The controversy over TSA's Advanced Imaging Technology (aka Naked Body Scanners) and Enhanced Pat-Downs (aka Government-sponsored sexual assault) is seemingly getting worse by the hour. Every day we are treated to new horror stories from people who believe the new security measures are too invasive and offer little enhancement to security. Newspaper columnist and humorist Dave Barry endured a fondling from one TSA agent while another agent stood by and told Barry what a huge fan he was of his work. Surreal security Kabuki at its finest.
People understand that terrorists target airplanes. But people also understand that the chance of terrorists being on their plane is extremely low. In effect, the public is telling the TSA that they would rather a terrorist attempt to take down an airliner than suffer the indignity of the new procedures. The public tells us this is okay with them because they'll beat the snot out of anyone who tries to hijack a plane that they're on. I fly a lot. I know I'd step up.
What I don't hear from anyone at TSA is any sensitivity regarding how unnerving it can be to have a stranger place their hands on their private parts. No understanding that, as a father, it is criminal to allow someone to touch my daughter or son in that way while I stand by watching. No sense of common decency that seems to give any of the screeners pause before they diddle a nun.
There is something fundamentally anti-American about it. TSA has claimed in the past that many of their successes can't be told. That's fine, but the lack of factual, objective information about threats leaves the public with one choice: trust the government. We don't right now. The reason no one believes the TSA when it says the images won't be stored is that another federal agency stored 35,000 images. Plus, we know that one of these images could be good evidence in court, so there has to be a way to save them. When TSA says otherwise, we think they are lying.
The public wants TSA to stop terrorists from attacking airplanes but we're skeptical of TSA's ability to do that. Skeptical because all of the measures put in place were taken defensively. One guy tried to blow up his shoes so now everyone has to take off their shoes. Some people in England were going to make liquid bombs so no one can carry liquids any more.
We may be a skeptical public when it comes to TSA, but we do want the agency to succeed. We just think they should protect us from the next threat instead of the last.