Air Travel: Are We Safe?

I recently appeared on the local television news to discuss my opinion of the new screening techniques being used by the TSA at airports.  The new screening includes full body pat downs and/or full body scans.  Although I tend not to believe everything that comes from Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano has said the scans do not emit too enough radiation to be of concern.  Of course it will be years before we know the full effects on our health related to these machines.  However given the choice, I would opt for the scan as opposed to what happened to me back in January of this year.

On January 1, 2010, I was traveling back to the United States from Canada after spending the holidays with family.  I was traveling with my two young children, five and nine years old at the time, and my dog.  When we arrived at the airport, it was chaos.  Wheeled computer bags and backpacks were all being checked and couldn’t be carried on the flight.  Customer service representatives couldn’t seem to agree on what size backpack could go with the passenger and which had to be checked.  After we went through screening, we started to head to our gate, when we came up to a second screening.  During this screening, my bags which had just gone through the X-ray machine were searched and a full body pat down was done on me and my two children.  To see someone’s hands on my children was devastating.  This secondary screening was in response to the Christmas Day incident where someone had tried to detonate a bomb on an airplane.  By the time my family came to visit a few weeks later, the secondary screening (pat down) had already been discontinued.  I have to guess this additional scanning was a smoke and mirrors type thing to make the traveling public feel safer.

Well I for one, feel less safe.  If you have no idea the type of individuals you need to be concerned with, and are patting down a mom and her two kids, someone is not doing their job.  My passport is supposed to show everywhere I have traveled to.  I have a Canadian passport, my children have American passports and we haven’t been to the Middle East.  Imagine if all law enforcement was conducted this way.  Instead of trying to identify a suspect, everyone, despite age, gender and ethnicity without motive, means or opportunity would be treated like criminals.

I wrote to Ms. Napolitano after this incident, and I received a letter from her office explaining that everyone, including infants needed to be screened and that the TSOs that patted down my children were specially trained.  Hmmm…I wonder where they were able to find a crack team of specially trained TSOs during a holiday week… The public was recently made aware of the fact that only 20% of cargo was being screened for explosives.  Why only 20%?  So instead of disregarding an individuals’ right to not be touched in that manner, the government should do their job and figure out ways to stay ahead of the threats.  Be proactive, instead of reactive.  Only then will we really be safe.

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