When both sides in a negotiation refuse to budge, the impasse is usually detrimental to both parties.
With that in mind, perhaps I can be of assistance in mediating the exploding conflict involving body-imaging scanners and pat-downs at some of the nation’s airports.
On one side, we have the government that, despite its reluctance to employ profiling with these measures, is standing its ground. On the other, we have groups such as WeWon’tFly.com, advocating that travelers not fly because the scanners are "strip searches;" if they do, however, they are encouraged to opt out of the "porno-scanners" and "raise holy hell."
And I thought this was going to be a difficult negotiation.
There’s a very simple solution: do everything to accommodate the We Won’t Fly people. True, that’s not an effective negotiating strategy most of the time, but in this instance, it works perfectly.
Travelers in America will be somewhat safer, and the We Won’t Fly gang can take the bus to London. I hear Greyhound has some great deals this time of year.
* * *
The outcry over these security tactics is, as with most things reported in today’s media, vastly overblown. Sure, there are the loudmouths who stage protests, video themselves in pre-planned confrontations with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners, and post fallacies on their Facebook pages, but they are a small minority.
Truth is, most Americans don’t have a problem with the full-body imaging scanners at all, nor do they object to a rigorous pat-down should one opt out of the screening process. It is an unfortunate but necessary precaution in a post 9/11 world. That’s the reality, it’s not going to change — and it shouldn’t.
Some critics argue that those not opposing the procedures are like sheep, simply rolling over to the almighty government’s demands. They miss the point entirely.
No one is holding a gun to their head. They don’t have to step onto that plane. Period. If they don’t like the way things are being done to thwart terrorist attacks, they can find alternatives. Flying on commercial aircraft is not a right, but a privilege. And while the airlines are private companies, they rightfully fall under government security regulations.
Why should the other 300 passengers on a plane have their security —READ: their lives — compromised because a few individuals are upset that a scan reader sees a computer-generated outline of a person’s body? A screener, by the way, who sits in a windowless office and cannot view the person being scanned.
That in mind, a few points need clarification:
1) Does anyone really believe a screener in a remote location, who can’t see the person being scanned, is really getting his jollies by looking at what amounts to black-and-white humanoid images all day? What’s next? The "Hottest Airport Scanner Images of 2011" wall calendar?
2) America is fast becoming one of the most obese countries in the world. So to bolster Point # 1, how much physical stimulation are screeners getting when they are continuously performing pat-downs on the likes of Passenger Pat…. who at 385 pounds, could easily play defensive lineman in the NFL, showers twice a month, and whose gender is unknown? Hey, to each his own, but that takes the cake. Literally.
3) Those images, by the way, are not downloadable, according to the TSA, so they are not making the rounds on the social media circuit, as some claim. However, if the images are being deleted immediately upon a traveler being cleared, as is being reported, that is a major security mistake. The images should be saved until the plane has safely reached its destination, since, should a terrorist act occur during the flight, a record would still exist of all scanned passengers. Mistakes, both honest and deliberate, must be fleshed out after an incident, and the stored files of those scanned would be an obvious starting point.
4) Most important, by far, is not how we are scanning, but whom. And yes, this point will be advocated again and again until we wake up and pay attention. It is time to actively profile, since nothing is more effective at preventing a terrorist act than profiling. Just ask the Israelis.
It doesn’t do any good to yank an 80-year old grandmother from Missouri out of the regular line and throw her into the scanner/pat-down queue, while those who fit certain red-flag profiles glide by with the smug smirk of victory.
Despite the whining of the politically correct hypocrites who officially abhor profiling but secretly pray that the Muslim sitting in first slass was vetted to the point of tears by security, profiling works. Always has, and always will, so long as we remain proactive and not reactive in our profiling techniques.
And yes, a good place to start would be younger men with olive-complexioned skin who hail from Middle Eastern origin. Of course, that’s just one aspect, albeit the one that gets hammered by the PC police, but we should also be asking a target why they are here, what business they are in, names of colleagues, city of destination, where they are staying when they get there, even the name and address on their license. It may seem surprising, but even those willing to blow themselves up get nervous under intense scrutiny.
Nervousness leads to mistakes, and their mistakes may save lives.
Nothing we do will ever guarantee our safety in the air. Engines catch fire, landing gear gets stuck, shoddy parts come from China. We accept these risks because we have no other choice. Mechanical failures happen, and we live with that acceptable risk.
Likewise, there is no guarantee that we will nab all the bad guys trying to bring down a jetliner. But to have state-of-the-art technology not properly utilized because a few misguided souls are trying to posture themselves with a significance they never had, that’s inexcusable.
If going through a body scanner makes people that insecure about themselves, here’s a suggestion: get a couch and talk to a shrink in comfort.
Otherwise, get out of the airport and send us a postcard from the TransAtlantic highway.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe." Freind, whose column appears nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX. He can be reached at [email protected]