Security · Transportation Do heightened security measures affect your willingness to fly? Eric Ringham November 19, 2010, 5:00 AM Nov 19, 2010 53 comments The use of body scanners and physical pat-downs has spawned a controversy over security at U.S. airports. Today’s Question: Do heightened security measures affect your willingness to fly? ‹ Older If you ran the University of Minnesota, what three things would you do to make it better? Newer › How big a role does the anchor play in your choice of a newscast to watch? Browse by category Education Health Economy Politics/Government Culture Religion/Ethics Science/Technology Transportation Race/Gender Environment/Energy Security International affairs Immigration Media Military About the blogger Eric Ringham firstname.lastname@example.org Hiram Flying is such a miserable experience generally, that adding miserableness factors on the margins has little impact on my decision to fly. For all sorts of reasons I don’t fly if I can possibly avoid it. Ann As someone who has had multiple joint replacements, I have had to do the additional security pat-downs for years. It has always involved being singled out from the line as you beep away, then being moved to a separate line for additional checks. I will now stay in the same line as everyone else, everyone having the same check. It does my heart good! And I have never found any of the security personnel to be overly personal. Randolph I will accept a certain amount of invasive security and time-consuming passage through the checkpoints, but I wish we could dispense with the illusion that these measures guarantee safety. The world is a dangerous place. Accidents happen. People with evil intentions exist. Every degradation of our freedoms is an incremental victory for those who wish to disrupt, disable and discourage. On the flip side, the price of having the personal freedoms we’ve historically enjoyed in the US is a certain amount of risk. We don’t seem mature enough to accept this. We can’t be protected from everything, much less from ourselves. Brigitte Yes. I find it disturbing that I am required to make a choice between having a nude photograph taken or undergoing a molestation. For me, this would be embarassing and upsetting. For some, this could be significantly traumatic. Despite claims by the TSA, this will not make us safer as there are still ways to circumvent even these measures. More money needs to go to intelligence- gathering and less to boondoggles like these machines. Why must the entire populace be treated like criminals to look for a needle in a haystack? Where will we draw the line? We need smarter searches, not more invasive. It would take 5 minutes with google to figure out I am highly unlikely to be a terrorist. More intelligence, less harassment and fear-mongering! Jim M No, but paying for luggage does. Paul I’d have no problem with full-body scanners, as long as I’d also get to see brief, full-body scans of the security people administering them. They wouldn’t have to worry — I wouldn’t try to snap a picture of them or anything. And they wouldn’t be stored anywhere — as far as they know. Hey, it’s only fair, right? 😉 Al There are plenty of reasons not to fly, including ridiculous prices for everything from luggage to water to food, the huge environmental footprint, and over-blown security measures already in place. This choice between a body scan and molestation is just another to add to the list. Jason Absolutely. A decade ago, I would fly every month or two. Now, I try to sly once or less per year. The late George Carlin said of airport security, “They’ve never found one bomb, on one person, on one plane, EVER.”, Isn’t that still accurate? 30+ years of mandatory searches, and no bomb has ever been found. But does the security act in a preventative manner? Prove it. It didn’t stop 9/11, or the show bomber. They have a 100% failure rate at missing real bombs/terrorists. The TSA workers do their job well, it’s just the entire concept that is broken. Now that they have naked scanners at the airport, I’d rather not fly again. Recently, a scanner was sent the the manufacturer for repair, and they found tens of thousands of saved images of naked people. They said they weren’t keeping the images. I just don’t like it when the hairy man in the booth wants to take photos of me naked, while he drinks my bottled water, and scolds me for bringing an entire tube of toothpaste, as they pick through my toiletries in public. And now, the “naked scanner industry” has a truck mounted version that can scan houses, seeing through walls. The company says the they’ve sold hundreds to various governments. Now they can see me naked while I shower too. Here’s a video and article about it: http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2010/08/24/full-body-scan-technology-deployed-in-street-roving-vans/ With those trucks driving around, just like google’s street view cars, we might as well become a nomadic nudist colony. It’s a good thing obama is building high-speed rail. Though, I bet they’ll have the same security. So here’s an Idea: since politicians and powerful people fly on private planes, which have zero (really, zero) security requirements, I bet if we made them go through the same security checks before getting on the tarmac, we’d see airport security changed in a heartbeat. You