Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Don't Touch My Junk!

The event that started it all:
SAN DIEGO — John Tyner won't be pheasant hunting in South Dakota with his father-in-law any time soon.

Tyner was simultaneously thrown out of San Diego International Airport on Saturday morning for refusing to submit to a security check and threatened with a lawsuit and a $10,000 fine if he left.

And he got the whole thing on his cell phone. Well, the audio at least.

Here's John Tyner's account on his own blog.

The issue is TSA's new x-ray machines and pat-down procedures, which even the head of TSA admits are "invasive".

The passengers are mad about it (video).

The pilots are mad about it (video).

And now comes this item from Newsweek about the worry the new procedures pose for survivors of sexual assault.

As a frequent flier on six different airlines, I have to say that I am not thrilled with a choice of either accepting an increased risk of being blown out of the sky, being irradiated every time I go to the airport, or submitting to legalized sexual molestation.

As retired airline pilot and air safety expert Chesley Sullenberger, the hero of the water landing of US Airways flight 1549, says in the video I referenced above, we need to utilize an "intelligence-based" approach—we need to know who the passengers are who are flying and look for terrorists rather than merely looking for weapons.

Here's why it matters: Right now the x-ray machines being used are designed to examine the body contours of the individuals being screened. The pat-downs are designed to tell by feel whether contraband is being hidden in the groin or breast area. The next step for terrorists, then, will be to hide explosives inside the human body. Experts are already warning that terrorists could use breast or buttock implants to conceal explosives. Either inserting explosives in a body cavity or surgically implanting them would put them beyond detection of current scanners or pat-down techniques.

Or to put it more crudely: Do we expect that the TSA staffer giving a pat-down will be able to tell whether breast implants are silicone or something more dangerous? Will the TSA staffer watching the x-ray screen be able to distinguish whether someone's colon is full of fecal matter or plastic explosive?

Sullenberger and other experts agree: There simply has to be a better way—a way that doesn't spend billions of dollars and countless hours of TSA staff time conducting procedures that treat everyone who boards an airplane as a suspected terrorist.

Reflecting on his experience that started the "passenger pushback," John Tyner points out that, after the first three events of 9/11, every terrorist act on an airplane has been halted by passengers. "It's time to stop treating passengers like criminals and start treating them as assets," he said.

1 comment:

BillB said...

Surgically implanted explosives have already been used by terrorists. The case involved trying to assassinate the Saudi prince who is head of national security. The bomber successfully detonated the implanted bomb; however, and I can't remember why, the explosion did not kill the intended target. If a person were to do this on an airplane, the results would kill all.