airtravel, TSA body scanners and the illusion of security

I really like flying. Even with all the hassle at the airports, all these new rules, crowds and long lines, bad airline service, I still love flying.  Once you get up in the air, after  the plane takes off we can look out of the window, look at the clouds and forget about all the troubles to get embarked in the airplane… The most difficult part of traveling is not actually sitting in the airplane but getting there…  

air travel
air travel (LAX airport)

But this is the subject of my current post: the lack of sense of TSA rules, plain stupidity and the overall illusion of security in our airports. Why don’t we spend money on real security and avoid all that passanger frustration? Do the new xray body scanners make our trip safer?

Thanksgiving Day is probably the busiest day in US airports.

And many, way too many people get nervous because the lack of organization of the airports, the probability of missing their flights because long security lines, etc.

 I was a frequent flyer for a few years – I got over 25.000 miles / yearly and a silver frequent flyer status (almost everything from domestic flights). I was flying often (almost once every 3 weeks) between Seattle and Cleveland (with connection in Minnesotta, Denver, Atlanta and sometimes even Houston or other airline hubs). I got my share of watching the airport security, flight attendands, passangers and almost everything related to the air travel.

I also traveled overseas and different foreign countries (Germany, France, UK, Romania, Netherland, Mexico, etc). So I could compare airlines and travel experiences… And I took a few introductory flight lessons.

Each time when I get to an airport I regret the times before September 11th, 2001 when the air travel in US was such a pleasure compared to what we have now… It was possible to get through security lines even without having to actually fly but only to wait a friend or member of the family at the gate. The security lines were short. There was no nosense rules. Sure, they had metal detectors and there was security… but it was way less intrusive that now. The service in the airplanes was better, flight attendands were less nervous and the pilots were keeping the cockpits doors wide open (during the flight).

 Now, it’s a different situation.

I understand that we have to give up some of our rights and comfort for security. I understand that we don’t want to see airplanes falling down from the skies and I understand that terrorism is a serios concern.

But exactly for this reason we should have intelligent security and less hassle for passagers.

Let’s start by looking at different examples:

1. No fly lists – they are stupid, plain stupid and just a show for law abiding citizens. I’ve learned about people being delayed (or even denied to fly) just because there was a coincidence of names on that list. It doesn’t make too much sense… 2 people can have the same name but people can be identified by other methods (like age, date and place of birth, pictures, etc).

And all of this while some bad guy can avoid completely the do not fly lists by using an electronic check-in and a printer… Let’s not describe that method here, but belive there is a simple one and the algorithm makes a lot of sense….

2. The poor job done by airport security and incosistency between security procedures in various airports… In one place you can go through security with a specific amount of liquids, but not in others… TSA employees are more interested in following procedures instead of finding real threats. Probably they are poorly trained and under-paid. I don’t blame them and I just think the decision makers are lacking common sense.

We should have Israeli style airport security (profiling, watch and talk to travelers, etc)

Whenever you cross a border please watch the border officer. They’re not going to be too much interested in patting down procedures and looking in your luggage – they’ll instead ask you a few questions and watch you in the eyes. They’ll want to figure out by talking if you have something to hide or not.

TSA personel don’t care and even can not figure out a potential terorist. People get frustrated in the long security lines and probably a lot of people are already nervous when they pass the metal detectors (for mundane reasons like the fact that they have to take their shoes, belts or some clothes off, the probability of missing the flight, the chance of getting through the new xray body scanners, getting “infected” from the nervosity of other travelers, etc)  It seems that the main goal of TSA is to follow rules, cover themselves and not find real threats.

3. Additional fees for checked in luggages

This doesn’t make any sense. Well, it makes sense from the profitability of the airlines but no sense for security. I mean you ask travelers to pay for checked in luggage but allow them to have a carry on luggage for free!? What’s the result? Way more carry on luggages, longer security lines and more apparent work at metal detectors. So, we’re advised to pack small carry on luggage but are hammered with a fee for checked in luggages… Do they really understand that cutting that fee (and maybe include it in the ticket price) should cut the security lines? Do they really want MORE stuff in the airplanes cabins?

4.  New xray body scanners and tougher security regulations

Well, is the new body scanner going to make me safer? No way…

I like gadgets and technology. I’m an IT person and I worked for big companies. But is the xray body scanner really safe for frequent flier? What’s the level of radiation we get when we go through that machine? If it’s so safe why do pilots fight to avoid those body scanners?

People also care about their own intimacy… Some are getting pretty nervous if some random stranger touches their private body parts or can take a picture of them naked (well technically TSA denies that this is the case and say that the face is blurred, that the pictures will not leak and so on….) Maybe it’s still ok that we can choose between pat downs or body scanner. But do these new rules make safer? I don’t think so…

Eventually they’ll bring even more people driving their cars on freeways… And driving kills thousand of americans every year. It’s very dangerous. Flying is safer. Let’s make sure people will fly and not be turned away by these new airport security rules…

Even with elevated security rules, bad guys found a solution… Actually a terorist can eventually kill people with bare hands and no specific tool. Or different security breaches can be found… Old police work, informations, people reactions and other methods are probably more efficient in protecting us from terorists. It’s kind of late to find a terorist already inside the airport, at the security gate.

And yeah, we should probably invest more in “educating” potential terorists… Write books, make more movies, spread more information and describe the fact that we have families, we belive in God, too and we are not very agressive people. We have our own problems, we are not super rich and we cherish a better future for our children, too. Show the pain of victims of coward terorist attacks. Invest time in talking to officials and media from poor country where the religion is used as a tool to train new terorists and fuel an anti-american propaganda. Also, try to spend more money on schools in those poor countries instead of not so efficient wars… We’re all humans and only just a few are crazy and coward enough to blow them up to kill a few inocent people.

Americans belive in their values… That’s why USA won the cold war. Because people were proud to be americans, because there was a list of values to stand for: freedom, unity, humanity, etc… Now do we turn to dirty/stupid methods and make our own citizens wondering if these values still stand? We need the support of our people, make them happy and fight an inteligent war against the terorisms…

I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving travel experience… Did you?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Stop the TSA now! Sign the national petition at: >>> http://www.forprivacy.org >>>

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  3. Polynesia says:

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