can’t have the decision makers and leaders using a different system than everyone else. Jason It’s not the security itself, it is the 4 hours it takes to get through, the way everyone gets treated, the overpriced food once you get in the airport, the terrible service given to you by the airlines, that the pilots and crew could get paid more managing a McDonalds, the fact that slaves had more room in their slave-ships than you get on an airplane, the delays and delays and delays just to take off, that you could get better snacks at a Stupid America than on the plane… Shall I go on? But the TSA and the airlines know we have little to no alternative. I could pay for a train, but it would take as long as the whole of my vacation just to get there and back. I could drive, but same problem plus the tiredness. Gary F Gradually over the last few years, I have seen more and more companies going back to business travel. Go to Meeting webinars get the job done but nothing beats face face contact. People buy from people. But, I see this changing. If we don’t put some reason back in airline security, business will find some other way again. With the radiation from scanners, the control over your body scan images, getting felt up, having 3 year olds and old ladies “shook down, the demands that Muslim women be exempt from scanning and being felt up, and the possibility of TSA becoming unionized which means they become another arm of the Democratic party, I can’t see a reason why I would fly. Put the airlines in charge. It’s their planes. John O. I fly on a semi-regular basis for work and personal time due to time and/or distance restraints. In this part of the country, rail is currently not a viable option since Amtrak has a total of one train each direction each day through St. Paul. I am in complete agreement with Hiram that the additional misery at the security checkpoint is usually marginal. The inconsistencies are, at times, baffling. Chicago Midway does one thing that I do like: they have separate queues available for families and “expert” travelers. MSP may want to consider this, at least at Terminal 1. Skip Absolutely not. Of course, I’ll continue to fly – and often. It’s just more whining by spoiled people. I am grateful for any effort to make my flying experience as safe as possible. FLY ON! Jeremy Airport security is a farce. For all of the hassle, the groping, and unnecessary radiation of the Nude-O-Scopes, TSA continues to allow guns and bombs on planes. While the screeners at MSP are polite, they are part of a group that includes convicted felons, pedophiles, and thieves. Nevermind the fact that these scanners are a boondoggle for former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and the GAO has determined that they would likely not have found the underwear bomber’s powder. I will not be flying until this nonsense stops. If you want this nonsense to stop, let your Senator know, who thinks these cancer machines are the greatest thing since sliced bread: http://klobuchar.senate.gov/emailamy.cfm. T Nope. Add on the security measures and do your best. Fly through an Isreali airport and there you’ll see real intense sucurity. Bekki TSA agents are not trained medical personnel. They are just normal people off the street. It is very appalling to me that my choice is for one of them to see me naked or another to touch my private parts. Since these extra searches are “random”, what’s to stop some unscrupulous TSA agents from specifically targeting a person because they’d enjoy patting them down. But my biggest issue is that all of this invasion of my civil liberties is just an illusion of security. Now that we have to undergo naked body scans, the terrorists are already evolving again to begin using cargo instead of people. We’re always one step behind, and losing the freedom our country values due to fear is actually the worst outcome. Leonard What’s happened to our 4th Amendment Rights against unreasonable search? To those sheep out there that think this sham really is helping their security I ask them to consider this; the only time aircraft bombing has been stopped it has been by alert passengers and aircrew taking their safety into their own hands. By submitting to this illegal, unconstitutional search you are allowing terror to win … TSA is only window dressing, political theater. Think about it Gary F Should Muslim women be exempt from being felt up or scanned? Grandma So-called “heightened security measures” certainly DO affect my willingness to fly. My only grandchildren live on the west coast, and I have a son in New York, so I have always flown many times a year…until now. On the way back from San Francisco last time, I was told to stand in position in the body-scanning booth. Yes, it only meant less than a second of a humiliatingly awkward pose in a box, but the knowledge that someone somewhere was staring at my nude body left me feeling invaded. I never want to go through that again, and I will NEVER submit to being groped by some stranger. Will I ever see my grandkids again? Jason > Fly through an Isreali airport and there > you’ll see real intense sucurity. Oh that’s nothing. Every been in a Turkish prison? In America, we have rights, and airport security violates those rights. Jane Thomson Flying in a many-ton machine through mid-air is a privilege, not a right. Those that site