Let’s rethink airport security

Daily Interlake (NW Montana)

Maybe the clamor in the news has quieted down, and maybe the Transportation Security Administration can claim it is doing a good job of keeping air travel safe, but the problems associated with the country’s new security regime are myriad, deserving continued scorn and demands for changes.

The TSA supposedly beefed up its airport screening standards in early November, requiring either full body scans at some airports or the choice of invasive pat-downs. We’re not aware of the new standards turning up any terrorists, but they certainly have annoyed and offended countless passengers.

And they will continue to do that, especially since it is reasonable to conclude that these new methods could violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Heck, there isn’t even “probable cause” to carry out these searches because they are indiscriminately applied to everybody when they shouldn’t be. That’s because TSA officers are fixated on looking for “things” when they should be looking for particular people with particular behaviors.

And they are looking for an increasing number of different “things,” all in response to their potential uses in terrorism. The TSA Website has an incredible list of prohibited objects, hilariously laid out as a user-friendly resource for prospective air travelers. (Stow your billy clubs and brass knuckles in your checked luggage, but feel free to bring your 7-inch screw driver on board!!

That list is bound to grow. We have to wonder what will be next (breast implants?) and what new methods will be “necessary” (cavity searches?) to ensure our safety.

It has become ridiculous. Even the body scanners are invasive and may be unconstitutional, according to one law professor who recently wrote on the issue in the Washington Post.

He asserts that the machines may not meet a current legal standard of being “minimally invasive” because body images can be stored and recorded. Indeed, one has to wonder about just how secure those images are in a world with WikiLeaks, the enterprise that has been “dumping” supposedly classified U.S. documents on the Internet for the last few months.

Forget the sexy scanners. Forget the massage parlor pat-downs. The TSA should be looking for certain people and behaviors, whether it’s called profiling or not. This kind of screening has been done successfully in other countries — most notably Israel, a magnet for terrorist activity — for years. If the Israelis can stay safe by using profiling, then so can we.

It would provide a far more targeted, efficient and less expensive approach to security, and would spare granny the indignity of a virtual strip search.

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