Our View: Airport security, at what cost?
November 28, 2010
Travelers departing from Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden this winter may be spared the controversial new full-body scan, but an intimate pat-down by Transportation Security Administration personnel isn't out of the question.
The fervor that enveloped the nation the past two weeks regarding TSA's new security measures may best be described as a head-on collision between the fundamental American principle of civil liberties and the realities of living in an age of terrorism.
Routt County's only commercial airport doesn't yet have one of the new full-body scanners decried by critics for capturing nude-like images of travelers. YVRA passengers are, however, subject to the new pat-down procedure that can include touching close to genitals.
As a resort community with an economy indirectly dependent upon the public's confidence in air travel, it's perhaps easier to digest the new security procedures if, in fact, they increase security. But who's to say that they do? TSA and Homeland Security officials say the new procedures are in response to classified intelligence about potential future terrorist attacks as well as a response to so-called underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear during a Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit last year.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been mostly understanding of increased security measures if they think they're justified. But the TSA, which was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, continues to fail miserably in the way of public relations. In the latest episode, the federal agency declined to specify what the new security procedures entailed, instead leaving it up to passengers and then the media to spread the word themselves. Adding insult to injury in the eyes of many Americans, TSA announced last week that some government officials are allowed to skip the new procedures.
Much of the criticism heaped upon the TSA since its formation is no fault but its own. But there is a way out. Better hiring practices and more extensive training for TSA screeners is Step 1. Timely and honest communications with the traveling public is Step 2. Re-examination of existing policies to ensure the most serious security threats are being addressed is Step 3.
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The American people can help by understanding that flying comes with some inconveniences. Perhaps it's ultimately in the best interest of our safety that those inconveniences now include "enhanced" security procedures. But who's to know until we see some evidence or research to back the worthiness of the new measures? Fortunately, unconvinced Americans have an easy way out in the interim: They don't have to fly.