Less intrusive means of travel safety called for

“[Transportation Security Agency] is in the process of implementing new pat-down procedures at checkpoints nationwide as one of our many layers of security to keep the traveling public safe. Pat-downs are one important tool to help TSA detect hidden and dangerous items such as explosives. Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams, among others.” — Oct. 28

The public outrage after the 9/11 terrorist attacks served as the catalyst for the largest expansion in government since World War II.

It’s easy to forgive a wary, shell-shocked public for conceding personal liberties in the name of civic security.

The most immediate problem was that of prevention: How did a global superpower with well-funded domestic and international intelligence agencies fall victim to the single most catastrophic, expertly coordinated terrorist attack of the modern era?

Fueled by paranoia and public cries for accountability, Congress reacted with the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, followed shortly thereafter by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, thus resulting in the creation of the TSA.

Integrated into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, it is the sole responsibility of the TSA to ensure aviation security at 450 of our nation’s airports. Along with the Federal Air Marshals, the TSA employs 45,000 security officers, otherwise known as screeners, to the tune of $24,000 to $36,000 of your tax money per year.

Since its inception, the TSA hasn’t been wildly popular. Thanks to the botched “shoe bombing” by Richard Reid, new security regulations came out mandating shoe removal, limits to the size of liquid containers allowed in carry-on luggage, and the guaranteed confiscation of any object that could be remotely construed as a deadly weapon.

The TSA implemented new screening policies for all passengers Oct. 29, including scans from ‘backscatter’ X-ray machines designed to detect contraband invisible to metal detectors. These scans generate a pseudo-nude silhouette of the individual in question, bringing about the subject of privacy concerns in an increasingly digital era.

If passengers refuse to be scanned, they become subject to a thorough pat-down from a total stranger with little to no law enforcement training. Procedures include inner-leg frisking up to the groin, and under-the-waistband checks for passengers wearing ‘baggy’ attire.

We’re all for air security — traveling 500 mph in a chair five miles in the sky most certainly merits the utmost in careful planning.

However, we also understand how partially disrobing and subjecting oneself to a semi-nude photo op and/or heavy petting might seem a bit disconcerting, weekend activities and Facebook profiles notwithstanding. 

“How safe is safe enough?” is a slippery slope, folks. “Safety” is responsible for the demise of everything from the jungle gym to Four Loko, and sadly, accountability along with it. It seems we can’t trust ourselves to do anything remotely stupid without swift legislative or courtroom precedence.

We’re increasingly fearful of the world we live in, up to the point of literal government molestation. Then comes the backlash. 

Fear not, Daily faithful: Our savior, U.S. House Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act and called for the private sector to step in with less intrusive means of airport security. We’re all for that idea, and we’ll link to the press release in the online edition.

Almost every one of us will be traveling over the course of the next week. Here’s wishing luck to those traveling by air — we hear you’ll need it.

Stay safe, everyone, and enjoy your break.