Thursday, July 05, 2007

Click-click boom

It’s never reassuring when Transportation Security Administration workers are more concerned with passengers bringing bottled water aboard a plane than they are the tools to make a bomb. Such was the case last week at Albany International Airport, where mock passengers were able to smuggle fake bomb parts past the security checkpoint, but got pinched for the water. Oddly enough, the bomb parts were in the same bag as the water, the Times Union reported Wednesday.

Now, the knee-jerk reaction is to scold the government agency for its oversight and to crack down on passengers with added vigilance at Albany. Make passengers empty their bags fully before sending them through the scanner. Frisk them and maybe even include a full-body cavity search before they get on planes; who knows what kind of explosives the terrorists could be stowing internally. After all, there’s nothing too invasive to ensure security, right?

Well actually, wrong. Very wrong. The TSA is so determined to find minutia that they often forget the more glaring items passengers may be bringing on board. Simply put, the flight restrictions have gotten too restrictive. They’re now functioning to make the security checkpoints less effective.

Some might counter this postulation by arguing there’s no way to get too restrictive when hurling several hundred people more than a mile high in what amounts to a pressurized tin can. But when it comes down to a choice of screening a bottle of Avion or a ticking bomb, this argument doesn’t hold much water.

The bottom line is that flying is a dangerous endeavor, much like the many unnatural things folks do on a regular basis that weren’t necessarily written into Mother Nature’s guide book for human beings. When someone boards a plane, they do take risks, such as the damn thing might blow up for whatever reason, be it some self-destructive freak with plastique tarred to his shoe or a malfunction somewhere in a tank containing several hundred gallons of jet fuel; accidents happen.

And to think that the hyper-imaginative heavy-handed TSA and its regulations will add even an ounce of safety aboard a flight is about as short sighted as it gets. The only screen the TSA's ramped up 2006 regulations have provided is a gigantic smoke screen; a false sense of security to justify what can only be considered invasive searches of an already timid-to-fly public.

What these regulations do achieve is millions of dollars worth of spending on everything from high-paid security consultants and studies to training programs and manuals. Hell, even the airport consignment shops are cashing in on the gig, seeing as though passengers must otherwise fly parched or without the comfort of basic items they stow on their person for travel. These regulations have little to do with safety and more to do with the bottom line: fleecing the public of its money, freedom and dignity.

Frankly, security checks such as the one conducted in Albany and another in Newark, N.J., show the ineptitude of this fledgling governmental organization. Like many of the knee-jerk governmental agencies established since 9-11, the TSA has done little, if anything, to justify its own existence. Since its creation in November 2001, the TSA hasn’t documented a single case where their security check points thwarted a plot to take down a domestic or international flight. Not a single one.

The TSA has shown its ability to intimidate passengers or steal their personal belongings. The TSA has shown its wasteful spending practices and overall ineptitude. The TSA hasn't shown its ability to make the skies safer.

Still, the flying sheep contine to board planes without make a bleat; they continue to sacrifice their liberties for a forged sense of safety the TSA and the government can never provide. Hopefully, there will one day be a ground swell of frequent fliers that protests to these Stalinesque security checks and urges the government to focus on what really matters: getting passengers safely from one place to the next.

So here’s iSaratoga’s charge to you, the authoritative reader. Do tell your most ludicrous outing with this generally useless governmental entity. Or conversely, how the TSA has somehow made you feel safer flying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a trip a year ago I failed to realize that my driver's licencse had expired, so they flagged me as a "risk" and I had to stand in this freaky GE box which dusted me for explosives with high pressured jets of air. Really fun.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You make many valid points regarding how silly airport security is, but I have to say a few things. I used to be a general security guard, and now I have a post at Albany Int. Is it so wrong to have to administer the "stinky pinky" now and then to ensure that someone doesn't have C4 shoved up their posterior? This is the War On Terror people, and sometimes the reality ain't pretty. Frankly, I would suggest full cavity searches for people entering many public buildings, especially elevated risk areas like high schools.

Clifford (at your service)

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I don't feel safe with ALB's finest. They do focus too much on the minute crap and not enough looking at the overall person and their contents. I wish ALB - and the rest of the country - would get in line with Israel and institute the use of profiling. It works - there's a reason why not a single Israeli airliner has been hijacked since Entebbe (mid-70's). On my last trip to Tel Aviv, I was asked 20 to 25 questions - where am I going? Where am I staying? Am I seeing anyone in the country? Do I have any gifts for anyone? What is my occupation? As for the last one - sure, I wrote it down, but they want to see your expressions when they ask you questions to your face.

But alas, people here are too afraid of being tagged as racists, sexist pigs or some kind of chauvinists if they carry out profiling. Too bad.

7:10 PM  

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