their precious privacy as a reason not to be scanned or patted down should just go by bus or train. Few are experts on security. If scanning keeps flyers safer, let’s do it and quit fussing. Your precious and unique body would not have much dignity sifting down from the sky in pieces. Delay? Try getting to the airport a little earlier. brian f So, out of honest curiosity, how many potential bombers have been found by these enhanced security measures? Seriously, I haven’t heard of a single one, and would appreciate an answer to that question. I’m not overly concerned about the “nudity” issue, and I suspect the radiation safety issue, while legitimate, is a negligible risk for the majority of people. Regardless, if I ever have to fly somewhere (which I avoid generally for a variety of reasons), I think I’ll opt for the pat down, if only so I can tell the agent, as he gropes my genitals, “Don’t start something you’re not willing to finish.” Or maybe I’ll just stuff a foil-wrapped cucumber down the front of my pants. Rich This was one of the things I had hoped would change once Bush was finally gone. It seems to have gotten worse instead. Carrie I don’t think anybody really knows whether or not this makes us safer. It is likely that terrorists will just find some other way to bring a plane down. I’m a little more concerned with the cargo on the plane that I can’t see, than I am about the passengers that I can see. chuck Both security and the way the airlines are run have taken the joy out of flying, so I have adopted the rule that if my destination is within a long day’s drive, I jump in the car and not the plane. Doug I believe Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Have we come to this, that we’ve given up essential liberties, that define our exceptionalism and our notion of ourselves, because of one event that happened almost a decade ago? Even the Europeans, who live with more terrorism than we (e.g. ETA, IRA, Red Brigade), have refused to be as completely cowed by an omnipresent but formless threat. DMox Have you considered that the reason a bomb hasn’t been found is that there is security, thus preventing would-be terrorists from trying to bring one in? The logic there is like saying “Why should I wash my hands? I wash my hands all the time & I still get a cold!” At any rate….I fly quite a bit, and I have to say that I have not experienced any recent uptick in hassle at the security checkpoints. I am, however, constantly amazed that, 9 years into these new security measures, people still haven’t figured out that they can’t wear bangley metal jewelry, that they have to take their laptop out of the case, that they have to take off their shoes, etc….get with the program America! The reason it takes so long to get through security, is because about 20% of the folks in front of you wore boots with 17 buckles that they have to take off, forgot about the $18 in change in their front pocket, didn’t realize they couldn’t bring a gallon of shampoo in their carry-on, and didn’t know 34 pounds of jewelry around their neck would set off a metal detector. Not only are the rules & standards posted for all to see, there are about 50 or so of us standing in line with you that could very easily answer any last minute questions about what is allowed & what is not. It’s bizarre. If you don’t like it, don’t fly. If you don’t like the rules, take the bus, demand a better train service, rent a car & plan ahead. If you want to fly, with as little hassle as possible, then get with the program & come prepared. Before we start pointing fingers at the TSA, let’s take a look around the herd, & start demanding better from the flying public. davidz I am unlikely to fly under the current security regime. The xray/backscatter scanners are too much for no real extra security, and the alternatives are worse. I won’t fly for pleasure anymore (haven’t really for years), and am unwilling to fly now for work. Taking the train is looking more and more appealing, even for longer distances. The time is longer, sure, but the ride is enjoyable and the view better than from the plane. Moira Yes! but I can’t avoid flying to certain locales in certain situations. I thought it wasn’t a big deal when I heard about these things until I experienced them overseas…very unsettling, both the machine AND the “pat-down,” which is quite different from what people may have experienced before. There is very little reporting on false positives from the machine screening, and that needs looking at, too. We subject ourselves to radiation and being positioned like suspects and still they get false readings. So it often is a false choice, to say people can do it one way or the other. Patrick Maybe if more of us looked good naked this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Sarah The new TSA measures have made me go from being a frequent flyer to having a complete unwillingness to travel by air until I don’t have to undergo screening that, as a survivor of sexual assault, make me feel violated and less safe. azna amira I won’t fly until this downward lunatic spiral desists..So far, it’s gone like this: a danger presents itself, and the terrorist-catchers institute new flying rules that erode privacy: luggage and body searches. Another danger presents itself, the rules ratchet up to limits on liquids and removed shoes. So