November 30, 2010

Road Trip Philosophy – Weighing in on the TSA Debate

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

The new TSA regulations on pat downs and advanced imaging in airports has many people upset. And I understand why. Although I prefer to drive whenever possible (obviously because this is a road trip blog), I am often forced to fly when time constraints prevent me from taking the time to drive long distances. So I am naturally concerned about these new regulations.

In my opinion, the TSA has gone too far. With the old pat down procedures, agents ran the back of their hands along the passenger’s body. I didn’t enjoy the pat down, but I understood it. I have issues with personal space. I don’t like being touched by strangers. Heck, I don’t even like sitting too close to people I don’t know on a plane or subway car. So while the old pat down procedures made me uncomfortable, I was willing to go through it because I knew it was as minimally invasive as possible and served an important purpose.

But the new pat down procedures take it too far. Now TSA agents rub and grope passengers with open palms. Already there have been complaints of people with medical ailments being humiliated in front of other passengers in the name of security. A bladder cancer survivor who wears a bag that collects his urine said a TSA punctured the bag during an aggressive pat down and left him covered in his own urine. A breast cancer survivor was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat down, after the agent had grabbed it with her hand.

This isn’t protecting anyone. The TSA says the pat downs are for security from terrorism. But then why is the TSA terrorizing us? Why is it humiliating passengers, violating them physically and psychologically? I believe I have the right to physically safety when traveling – whether it is from a terrorist or a TSA agent. I don’t believe I should have to give up my right to safety from one to be protected from the other.

The alternative to the pat down is to go through a full body scanner, but that isn’t much better. Rather than being groped, poked and prodded, you walk through what is basically a large X-ray machine and allow the TSA agents to view your naked body. That is something I am just not okay with. Call me a prude, but I don’t like flashing my genitals to strangers. What’s worse is that the TSA or other federal agencies might be saving these images. That means the government could have nude pictures of me and my private parts on file. The very thought of that makes me nauseous.

Honestly, the new pat down procedures and the full body scanners make me afraid to fly. I am more afraid of being violated by TSA regulations that will expose me and violate me than of any other security threat.

But I’m not sure what I can do about it. Sometimes, I need to fly because driving isn’t possible. I can only hope that enough complaints will force the TSA to reevaluate how it violates passengers.


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