Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
Question One: Will the Transportation Safety Administration soon get its own separate listing on eHarmony.com?
I’m heading from California to Connecticut for a family Thanksgiving and am anticipating a TSA body scan and/or pat down. Usually I tell people I’m traveling “for the Thanksgiving spread” — but this isn’t what I had in mind.
This year due to the economy turkey donations are down. Perhaps it’s because all of the turkeys are serving in Congress. But not all:
You have to wonder about the Obama Administration and TSA officials who have so utterly failed to explain why TSA is doing the enhanced body scans and “intimate” pat downs that attracted so much negative publicity that some ask whether TSA should be renamed T&A. TSA isn’t using new technology and old-school, police-style body pat downs because they find their jobs boring and want something new to do.
I was scanned at San Diego’s airport in early September and it didn’t bother me. TSA officials didn’t stand around, point to my body scan and laugh. On the other hand, they didn’t run over and congratulate me, either. So they didn’t ruin ““ or make ““ my day.
There are all kinds of potential (lame) jokes here: TSA is groping for a hands-on airline security solution”¦TSA is trying to get a feel of the traveling public”¦TSA agents’ favorite sport is handball”¦TSA will open a bakery specializing in buns”¦Andy Horowitz had the best Twitter line: “Last night during sex my wife cried out the name of a TSA employee.”
Late night comedians are thanking God. Jay Leno: “”Now, to make it worse, the airlines are charging a $15 molestation fee.” David Letterman’s Top Ten List included these: “4. Passengers have option to be frisked by security or airport Cinnabon employee”¦6. You can watch other passengers get groped for 99 cents a minute”¦9. To your left, x-ray conveyor belt; to your right, complimentary hot buffet.”
Negative stories abound. A Rye, N.H., grandmother’s zippered cargo pants triggered the metal detector so she was subjected to a TSA official’s grope. “She touched my private parts,” Diane Bitter told the local newspaper. A flight attendant and cancer survivor said she was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat-down. A Florida bladder cancer survivor says a TSA pat down broke his urine-collecting urostomy bag. A You Tube shows a young boy being strip searched.
Who is doing TSA’s PR? Mel Gibson?
Bigwigs respond by insisting stepped-up security is needed and noting that those refusing would have to remain on the premises and be questioned by TSA or law enforcement officials. Those who leave could be arrested or fined $11,000.
While many Americans find such searches unwelcome, a portion of the criticism is political. Some opposed Homeland Security’s establishment because it was a big government agency and insist private business should do airport security. Reality: if an airport “opts out” of TSA, a private company still uses TSA standards — and is supervised by TSA.
So some fanning this controversy raging across party lines have political motives, but they don’t need to fan it: TSA’s public relations incompetence does that for them. A CBS poll found that four out of 5 Americans support airport body scans. So the rub (so to speak) is the body search.
TSA phased in these techniques without sufficiently explaining why: terrorists not fitting traditional profiles, terrorists finding ways to get through existing systems and technologies, and new harder to detect terrorist explosives.
A San Diego friend told me: “Heck, if it ensured bombs were off planes I’d take all of my clothes off.”
I would, too, but that might qualify as a terrorist act.
Question Two: If body scans and pat downs were greatly scaled back or stopped and there was a horrific airplane security-related terrorist act precisely who would be laughing then?
Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at mavenproductions.com.
Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman