Liberty and Air Travel

There was a post from over the weekend regarding and ExpressJet Airlines pilot who refused additional TSA screening while entering the airport in uniform, and was not allowed to reach his job. What kind of secondary screening? Specifically the new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) systems being installed at some airports, because he didn’t see a reason to allow the TSA to see his naked body. And, then, because he wasn’t willing to be coerced into allowing the TSA agent to molest him, he was forced to leave, but not before being subjected to (probably) unlawful detention and a lot of questioning.

In the end, his supervisor heard about it from the TSA before he was able to get in touch, and his employment is now potentially in question. That’s the short version, you probably ought to read his long version as well.

I understand why the TSA wants to go this route. Almost anything short of patting down anyone getting on a plane can be circumvented. Ceramic blades can be used instead of metal to get through a metal detector. You can load explosives into your underpants and horrifically burn your genitals in a failed attempt to set them off. You can get a job as a ground crew member at an airport, which doesn’t generally require daily security screens. But, it becomes quite a bit harder to sneak a weapon onto a plane without someone storing it internally if you’re using AIT or pat downs.

And yet, we’re really not much safer. The TSA certainly hasn’t been the starting point of any of the successes in the war on terror, those successes generally coming from good old-fashioned police work.

We’ve sacrificed a lot in the name of security, and have gotten no safer. Much of that, has merely been minor inconveniences, like sending our shoes through the x-ray machine, or ridiculously small liquid containers in carry-ons. Some are big inconveniences, like the no-fly list that can thwarted by any decent fake ID.

But a line must be drawn somewhere, and if we’re going to draw it anywhere, it must be on these AIT scanners. Even ignoring people’s health concerns, which seem to have basis, the privacy concerns are just as important. I have an upcoming trip in a few weeks that I’m flying for, and frankly, I am hoping fiercely that I’m not forced to choose between making my trip and facing this sort of coercion.