TSA and the freedom thing: We're the problem
The nation is in an uproar over full body scanning and pat downs in the airport TSA security lines. Is it a necessary security measure or a violation of our freedom and privacy? Bill Brenner weighs in.
By Bill Brenner , Senior Editor
November 23, 2010 — CSO —
I've held back from opining about this controversy over the TSA doing full-body scanning and pat downs for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I think it's becoming an easy applause line for people to rip the agency. Of course no one wants to be felt up in the security line. We're entitled to our modesty. But like most things in the security world, this isn't a black-and-white problem.
And since I'm a frequent traveler, I figure I have a right to say my peace.
First, I should mention that I've never had a problem in the TSA line. I know this is mostly because of luck. I tend to travel early in the morning, before the crowds arrive. I also travel light. I have seen others randomly picked for more intense screening, and I've seen their anger over it. I don't blame them, because I know what it's like to have security officials treat me like a thug.
A lot of very intelligent security practitioners have been weighing in on the tougher TSA measures. Here are two different views from people I respect:
Bob Connors, a crisis management expert who lives down the street from me, has been directing followers of his Twitter and Facebook pages to a video on how best to prepare for the TSA screening. Of the body scans and pat downs, he says, "For those who don't want this level of screening, I think we should have a separate terminal, screening and airplanes for them. For me, I have no problem with it, especially if it will screen out someone with Fruit of the Bomb underwear who is trying to blow up my plane."
Adam Shostack, one of the security industry's more eloquent practitioners, had this to say in his Emergent Chaos blog: "It's true. TSA employees are just doing their job, which is to secure transportation systems. The trouble is, their job is impossible. We all know that it's possible to smuggle things past the nudatrons and the frisking. Unfortunately, TSA's job is defined narrowly as a secure transportation system, and every failure leads to them getting blamed. All their hard work is ignored. And so they impose measures that a great many American citizens find unacceptable. They're going to keep doing this because their mission and jobs are defined wrong. It's not the fault of TSA, it's the fault of Congress, who defined that mission."
All valid points.
As far as I'm concerned, we are the root of the problem. In the days immediately after 9-11, we were all terrified and were willing to let the government do whatever it felt was necessary to keep another attack like this from happening again. We would have walked naked through the TSA line if told to at that point. Criticize me for exaggerating if you will. The point is that in our paranoia and fear we let things like the Patriot Act happen. We were fine with the warrantless wiretaps and the water boarding. Then a few years passed without a terrorist attack on American soil, and all those things became intolerable again to a majority of Americans.