More Comprehensive Pat-Downs By the Transportation Security Administration

“T he change is partly a result of the agency’s study of a 2015 report that criticized aspects of TSA screening procedures. That audit, by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, drew headlines because airport officers had failed to detect handguns and other weapons. An additional change prompted by the report was the TSA’s decision to end its “managed inclusion” program, by which some everyday travelers were allowed to use PreCheck lanes to speed things up at peak times.”

More Comprehensive Pat-Downs By the Transportation Security Administration

That quote is from this article written by Justin Bachman at Bloomberg, which claims that the five different types of physical pat-downs at the screening line used by security workers at airports throughout the United States have been eliminated and replaced with a single universal, more rigorous and comprehensive approach — which you will clearly notice if and when it happens to you, as it will slow you down through the airport security checkpoint.

There is no word at this time as to how invasive the more comprehensive pat-down technique will be pertaining to what are regarded as the private areas on the body of a person — such as the groping of genitalia, for example.

Record Number of Loaded Firearms Discovered by the Transportation Security Administration

Ironically, this article written by Bob Burns of The TSA Blog — which is the official weblog of the Transportation Security Administration — boasts that “on February 23rd, 21 firearms were discovered around the country in carry-on bags. That broke the previous record of 18 set in 2014.” Of the 79 firearms discovered in carry-on bags around the United States, 68 were loaded and 21 had a round chambered.

If the Transportation Security Administration is so diligent pertaining to detecting weapons lately, then why do we need the more comprehensive pat-downs?

Reactions to Pat-Downs in the Past

Outrage was expressed by people who watched the video of Lucy Forck — a girl who was three years old in March of 2013 and bound to a wheelchair due to suffering from a disorder known as spina bifida — when she was detained with her parents at an airport security checkpoint at Lambert–Saint Louis International Airport on their trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Here is a video of the incident, recorded by Annie Schulte — the mother of Lucy — and posted on YouTube:

Despite the professionalism of the Transportation Security Administration agent and the father calmly comforting his nervous three-year-old son bound to a wheelchair, people were appalled by this video of the screening process at a security checkpoint at O’Hare Airport in Chicago back in 2012.

Also back in 2012, the wife of FlyerTalk member brennandunn was reportedly transported to the emergency room of a local hospital and transferred to a psychiatric ward for several days after suffering a traumatic “pat-down” at an airport security checkpoint at the international airport in Fort Lauderdale by an agent of the Transportation Security Administration who appeared to be insensitive to the plight of the woman, who was violently sexually assaulted by three men and was threatened with death in Florida ten years ago.

Outrage was also expressed over the “pat-downs” of both a six-year-old girl and an 8-month-old boy — both of which occurred one month apart in 2011 — at airport security checkpoints. Do not even get me started on all of the innocent young children who suffered the indignities of airport security checkpoint pat-downs.

There were also incidents over the years which include — but are certainly not limited to:

Statistics and Information

One may argue that anyone could “play the victim” by pretending to have had a traumatic sexual experience in the past in order to avoid both the pat-down and the scanning device. My response is why should anyone have to endure such indignity? For security reasons? Yeah, sure — and if you believe that, I have some cruise vacations to sell to you which depart out of the marine ports in Hays, Kansas.

Many people know that this is all what has been coined as “security theater” which is designed for those who travel infrequently to feel safe as a result of the illusion of security — even if the screening process is demeaning and degrading. Surely there are better, more dignified ways for airport security checkpoints to increase the safety of travel without instilling fear, anxiety and discomfort into innocent people.

As a result of the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, should passengers be forced to either experience an intimate “pat down” or have their naked body exposed in an image which may not even be discarded if they are not fortunate enough to go through an old-fashioned metal detector? I think not — and I never did think so.

might buy into all of this nonsense if we were not constantly exposed to more dangerous threats every day, such as being involved in a fatal car accident, suffering from a deadly home invasion, dying of lung cancer from smoking, or contracting a serious disease simply because people neglect to wash their hands. Your chances of experiencing any of those scenarios — and I hope that none of them ever happen to you — are significantly more likely than being involved in a terrorist incident or an airplane crash.

Allow me to use motor vehicle accidents as an example to put airport security into perspective: According to the United States Census Bureau, 33,808 people died in 2009 alone — greater than eleven times the number of people who did not survive the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — as a result of 30,797 fatal motor vehicle accidents. Think about it — despite these statistics, how many people do you know are afraid to step into a motor vehicle? How do you think the American traveling public would feel if there were checkpoints at state borders, truck weigh stations and rest areas? Imagine not being able to bring your super-sized drink into your car because it exceeds the amount of liquid you are allowed to transport?

To put it another way, you stand a far greater chance of getting killed in a motor vehicle accident than by being killed in a terrorist attack. More specifically, according to this article written by Ronald Bailey for Reason.com:

…a rough calculation suggests that in the last five years, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. This compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000. In other words, in the last five years you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.

Just for fun, here are the odds for the following scenarios to happen to you, as compiled from multiple sources:

  • Being “discovered” in Hollywood: One in 1.5 million
  • Being abducted by aliens: One in 112,305,118
  • Have an Intelligence Quotient of 190 or greater: One in 107 million
  • Being elected as president of the United States: One in 43 million
  • Becoming a professional athlete: One in 22,000
  • Giving birth to conjoined twins: One in 200,000
  • Conceiving identical triplets: One in one million
  • Give birth to quadruplets, even without the help of fertility treatments: One in 729,000
  • Being hit by a car and killed: One in 701
  • Being an American billionaire by a means other than winning the lottery: One in 575,097
  • Contracting the Ebola virus: One in 13.3 million
  • Be killed by an asteroid strike: One in 700,000
  • Be killed by a lightning strike: One in 164,968
  • Die by drowning: One in 1,113
  • Be struck by lightning, while drowning: One in 183 million
  • Dying from a bee sting: One in 80,000
  • Death by a falling coconut: One in 250 million
  • Being killed by a murderous vending machine: One in 112 million
  • Being stampeded to death by a giant red platypus riding a rabid green furry elephant with seven legs backwards down Fifth Avenue in New York during an earthquake in the middle of a blizzard in July as aliens descend on a parade which — well…I think you get the idea

Summary

Now that we have established that you stand a far greater chance of getting killed in a motor vehicle accident than by being killed in a terrorist attack, should we force people who drive or are passengers in motor vehicles in the United States to suffer the indignities of strip searches, nude scans and invasive pat-downs for the sake of safety and security? After all, would that not make the United States safer for all? And why stop at motor vehicles? Why not trains, boats, buses, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, roller skates, or even walking? What about pat-downs in shopping malls, churches and hotel and resort properties or at the Super Bowl? How about in your own home? After all, you stand a better chance of drowning in your bathtub or dying in a building fire than being killed by a terrorist.

American taxpayers spend billions of dollars for the privilege of the possibility of a degrading experience at an airport security checkpoint. But do not worry — Edmund “Kip” Hawley had all of the answers on how to improve the airport security checkpoint experience back in 2012; and yet we never really heard from him again once his book was published.

Proper safety and security should not be at the expense of liberty or dignity, as those concepts are not mutually exclusive. The TSA Pre✓ program of the Transportation Security Administration is a good start in that participants bypass all of the nonsense of taking shoes off, taking out the little baggie of liquids and having to choose between a “pat-down” and a scanning device experience, but it should not have to cost a penny to join, in my opinion.

More importantly, no one should have to suffer the potential indignity of a pat-down — no matter how “comprehensive.”

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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