Our View: Sounding the alarm

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Editorial Board, January to May 2013

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Randy Rudasics, community representative
  • John Centner, community representative

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At Issue

Security changes at Yampa Valley Regional Airport

Our View

The federal government either doesn’t take security seriously or hasn’t been honest with the American public about the value of body-imaging scanners.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, which makes the federal government’s actions during the past couple of weeks as it relates to security at airports across the county all the more baffling.

Earlier this week, the Transportation Security Administration removed Yampa Valley Regional Airport’s sophisticated body-imaging scanner and instructed airport officials to reinstate older security measures including a walk-through metal detector, handheld wands and physical pat-downs. Similar actions have taken place at other regional airports across the country.

The reason for the step backward in security measures? Political correctness gone awry. The U.S. government had contracted with a company called Rapiscan Systems to provide body-imaging scanners for airports. But that company’s machines produced life-like images of the passengers being screened, leading to privacy concerns from citizens and lawmakers. So Rapiscan was given until June to push out a software fix that would create less realistic images of passengers. When it became clear the company couldn’t hit the deadline, its contract with the government was cut.

The result is a shortage of body-imaging scanners made by L-3 Communications, whose machines create cartoon-like images of screened passengers. Yampa Valley Regional Airport had an L-3 machine, which TSA determined would be better used at a larger airport somewhere else. The significance of body-scanning machines is that they’re supposed to be able to quickly identify metallic and non-metallic objects — including liquids — that could pose security threats.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel is upset about the TSA’s decision, and we can’t blame him, nor can we fault his reasoning.

A security hole in the nation’s aviation system is a potential risk whether it’s at Yampa Valley Regional Airport or Denver International Airport. Once passengers make it through security at a regional airport, there typically is no additional screening at subsequent airports where flight connections are made. Worse, the current security situation was created only by a false sense of urgency from the federal government.

Most Americans understand that traveling by plane became a different experience after the tragedies of 9/11. For the most part, we’ve all adapted to the new reality and embraced the collective mindset that steps toward increasing national security might result in certain sacrifices. The minor inconveniences of taking off our shoes, removing liquids from our carry-on luggage and spending a few seconds standing still in a body-imaging scanner are part of that sacrifice. We do them because we believe we are playing our part in making our country more secure, and because our elected leaders have told us these measures are necessary for that security.

And that is why the government’s recent actions are so frustrating. If the emphasis is on security, why would we take steps that have the potential to increase the risk of breaches in the system? It’s hard to fathom that the privacy issues created by Rapiscan’s life-like images trumped overall security in our nation’s airport framework.

So now we’re left to patiently wait for a new L-3 machine to eventually be sent our way, and to hope that less sophisticated equipment and security procedures here and at other smaller airports across the country don’t lead to the unthinkable.

Conversely, if the federal government and the TSA aren’t concerned about the shortage of body-imaging equipment because they don’t think it’s as essential to security as the public has been made to think, then we’ve been wasting a lot of taxpayer time and money throughout the years on expensive machines.

Comments

Dan Hill 1 year, 1 month ago

Dave Ruppel is right to be worried that removing the machine will result in slower, manual procedures that will negatively affect the traveller experience at YVRA.

But you hit the nail on the head with the last sentence of your editorial: "then we’ve been wasting a lot of taxpayer time and money throughout the years on expensive machines."

It's time everyone stopped drinking the TSA Kool-Aid. Three things have improved aviation security since 9/11 - passengers realizing they should fight back against hijackers, reinforced cockpit doors and scanning luggage for bombs. The rest is one giant boondoggle. Not only can our country not afford to be wasting money on security theater like this when we're 16 trillion dollars underwater, we can't afford to go on being virtually strip searched by government employees on a daily basis and remain the land of the free. Right now the terrorists own us. Home of the brave? Prove it and refuse to be terrorized!

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Harvey Lyon 1 year, 1 month ago

Well I for one believe this to be a GOOD DECISION. TSA didn't take this machine from YVRA, it relocated it to a airport that has a higher security risk as determined by educated security professionals. They did this to saitisfy our (Nation's) sense of modesty (the old scanners show'd too much) and to avoid spending way too much of our money for a rush order of the new machines.

And I don't believe the older methods of security are any less effective, just less time consuming for passangers.

Lets stop complaining and start supporting Government decisions that make for a more efficient Government.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 1 month ago

Maybe we should ask Cheney ( & his side kick from Texas) when he visits... It was during his administration that this huge govenment boobdoggle called the TSA and the most personal intrusive Govenment sanctions , Patriot Act) ever created came into being......

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 1 month ago

If you read about the flaws of these body scanners then you'd feel safer on a flight where passengers went through metal detectors. At least they stop metal weapons from being smuggled onto a plane.

The only value of the full body scanners is that they are faster and so passengers whom are not going to hijack the plane can pass through security checks quicker.

Before 9/11, passengers were told to stay out of the way of hijackers and authorities would deal with the hijacking and everyone would be safe. After 9/11 passengers realize hijacking leads to a fatal crash and so passengers fight hijackers. Terrorists such as the shoe bomber or underwear bombers that have smuggled explosives onto planes have been stopped by passengers.

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david gibbs 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you Pilot for some good old fashioned fear mongering! The dark side has taught you well.

What are the true cost of subsidies given to the airline industry? In our FREE MARKET how much do the airlines get for free? Do they pay a true market rent for their terminals? How much is the TSA reimbursed by the airlines? We know Steamboat hands them a big check annually. Seems like the people flying should pay for all the true cost associated with the flight. The handouts run deep and help to create false a market. It would be nice to see the free market worshipers start with industries like the airlines to points out the flaws with government intervention. Funny how people don't protest bad government policy if they benefit from it.

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