Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's Not About Knitting Needles

Every airline trip is an adventure for me. Having a similar name to someone on the "No Fly" list, I never know what I'm going to encounter from trip to trip. Sometimes, I check in and print my boarding pass at home, sometimes I can't. Sometimes I zip right through TSA security, sometimes I get pulled out of the queue.

I suppose I've learned to deal with the inconvenience of it all. I greet the TSA agent with a friendly salutation and a smile, obediently take my shoes off and empty my pockets, deposit anything metallic in their requisite rectangular, plastic gray bin, pull out my laptop from the bag that's going to get scanned anyway. I don't find the whole process any less asinine. I've just learned to deal with it. I must admit that appeasing my wife on these travel trips instead of showing my displeasure about being scrutinized it is part of the reason. But still, I deal with it.

Then comes the Scrotum Bomber. Seriously?

I sat in wonderment in the middle of Cincinnati when I heard about the attempted bombing of a plane in Detroit by a Fruit of the Loom freakazoid and thought I would wind up being strip searched in the airport just to get home after the holidays. I heard about new "restrictions" while flying such as not being able to access carry-on baggage, not being able to leave your seat and not being able to use a blanket during the last hour of a flight. And I thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard.

And this is the crux of the problem with airline safety. We live in a world of reaction, not prevention, hence the ridiculous rules and restrictions. We have to take our shoes off because some idiot tried to blow his shoes up on a plane. What are the chances that method will be used again? We can't pack liquids of more than 3 ounces. Who made that arbitrary decision? Why not 4 ounces? Or 3½ ounces? If I can only find a 3½ oz travel size bottle of hair gel or toothpaste, will TSA take it away because it's a half ounce over the limit? And why do we have to put it in a separate plastic bag and unpack it for inspection when the baggage is being X-rayed anyway? Please don't insult my intelligence by telling me that your friendly, neighborhood TSA agent is specially trained in detecting the difference between hair product and ignitable chemicals with the naked eye. And why do I have to remove my laptop from my bag when they eventually scan the now empty bag as well?

But this show is what passes for security. And in the latest case of the would be terrorist who dared set his nutsac on fire, the problem in the security lapse had nothing to do with TSA, at least not in any of the US airports. His name was on a watch list after the government was warned, yet never made it on to the no fly list. So they watched him get on a plane. Twice. This has nothing to do with removing my shoes at the TSA security gate.

And we're not even thinking of our incredibly porous port security. We may as well shut down everything coming in and out through our borders if we want to begin thinking about safety. But that's not what we do. That would affect our bottom line. Gotta keep those lead laden children's toys coming in from China. Instead we stand in a booth and get little blasts of air shot at us. Boy, do I feel safer after that. And the show continues.

And of course, there's nothing like politicizing the situation and playing the blame game. US Representatives Pete Hoekstra (yes, the same Hoekstra who compromises our security every time opens his mouth) and Peter King were pretty quick to blame the Obama administration for this security lapse. Maybe they should talk to their own party's Senator Jim DeMint who has personally blocked the confirmation of Obama's nomination for head of the TSA for the last four months. Or maybe we should ask why the nomination of Tara O'Toole for DHS Undersecretary of Science and Technology was blocked by GOP members for six months. So quick to accuse, these Republican hacks, while blocking literally hundreds of nominations for posts in the Obama administration. That's the equivalent of bitching that your quarterback gets sacked when you refuse to let the offensive line on the field.

The thing is, that if they're angry enough, and crazy enough, no matter what we can do to try and deter terrorists, there will always be a way to get around the security. Because it's not about looking for weapons. It's not about profiling. It's about proper training to distinguish suspicious behavior. And that takes a little more time than 10 weeks of training just to shine a little blue light on driver's license or confiscate bottled water.

It's not about box cutters or pocket knives or knitting needles. It never was. It's all reaction.


tsisageya said...

Considering the fact that every airplane, every house, every letter of the Constitution, every history that we tell ourselves, lands flat square upon the dead backs of the Native Indian, we're sitting in pretty good clover, actually.

Aren't we?

NowhereMan said...

I'm surprised that the new rules don't include you taking off your underwear along with your shoes!Or how about a new rule stating everyone must fly naked!That way,we don,t need any TSA screeners just a boarding pass that hangs around our necks in case anything does go wrong,it can be used as identification so our next of kin can properly identify our remains.No bathroom for the last hour of flight?What if i get diahrrea from that wonderful airline food they give us?