What will happen to airport security if a terrorist decides to smuggle a bomb in his butt? That’s a question that has plagued me for some months now, as travel to and from US airports becomes ever more restrictive and humiliating, all with the Obama administration’s seal of approval. After the so-called Underwear Bomber was allowed by security officials to board a plane over the holidays in 2009, the Transportation Security Administration has begun in earnest to phase in new scanning devices capable of performing a virtual strip search.
Travelers in and out of the country must either pass through the scanner or face a pat-down, depending on which airport they are flying out of (not all US airports have the machines yet), but the Transportation Security Administration plans to install scanners in each and every one of them). When travelers started to opt for the pat-down, the TSA changed its policy, transforming what had amounted to a light frisk into a full-on groping, the likes of which are rarely seen outside of searches in prisons or cases of sexual assault. It’s not terribly surprising that this is what the president meant when he promised to respect civil liberties. After all, this is the same man who called his deficit-exploding budget for fiscal year 2010 “A New Era of Responsibility.”
What Americans (and travelers into the US) now face is a choice between bad and worse. A passenger can either been seen naked by strangers, or be physically assaulted by government officials. This applies to almost everyone: be it children, the elderly, pregnant women, clergy, or any other sort of non-threatening, normal person, all must go through the scanner or face the groping hand of the TSA. Of course, it doesn’t apply to airport employees, some of whom actually have unrestricted access to the tarmac or to the planes themselves, and as Mike Huckabee (a man I almost never agree with) recently pointed out, it doesn’t apply to the First Family. Former Governor Huckabee made a good point when he requested that the president take his family through the scanner/pat-down gauntlet before declaring it a reasonable security measure. If some people, like airport employees who have an unparalleled opportunity to sabotage aircraft, are not subject to these types of searches, how necessary or effective could the new security regulations be? Why can’t the rest of us simply undergo a background check before flying, and skip the unnecessary discomfort and humiliation?
There’s an even more absurd twist: US troops stationed in Afghanistan are not permitted to search women and children. Let that sink in a bit. Troops stationed in a war zone have deemed it unnecessarily intrusive to perform these searches, and yet the TSA thinks they’re perfectly appropriate for a five-year-old going to Disney World. Ultimately, it was the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security who failed to identify the Underwear Bomber or his sartorial counterpart the Shoe Bomber before they could get on a plane and attempt to blow it up. In both cases, it was the regular citizens on the plane who noticed something was amiss. Perhaps it’s time we spent more resources on finding these people before they enter the airport, and less time hassling grandparents over a tube of toothpaste. Will we face body cavity searches if someone manages to hide a bomb in his or her rectum? It seems like the reasonable next step if you subscribe to the sort of illogic that the TSA uses. Regular people should not have to pay for the failures of the government – airline tickets are expensive enough without the added cost of humiliation.