far, we’ve gone along, but if one doesn’t say no to public virtual nudity or sexual molestation by a stranger, when do we start saying no? What are we in for if they switch to bombs hidden in the rectum (and don’t laugh–it’s already been done successfully, just not on a plane. Yet). They have already switched attention from passengers to cargo. Each new set of rules only teaches the terrorists new tactics. In the meantime, they’ve made their point about Americans and their commitment to freedom: we’ll give it up in an instant for the illusion of security. midas It would be nice if they’d be allowed to examine the PEOPLE rather than what they may or may not have on them. Looking for suspicious behavior should matter more than feeling up little Johnny and his Grandma. And as unpopular as it might be, it isn’t unreasonable to focus more attention on specific groups who have a profile similar to other would-be bombers. Philip I don’t fly anymore unless I absolutely have to. Everything about flying now is a hassle from the security screening to the nonsense they give you about the “complimentary” beverage service offered, as though this isn’t worked into the cost of a ticket. K. A friend liked this new TSA regime as Cancer Vs. Molestation. I have a ticket to fly home for Christmas, and if I could refund it I would, and either drive or take Amtrak. As it is, I’ll fly this one last time, then it’s ground transportation for me. This is all security theater. The best security experts in the world say it’s useless. On the other hand, I haven’t seen a topic bring the far left and the far right so close together in a long time… Laura I have decided that flying isn’t worth the needless exposure to radiation that these scanners inflict. Also the public isn’t getting all the facts concerning the amount of radiation passengers of all ages are being exposed to with these devices. See these concerns expressed by UCSF faculty: Backscatter X-ray uses ionizing radiation, a known cumulative health hazard, to produce images of passengers’ bodies. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with defective DNA repair mechanisms are considered to be especially susceptible to the type of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Also at high risk are those who have had, or currently have, skin cancer. Ionizing radiation’s effects are cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed you are adding to your risk of developing cancer. Since the dosage of radiation from the backscatter X-ray machines is absorbed almost entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin, averaging the dose over the whole body gives an inaccurate picture of the actual harm. In their letter of concern, the UCSF faculty members noted that “the dose to the skin could be dangerously high”. The eyes are particularly susceptible to the effects of radiation, and as one study found allowing the eyes to be exposed to radiation can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.” Owen Since I can pretty much get along without flying, I had already not flown for years. All this just reenforces my position. Opting out I was planning to fly to the West Coast sometime next year to visit relatives, but now I am changing plans toward driving or taking the train. I am not a terrorist and I don’t need to be treated like one. If we allow this invasion of personal privacy, we are setting the way for further surveillance, and it will simply be accepted because we are already used to it. It makes me wonder if 9-11 was set up in order for the powers in charge to exert more control over the population. It’s easy to control people through fear. Nicholas I will boycott flying until they figure out what it is they are actually supposed to be doing. What it comes down to is that the TSA is a joke. They take nailclippers from armed soldiers, they humiliate flight attendants by forcing them to remove prosthetics and yet any random person can smuggle in bomb materials using the age old technique that has been used by all smugglers since the birth of the smuggling industry. For politeness sake I wont be explicit. The TSA needs to be dissolved or restructured from scratch. Greg D’ Roseville its almost not not worth flying for any distance you can drive in 6-8 hours. rising airline ticket prices, decreasing competitiveness between airlines .. . . it just seems like its time to retun to flying as a high end treat and get trains and ships back in service. slow travel – isn’t the productivity loss it once was … you got a laptop and a wireless connection and … you’re working/playing. … of course there are air-taxi services. no search and more airpot landing options … like in the neighborhood of where you are really going.. Lund Yes. Because we are retired our travel is all disrcretionary. My husband is 94 and I wouldn’t put him through the current pat down. Because of various prostheses, he is always vetted at length. If it gets any more intrusive and we will just stop going Lawrence Heightened airport security hasn’t affected my willingness to fly – the economy has done that. Simply put, its getting cheaper to travel by car, greyhound, and by Amtrak than it is to fly by plane. Instead of paying $200 or more per person to ride in a car, everybody just hops right in, and you don’t have to worry about luggage fees either. Moreover, traveling by