Long airport security lines are necessary for safety


Air travel has quickly become an infamous inconvenience in American life.

As a direct result of the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which created the Transportation Security Administration, an organization tasked with improving airport security by way of more thorough screening procedures for passengers and their baggage. Since then, many new security measures have come into effect, requiring all passengers to remove their shoes and restricting liquid carry-ons.

Unfortunately, following the Christmas Day attempt to bomb a Northwest flight by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old man with purported ties to Al Qaeda, it seems inevitable that airport security will become even more of a hassle. The TSA is looking to expand the use of full-body scanning machines, which are able to identify weapons, explosives and wires that evade normal metal detectors. But in addition to detecting hidden contraband, these machines scan through clothing and generate a black-and-white photo of the body, raising concerns about privacy. Understandably, the American Civil Liberties Union is opposed to taking such measures to tighten security.

Daily Trojan | Thomas Curry

Since April 2008, full-body scan machines have already been in partial use at Los Angeles International Airport, which is frequented by USC students. The Los Angeles airport police union is now urging the machines be a requirement for every passenger. Many people might find this inconvenient.

In looking at the overall goal, however, it seems much more important to remain safe and secure. President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association Marshall McClain recently released a statement in support of the full-body scan: “All available technology and tools must be used to fix an obvious gap in security that puts airline travelers and crew members at risk. Testing of whole-body scanners at LAX has shown them to be highly effective in keeping dangerous materials off airplanes.”

The photo produced by the scan blurs out every passenger’s face and is instantly deleted after viewing. Also, a study by the American College of Radiology concluded that the radio waves used in the screening process are in no way harmful.

These full-body scans may also be preferable to an alternative safety procedure ­— more thorough body pat-downs, akin to police frisking. A test was conducted in 2007 at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where passengers had a choice between doing a full-body scan or getting a pat-down. According to the TSA, 90 percent of passengers chose to be scanned.

The current pat-down system is generally ineffective, as only the arms and legs are touched. Usually weapons will be hidden in more concealed places, such as the groin area that are off-limits when conducting pat-down searches — a security gap Abdulmutallab took advantage of.

Critics of the full-body scan machine also question the extra amount of time it would require travelers to arrive at the airport. As it is, people tend to arrive at the airport hours before their flight. An added full-body scan, which takes roughly 30 seconds to complete, could potentially tack on an hour or more to travel time. But though spending another hour lounging on the beach during a vacation beats the heck out of waiting in line at the noisy airport, it would be wise to take the extra precautions to ensure a safe arrival in the first place.

Abdulmutallab’s attempted bombing revealed weaknesses in the current air travel system. It seems that once an event like this occurs, everybody gets frightened and airport security steps up in response, but, after a while without incident, things start to get lax again.

Perhaps, if airports were to be consistent with strict security, potential terror attacks would be deterred. It would be ideal if we lived in a world where our airports didn’t have to be under terror watch at all but unfortunately, it’s a very real and very serious issue.

Cooperating with harsher security procedures might make air travel much more unpleasant, but at least we would fly with some peace of mind.

Rachel Vegas is an undeclared freshman.

  • Ron

    4 words: High Speed Rail System.

    This is exactly why I miss living in Europe – their rail system is exponentially better than the cattle cars Amtrak provides. It is real alternative and competition to the airline industry which is why pricing and service on European airlines is so much better than the mess we have here.

  • Ali

    “The only reason we don’t have more attacks is that very few terrorists are trying…”

    Now how in the world, do you suppose Mr. Disagree knows this? He nonchalantly writes this as if it’s a well-known fact, when in fact he has no idea that this is true.

    Thanks to Islam, Israel’s airport security takes a long time but has prevented any Islamists from achieving their goals. Let’s face it this is likely where we are heading, and in fact we are a long way toward this major inconvenience.

    Every time I wait in an aiprot security line I thank Islam for all it has contributed to my life. Things such as having to take my shoes off, remember to bring timy tubes of toothpaste, not to bring bottled water to the airport, and other great things like these.

    Now I understand we can add to this list the inability to go to the airplane’s washroom and hour before landing. That’s terrific, especially for kids and moms with babies. Thank you Islam!

  • Disagree

    It is simply not possible to make air travel 100% safe. I think we need to take a step back and ask ourselves how far we are willing to go, how much inconvenience we are willing to put up with, and how much privacy we want to sacrifice for a false sense of security. The fact is that after you walk through airport security you can walk down the terminal to whatever restaurant they have and order a steak with a steak knife. Boxcutter? How do think the people who work at the airport open boxes? These things have already made it past security. The only reason we don’t have more attacks is that very few terrorists are trying, not that our security is good enough to stop them. In the future we will face diminishing returns on all our security measures and increasing attacks on our liberty and privacy. If we allow ourselves to be scanned with these machines then the terrorists have won. They have destroyed the thing that makes us Americans–our freedom.