Today marks the 12 years since the attacks of September 11, 2013. Leading up to today, I found myself traveling by air, and rather than feeling scared, I felt annoyed. The dreaded TSA, no one seems to like them and we are always hearing how the organization does not work. Using Google you can find a laundry list of TSA failures. But, is it more than that? Is the fear from 9-11, the fear that something will happen again leading to the erosion of freedom, your freedom, one small step at a time? Instead of embracing our heritage, the constitution, and our freedom, did we let our fear become the post 9-11 focus?
I can barely remember the time we could walk my Dad and drop him off directly at his gate when he would travel for business. After 9-11, forget dropping someone off at their gate, there were no liquids allowed on the plane. Then some allowed in a clear container, in a clear bag, now who knows if they are even scanned. One thing for sure, I cannot bring a bottle of water on the plane. Then we got X-ray machines that sent an unknown image to some unknown person in some unknown place, only to find out, these probably were not X-rays. But, we were supposed to take the TSA’s word that these machines were mere X-rays, safe, and your privacy would be intact. So, what do we do, get the scan, we have to get on the plane right?
But, is it right? Months after these privacy protecting scanners start snapping pictures of us pre-flight, what do we find out? Not only was all of that privacy protection wrong, but they were nude scanners and they didn’t always work. I fell victim to the idea all of these precautions were necessary. I got scanned, but where is my body shot now? Freedom for fear.
It is very easy to think that these precautions are preventing other terrorist attacks. Other than the Boston Marathon attack, there have been minimal to no incidents, on American soil. But, is it the TSA, the scans, the millions spent each year (dare I say billions), that keep us safe. The Detroit attack seemed to be thwarted by passengers and the device failure. But, to be passengers, wouldn’t the guy already have to be on the plane? That indicates to me that the precautions did not work.
It is hard to believe with the talk of 70% failure rates, guns getting through security, and attacks thwarted by passengers that all of this invasion of our privacy and spending of our tax dollars is preventing another September 11th like attack. So, as I went through airport security and saw the frustration on the TSA Agent’s face when I requested a pat down, I claimed a small but proud victory. You are allowed to request a pat down in lieu of the machine scan (at least for the time being.) Yes, they have to use the back of their hand to ensure nothing is hiding under your bra, beltline, or in your upper thigh. But, do you know what picture they take and who is goes to?
As a former prosecutor, I got many a jail tour, including having the X-ray scan that inmates coming into the jail receive. In order to prevent weapons, drugs, and other contraband from entering a correctional facility, those checking in usually get s scan. Shocker, these TSA scanners, turned out to be some of the very same machines. So, to get on a plane for a wedding, family vacation, whatever you might be doing, you have to be subjected to the very same process as someone entering a jail facility? To enter the jail facility you have to be under arrest or convicted of a crime. There is some sort of standard to get to that screening. But yet, just because you want to travel you have to through the same screening. I am not sure that makes sense to me.
Keep in mind, this post totally ignores the far reaching Patriot Act, NSA surveillance, etc., etc., etc. But, maybe my intuition is wrong, maybe the TSA scans, screens, and machines saved thousands of lives. If so, that is why I am happy to take my pat down. Maybe, in this small little way, we are not letting the 9-11 terrorists win. Maybe we are not letting fear erode our freedom. A close friend calls these pat downs “Freedom Frisks.” Next time you are traveling, think about asking the TSA agent for your “Freedom Frisk.” I bet you will claim that very same small but proud victory.