My plane was taxiing into the gate at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport when the end-of-flight announcements came on. Seatbacks in upright position, trays closed and locked, baggage under the seats, you know the drill. On an in-bound international flight, I was headed for my second trip through TSA security in 3 hours.
Since I’ve been in five airports, some more than once, in the U.S. and Central America, in the past month or so, I’m beginning to feel like a reluctant – and unhappy – expert on airport security in a few these places. I can say for sure that I’ve found no place as paranoid as the U.S. But then, no other government can hold a candle to the range and variety of enemies the U.S. has created from scratch as part of official policy.
By way of comparison, I encountered no such thing as official government gropers outside of the U.S. In no other country I visited do passengers take off their shoes. There was no such thing as the irradiation of travelers anywhere else. Here in the Deep South, I’ve never encountered a TSA agent who knew that their porno scanners were actually x-ray machines. How exactly are those people trained?
These days, a traveler can go through security before boarding the flight and, at least in Atlanta, again after arrival. There can never be too much security. Has any miscreant ever been caught during exit screening with a weapon missed by the before-flight screeners?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but one result of such a before and after screening policy is to require even more of the Michael-Chertoff-get-rich-quick body scanners installed in more locations in every airport.
I’ve also learned that the number of travelers subjected to the digital strip search depends entirely on the supervisor in charge. S/He can send everyone in line to be x-rayed or send them to be groped by coworkers or forget the the whole thing and send them only through the metal detector. It is all up to the person in charge.
U.S. travelers are far from the only ones fed up with the U.S. government’s security delusions.
Scanners are in use in some airports in Britain, the Netherlands and Italy. Other European countries, like Spain and Germany which is scheduled to ignore popular protests, some nude, and roll them out this summer, have issues with the invasion of privacy and radiation and haven’t been shy about saying so. They also say that the machines can be easily fooled by creases in clothing, meaning that the digital frisking must be accompanied by metal detector screening and pat downs.
The chairman of British Airways, Martin Broughton, has made it clear that he sees increasing U.S. demands for ever-more security (Michael Chertoff again?) as a form of idiocy. He says that U.S. airport security is “completely redundant” and is urging other European nations to resist. The recent flight of a U.S. passenger without so much as a ticket indicates that security measures may also be useless.
One more thing: Remember how many times we’ve been told that the scans are not kept after the person clears security? Then why does the U.S. demand that Europeans keep theirs indefinitely?
US security authorities had demanded that original pictures taken by the machine – which display the contours of the body – be saved for possible later use. However, the German Interior Ministry has insisted that all images be deleted after passengers pass through the airport.
I’m getting ready for another cross country trip but this time I will escape government intrusion by driving. I won’t have to take off my shoes to start my car and no one will know whether I’m carrying bottles larger than 3 oz. Plus, without either a ticket or a GPS device, it won’t be easy for them to track me.
Take that, TSA!