With this piece on transportation security we introduce Richard Biter, a new addition to our contributors. Rich’s many years at the U.S. Department of Transportation gave him a ring-side seat to, among other things, the rise and demise of the Office of Intermodalism and the creation of the Transportation Security Administration…before the Department of Homeland Security was hatched. Like most of us who shuffle through Federal airport security, Rich has some thoughts to share.
I’ve been reading with alarming interest how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and it’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have been instituting new airport security measures which include “naked” body scanners (approximately 350 are in place now with an estimated 1,000 by the end of 2011) combined with aggressive and personally intrusive “pat-downs” for those that opt out of being scanned or otherwise chosen at random. These new procedures are inciting major a backlash from the both the traveling masses and the rare coalition of air travel related organizations that represent travelers, unions and business.
While I could get into a whole litany of issues I have with DHS/TSA airline/airport security, here’s just one example of where the kids have taken over school: A pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, recently refused to undergo a full-body scan at Memphis International Airport in Memphis, TN. The pilot later stated “I was trying to avoid this assault on my person, and I’m not willing to have images of my nude body produced for some stranger in another room to look at either.” TSA’s response was that “security is not optional” and any person who refuses security screening is not allowed to fly.
Now let’s think about that for a second…here we subject pilots to rigorous, indeed onerous, security checks to prevent them from bringing any weapons onto an aircraft, only to allow those very same pilots to climb into a locked and secured cockpit. From there they can fly their passenger laden planes most anywhere a tank of fuel can take them. Frankly, if a pilot wants to fly into a building or the ground there is no way to stop him/her. Yeah, yeah, yeah…there’s the argument that a pilot could sneak a gun in and give it to someone else on another flight. And the gun-toting security guys/gals already behind the security barriers can’t do the same thing? Where’s the adult-in-charge that can bring some commonsense reasoning into this process who can say “Wait a minute people…at some point we have to establish a level of trust into the system and we should start with the flight crew.”
Now here’s another point to ponder. We all saw and heard about the plight of the people on the Carnival cruise ship Splendor which was crippled for three days at sea after an engine fire. But did you know that even though it never docked at a foreign port, DHS’s Custom and Border Protection still ran a check of the passenger manifest before it was towed back to San Diego, CA? Under what authority allows them to do that? Followed to its logical extension, will marine highway operators and recreational boaters, e.g. deep-sea fishing, at some point be required to submit to inspection or file a passenger manifest with DHS even though they never dock at a foreign port? Hmmmm.