Archive for November 18th, 2010

Airport Security: Don’t touch my junk

November 18, 2010

There is a great deal of comment on U.S. programming right now on the new airport security rules and the choice being given of going through the new scanner units that essentially strip you naked electronically or a very personal physical pat-down by security personnel.

The big story the past few days was about a traveler who was ejected from the San Diego airport for refusing to go through the scanner or agree to the physical pat-down, telling the screener, “If you touch my junk, I’m going to have you arrested,”

I was the recipient of the procedure going through the Vancouver airport a month or so ago.

On general principles I turned down the opportunity to use the scanner (I don’t know exactly why, as I volunteered to go through one a few years ago in the Kelowna airport at a time when they were just testing them out. I suspect I was just succumbing to the old cranky man syndrome this particular day).

Anyway, in Vancouver because I passed on the scanner, I received the obligatory pat-down. The security fellow abd I had a far too personal experience. I had the feeling (actually, he was doing the feeling) that he was a tad more uncomfortable with the procedure than I was.

Regardless, I don’t think I would take that route again.

In fact, flying out of Kelowna a few days ago I was honoured by being picked for a more detailed security check – at least I hope that it was  a random check as I would hate to think that I have been elevated to some government security risk list, although I might qualify for the one that includes ‘cranky old men’.

This check required me to step inside the de-clothing scanner and also required me to take off my shoes and have the interior of my carry-on bag manually inspected. All very politely done though.

Now, if truth be told, I really have no problem going through the scanner. If they want to inspect my private parts via electronics they are welcome to scan away. If perchance the people viewing my electronically de-clothed  body get some titillation from the viewing that is their personal problem. However I suspect that viewing my body parts on a monitor will never gather a crowd in the booth.

But I can certainly see where some travelers would have a problem with the process.

The scanning is supposed to be private and the image is supposed to be deleted immediately after the scanning. But there have been some stories to indicate that this is not always the case.

People are cynical about promises coming from the bureaucracy. This is more than understandable when you think about the recent incident where trained police officers – supposedly professionals – watched sexual activities in one of their jail cells as though it was a private porn show.  It certainly casts doubt on any assurances that airport security personnel can somehow be expected to rise to the occasion and be more professional and discreet.

The other thing is whether all of this additional screening actually makes flying any safer or whether it simply boils down to an attempt to make the public feel as though they are safer.

When you think of it, every new procedure to control the traveling public comes after some failed attempt rather than before.

After the 911 attacks where the terrorists used box cutters to take over the plane, for a time they banned safety razors in carry-on bags. A regulation that didn’t survive the stupidity test.

When there were stories of terrorists bringing dangerous materials on the plane in containers they limited the size of the toothpaste and shaving cream, etc containers that you could bring on in your carry bag.

After the shoe bomber they started making you take your shoes off.

When the underwear bomber was caught they decided that they needed to peek into your pants.

The bad guys just seemed to move on to the next scenario.

I do wonder at what point the powers-that-be will have the epiphany that the way to keep the airspace completely safe is to simply keep people off the planes. Problem solved.

I have always felt that a real weakness in the security system is all of those people who work behind the security wall on a regular basis. This would include the contracted luggage handlers, the mechanics, the people who clean the planes and even the security personnel themselves. Are there ongoing security measures in place that are at least as stringent as those that the flying public are put through?

From my personal point of view flying has become so unfriendly that I tend to avoid it unless it is absolutely necessary. And if it continues to become even more unfriendly – as it undoubtedly will – I expect that I will find more and more reasons why I don’t have to fly at all.

I remember with some fondness when air travel was fun. Those days, unfortunately, because of events and the times are long gone.

Today flying is akin to bus travel with wings. In fact traveling in today’s modern buses with their air conditioning and on-board entertainment may well be a lot more fun, albeit much slower, than flying.