car gets rid of paying for taxi and shuttle fees once you reach the city of destination. Steve the Cynic From the time it was first proposed, I’ve thought the Department of Homeland Scrutiny was a bad idea, and I’m very disappointed that Obama hasn’t fully reversed the erosion of civil liberties begun under his predecessor, Emperor Bush. S I wouldn’t care about the more intimate searches if there was independent studies to support the better detection. New equipment doesn’t change the problems of inspector fatigue and human error, that were already problems with the old equipment. Mark Yes. Flying is something I will avoid whenever possible. TSA has always violated 4th Amendment rights against illegal search & seizure, and this latest measure is just one more example of that violation. Heidi I haven’t flown for years, mainly because flying with kids is rough. The increasing in prices hasn’t helped much either. But now that we face these new body scanners or a pat down I wont be flying at all. I had planned to take my now 1 year old out to visit my family in California after Christmas, but I refuse to let him be scanned or have a pat down. I don’t trust the technology first of all. My child has no broken bones, or teeth that need x-raying, I’m not allowing him to be subjected to these supposedly “safe” frequencies. And I wont let someone see my child naked. My 1 year old is not concealing any weapons, except maybe a dirty diaper. As for the pat down, what does it teach our children when we say “don’t let a stranger touch you, except when your at the airport.” Granted he is only 1 but I have two other children. I’m not going to let anyone touch any of them. Because of the scans I wont be flying. The airlines have given me reason after reason not to fly and this is finally one I wont compromise on. My children are children, not terrorists and I will not subject them to these things. When they are old enough to understand what a scan/pat down means, then they can make their own decisions about who they choose to share their bodies with. Stephanie I’ve got to appreciate the terrorists humor. Take off your shoes, now take off your underwear! These screens do not make me feel safer, as 99.99% of us are PEOPLE trying to get from point A to point B. Had our government not been so arrogant as to dismiss the warning signs before the planes were hijacked and flown into the WTC, none of these herding the masses thru TSA labyrinths would be necessary now. Our gov’t is reactionary, not proactive. We always try to travel by any other means possible before deciding on flying. If only the xray machines would inspire us all to lose that extra weight! RCM I have already avoided flying unless it can’t be avoided. As a physicist I am alarmed that there have been no independent measurements of the scanner x-ray dose and the x-ray scanners may not be safe when one considers the radiation dosage to the entire flying public. And I feel the body searches excessive dave detlie I haven’t flown since 99, because I found unpleasant before 9/11. It’s easy to say you don’t object to the security, until that stranger starts groping your genitals! Carol I absolutely would refuse to fly under the current circumstances. I believe in protesting unjust laws however I can. Kevin VC Heightened security encourages me to travel. I hate the whiny dips who do not want to be screened. “Oh how dare they make me wait for my flight!!” thats what it really is about. They want things to be forgotten so they can show up at the last minute and get in their plane. These ‘priority mega money’ dips really need to face reality and just sit with the rest of us low lifes waiting in lines. Seriously. I will agree that the TSA needs to have separated rooms or privacy screens for those not wanting to go through the detectors. And I agree the images need to be not recorded and transmitted in any way it can be abused. And people needing to get to Australia or Japan…. use a fricking boat….. You do not NEED to fly, and if you do, plan ahead more….. Call the airport if their is some freaky reason you need to fly and time is somehow a point of concern, or to have security done in a better timely manner. This is no longer the world of ‘McAirport’… Steve in NC I am impressed by the generally high quality and thoughtfulness of comments posted on this article, even in posts with which I disagree. I found particularly apt the observation that we all reasonably expected that draconian and illegal means employed by the government for air travel and just about everything else during the Bush era would be reversed after he left office, but instead the situation is actually far worse. Mary Pat My concern is the radiation, I can tell you since they started this scanning my husband (a frequent flyer) is losing his hair at a very alarming rate. These people are not medical people and should not beusing medical equipment, also I have heard TSA officals laughing at results of scans mentioning “big body parts”. Very unprofessional…. Mr.Refuse To Fly I REFUSE to fly anymore becasue of TSA and how rude and uncomfortable the Airline Union workers are and the cramped dirty airplanes…and the disgusting food and bad service…I won’t fly anymore if I can help it at all..I blame the Unions and Government regulations for the deterioration of the Airline industry..also the Muslims..