When we publish Global Perspectives http://www.bootheglobalperspectives.com, we hate to admit it, but the TSA has handed victory to Osama Bin Laden.
I travel more than most and every time I wait in line at an airport, dealing with the cumbersome TSA procedures, I think, "Yes Osama won." Osama Bin Laden caused the United States to over react with institutional paranoia, to the threat of the ghost of terrorism.
I recall the statement that U.S. Congressman Ralph Hall made when I had difficulty parking near the House Office Building for an appointment in Washington, D.C. "Ben, our government over-reacted with 'Homeland security, and 90% of our reaction is ineffective and more for public image than for true security. It will take 20 years for our nation to get over this over-reaction.'"My 86 year old mother is as innocent and non threatening person as you could imagine. I recall, watching the TSA agents pat her down, make her remove items of clothing and in general harass and bully her as she hobbled through airport security.
A dear friend from India, a University professor, was "ambushed" by the TSA, and made him go through their new imaging devices 3 times. In frustration, he took off his shirt and trousers.
TSA went bonkers, surrounded him, and finally found a tiny piece of foil from a slice of chewing gum, that had fallen into his pants cuff. Then they lectured him and told him that he could not get on the airplane unless the captain of the plane approved it. The airline pilot came in and started laughing at the TSA's treatment of this distinguished educator.
He said: "Of course, we welcome you aboard, if you promise not to undress again."Our nation has sat back and allowed absurd humiliation, as the TSA tries such stupid tactics. We have all had our "deodorant", "hair lotion", or "mouthwash" seized in the name of homeland security. We should figure something is wrong with our system when it is easier, and more convenient to fly in "Red" China, than in the United States. (see: http://www.benboothe.com)
I think of other TSA experiences that have been documented:
* A U.S. veteran, a medal of honor winner in Texas was detained because he would not allow them to seize his medal. It was seized because it had a "pin" that was considered a weapon.
*An elderly lady ill with cancer, refused to walk through because her body was already racked and sensitive to radiation treatments.
*As for me, I have avoided radiation exposure all of my life, even not allowing dentists to x-ray me. I also prefer not to have some government cop touch my most private body parts.
So what would be wrong with creating categories of "risk" groups? Most business executives like me are "zero risk", we just want to go about our business. We just need to get to our meetings and business locations quickly.
Most 86 year old mothers are zero risk. Most medal of honor winners are of zero risk.
Come on now, does logic and common sense have any influence with TSA? I think that we all know that Islamic extremist religious groups would be in a "high risk" group, requiring more scrutiny. Anyone with a record of violent behavior or weapons charges, or emotional instability, or with prison records, should be in focus. Groups from some nations that sponsor terrorism should be patted, x-ray-ed, and even interviewed. But retired American veterans, little old ladies, young children, and heartland American citizens, come on!
Consider these objections:
1. Radiation exposure issues.
2. Personal privacy.
3. Inconvenience and invasion of personal property.
4. Removal of clothing, touching of personal items of clothing, rummaging through underwear, private prescriptions, private photographs.
5. Seizing my finger nail file, or toothpaste doesn't really seem to be a strong deterrent of terrorism.
6. My wife, an American citizen has an accent and has been detained again and again. She doesn't look like she is from Ohio, so she gets searched, patted and targeted nearly every time we travel. But when she is traveling with 2 small children and trying to "maintain" discipline and order, the last thing she needs is some TSA thug giving her a hard time.
7. Intimidation and general emotional stress. We should find it offensive that these TSA people treat American citizens with disrespect and demeaning "pat downs" that seem more like the goon cops from third world nations.
Americans have legitimate concerns about airport security and continued harassment by our own TSA.
We might wonder if the TSA has created more insecurity and "terror" in the minds of more people, than Osama Bin Laden ever could have. As for me, I am always afraid of minimal wage people of limited education who are given the power of the badge, the power to arrest, detain and even the power to wound or hurt someone. The average starting salary for TSA people is $12.50 an hour. Some are former taxi drivers, some formerly worked for bars, or as waiters in restaurants. Give people like this a little authority, a badge, and sometimes a weapon and mistakes will happen.
