See-Thru Airport Security

Ever since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it was expanding its use of full body scanners at U.S. airports, air travelers have been fighting back.  The scanners capture an image that is nearly naked and critics say it's nearly pornographic.  The TSA says it is the best to find out if you are hiding a box-cutter or knife or a bomb and it swears the images are not collected and kept in some huge naked traveler database.

 As the program expands, so do the protests and the latest one is set for the day before Thanksgiving. It's called Opt-Out Day, November 24, 2010 and the organizers are hoping to cripple air security lines and efforts on one of the busiest travel days of the year.  They are asking that air travelers who are asked to submit to those full-body x-ray scanners just opt-out and force the TSA to conduct pat-downs of each traveler.  They say it will double or even triple the length of the lines and underline the problem in a dramatic way.

 Airport security has always been a major issue since 9-11.  U.S. airports have always relied on scanners or x-rays or some other high-tech method of keeping dangerous things or people off planes.  Israel, a country that has been dealing with terrorism and hijackers for decades, does it differently. 

 The former head of El Al Airlines told me there are simple scanners at their airports, but the airlines relies heavily on highly-trained agents and spotters to pick the suspect out of the crowd.  It sounds like a very “loose” way to find trouble, but he assured me it is not.  He said his agents, in plain clothes, mingle with the passengers at the curb when they arrive, or in the ticket lines, at the gates and even in the restrooms.  They look for “keys”, things that make people suspicious and, he says, that could mean anything from “nervous eyes” to an untied shoe.  His agents also engage people in conversations, just asking simple questions and observing the behavior of the person.  If they have any suspicions it could be a terrorist, they take the person to a side room for more screening.  This method, he told me, is more accurate and less intrusive.  It also spares the good people who fly the trouble of feeling like a criminal just because they want to travel to grandmas' house for the holidays.

 So, Israel opted out long ago and now the protestors here in the U.S. want travelers to help them make a point this long holiday weekend.  They say the only thing they want to see naked this Thanksgiving is the turkey on the table, not the tourists at the airport. 



Categories: Becker’s Digital Notebook