TSA: Protecting America?

Over 600 million people fly each year <BR> Photo by: Andrei Dimofte

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created shortly after 9/11 as a part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act passed by the U.S. Congress.Prior to its creation, airport security screening was handled by private companies through contracts.



TSA also oversees the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). Air Marshals blend in with other passengers on boarded flights using their training to detect criminals and/or terrorists behavior and can react with precise firearm accuracy if needed.

Before 9/11, the U.S. felt different to most people and although time has passed, the desire of those wanting to do harm inside the U.S. and to American citizens has not. There are continuous threats.

As time has passed, there have been further incidents of people trying to bring things on board planes to bring them down over U.S. soil. Although these attempts have not been successful, some of them have gotten more media attention than others.

Most people have heard about the “Underwear bomber” and his attempt to bring down an American Airline plane over Detroit in December 2009. Al Qaeda took credit for this attempted attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23 year old Nigerian.

The bomb packet was six inches long and sewn in his underwear containing a highly explosive chemical, PETN weighing approximately 80 grams, enough to blow a hole in the side of a plane.

In December 2001, Richard Reid, also known as the “Shoe Bomber” tried to detonate a bomb in his shoes aboard his flight from Paris to Miami but due to the smell of smoke and his having difficulty lighting the fuse, he was subdued by several passengers, administered a tranquilizer and arrested upon arrival at Logan International Airport. The chemical found in his shoe was also PETN weighing about 50 grams, also enough to bring down a plane.

TSA continues to adapt in order to protect the nation’s transportation systems. That is not a clear or set strategy that can or should be spelled out and released because part of real security is the unknown and the inability for someone with a desire to do harm to preplan their moves through security measures.

It is understandable that people have felt uncomfortable with changes or certain parts of security procedures but blaming this on the TSA is not taking into account what they have already prevented from happening and continue to set out to prevent.

TSA officers have stopped countless weapons, chemicals, drugs and wanted criminals from boarding airlines. News coverage typically covers only the negative events as seen in these past few days and weeks and most recently since 23 year old John Tyner told a TSA officer, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”

John Tyner had first checked on TSA’s website to see if the airport he would be flying out of had the full body scan machines as he didn’t want to go through one. He said the website didn’t list his airport. When he arrived at the airport and realized they did use the full body scanners, he tried to stay in a line that would use the metal detectors. But, he was called out to go through the full body scanner.

He then used his cell phone to record the rest and refused the full body scanners and as the dialogue went on he was told he would have a “pat down” instead. After speaking to a supervisor about not wanting the pat down and being told he wouldn’t be able to fly without one, he said, “I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying.”

Going to the airport and preparing to fly out does mean a person will go through security measures and can be put through random and continuous security searches. When buying a ticket and arriving at the airport, this is made very clear.

The point is security is more secure with not knowing every detail prior to the actual arrival at the checkpoint. TSA has been very upfront with the possibilities of what procedures travelers may encounter however. These procedures have been put into place for good reason and that is to protect America and every person flying.

Terrorists have figured out how to make bombs using things that won’t show up in standard metal detectors, wands or screening belts at airports.

Keeping America safe is a priority for everyone. It shouldn’t take another 9/11 or a single incident of a few lives lost on a flight to raise awareness of how important raised security is to be taken seriously and to understand it is for the benefit of every traveler, everyone family member of those traveling and every employee at the airport. Many lives are affected by decisions being made at those checkpoints.

In America, profiling is not an option in many circumstances other than by behaviors of odd ticket purchasing techniques, luggage check- in or the lack of, one way travel, cash purchases and many more behavior detection profiling that may cause concern but security works on many levels and a great number of officers are watching passenger behavior as well.

TSA also works internationally with many other countries to ensure international rules are clear and consistent to enable passenger clarity and therefore safer flying.

It is being said that the new full body scans or the new enhanced pat-down procedure is going too far and this is causing quite a bit of hype and anger.

Airports, across the country this week, will have millions of holiday travelers which is already a concern to security and families waiting for their loved ones to arrive.

On Wednesday, which is one of the busiest traveling days of the year, online groups are calling for a National Opt-Out Day in response to TSA’s new enhanced security techniques. Their idea is for people to opt out of the full body scanner forcing TSA officers to pat them down.
According to Jim Babb, co-founder of this National Opt-Out Day, this should cause chaos at airport checkpoints and deliver a message to agency officials, politicians and the airline industry.

This is unimaginable that anyone would want to cause any type of chaos at an airport especially with the intention to cause issues with security measures and even more appalling is the desire to do this after what happened on 9/11. This is putting peoples’ lives at risk intentionally or at least asking others to do so as Jim Babb has said he will not be traveling on Wednesday.

Over 600 million people fly each year along with millions of bags that go along with them. It is up to TSA’s officers at 700 checkpoints using the latest techniques and up-to-date technology to stop the unthinkable. However, what is unthinkable to one is in the planning stages to another.

Terrorists continue to threaten America and Americans abroad. One life lost is one life too many. Security is everyone’s responsibility.