The Transportation Security Agency must reform its security policy in order to improve the experience.
Foremost, TSA screening procedures do not work. The new full-body scanners going into effect in every airport have repeatedly been found to fail to catch trained testers smuggling in explosives designed to bring down airplanes, according to CNN. The mechanical parts necessary to build bombs have repeatedly gone through X-ray machines undetected. Three fluid ounces of liquids have proven to be enough to build a bomb.
Nevertheless, the TSA is firm in adhering to policies that might not be optimal.
By comparison, the security personnel in the European Union do a much gentler job of checking travelers for bombs and weapons. Families with small children are not put through humiliating security procedures designed to ruin their trips to Disneyland. EU security personnel realize the threat that terrorists might pose, but they also realize that effective screening procedures need not be intrusive and harsh. EU security personnel also have the benefit of being moderately well-liked, or at least not actively hated. In turn, this makes European travelers far more likely to work with European security personnel to adhere to security policies and police other travelers to prevent terrorist attacks, according to Your Europe.
In fact, the TSA should note that there have been no incidents of terrorist hijackings of airplanes since 9/11, including in Europe, where standards are much lower, and in many parts of Africa and Asia, where the standards are lower still. The TSA is convinced that spending lots of money and compromising the dignity of individual travelers is the only way to stop terrorists, when the reality is just the opposite.
John Mueller, a professor of political science at Ohio State, found that the costs of maintaining the full-body scanners and other security measures at airports costing more than $1.2 billion per year is only justified on a cost-analysis basis if there is guaranteed to be a terrorist attack every two years and the TSA is able to stop that threat. Because TSA has repeatedly been unable to stop a trainer from bringing bombs through airport security, and the costs are astronomical, the TSA needs to take a look at seriously reforming policies. There are low-cost and less invasive alternatives to stopping terrorist threats that have proven to be just as effective as the measures currently in place in U.S. airports.
The goal of the TSA is to stop a terrorist attack. The difference between a terrorist attack and a run-of-the-mill murder is that a terrorist attack is specifically designed to instill terror in the minds of the victims and the countrymen of the victims. Thus, the attacks on 9/11 were more than just 3,000 dead Americans; it was a nationally significant event that has shaped American policy for years, causing leaders to take us into two unjust wars and a nebulous mission to stop terrorism worldwide. By comparison, cancer kills 3,000 Americans every two days but curing cancer is much less of a national priority than stopping terrorism. When it comes to instilling fear in the minds of Americans, however, terrorist groups like al-Qaida have been unable to perpetrate a major attack against the U.S. since 9/11. Yet, every year, the TSA intimidates millions of American travelers.
The people most likely to be harmed and stopped because of the policies of the TSA are not terrorists. Average American travelers, who are more concerned with having enough leg room on the plane than with murdering innocents, are the most likely to be adversely and disproportionately affected by the current TSA practices.
Dan Morgan-Russell is a freshman majoring in international relations.
Children should not be given special treatment when it comes to the safety and welfare of all passengers.
“They said they needed to pat her down,” Nathan Forck told the New York Daily News. “They wouldn’t give her Lambie.”
Making a little girl in a wheelchair cry on her way to Disney World is not okay. But, it would also be unfair to blame the TSA for the incident, as the agents at Lambert-St. Louis International were simply trying to follow protocol in an admittedly sensitive situation. Instead, Lucy’s parents should have done a better job in cooperating and explaining the situation to their child. Doing so could have avoided the stress for Lucy altogether.
Going through airport security can be a pain, but following 9/11, the U.S. government has supported TSA’s security protocols as crucial to America’s safety. To be fair, there hasn’t been a terrorist attack carried out on U.S. soil since. It’s impossible to tell whether that’s because of extra safety precautions or military action against terrorist groups, but the current system is effective without infringing on citizen’s rights.
With the expansion of these security protocols over the past decade, everyone who travels even semi-frequently should be aware of how the TSA checkpoints work. Lucy’s parents, traveling with a child with physical limitations, could have explained to the child the procedure she needed to go through, helping to mitigate the child’s stress. According to the TSA’s policies, Lucy’s parents could have spared Lucy a pat-down by carrying her through and putting the wheelchair through the scanner (Lucy was eventually allowed past without a pat-down, but agents tried to perform the procedure).
TSA even welcomes suggestions on how to best screen children with disabilities. Lucy’s parents could have formed a plan, explained it to Lucy and asked that TSA agents try their best to follow an alternate plan. Without direction, though, TSA agents are forced to follow protocol. Because Lucy’s parents didn’t carry her through and she remained in the wheelchair, there was no other way to search her than a pat-down.
The fact of the matter is that the TSA needs to follow its protocols with consistency. It’s tragic, but terrorists do use children: Joseph Kony turned the Uganda into a training camp for his child soldiers. Al Qaida has 5-year olds with firearms taught to be martyrs for the organization. If young children in the world are suicide bombers, then children in the U.S. cannot be exempt from airport security searches. If terrorism is going to be attempted on U.S. soil, it has to be assumed it will take similar forms to terrorism in the Middle East. And that includes children.
It might seem silly that a white toddler in a wheelchair was thoroughly searched by the TSA. Couldn’t the examiners just let Lucy through when they saw how distraught she was? After all, toddlers rarely have access to bombs. However, I’m proud to say our airport security doesn’t racially profile and assume people of Middle Eastern descent are the only ones capable of using children for suicide bombing. Alternatively, Lucy, adorable and handicapped, would be the perfect target for someone to plant a bomb, perhaps even without her or her parents’ knowledge. Searching Lucy doesn’t need to imply that she’s a terrorist. However, if everyone isn’t thoroughly searched before entering a plane, everyone’s lives are in danger.
Leona Fallas is a freshman majoring in sociology.