Remember the poor man in Chicago, who was shot by an armed "guard", because he was having a nervous condition, went into a spasm and kept walking through the sky tunnel exiting the airplane when the guard shot him in the back.
We need to consider the overall concept of the TSA. It is a poorly conceived, poorly implemented agency trying to achieve an impossible task, with poorly trained people, working in high stress situations, with people who are already at high stress levels trying to make flight connections.
Life has risk. Travel has risk. My thesis is that these people increase the difficulty and stress of travel. By doing so they actually increase the risk of travel, by making us all more testy, irritable, and frustrated. The TSA works in reaction. Shoe bomber, so next 10,000,000 people have to remove their shoes. Box cutter, so 10,000,000 people can't carry a pocket knife or finger nail file. Underwear bomber, so now 10,000,000 people get a dose of radiation and a massage of breast and penis, for the privilege of flying. It is absurd. What do we do if a terrorist swallows an explosive device, make 10,000,000 people throw up before getting on the plane?
What is next, making a proctologist examine each one of us?
The point is, that there is no way to cover every conceivable risk, and the "reactionary" philosophy of the TSA is simply absurd. It has been absurd from the beginning, and now, finally after years of abuse, American travelers are speaking out.
For years we stayed quiet because we bought the idea: "If you complain you are encouraging terrorism."
Now the TSA is resorting to threats, see this typical quote from TSA: "While TSA has the legal authority to levy a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for individuals who choose not to complete the screening process, each case is determined on the individual circumstances of the situation," said Greg Soule, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA later admitted that they had never fined anyone, so this is simply a PR move to further intimidate the public.
So the logic is like this Orwellian thought: "Let us harass good American citizens and we will stop terrorism." It is like a preacher screaming at his church in attendance, for not attending church. It makes not sense, this TSA approach.
We, as a nation, are finally are figuring out that the logic is wrong. Good American citizens, you remember America the "Home of the brave and the land of the fee" should not allow ourselves to be intimidated, harassed or bullied. Good Americans should speak out, use our freedoms of speech and our brilliant creativity and make better systems that work.
So, fellow Americans this is my suggestion. Protest. Don't participate meekly or happily. Make the government (our government) change the system, don't walk on through like blind sheep for slaughter, or like those people in Germany who quietly walked into the "death chambers" to be executed without protest. We are taught to be patriots and to hold our heads up high as Americans, yet we then allow an agency like the TSA to humiliate, probe, invade and intimidate us? Not in my America.
STEPS TO CONSIDER:
1. Make the system hire well educated and well trained and seasoned law enforcement people for TSA jobs. Orlando International Airport just fired the TSA and is going to hire private security companies to handle their security. About 15 other airports have opted out of the TSA system. We believe replacement of TSA workers with private workers is of little help, and suggest an overhaul of the entire approach.
2. Eliminate the "stand in line" systems, but rather make every traveler fill out an application and go through a sit down verbal and written interview once every 5 years. That interview will be by a trained professional who will do a thorough background check on every person and rate them accordingly. That person will be then given an automatic free pass through card if he "clears", otherwise only those who are questionable have to go through the gauntlet of TSA lines, x rays and pat downs. This is more like the system in Israel, that has been most successful.
3. The master data base will immediately put all law breakers, drug addicts, criminals, religious extremists on a list requiring that they go through security x rays and pat downs. The TSA has long had a "watch list" but has never gotten it right, and never fully implemented it. The rest of the population will be pre-approved for passage by clearance and will walk right through with no delay or invasive procedures. Only random people will be selected for the x-ray and pat down lines.
4. All luggage will be x-rayed, but in a manner that we don't have to wait in line for it, it will be done in a speedy "hand through walk through" process that hardly requires one to slow down their pace.
Anyone ready to go back to sanity and a better system now, are do we want to continue the harassment routine, that makes Osama Bin Laden win every day.
My premise is that much of the TSA work is ineffective and serves more to impress the ignorant masses of Americans than to actually stop terrorism.