If you’ve flown on an airplane in the last few years, then you’re most likely familiar with the whole process of being herded through metal detectors, having your personal belongings picked through and having that little wand shoved at you, all the while attempting to appear unsuspicious in order to avoid further prodding and poking. But prepare yourself if you plan on flying this season. Just when you thought it was safe to put your belt and shoes back on, The Transportation Security Administration has decided that this isn’t enough.
TSA revamped its screening tests on September 22, after two Russian Airlines planes crashed as a result of explosives that were strapped to two Chechen female’s bodies. Full-body frisks are now standard practice, and the changes have not gone unnoticed. Since instating the frisks, TSA receives about a dozen complaints each week regarding misconduct, the majority of which are made by women who feel they were touched inappropriately.
The frisks are conducted as follows: roughly one out of every 10 passengers is pulled aside. Some are chosen because they were lucky enough to get a boarding pass with a series of S’s stamped on the side, indicating that they were chosen as the recipient of secondary searches for the entirety of their trip. Some are taken aside due to “an unusual contour in their clothing,” and some are picked purely because the Frisker decided they should be.
After being selected, the Friskees (those being frisked, that is) are pulled to the side of the line, often in plain sight of everyone else in the vicinity, and told to face away from the security officers. Then an officer is chosen to conduct the groping. TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said that in “most cases” Friskers “of the same gender as the passenger will conduct the pat-down.”
For areas deemed “non-sensitive” by TSA, such as the back, thighs, neck, underarms, stomach and men’s chests, the Frisker is trained to use the front of his hands (palm and fingers). For “sensitive” areas, such as the genitals, buttocks, and a woman’s breasts, the Frisker is instructed to use the back of his hands. I’ve had bad dreams that were less obtrusive.
While many people lean to the age old adage, “better safe than sorry,” I can’t imagine this is making us very much safer at all. Anyone with a semi-functioning imagination and a less-than-working knowledge of explosives (gleaned, in my case, from many episodes of MacGyver) can fathom ways to sneak explosives past the Friskers. Not to mention the ever-important fact that only one in ten people are being checked this way.
So as long as you’re comfortable with someone of the same gender as you using their knuckles to “pat-down” your crotch in front of dozens of people, all in vain, you shouldn’t have any problems.
This isn’t meant as an attack on TSA, and I have a ton of respect for the security workers who are trying to keep us safe as we fly from destination to destination, but surely there are more effective ways of doing so. Bomb sniffing dogs perhaps, or x-ray screens. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, just a soap-box to shout from and a distaste for being groped in public.