we don’t know how to fix it. Sure it’s easy for us to point out flaws. There are plenty of them. How do we fix them? I personally believe that privatizing security would be a great start. If security companies are in place they can be subcontracted by the local airport to handle security. The company of choice would have incentive to do a good job so that they could keep the contract. If they didn’t do a good job they could be replaced unlike today’s system.

If the government were to decide that it needs to keep complete control of the system many measures could be implemented. For starters passengers should be able to make anonymous complaints about specific staff. Heavy punishments could be given to security staff who behave disrespectfully. A thorough retraining is also necessary for all TSA staff along with a policy that asserts respectful and kind treatment of passengers.  They need to remember that we the people pay their checks.

 

Both of the above alternate options would ensure that misses of harmful items would become a thing of the past along with the cruel, disrespectful and sometimes even harmful treatment of passengers.

 

 

In conclusion the TSA is very broken system. With dangerous and threatening terror organizations rising we need to make our security the best it can possibly be. The TSA is not capable of doing that. By making an investment in the new security system we would be investing in the safety of our loved ones and the United States.

 

Got questions, comments or concerns? Let me know in the comments section below!

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