So, I’m standing in line, exhausted, and waiting to get through airport security in Charlotte, on my way home from #BLOGCONCLT. For whatever reason, the line seems particularly slow and long.
Finally, I got my bin and proceeded to go through the drill: shoes, laptop, watch, jacket–but midway through the TSA strip tease, I glanced over at the next line. A woman was carefully trying to explain to her daughter what was going on. The girl couldn’t have been more than 6, with the kind of perfectly blonde hair that brunettes like me can hardly fathom. She was nodding, listening to her mother but seemed obviously perplexed, on the edge of being frightened. First time flying I suspected.
She was a trooper. She allowed her shoes to be removed, all the while tightly hugging some kind of comforting stuffed toy. She loosened her grip only enough to take her mother’s hand and walk through the metal detector. But of course, it is never that simple.
TSA Agent: I’m sorry, she can’t bring that through.
Mother: Its just a toy.
TSA Agent: Ma’am, it needs to go on the conveyor.
Mother: All right fine. To her daughter. Honey, we need to put your bunny through the machine.
Little Girl: But its my bunny!
Mother: I know, it will only take a moment.
Little Girl: But, but—
Apparently the injustice was too great for words. To her credit, she did not throw a tantrum or even cry. She just solemnly gave up her bunny to another TSA agent who had stepped up to make sure the stuffed animal was appropriately handed over and searched. The agent then walked back around and ran a quick swipe over the bunny before even putting it on the machine.
This incident probably sounds tame compared to some of the horror stories about children being searched, the infirm humiliated and general injustice. However, to me, it was a poignant example of how much our “security” has lost touch with reality. The simple image of a girl having her stuffed animal, a symbol which should resonate with so many of us as an item of eternal love and safety, taken from her to be checked for explosives embodies everything wrong with this system.
I doubt anyone reading this doesn’t already feel violated, directly or indirectly, by these procedures. Therein lies the problem, no matter your political persuasion, TSA is universally regarding as having serious problems. STILL.
In September, a petition was created at We The People, an arm of the White House’s online outreach. The petition went live in September 2011 and requested to abolish the TSA. By December it had more than 30,000 signatures, gaining viral support. The rapidly growing number of signatures forced the White House to respond. Their answer? “Thanks for playing along but we aren’t actually going to do anything.” Only months earlier the White House promised to use these petitions to deal with the issues most important to Americans. But when Americans called them on it, the response was gutless redirection; merely an explanation on why the TSA exists.
Even Congress tried to take the TSA to task this past March. CSPAN showed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee admonishing the TSA about their budget. The hearing resolved nothing but the tone of the joint committees was anything but pleasant. Interestingly, right after this brutal review, the TSA rolled out their “PreCheck” program as something “coming soon, we promise!” But based on previous government promises, not only will it not fix anything, the definition of “soon” will transform into a date indeterminate.
And finally, let’s not forget Jonathan Corbett’s video showing the straight-up ineffectiveness of the TSA with his blog about the body scanners. (Note: he is going to court involving the TSA now, so consider donating to this guy.) The TSA blog laughed him off, pretty much running him down as just “some blogger”. It is the single most commented on post for their blog, with over 400 responses. Not a single one agrees with “Bob” the TSA writer. (It is also worth noting that the TSA blog only let’s you see about 10 posts and does not allow you to view previous posts without a direct link. However, the amount SEO connected to that piece will force it to come up in a google search.) Every response to this blog was angry. In fact, I assume this post led to the newly instated TSA policy about deleting “off-topic” comments from their blog.
This leaves us with only one question left: Why, with this reaction from the public, does the TSA still exist–and what will finally force it to disappear?