Sunday, May 3, 2015

Security screening: Another anguished story

Lots of media, and other sensible people, are picking up on the fact the TSA has a major public relations problem on its hands because of new screening procedures it's using -- although it's unclear if the airport security agency knows what a good public image is, or if it cares much. As you can see from the post below from Tuesday and another post last week, TSA is installing scanners at airports that basically do a strip search on you, or if you don't want to use the machines and expose yourself to the radiation involved, you can get an "enhanced" patdown, which by all reports is a pretty thorough rubdown of your whole body, genitalia included.

Security screening: Another anguished story

Lots of media, and other sensible people, are picking up on the fact the TSA has a major public relations problem on its hands because of new screening procedures it's using -- although it's unclear if the airport security agency knows what a good public image is, or if it cares much. As you can see from the post below from Tuesday and another post last week, TSA is installing scanners at airports that basically do a strip search on you, or if you don't want to use the machines and expose yourself to the radiation involved, you can get an "enhanced" patdown, which by all reports is a pretty thorough rubdown of your whole body, genitalia included.

The Inquirer's Linda Loyd had a good story today on the new procedures, which are only being used at PHL's Terminal F right now, and the concerns of US Airways pilots about them. For anyone who doesn't see this is as a problem, read the  personal account of a young mother who went through the full patdown process in front of her small children in July and now has nightmares about it. Her words were left as a comment (from Sharon) on my Winging It blog post Tuesday. 

To learn more about this whole topic and particularly the concerns of American Airlines pilots, The Atlantic magazine's Jeffrey Goldberg has written extensively about it. The best of his information is in previous posts on the Atlantic's Web site; links to those articles can be found just to the right of this one about the American pilots. In several articles, an important Goldberg source is Bruce Schneier, a security consultant who I quoted in a Winging It column early this year, soon after the Christmas Day underwear bomber incident.

Schneier says two things have made flying safer since 9/11: Reinforced cockpit doors on commercial airliners and the willingness of passengers to fight back if they are on a plane with someone intent on doing harm. Other than that, he says, disaster has been avoided largely becuase of luck: The would-be terrorists were stupid and attempted to do things that didn't work. Most of what TSA does is theater to make us feel safer, he says. Links to more of Schneier's works can be found within Goldberg's articles. 

About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at tbelden@phillynews.com. Reach Tom at tbelden@phillynews.com.

Tom Belden
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