Airport security: What's the solution?

That's me getting scanned by a new backscatter machine at San Jose Airport last May

That’s me getting scanned by a new backscatter machine at San Jose Airport last May

Over the last week, a storm has erupted around new airport security procedures and devices. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google “airport body scanners” and you’ll get half a million results. (Here’s a good round up article from Bloomberg.)

On one hand, we’ve got new “enhanced pat downs” from TSA officers that include touching breasts and genitalia, full-naked-body scans, and no clear answer about radiation risks from new backscatter machines.

On the other hand, we’ve got a very recent incident in which terrorists were able to pack explosives in a printer cartridge and get it on a plane. We are less than a year past the infamous “underwear bomber” incident in which a terrorist nearly brought down a Delta jet over Detroit.

I don’t like the frisky frisking. I worry about radiation. I’m concerned about our right to privacy.

But what’s the solution?

Do we get rid of the scanners (that cost $75,000 each) and go back to magnetometers only?

What will we all be saying if an “underwear bomber” gets through a magnetometer and succeeds in blowing up a plane?

I know the readers of this blog are smart, frequent travelers who know the system well. Can you all suggest any solutions? I look forward to hearing from you. I will forward your suggestions along to my TSA contacts.

And please, let’s just talk SOLUTIONS here and avoid hyperbole and venting. There’s enough of that out there already.

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  • http://fullofbullblog.blogspot.com/ Lane

    I, too, object on the grounds of clear fourth amendment conflict.

    Regarding solutions: I would not object to a dog in the vicinity with “eyes on” (and nose), though again on principle he should not be doing a direct search of me. If the trained dog smells something suspicious just in the vicinity and believes it is coming from me, then that is likely probable cause for a genuine search (in the vein of “in plain sight” (smell is surely equally valid).

    Dogs, profiling, and accepting risk — nobody can make you 100% safe, even if you give up 100% of your libert — are all good.

    Probably the right solution is to get this airline safety function out of the hands of a federal bureaucracy and put it in the hands of the airlines — they’re not encumbered by limits such as the fourth amendment, and any business I do with them is on the basis of a voluntary contract between two parties.

    If America West does backscatter and I don’t like it, then I can fly Southwest. If Southwest does profiling, but I’m okay with that, then there you have it.

    Problems solved. If lots of TWA flights are falling from the sky because of ineffective *private* security or maintenance, then guess what: I’m going to fly with someone else. I can research ahead of time who has an acceptable security measures, risk, convenience and cost, and I (an informed adult) can make a decision.
    My only requirement is that the airlines give full disclosure on those characteristics and not misinform.

    “Government is not the solution to the problem. It is the problem.” – Ronald Reagan

  • Kat Hurley-Bolinder

    I immediately liked Mike’s idea as I am a major animal lover and any opportunity to interact is a boon for me. However the logistics of having enough dogs at the airport whould be a bit overwhelming but I vote for it anyway. – Phil I definitly agree with as I am big on the U. S. Constitution and I was a flight attendant for 39 years with a major carrier but happily retired for 5 years! – Robert has an excellent idea of returning to profiling and it really does make sense as most of the terrorist attacks up to now have been done by the same basic ethnic group of males between the ages of 18 & 38. – Cheryl of course bolster my first choice, and I couldn’t agree more that getting sniffed by a dog is infintely more enjoyable than being groped by an overweight (and they seem to be in the majority) tsa agent!

  • cheryl

    Sniffer dogs are by far the most efficient detection means. I’d rather have a dog sniffing my crotch than a TSA’s hand on it.

  • Carol

    What about flights that originate outside the U.S.? Didn’t the terrorist on the flight to Denver last Christmas come here from Amsterdam? We can increase our security here but do we have any control on those travelers coming in from other countries?

  • Robert Thornton

    Duh, how simple can it be…profile! It works for the country most under threat (Israel), it’s cheaper and it respects the rights of the innocent.

  • Phil Brown

    Here’s a solution: deal with the FACT that your risk while flying is already INFINITESIMAL, as well as that there are no guarantees in life about ANYTHING. I refuse to go through a full-body scanner for Fourth Amendment reasons, notwithstanding the undetermined health risk (which is probably MUCH higher in a statistical sense than the chance of some whack job taking down your plane). I also give the TSA saps as much grief as possible over their unconstitutional jobs — although I do feel sorry for the ones on pat-down duty since the vast majority of them clearly hate doing it.

    Anyone who supports the TSA in the name of “safety” and also claims to love the US Constitution is a hypocrite who will lie to you about other things too.

  • Mike

    It amazes me at how little has been said about the obvious… dogs. Dogs rarely miss anything and are far less intrusive. Dogs have a long history of being able to detect bomb materials and they are well accepted by the travelling public. When I get off an international flight it is almost the norm to see a dog walking through the luggage checking for fruit. The biggest issue I see is the officer trying to make sure everyone doesn’t play with the dog… I sure try to! Just yesterday bomb sniffing dogs went through Ohio State because of the bomb scare there. No one seemed to have an issue with using them to protect our children, so maybe that would be ok for us flying as well. Sure seems like a win win for all involved.

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