Devil's Advocate – TSA v US air travellers

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November 25, 2010 12:41

Hi,

I’m the Devil’s advocate and in this episode I’m going to defend the US Transport Safety Administration’s position regarding the so-called ‘invasive’ screening and pat down searches and the chatter surrounding it.

First of all, let me remind all of us that these security measures, including body scans and pat-downs, are necessary to keep people safe. It’s all about security. It’s all about everyone recognizing their role. Our intelligence has picked up discussions of terrorists arguing the use of prosthetic or medical devices to conceal explosives. Moreover, these pat-downs put in place are a combination of intelligence and covert testing that lead the TSA to conclude that more efforts are needed to make air travel secure. During our trials, one of the things we found that the covert testing was able to get through security. It was largely because we were not being thorough enough in our pat-downs. So pat-downs have now become an important part of our strategy to improve air security and traveller’s safety.

Have a look at the media reports and you’ll find that majority of the Americans support the new security measures deployed by the TSA. A poll by CBS reports that four out of five Americans support the use of full body scanning in airports. A joint ABC News-Washington Post survey says Americans by a 2-to-1 margin support the use of naked image full-body x-ray scanners in airport security lines. The reports do mention that some people do not totally support the pat-down searches. However, I’d like to underline the fact here that since the new procedures began on November 1, 34 million travellers have gone through checkpoints and less than 1 percent were patted down. Just 1 percent!

As for the civil liberties, we have always maintained that we take very seriously the rights of an individual to decency and privacy. My client, the Transport Safety Administration, acknowledges the need to take into account both security and privacy to “be least invasive as possible” but must still be able to thwart attempts like that of the dreadful Christmas Day bomber. We continuously ask the question, “What can we best do to blend privacy and security?”. For people, who naively challenge our safety measures, should realize that everyone on a plane wants to know that the person next to them was properly screened. We have thousands of people who support our enhanced security measures, like Leah Martin from Houston, who said and I quote her: “Whatever keeps the country safe, I just don’t have a problem with”. We appreciate her honesty, sense of duty and patriotism.

We’re a nation that still reels from the unforgettable incidents that happened on 9/11. In spirit of the Americans who died on September 11, 2001 terror attacks, we decided to bolster our national security and airline safety regulations and save ourselves from another tragedy of similar scale. The relatives of the people who lost their lives on that fateful day say that it will be the biggest insult to the victims if we ignore the lessons we have learned over the years. In light of the requests we received from the relatives of the 9/11 victims, we feel obligated to implore all those opposing aviation security measures to instead propose alternatives to ensure the safety and security of the flying public. And let me be clear about this, your honor, simply complaining about current aviation security tactics put us under great danger. To deny the evolving threat we face is foolish. It is very absurd to believe that the security scanners violate the 4th Amendment of our beloved constitution.

Your honor, it is imperative that we maintain security of highest standards in our homeland to deter threats posed by terrorists worldwide. It was not long ago when our security agencies foiled the cargo bomb plot that could have caused damage on a colossal scale. We also have confirmed intel from our German friends of two suicide bombers at large in Germany, ready to unleash terror. The terrorists of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have intensified their efforts in the past few weeks to bring down an airplane over the USA by any means possible. So we must do everything that we can to protect the public.

We want to assure the American people that as we move forward, of course we will listen to concerns, of course we will make adjustments and changes when called upon. My client, John Pistole, the head of Transport Security Administration, himself went through the screening to check how effective the system is. He agrees that the pat-down by some TSA security officers can be uncomfortable and invasive and expresses his great concern over anybody who feels like they have not been treated properly or had something embarrassing happen. For the record, the TSA boss is reevaluating security techniques, and believes they will evolve. However, one must agree that it is not an easy task.

Some critics, who pose as health experts, question the radiation levels of the screening. The truth is that you have greater radiation exposure sitting in an airplane than you do going through one of those machines. The so-called ‘libertarians’ should know that most travellers just want to get to their destination as fast as possible. We know for a fact that most people will go through business as usual. The metal detector that we’ve all become used to, taking off the shoes, pouring our liquids in to the tiny little containers, is business as usual for the vast majority of people because they know that all these measures are taken in their own interests and safeguard their valuable lives.

Reports that TSA agents are having fun at the public’s expense are nothing but smear campaigns to jeopardize our security arrangements and make the terrorists’ job easy. Incidents like one agent planting a bag of white powder in passengers’ bags and telling them he found drugs; or another pulling down a woman’s blouse, exposing her breasts, and laughing at her embarrassment or agents forcing a woman with a pacemaker to go through the scanners, despite protests; are extremely isolated and negligible. Your honor, reports that agents made crippled, wheelchair-bound children get out of the chair and drag themselves through metal detectors, or made a mother drink the breast milk she had reserved for her baby were taken in the best interest of the passengers. However, we take such incidents very seriously and promise an enquiry to make sure such things do not happen again.

I would like, on behalf of the TSA, to assure our honorable passengers that we’re not here groping people. We’re not here molesting people. We’re checking them for items and explosives. And yes, explosives can be hidden in the groin area. We are aware of the reports that some scanning machines do not pick up what is inside body cavities. And to overcome such eventuality, we have the pat-down searches in place.

We like to remind our passengers that it is against federal rules to refuse cooperation with the Transportation Security Officer and the violator will be denied entry to the airplane and escorted from the screening area. Any disruption to the airport security procedures will be dealt with sternly, that includes imprisonment and fining of the offending individual.

I would like to rest my case by making it clear that our country faces security challenges that we have never faced before and an enemy that is constantly evolving its tactics to bring us down and destroy our beloved homeland. The terrorists do not want the American people live their lives normally and cherish the freedom and liberties that our great constitution grants us.

We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren’t necessary but that just isn’t the case. I truly believe that all patriotic Americans will cooperate with us and make their Thanksgiving travelling a memorable experience. Happy Thanksgiving! May God bless the United States of America!

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