Expect no help

Published 11:12 am Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Many Americans who have traveled, are traveling or are planning to travel on commercial airlines are rightfully uncomfortable with the federal government’s intrusive efforts to prevent terrorists from attacking airliners. Despite conciliatory words from the president and other leaders, however, travelers need to recognize that they are ultimately the ones who decide whether or not they can tolerate full-body scans and full-contact pat-downs.

Outrage began building as the Transportation Security Agency deployed full-body scanners – devices which in essence “see through” passengers’ clothes. Passengers who aren’t comfortable posing naked for the government have an alternative that is perhaps worse: An intrusive pat-down that includes a screener touching the passenger’s clothed genital areas. Much could be said of the heavy-handed methods, poor judgment and previous failures of the TSA; none of that is really relevant.

The only factor that matters is that no bureaucrat or government official will ever take the responsibility for backing off an established security measure. The risk, however slight, that a reversal in procedures might someday be linked to a terrorist episode simply scares them all too much.

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Thus passengers will be forced to decide whether the price of traveling by air – not just tickets and taxes, but giving way to ever greater personal intrusion – is worth the price. For some, such as business travelers, there is little real choice. But for leisure travelers, the matter is simpler. It’s unfortunate that Americans’ government is unlikely to ever provide help with the problem.