Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back Home

We wrapped up our Thanksgiving trip yesterday and arrived back in Baltimore at eight o’clock last night. After five days of warm and sunny weather the blast of cold air that hit us as we stepped off the plane was a fitting reminder of our return to reality.

Once again, our journey through the security checkpoint at the Jacksonville airport was smooth and unremarkable. The body scan machines were in place but weren’t being used. I did not see any pat-downs.

It turns out that the travelling public opted out of the National Opt-Out Day as well. According to this story by Jeffrey Rosen in The Washington Post, “many appeared to have opted out of opting out. The TSA reported that few of the 2 million people flying Wednesday chose pat-downs over the scanners, with few resulting delays.”

I suspect that the TSA may have gotten the message anyhow.

Since all of my sisters Thanksgiving guests had flown in for the feast, the subject of airport screening was a topic of conversation. No one reported any issues with their own screening. A few suggested that the TSA should use profiling like the Israelis. I think that is easy to say for a group that likely wouldn’t fit any threat profile, but it is an idea that seems to be gaining some popular support. The dust up over Juan Williams firing from NPR after his comment to Bill O’ Reilly on Fox News about profiling has only added to the debate.

"Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Rosen also reported that the current use of full body scans and pat-downs may actually violate our constitutional rights.

Although the Supreme Court hasn't evaluated airport screening technology, lower courts have emphasized, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in 2007, that "a particular airport security screening search is constitutionally reasonable provided that it 'is no more extensive nor intensive than necessary, in the light of current technology, to detect the presence of weapons or explosives.' "

And therein lies the problem. The full body scan technology hasn’t proven to be that effective in detecting explosives.

“A member of Britain's Parliament who evaluated the scanners in his former capacity as a defense technology company director concluded that they wouldn't have stopped the bomber who concealed the chemical powder PETN in his underwear last Christmas.”

I wonder if they would have noticed it had they touched his junk.
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