Airport Security Rant

by admin on February 18, 2010

I flew from Edinburgh airport twice in the past week.  One flight was a day trip to Birmingham. No, I wasn’t going on homage to the site of Crossroads or spend a day on the canals (more canal in Brum than there is in Venice) but it was a trip to the NEC to a trade show.

The second trip was to Heathrow for a weekend break to London.  So, two domestic flights, only hand baggage and two early morning starts.  Early morning but the airport was busy both times.  Busy but not overly busy but it still took 45 minutes to clear security. Standing in the queues I had plenty of time to consider ‘security’.

And the more I thought about it the more I wondered WTF is airport security actually supposed to achieve? Safety for passengers or employment of security staff?  On average every 4th passenger managed to trip the alarm passing through the actually security gate.  Which meant lengthy delays while the one male searcher and one female searcher gave the potential terrorist a thorough pat down.

One in four being stopped is a joke.  The old man in front of me had to use sticks to walk.  he was allowed through with them but then stopped and had to lean against the Xray machine while they sent his sticks through seperately.  They then decided to make him go through again without his sticks which he just about managed without falling over.  But he tripped the alarm again.  He then had to take his shoes off while balancing against the machine (luckily his daughter was there to help).  He was then given a thorough pat down while his shoes were X-rayed.  Eventually the staff decided he didn’t pose a threat and was allowed to carry on through to departures.

Where the very expensive shops sell more than enough sharp, flamable and potentially explosive stuff to make a whole range of aircraft destroying devices.

We’re told security screening is for our safety but it starts to lose its credibility when 25% of a queue are regarded as posing a potential terrorist threat.  And when security screening is so inconsistent.  Why do only some people have to take shoes and/or belts off?  Why don’t metal earing and rings seem to set the alarms off?  Why can’t you take disposbale razors through but can buy as many as you like airside?

I used to enjoy flying but now it’s becoming a pain in the arse.  Mickey mouse ‘security’ procedures that will never catch a determined organised terrorist followed by airlines imposing their own wacky rules on the amount of hand baggage you can take onboard (only 1 piece but it can weigh as much as you like) as well as charging a mind boggling 65p a minute to enquire about your flight have taken all the pleasure out of flying – especially short haul.

But I guess I’m stuck with it until someone perfects the teleport machine and can guarantee keeping fly’s out when I  get in.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Melnyk March 3, 2010 at 7:53 pm

During February I flew from Vancouver to Orlando for a one week visit and to witness the last night launch of the space shuttle. Three out of my four times through Airport security I was selected for a secondary body search. I can tell you it hardly felt random.

As the result of a particularly invasive search in Orlando, which upset me to the point of tears and resulted in my leaving my glasses behind in the bin when I left I decided to file a complaint with the TSA. The first letter they sent me was an explanation of why they are so justified in searching everyone. When I responded to them, I received a second, more conciliatory letter apologizing, but essentially saying “Them’s the breaks, suck it up princess, it’s the world we live in.”, and suggesting I file yet another lost & found claim or fill in a four page claim that would require more time, effort and back up documentation than it would take for a convicted felon to get a job as the President’s body guard.

And so here is my final response to them.

William,

I appreciate that you took the time to write to me addressing my concern, but I have to tell you it didn’t really do anything to redress my distress.

I am tired of the galloping and unnecessary level of paranoia that has gripped the world.

I am tired by the fact that I have to produce two pieces of picture ID in order to put a vacation hold on my mail just in case some malicious person might stop by and plunk down twenty dollars to put a hold on my mail just for spite.

I’m tired of lining up like cattle to walk through metal detectors, as I did no fewer than 8 times during a one week vacation to Florida, to have my bags x-rayed and searched.

I’m tired of people peering at me to guess whether I am a nut case or a terrorist.

I’m tired of having strangers feel me up every time I go through an airport. Not gingerly patting because the metal detector indicates I might have a machete or an assault weapon tucked down my pants, but groping and searching as if they might find a stray micro-dot hidden under my breast. Offering to grope me in private does nothing at all to allay the distress and humiliation of being repeatedly subjected to offensive body searching.

I’m tired of polite explanations about why this is all so necessary.

Because I don’t agree that it is necessary.

There will always be angry people, who feel justified in hurting others to avenge their own hurt. But treating everyone like they are at risk of going off like a bomb is not the answer. The people who are intent on hurting others will find their way. While airport officials are busy searching innocent middle aged women, hostile looking teen aged boys, and men with sunglasses and dark mustaches, the terrorists are off hatching a new plan that doesn’t involve planes and airports.

Increased security will never make you more secure. It will only make you feel more insecure. Because the threat you are looking for will not be carried in a pocket or a backpack it is carried in the hearts and minds of wounded people.

When does, a terrorist win? He wins when he is able to erode your most basic freedoms. And one of my most basic freedoms, the freedom not to be touched by others without my permission, was violated 8 times in February, and it wasn’t violated by a terrorist, it was willingly violated by a person of otherwise good conscience, because they were afraid.

We have become our own worst enemy.

And the only way to change that is for people to rise up and say STOP! ENOUGH! I’M NOT WILLING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE! And to find ways to build bridges instead of barricade them.

And as to your apologies and explanations, I’m sorry, but they just don’t make me feel any better about being reduced to tears during my last search in Orlando, nor about accidentally leaving my $750 glasses behind in the bin when I retrieved my belt, shoes, bag and other belongings because I was so distressed.

What might make me feel better is for you to live up to your title as a Customer Support Representative, and give me some support by trotting over to the Lost and Found yourself and finding my glasses which would have carefully been logged in on February 13 at about 5 pm. I have already filed 2 lost and found reports and responded to 2 emails from TSA.

In this case, actions would speak far louder than words. If you could find my glasses for me, I would feel that there has been some serious attempt at redress or apology.

Sincerely,

Anne Melnyk

Reply

paulyrob March 4, 2010 at 10:52 am

Anne – thanks for sending this comment. It makes my recent experiences look almost good by comparison. You articulate a lot of valid points about security here and the invasion of personal privacy. For whatever reasons they choose, Governments seem increasingly keen on treating the ordinary traveling public as potential terrorists. Shame on them all.

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