Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Travel Blogging I

Dateline: Sarasota, Florida. There has been much talk about intrusive searches at airports, "nude" xrays and full body pat-downs. Here is an Associated Press article about the controversy from the Yahoo News website. I now have a personal interest in this issue.

At six a.m. this morning I was chosen "at random" for a full-body pat-down. A very professional TSA person explained in detail what would be done, where all would be, if not groped, at least have rubber gloved hands slid over or patted upon. He asked if I would rather have the procedure done in private, I said "no."

I ended up removing my belt and all pocket contents which had already passed the metal detector, putting them on a chair, after which I got everything covered in clothing patted down, except my stockinged feet. Trouser waistband was felt, I presume for wires or det cord.

Knowing in advance what would be done, I was mellow about it and, since I wasn't growling at him, the TSA person was very decent too. He finished up by rubbing one of their single use cotton cloth pads against his gloves, which pad was then machine tested for residues of unspecified materials. I passed the test, reassembled my personal accouterments, and boarded my plane.

Is the process intrusive? Hell, yes. Can I imagine many people being offended? Certainly. Can I envision people refusing to subject themselves to it? No question. Do I think it is "too much?" I honestly cannot say for sure. It sure wouldn't surprise me if the TSA gets a lot of pressure to back off.

This raises the whole question of how much security is too much? When do the costs exceed the benefits? Are we willing to accept some level of casualties in order not to have our lives too seriously interfered with? These are real questions and Congress is the correct forum in which to consider them.

I suspect that I will conclude, after consideration, that TSA has gone too far but I will not be cross with them. They've been told to keep us safe and they believe this is what it takes to keep underwear bombers, and the like, off our aircraft.

I wonder if it is not time to revisit the question of the costs and benefits of profiling?