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The Backlash Against Airline Security

This is a healthy development, particularly if it gets the TSA to back down: "But the new pat-downs have prompted a growing backlash among pilots and flight attendants, civil liberties groups and security-weary passengers who say the touching goes too far.'It's more than just patting you down. It's very intrusive and very insane. I wouldn't let anyone touch my daughter like that,' said Marc Moniz of Poway, Calif., who is planning to accompany his daughter's eighth-grade class from San Diego to Washington in April. 'We're not common criminals.'"

At some point, the growing intrusiveness of pre-flight security checks was bound to become more than airline passengers would tolerate, and perhaps we're getting to that point. And if we are, then the TSA should back off. Why? Because it's the passengers who are incurring the risk if they decide to live with lower levels of security screenings on flights: They're the ones who might be taken hostage, or see their plane used as a missile, or blown up in the sky. Americans are smart people: They think about these things. And if they're weighing the certain loss of dignity in a TSA patdown versus the almost-infinite odds they'll be on the plane AlQaeda attacks, perhaps the government should respect that calculation.

Related, a reader of Jim Fallows writes: "What bothers me is that I am on the verge of re-deploying from Afghanistan after a 10-month combat tour that involved having to deal with, among other things, conducting searches of local nationals when involved with security tasks within my Infantry company. At no time were we permitted or even encouraged to search children or women. In fact, this would have been considered an extreme violation of acceptable cultural practice and given the way word travels here, been a propaganda victory for the Taliban."

Unfortunately, we seem to believe that we can prevent another attack of terrorism if only we try hard enough, if only we tighten security a little more, if only we raise our defenses a little higher. That's ridiculous. It only takes one person to get through the system to be successful. It doesn't mean the system doesn't work: It means the system isn't perfect, because no system is. At some point, we're going to have to accept that's a part of life, and not worth a never-ending series of tradeoffs in which civil liberties and personal dignity always, always, always get the short end of the stick.


KhabaLox said…
I agree that physical pat downs, like banning toner cartridges, are not really making us much safer. But I'd dial back this part of your argument a bit:

"Because it's the passengers who are incurring the risk if they decide to live with lower levels of security screenings on flights"

A lot of people are going to read that as being obtuse to the fate of those inside the towers or Pentagon, even though your next sentence makes it clear that you aren't.

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