Ever since 911, millions of Americans have seen their privacy invaded for the name of safety and security. Unfortunately, that is the world we now live in, thanks to the abundance of technologies. In response to the terrorist threats to the security of American airline travelers, the federal government created the TSA.
According to the TSA website:
“Following September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems and ensure the freedom of movement for people and commerce. Today, TSA secures the nation’s airports and screens all commercial airline passengers and baggage. TSA uses a risk-based strategy and works closely with transportation, law enforcement and intelligence communities to set the standard for excellence in transportation security.”
“TSA has established guiding principles to maintain the security of the traveling public and continuously set the standard for excellence in transportation security.”
Over the past eleven years, TSA Agents have been groping people and stealing their possessions in the name of security. Millions of us have had shampoo, toothpaste and a myriad of other items confiscated because they were too big or appeared on the infamous list of banned items. How many of us have had a TSA agent look at virtually nude images of our bodies in the name of security?
After any airline incident, TSA would tighten up their security and ban more items and place more restrictions on what was allowed on the planes. Passengers were forced to remove their shoes and belts if necessary, empty their pockets, take off their jewelry, jackets, sweaters and coats and pull their laptops out of their cases. I remember one time seeing TSA agents tell everyone to turn on their laptops to make sure they were a working computer. My laptop had a lot loaded on it and it took 2-3 minutes to fully boot up, especially when it was trying to connect to the internet and couldn’t in the airport. Many people in line were frustrated with the added waiting. And yet, people still manage to smuggle weapons and explosives on board airlines.
With all of the negative publicity, TSA has been trying to lax their policies to make it more friendly and to help avoid the huge lines and delays that occur in airports around the nation. Most of us think this is a good thing, and I’m one of them.
However, I believe TSA’s latest move may prove to be the most dangerous one they’ve made yet. Currently, frequent flyers have been able to take advantage of an expedited screening process that enables them to keep their shoes, lighter outwear and belts on and keep their laptops in their cases. The Precheck program allows them to pass through screening with less scrutiny than non-frequent flyers like myself. They say that there are around 12 million people enrolled in the Precheck program.
Later this year, TSA is going to open the program up to everyone in the US who is willing to pay an $85 enrollment fee. Enrolling can be done online or at an enrollment site and only requires some form of identification, fingerprints and the $85. Anyone who doesn’t want the airline to know who they really are can obtain a fake ID and can easily get the fingerprints from other people without their knowledge. Some will be clever enough to develop some kind of weapon or explosive device that could be concealed in their laptop, shoes, belt or outer garments.
In time, someone is bound to try to get past TSA security using the Precheck program and eventually someone will be successful. Is TSA really worth the hundreds of millions of dollars it is costing taxpayers? Have they really saved that many lives? At what point do we trade in our freedoms and privacy for the sake of security? Can there be a balance between the two in today’s violent world?