More Airport Ethics: The TSA, the Bedonkadonk and the Slobs


I’m not sure what to make of this scene, which I witnessed at Washington’s Reagan National airport as I waited to be scanned prior to my flight to Miami. I have some thoughts, though.

The young, zaftig, fascinatingly-shaped African American woman in front of me was wearing one of tightest, most revealing, shape-hugging, leaving-nothing-to-the-imagination knit dresses I or anyone has ever seen, especially in an airport. The garb was obviously chosen to highlight, as in broadcast world-wide, her most prominent and unusual asset: an awe-inspiring derriere, which appeared to be fit, toned, and suitable for showing a drive-in movie. She was attracting side-glances and open-mouths from all around her, male, female, and probably the machinery too, and obviously reveled in the attention.

When she stepped into the imager and was told to raise her hands over her head, she giggled and did a spontaneous bump and grind move, threatening the integrity of the structure. That did it. The young African-American male TSA agent was launched into smiles, winks, and a stream of comments on the women’s super-structure, along the lines of, “Damn, girl! Don’t go distracting me like that! How am I supposed to do my job? And man, I am distracted! Why, some big old terrorist could walk right by me while I’m taking you in, and then where would we be?” Laughs all around from the other agents, giggles and more gyrations from the woman, more banter from her admirer. Continue reading

Integrity Check For Homeland Security: Profiling At The Boston Marathon Bombing

...unless the government feels like it, in which case it's just fine. Got that?

…unless the government feels like it, in which case it’s just fine. Got that?

Shortly after the bombs went off in Boston, we were told that a “person of interest” was in custody and undergoing questioning. As detailed in a New Yorker piece, the young man who was apprehended and interrogated for five hours became a person of interest for one reason and one reason only: he “looked like a terrorist.” He was a Saudi national with a foreign name, and despite the fact that he was wounded in the blasts and acted no differently from any of the other horrified victims in the crowd, he was detained and his apartment was searched. Ultimately it was determined that he was innocent of wrongdoing, and he was released.

Oops! Never mind! Have a nice day!

Except I was under the impression that this practice, which is racial profiling beyond any question, was something this administration and the Dept. of Homeland Security rejected philosophically and practically. It is wrong, and it doesn’t work—or so those of us who are sick of going through invasive and time-consuming screenings at airports are told when we dare to suggest that there may be a better way than feeling up six-year-old girls and senile old men in wheelchairs. The conduct of agents and law enforcement officials in apprehending the young man for his garb, name and the color of his skin shows either that our government doesn’t really believe what it is telling us about profiling, or that it is willing to discard its human rights principles when the pressure is on. Which is it? I see no third explanation Continue reading

Why Professionalism Is Essential: TSA Edition

The man behind the curtain is pointing and laughing....

The man behind the curtain is pointing and laughing….

Taking Sense Away is a fascinating blog operated by a former TSA screener. It is essential reading for air travelers, libertarians, critics of the TSA and anyone else interested in the strange, often infuriating  airport security procedures that have evolved since the events of 9/11/2001. His perspectives are not universally accurate in all cases (he reminds us frequently), but it can’t make air travelers happy to read the following, which he recently revealed as part of his answer to an inquiry from a reader about the unseen aspects of screening:

“Now, the I.O. Room (the image operator room, where your nude images are viewed at airports that still use the backscatter x-ray full body scanners), that, my friend, is a whole different story. In the image analysis room, no one is permitted to leave or enter without ample warning (part of TSA’s promise to the public that officers “would never see the passenger whose nude image they just viewed,” although I did occasionally witness this being violated, see Confession #1) and, like the private screening room, recording devices of any kind are prohibited. So in summation: what you have are one to two to three TSA officers locked in a room, viewing nude passenger images, with a guarantee that no one can barge in on them, and that no surveillance cameras can legally be present.

“Just use your imagination on the stories among TSA officers of what has gone on in the I.O. room. Personally, in the I.O. room, I witnessed light sexual play among officers, a lot of e-cigarette vaping, and a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images,  dear passengers.  Things like this are what happens (at the very least) when you put people who are often fresh out of high school or a GED program (although there are actually a few TSA screeners with PhDs, which I guess is sad on so, so many levels) with minimal training and even less professionalism, into the position of being in charge of analyzing nude images of people in a hermetically sealed room.”

Nice, huh? Continue reading

The Pat-Down Rebellion: Government Arrogance and Abuse of Power, Meet American Culture

We may be seeing a sterling example of the innate American resistance to intrusive and excessive authority, just when it looked as if many citizens were prepared to  accept reductions in their dignity, privacy and freedom that past generations would never have countenanced.

As usual, the fuse has been lit by a combination of incompetence, bad management, and arrogance. Since the tragedy of 9-11, airplane passengers have been remarkably passive and tolerant in accepting increasingly inconvenient and de-humanizing security procedures at airports. They have allowed political correctness to hold sway over fairness and logic, subjecting decrepit seniors,  ten-year-old girls and U.S. Senators to aggressive wanding rather than employing reasonable profiling techniques. They have allowed near-miss terrorist attacks caused by sloppy Homeland Security procedures and execution to be addressed by punishing the public with increasingly more intrusive search techniques. But when new procedures involving full-hand body searches were recently instituted without due warning, while the new full-body scanning devices were standing unused because of a shortage of trained personnel, anger, resistance and traditional American refusal to be pushed around finally made their appearance. Why, passengers are asking, must they be molested to compensate for intelligence failures? Where are reasonable alternatives? Why are we being treated this way? Continue reading