Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Airport Security Restrictions

TSA (the Transportation Security Administration) is rolling out yet another and perhaps even more intrusive security procedure in their continued effort to annoy the flying public in the name of making travel safer. Passengers will now be randomly selected anywhere from the security lines to the gate to have their hands swabbed for the presence of gunpowder residue. Of course this will also mean additional delays to the travel process, government spending (about $39 million for the portable detection devices), and will also call for spending on additional TSA staff to operate them.

On its face, this new level of airport security procedures appears little more than another government spending program and a chance to influence unemployment numbers by the creation of government jobs paid for by taxpayers. There is a more subtle message being handed to the American public however that I believe that few recognize, and it is that the movement of this country's citizens needs to be more controlled.

When I began traveling for a living in the late 70's, there was an unwritten guideline that if the trip was over four hours by car, we should fly to be more efficient. As security procedures increased around the 9/11 attacks, that guideline moved the line from 4 up to 6-7 hours before we went to the airport. Now we are told that with the new security procedures, that we should be at airports at least 3 hours in advance of the flight at a minimum. We are finally told to expect body scans, pat-downs, and these random swabbings in an attempt to make us more safe.

Added to the fact that owing to fuel costs and airline profitability there will be longer travel times to most destinations, what this means to me is that the unwritten rule will now say that spending more than a full day of driving from point to point will be required before considering trying to climb on an airplane. Not only is this counter intuitive to what we are told is the socially responsible thinking on private transportation vs mass transit in this country, but its outcome eventually leads many in this country to conclude that they will decide to travel (other than locally) only when absolutely necessary.

The United States has always been a beacon of freedom in the world in terms of travel, with no "border crossings" when traveling from state to state in a geography far more vast than that of Europe. There has never in fact, been a more mobile society than that in this country. Increasing government influence now forces us to admit that while the cost of gasoline is high, and the cost of airline travel is increasing as well, Americans are now beginning to rethink the mobility that they have long enjoyed in an attempt to avoid the increasingly intrusive government security inspections between the ticket counter and the gate at an airport. 

Amazingly, we allow all of this to go on while most would agree that the lion's share of these procedures do nothing to add to the actual safety of airline travel in this country. Most would likewise agree that the government imposed, politically correct nature of the prosecution of these practices does not effectively target the potential dangers to travelers that exist. We have become so fearful however, and so compliant as a society, that when our leaders tell us that we are in danger we willingly go along with this nonsense in spite of this knowledge. It may place the tin foil hat firmly on my head, but I would suggest that hidden in this apparent drive for safety is an agenda supporting an increasing role for Homeland Security and its TSA police arm that states that a population is easier to keep safe (and to control) if it simply finds it more convenient to stay put. 

Might I also suggest that the continued and gradual increase of these draconian security measures appears more an example of the practices of the old Soviet Union than the country designed by our Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin once warned us that: "Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." It appears that we are becoming ever more willing to allow our government to take these liberties from us bit by bit in the name of a such safety while traveling. It also appears that once again, we are going to allow that government to impose new airline security restrictions upon us in the name of the the very freedoms that they take away.


Roland Hansen said...

Give me freedom or give me the United States of America.
What used to be synonymous is no more.

In regards to airport and air travel security, no one should have anything to hide. Simplify the whole process, I say. Let's all just fly naked.

Tim Higgins said...


My own perspective made me annoyed, yours scares the hell out of me.