Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Safety Blanket is NOT the TSA

A friend from Colorado recently took a trip by plane and was informed she could have nothing in her hands for the entire trip. It inspired me to write the rant below. I thought it was a bit too inflammatory for a comment on her space, so I posted it here and put a link to it in my comments on her post.

Airport security should not be someone's retired aunt Mertyl with a metal wand asking you, "can you take off your shoes dear," while trying to keep her dentures from falling out because the Dent-u-Cream stopped working an hour ago and she still has ten minutes before her next break. Nor should it be the fuck-wit who sat next to you in high-school history drawing pictures of boobies in his notes, who dropped out and ultimately had to get a GED so he could hold a job, and only has the job in the first place because the entrance exam for entering into public service jobs basically consists of:

A.) fog a mirror
B.) pass a drug test

I have not once found the presence of either of the above (who are otherwise lovely people) remotely reassuring. I'll put it to you another way, someone working a security position without law-enforcement or military training, that I could disable with my bare hands without breaking a sweat, does not make me feel safe. I have the benefit of martial arts training. Their entire job is about keeping me safe. They should have more than that.

What would make me feel safer? Burly guys with badges, uniforms, and guns watching every. single. person. who passes buy. Visible drug and bomb sniffing dogs doing their work. A uniformed U.S. Air Marshal on every flight. Plus knowing that all of this is just a hustle. A bait and switch to draw attention away from the guys who aren't in uniform, but are mixing in with everyone else, listening to chatter, picking up leads, and genuinely working what is a very dangerous job to keep us safe. The mistake being made is in thinking that we can be safe without a visible and effective enforcement presence. Everyone wants to feel safe, but no one wants to get their hands dirty doing it. It's not possible, people.

Even with that, will bombs still make it on to planes? Sadly yes. Will we be attacked again?...yes...yes, we will. What we should not do is make it easy for those who would harm us, and a burly law enforcement agent (male or female) with a HK-MP5, training, and ice in their veins is a better deterrent than my sweet retired auntie.


  1. Apparently another new rule is to not let anyone get out of their chair for the last hour of any flight. Go get 'em, TSA! Brilliant move to make us pee in our seats.

    I'm also more than a little confused as to why US airport security (and the Obama administration) is getting such a bad rap for this one when the guy boarded the plane in EUROPE. And European security DOES have a military presence at airports, complete with M-16s and drug sniffing pooches.

    Bombs WILL get onto planes, as you said. I think your best suggestion was US Marshal on every.single.flight. I think that's the best way to spend our tax money.

  2. You make a good point. Foiled Nigerian bomber of the moment did get on the plane in Europe and not the U.S. where they do have a visible armed and well trained police presence. I should clarify that my comments about wanting that kind of presence in our airports was an outgrowth of comments on a friend's Facebook post. One commenter pointed out that in every test of TSA security conducted by the FBI or other agencies, the 'mystery shopper' or I suppose 'mystery terrorist' was able to get onto a plane with a "bomb" or "weapon" unobstructed. This doesn't make me want highly trained men and women with assault weaponry in my airport any less. It does make a difference. Seeing the assault rifle might make someone stop and think about their approach, or abort altogether. Someone's grandmother with a metal detecting wand is like a freaking invitation. As an epilogue to this tale, one friend of mine recently made a trip home to for the holidays. Being a smoker he always carries at least one, usually two lighters (one you keep, the other you let someone 'borrow' knowing you'll never get it back). When he arrived at the security checkpoint he dutifully handed over his lighters expecting the TSA agent to throw them out. Instead she handed them back with a 'oh go ahead, honey,' and sent him on his way. He was able to go through the metal detector without it making a peep, and go on to board the plane with both lighters in his pockets. It is TSA security professionals like that that have me wanting to make my next cross country trip by car.