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"Opinion: In defense of the TSA"
Sunday, May 13, 2012
In defense of the TSA
Recent plots show why we need scans and searches
By GRAHAM HOLT
The New York (NY) Post
Not long ago, I was taking a train from my arrival terminal at the
Minneapolis/St. Paul airport to the car rental area, and I ran across an
off-duty airport employee.
She seemed tired and burdened with the day of work; she kept her head down and
stuck to herself. I struck up a conversation with her and she, somewhat
reluctantly, revealed that she was a Transportation Security Agency worker. I
thanked her for doing a tough and often thankless job. After I expressed my
thanks, she perked up immediately and mentioned how nice it was since very few
people bother to do so. She even mentioned that she had been called an
We often hear about the negative side of airport security, but rarely do we
recognize the great work that the majority of these agents do every day. Most
articles that I found thanking the TSA were along the lines of “Thank you for
taking my peanut butter TSA!”
But last week’s revelation that terrorists tried — yet again — to blow up
an airplane using a bomb sewn into underwear should remind fliers why the
patdowns and scans are necessary.
If this seems intrusive, it’s only because the madmen are depraved. Al Qaeda
has implanted explosives inside bombers; they’ve used chemical bombs and shoe
bombs and bombs in computers — all the things that the TSA bans or searches.
But I don’t look like a terrorist, you protest. Why am I being treated like a
criminal? But what does a terrorist look like, when there are al Qaeda
sympathizers from different nations, and women are being used as suicide
bombers in the Middle East? And it’s the very randomness of the searches that
serves as a deterrent.
Mayor Bloomberg argues last week that stop and frisk searches by the police,
like DUI checkpoints, isn’t about how many guns you find or how many drunks
you arrest. It’s also about those people who decide not to carry a gun or get
drunk and drive in the first place.
The truth is no one likes to be stopped and searched. But it isn’t the police
or the TSA who are to blame — it’s the criminals.
On a good day, security agents are criticized and thought of as scum. On a bad
day, well — let’s hope that those days never happen. Because those same
critics who complain about the TSA searches will be asking what went wrong.
That isn’t to say that a little more common sense could be used, a little
more sensitivity to a child, an elderly person or the disabled.
But for every one outraged video on YouTube, millions of travelers pass through
with little real intrusion into our lives.
In my going through TSA-controlled security nearly 300 times in the past nine
years, I’ve never seen an agent act in an inappropriate fashion. I think that
the tendency to criticize more than we praise is just part of human nature. We
tend to ignore good service, but we latch onto bad interactions. We take the
TSA for granted. Every day, they’re unsure of what they will encounter. It
could be an old lady that is confused about the liquids rule, or someone with
enough explosives in their underpants to take down a plane. Take a minute to
think about that, and then tell me that a moment of inconvenience isn’t worth
Airport Insecurity, Part 2 of 3: A strained work force
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