November 9th, 2002


Security vs. feelgoodism

I type this at the airport in Minneapolis, as I wait to board my flight. Unfortunately, as part of this process, I have been "randomly selected" for search, according to my ticket. My sutcase has already been X-rayed. (Thank heavens that the government mandated that that be done by X-ray; the airline I'm flying today, American Trans Air, used to do that by hand search.)

The whole business about searching passengers is intrusive and ineffective. To begin with, if they did their job at the security checkpoint, they wouldn't need to do it again at the gate, because nothing would get to the gate. If the intention is to protect pasengers, they wouldn't do anything random at all, for doing so will inevitably miss something. The standards for what and how and who to search very from one airport to the next, as well; this further decreases security, because every search is designed to meet a specific threat or range of threats, and varying from one to the next means that inevitably, some threats are missed.

This whole thing isn't an exercise in security; it's an exercise in public feelgoodism. It's designed to make the traveling public feel better about flying. In the process, not only is the public's privacy being violated, but the Constitution as well: I believe that this constitutes an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment, since the mere act of presenting oneself for a trip by airplane does not constitute probable cause to believe that a crime has been or is about to be committed.

If I had a choice in the matter, I'd tell them all to go to hell. Since my job demands that I travel by air, however, I'm forced to allow this invasion of my belongings, my person, and my privacy.
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