Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Ludicrous Idiocy Of The TSA

Children's Toy
Playmobil Airport Security Checkpoint
Teach them young.

As some of you might know, I just returned from a very nice two week stay in Benalmadena, Spain, courtesy of the CT Wine Trail (we won this prize in a contest).

We traveled from Boston airport to Heathrow to Malaga via British Airways. Let me tell you first hand my experiences in dealing with TSA and their foreign counterparts. It pretty much is a joke, and I will tell you why.

First off - you get into the airport and go to the ticket desk to drop your luggage. Mind you, you cannot lock your luggage without "TSA approved locks", or TSA will break the locks if they want to peek inside. So don't pack anything worth any value, it could disappear. After dropping your bags and getting them tagged for the trip (hopefully getting them to your final destination), you get a boarding pass which allows you entry to the airport gate. You need a passport, or some other form of ID, and your boarding pass to go into the boarding gate area and to where your carry ons are x-rayed. You have to take off your shoes and coats, empty your pockets and place everything in bins and place them on a conveyor belt to be scanned while you walk through the metal detectors and in some cases get "frisked" or "wanded". You cannot bring water bottles in with you or sharp objects. They have a list of things you can't have with you, and a big trash bin where many people end up dumping their Poland Spring bottles. Everyone from teenagers to old ladies are standing there with bottles of shampoo and toothpaste in clear zip-lock baggies waiting to be examined. It's stupid.

This scene happened every time I had to board a new plane. So why is this a joke? It's a joke because I had two canisters of pepper spray in my bag and scissors and other toiletry implements in my carry on, plus a Swiss army knife (small as it may have been) in my purse! The pepper spray had been brought with me unintentionally - I had forgotten to take them off the key ring that was in my purse, and the same with my Swiss army knife that I always carry with me. Despite all the "searches" on 6 different flights no one said a word to me or my husband, even though they pawed through our things with their latex gloved hands.

Secondly, once you get into the boarding area there are stores galore! Especially interesting is that I bet you could use items purchased from those stores (including water in bottles) to make some sort of unpleasant device. One could purchase lighters, candles, bottles, alcohol and other things in those airport stores. I have thought that the biggest boon to water bottle sales in the airport is the fact that you must discard the ones you brought from home before coming into the airport's store area so that if you get thirsty waiting for your flight you have to buy their beverages.

So while they are taking leg braces off 4 year olds and questioning little old ladies about their hip replacements - just think of what is happening here. Between submitting to full body x-ray scanners and now swabbing everyone's hands to look for explosive residue, what we are really seeing is the desensitization and submission of the traveling public to authorities who have NO CAUSE to suspect YOU individually of being a problem. One should not have to submit to being searched in this manner unless there is probable cause for doing so. Just because there have been "terrorists" on airplanes does not make EVERY traveler a possible terrorist or a criminal, especially 4 year olds with leg braces!

More than that, what they have systematically done is strip EVERYONE of their ability to defend themselves and protect others on board ... unless of course they overlook your can of pepper spray in your carry-on.

Meanwhile the public is being duped into believing that giving up their 4th amendment rights is somehow going to make them safer and make them more "patriotic". Hogwash.

It is unfortunate how many people are saying that full body scanners are the way to go. The throngs are just more than willing to be treated like cattle. By the way, one Bollywood star's naked image was printed out and asked for him to autograph... so no one can tell me that people will not abuse their authority regarding full body x-rays. It's already happening.

Why don't we just stop the pretense and just all travel buck naked already. Oh right ... but some terrorist will just stick a bomb up their anus anyway.

So you might as well just sit home, or just submit to the reality that when you travel you will be treated like a criminal.

There has got to be a better way.