Security Screening or Sexual Assault?
Controversy is mounting over security pat-downs in US airports. A YouTube video posted recently by a 31-year-old passenger named John Tyner, where he declines the full body scan, and is subjected to a pat-down in response, has gone viral, helping to spread the controversy further. Mr Tyner can be heard clearly threatening the officer who is checking him with legal action, if he touches his “junk.”
Anyone who has experience with frisking can tell you that the most likely areas for someone to try and smuggle something through a security check are their shoes or boots, and their crotch, or for women, inside their bra. From the perspective of security personnel, also, a person who is being uncooperative or belligerent is a more likely suspect than someone who consents to be screened. As such, the behaviour demonstrated by Mr Tyner, by being belligerent and threatening the security officer who is checking him over, and his direct comment about avoiding his crotch, a well known place to hide weapons, drugs, or other controlled items, would clearly raise a red flag.
The screening at airports has become excessive, to some. However, it is also widely acknowledged as necessary. The days of being able to walk onto an airplane with your favourite pocket knife or your steel knitting-needles are over. The current climate of violence and fear has made screening necessary. In many places, you cannot even go into a night club, or a concert, without being subjected to a similar level of security. To board a charter bus, it is often required. Security threats are very real, and very serious, that is evident to everyone. But some feel that they should be exempt from these checks, which are there not for the sake of inconveniencing them, but to keep them safe.
While it is true that the safety of frequent full body scans is currently under question, it is equally clear that you will not die tomorrow from a single scan today. If you decline the faster, less invasive measures that are being offered to you, you must accept the alternative. Clearly there are certain groups who might be entitled to be exceptions to this rule; pilots and flight attendants, for example, who may be clearing through security several times a day. The frequent exposure to the scanning equipment, it is feared, might increase risks to their health. This is something which is already being looked into. But most experts seem to agree an occasional scan a few times a year, is unlikely to cause any harm. After all, the cell phone Mr Tyner used to record his video gives off radiation as well. So does the sun. So does the computer on which so many people are watching the video. Radiation may kill you one day, but a bomb going off on the plane almost certainly will kill you, and a lot faster.
Attempting to intimidate and bully airport security out of doing their job, by threatening legal action, is childish. Certainly some of the measures are inconvenient, and unpleasant, but the risk is very real, and more than enough to balance out the nuisance they may cause. Are some of the restrictions over the top? Certainly, yes; refusing carry on luggage because someone had their briefs full of explosive powder seems a little ridiculous. Does that mean that all security is excessive? Definitely not; I would much rather have the back of a hand run up my inseam than have the guy sitting next to me set off a crotch-bomb while flying over the Atlantic, personally.
People need to remember, these measures are there to ensure their safety. They should also remember that no one is forcing them to fly. Instead of trying to cause problems for the staff at the airport, cooperate and you will get through that much quicker. When you cause that scene, you are distracting the other security staff from their jobs, making it that much easier for someone to sneak through who is being cooperative. You are making the process take that much longer for your self, solely at fault for your own level of inconvenience. And, by uttering threats of legal action, you are also demonstrating your own ignorance and increasing the inconvenience for everyone else involved, from those waiting patiently for their turn, to the staff trying to clear you through, and accomplishing nothing but making yourself look all the more suspicious to those staff.
This is the new reality for air travel. If you don’t like it, drive. Do not expect to get out of the screening everyone else has to go through. You are NOT that special, and believe me; most of those security guards are no more interested in having their hands between your legs than you are. Just be thankful it is not a full on cavity search; cooperate, and help it go faster. It’s easier for everyone that way.