Hentzel: Are TSA agents crossing a line?

Caytlin Hentzel

Summertime is upon us, and travel is more popular during this welcomed time of leisure. The names of cities like London, Cancun, Rome and Barcelona are on many lips, spoken with enthusiasm as plans are shared. We think about the destination, but not what it takes to get there — the long, stressful days of travel.

Dreading security, that looming line that winds ahead in a crowded hallway, you are forced put your belongings into plastic trays. Everything goes in, from your shoes, sweatshirts and suitcases to the spare change clinging to the inside of your pockets. It passes through the scanner, and the contents are observed on the screen. Once all the belongings are through, it is your turn.

Current technology allows airport security officials unprecedented access to information about passengers’ bodies. How that access is granted has become controversial in the eyes of both the general public and the state legislature.

New Hampshire, New Jersey, Hawaii and Texas are working to pass legislation that would limit physical contact officials between TSA officials and passengers. New methods have been introduced, such as full-body scanners and pat-down searches. If a passenger goes through a scanner and officials feel the need to look further, an officer conducts a pat-down search to confirm nothing dangerous is transported on board. It becomes an issue when TSA agents with blue-gloved hands feel the need to test the lining of sweatpants or underwear. People are demanding that if passengers are subjected to having their underwear lining checked, it should be a sex crime.

The actions of the 9/11 attackers and the underwear bomber started this escalation in security. All these terrorists were affiliated with Al-Qaeda; the former were successful, the latter unsuccessful. Most of us remember the news on September 11, 2001, when two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. As the towers fell, so did our hearts. All Americans mourned that day, not only in New York, but around the world. In 2009, a man was caught onboard a flight with a concealed package of plastic explosive in his underwear, which was supposed to be detonated using a syringe filled with acid. His goal was to make the plane explode above Detroit.  However, he only succeeded in lighting small flames and  making popping noises. The would-be terrorist was promptly handcuffed and detained.

When security breaches similar to that of the underwear bomber occur, the danger of air travel escalates. Therefore, customers choose alternate means of reaching their desired destinations. Whether they go by boat, train, or car, they are willing to bypass what is still considered the safest way to travel.

We need to take safety precautions to stop terrorists from jeopardizing the safety of passengers. I appreciate knowing that, when I am searched, officials have probable cause for their actions. I want to know they will be just as thorough with the person behind me as they were with me. TSA agents are taking the necessary precautions to keep the general public out of harm’s way, so another attack like the one on 9/11 does not happen again.