March 9, 2017 (Fault Lines) – No government agency is more dedicated to expressing its complete and utter contempt for the American people than the TSA. Anyone in doubt of this should look to the TSA’s new, more invasive pat-down protocols. The new procedure is designed to “lessen officers’ cognitive burdens,” or in layman’s terms, protect them from the perils of thinking. The TSA knows these new procedures will alarm and outrage travelers. But the TSA wants what it wants, and what it wants is to grope people.
What will these new, more invasive protocols entail? In 2011, as part of a pat-down, a TSA agent stuck her hand inside columnist Amy Alkon’s labia. Less than three months ago, CNN commentator Angela Rye reported a similar experience in Detroit. Women have reported being subject to invasive searches because they were on their period, or because their breast cancer treatment set off the machine.
Others have had their breasts exposed. All of this occurred before the TSA rolled out these new searches, which the Denver Airport warned employees “will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.”
Rye and other women have posted videos of their encounters with the TSA. If someone touched another person this way in a bar or subway car, it would be sexual assault. Lest anyone think that these people consented to this, keep in mind that walking away from a TSA pat-down can lead to an $11,000 fine.
This means that today’s travelers can either let the TSA run them through a scanner that exposes their medical devices, implants, and piercings, or endure a pat-down with an eleven-grand penalty for walking out. If the scanner goes ping or TSA decides to subject them to additional screening, they get scanned and searched. Facing this choice, it will not improve said traveler’s disposition to learn that the TSA’s own incompetence is the reason the options are virtual strip search or sexual assault.
Despite the invasiveness of their searches, the TSA is laughably bad at actually detecting weapons or explosives. In 2015, a Department of Homeland Security team was able to smuggle weapons and explosives through checkpoints 95 percent of the time. In April of last year, a test in Minneapolis revealed similar incompetence.
The invasive procedures are part of the effort to address these failings and to prevent cunning schemes like taping explosives to a person’s back. Previously, the TSA had five different types of security pat-downs and chose among them based on risk. Choosing from five options was apparently too challenging for their crack team of screeners. In 2015, the scanner detected the explosives on the DHS agent, but whatever pat-down screeners chose, they didn’t find the bomb.
Reeling from the embarrassment of being tricked by a plot from Die Hard, the TSA determined that the cure is to reduce security screeners’ “cognitive burdens.” Now, rather than having to pick among options, TSA screeners will give everyone the same, more intensive groping.
The consequences of this decision will likely fall on the most vulnerable travelers. The TSA’s scanning machines pick up prosthetics and implants, so many of the people searched will be those with medical issues. Others will be pregnant women who, reasonable or not, are worried about the effects of scanners on their children and opt for pat-downs.
Another group that is likely to trip a scanner or otherwise break a rule and get a pat-down: children. Any parent who has tried to get their child to pack a school backpack or even to sit still for a few hours knows that children don’t always follow adult rules. This is just one of the travails of parenting. At a checkpoint, the stakes are much higher.
If your ten-year-old sneaks a juice box into their bag, the TSA is feeling her up. If a four-year-old runs over to hug her grandmother, she’s getting patted down. In short, everyone who flies, or has loved ones who fly will likely find themselves, their children, or someone they care about on the receiving end of one of these searches.
The contempt for travelers that it takes for the TSA to make such a choice is mind-boggling. Their searches regularly generate appalling examples of abuse and inhumanity while failing to detect contraband. They concluded that a reason they were ineffective was their screeners’ inability to assess risk and search accordingly. Rather than retrain staff or fire the incompetents, they decided it would be easier to grope everyone and to alert police that it was just part of the drill in case anyone complained.
No agency with this much contempt for the people they serve should be permitted to endure, particularly when there is a ready replacement. Airports have the option to use private security and these firms appear to do at least as well as their government peers. Currently, the TSA is preventing more airports from doing this but there is no reason Congress has to let them.
Get TSA screeners out of airports. At this point, a hastily lobotomized sheepdog would be about as effective at locating contraband, and at least the sheepdog wouldn’t use its cognitive failures as an excuse to grope more travelers.