You, the American traveler, have complained about invasive pat-downs and naked-body scanners, and the Transportation Security Administration has listened … sort of.
The much-maligned agency has announced a proposed workaround to the problem of having some security-checkpoint Neanderthal reach his hand into your and your toddler’s undergarments. Later this year, the TSA hopes to roll out its “trusted traveler pilot program,” agency chief John Pistole said on Wednesday.
All you need to do to qualify for “trusted traveler” status is submit to a simple background check in advance. Pass with—er, “flying”—colors, and you will be whisked through airport checkpoints in the future, while all those other cretins wait their turn to be pawed. Think of it as E-ZPass for flyers.
Appearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Pistole said:
We’re working with airlines, U.S. carriers initially, to say for those who are willing to share information about themselves, what can we gain from that that would help us make informed judgments.
Pistole allowed as how he would like to get the program up and running this fall in selected airports, at the same time cautioning, “It’s a complex issue and so I want to basically underpromise and overdeliver.”
So what could be bad? A security screening sounds harmless enough, right? Well, that depends on how you define harmless. Allowing federal agents to root around in your past for the privilege of flying—and John Pistole has said he does “see flying as a privilege”—may seem a tad extreme to those who value their Constitutionally protected right to privacy. As things currently stand, the TSA performs criminal history records checks on its own employees (not to mention taxi drivers, parking lot attendants, and airport vendors), and one can only imagine how far the probe extends in the event they turn up something of interest.
In addition, are you eager to share the most intimate details of your life with an agency that sees a security threat in the plastic toy hammer of a special needs passenger? Or that roughs up six-year-olds in the name of passenger safety? (Reacting to an incident in April that fits that second description, Pistole told the committee, “I will be announcing something in the not-too-distant future about a change in policy as it relates to children.” Why he envisions a need for a policy change is unclear when by his own admission the TSA already prohibits pat-downs of children under 12.)
And then there’s the small matter of past efforts at trusted traveler programs that never got off the ground. Pistole neglected to mention these to the Senate or explain how this time it will be different.
Maybe the TSA administrator needs to less talking and more listening. One person whose words he might want to heed is Senator Rand Paul, who opined at today’s meeting that TSA had the wrong outlook on transportation security, adding that airport security should be more about “police work” than random searches. It might not be as much fun for TSA agents, but it might actually be a first step in the direction of keeping Americans safe.
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- TSA still keeping America safe—from 6-year-old girls (video)
- TX House bans TSA from touching “anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast”
- The TSA admits to storing potentially embarrassing airport checkpoint body scan images
- Video of the TSA “molesting” a 3-year-old and other horror stories
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