TSA Airport Security is an Illusion - Pat Downs too Intrusive and Ineffective
This new TSA airport security program is already massively unpopular, many finding it a humiliating and degrading experience and obviously subject to horrific abuse. As I looked into information about this new screening, I ended up cancelling my trip. It is certain to result in a significant decline in air travel by other Americans as well at a time when neither the airline industry nor the country can afford another economic crisis.
When a passenger chooses to "opt out" of the full-body scan, they are to undergo a security pat-down. The TSA website explains these are specifically used to resolve alarms and prevent dangerous items from going on a plane.
The experience of a TSA pat-down, however, leaves passengers feeling more like they are forced to undergo the same kind of aggressive pat-down that criminals and drug-dealers get. This includes direct manual contact with their breasts and genitalia. Children are not exempt.
A little girl's experience
A U.S. congressman describes his views after witnessing the experience of a little girl who was frisked by TSA airport employees.
What behavioral indicator led the screener in question to believe that the little girl needed such an invasive pat-down? If no valid behavioral or other threat indicator was present, why did the screener conduct the aggressive frisking? If the girl's mother or father were deemed a threat, why were they not segregated for further questioning, in private?
The entire episode has served as a symbol of an invasive, technology-driven passenger screening process that is not making us safer, even as it humiliates, degrades, and engages a public that deserves far better from those ostensibly seeking to protect them.
TSA searches underwear and genitalia
Dr. Julie Gerberding, the chief of the CDC, says, "We know that hand hygiene is a critical component of safe and healthy health care. ...Hand hygiene saves lives in hospitals."
However, it is reported that the TSA pad-downs do not meet medical standards for sterility. Their agents are not trained as medical personnel. TSA does not seem to have applied the understanding of how infectious disease is spread to their pat-down procedures.
It is clear the gloves they wear are to protect the TSA agents, and do not provide any protection for passengers.
- TSA pat-downs could spread sexually-transmitted disease and contribute to pandemics
TSA agents often don't change gloves between patting down passengers. They're often using the same gloves on you and your crotch as they were using on the previous passenger's exploratory crotch feel.
Intrusive aggressive pat-downs used to punish
- TSA admits to punishing travelers
The TSA admits that it has been clandestinely punishing passengers for refusing to go through the invasive whole-body scans with an even more intrusive aggressive pat-down.
A pulmonary critical care physician from Connecticut who did not want to be identified by name said, "That doesn't make sense that they're not changing gloves." Some doctors have confirmed that there is the definite possibility that passengers will be able to catch whatever someone in front of them in line was suffering from via the latex gloves TSA workers use.
A doctor says, "How come if we as doctors have guidelines, we must wear gloves and have oversight, it's very different [for the TSA]?"
Staphylococci are tough and can be spread towels, tampons or gloves and can survive in dry conditions. Methicillin resistant staph creates havocin hospitals.
Sexual assault survivors
A woman who has been sexually victimized through molestation and rape has an even more challenging decision. She is more likely to have triggers, flashbacks, and panic attacks of the incident ensuing from words, images, and actions that remind her that her body is no longer sacred. For a rape victim, an enhanced pat down from a stranger in public may come with emotional consequences for her, altering a simple flight to an incident of victimization.
Safety and security come at a price that many of us do not want to pay. Some won't fly again under any of these circumstances .
The American Traveler Dignity Act
Rape counselors say, know your rights
- For sexual crime victims, TSA pat-downs can be 're-traumatizing' - CSMonitor.com
The TSA's latest efforts to increase airport security include 'enhanced' pat-downs that have been criticized as invasive. Rape counselors advise that victims know their rights to protect themselves.
What you can do
- Appeal to the compassion of the TSA agent performing the search, asking them to be sensitive to your history of violation, if this is the case.
- Demand the TSA agents change their gloves. At a minimum gloves should be changed between pat-downs, "especially if the gloved hand is inside clothes or in the genital area, even if clothed."
- Travelers should be advised of this and hand-wash and change clothes ASAP after these intimate examinations.
- Support the American Traveler Dignity Act, introduced in this video.
The choice between a full-body scanner and an enhanced pat-down is hardly a choice at all, and though not charged with a crime subjects the citizen to invasive violations of privacy as an abuse of power. So I'm glad to see gathering opposition to the TSA's policies.
See a separate article on TSA full-body scans.
© 2010 Deidre Shelden
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