Thursday, April 17, 2014

TSA and Our Security

I am not a super-frequent traveler, but the Significant Other and I get on airplanes 10 or 20 times a year, which means regular interactions with the Transportation Security Agency.  These are not high points in the air travel experience.

Several months back, after presenting my boarding pass and photo ID at the beginning of TSA screening, I was handed a pastel card indicating that I had Pre-Check status that would allow me to go through the screening process more quickly.

With this card, I was directed to a different line, one in which I was not required to take off my shoes, belt and light jacket, nor to remove my ziplock bag of liquids and laptop from my carryon bag.

In addition, I was directed to walk through an old metal detector screening box, not one of those creepy new x-ray machines that allow TSA employees in another room to see through our clothing.

A TSA X-ray scan, not of me.  At least I hope not.
Unfortunately, the metal plates in the soles of my shoes set off the metal detector, and I had to go back, take them off, run them through the x-ray bag scan machine and walk through the metal detector again, this time in my stockings.

Not much time saved in that process.

Since then, I frequently have received Pre-Check cards.

I wondered why I had been singled out as less risky than other travelers.  Had the NSA examined its files on me and found that I have received no traffic citations or parking tickets for more than 20 years, have never cheated on my taxes and never been arrested for anything, ever?

I also wondered why the Significant Other, who is if anything more upstanding than I am, never seemed to receive a Pre-Check card.

Then, the last time we flew, he was given a Pre-Check card and I was sent to the regular line.

All quite mysterious.

I learned recently that we were being given the opportunity to sample a new TSA program.  Now, if you want to be a regular in the Pre-Check line, you can apply to the TSA for five-year Pre-Check status.

All you have to do is submit an application, be fingerprinted, wait for the completion of a background check and be willing to be surveilled constantly by TSA's data analytics program.  You also must write a check for $85.  More than 100,000 people have done this so far, and hopes are high at the security agency that many more of us will join up.

I don't see the point.  If you think about it, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the younger Boston Marathon bomber, almost certainly could have gotten a Pre-Check card anytime before his first brush with the law last year.  And, if he had such status, what bad act would Pre-Check have enabled him to commit?

As for myself, I prefer not to be fingerprinted or investigated by the TSA.

Also, I'm not interested in giving more money to the TSA.  Its annual budget, $7 billion, includes a $2.50 charge collected with each plane ticket sold.  That seems like enough to me.

And while I'm at it, I'm also getting tired of those x-ray machines, and not just for the virtual invasion of my privacy.  I avoid x-rays when possible.  I'm seriously considering telling the TSA people to search me if they want or send me through the metal detector.  Sans shoes, of course.

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