The Pat-Down Hysteria

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In the age of talk radio, tweets, blogs and videos shot on cell phones, it is not surprising to see an inconvenience blown up into a national crisis. Such is the case with the pat-downs that became part of airport security. As almost everyone knows, security can now ask passengers to submit to an invasive pat-down if they refuse body scans.

The pat-downs ordered by the U.S. Transportation Safety Authority are intrusive. TSA agents are expected to put their hands on a woman’s breasts and the genitals of men and women in search of hidden weapons and explosives. This is not a pleasant experience for travelers or agents. The same procedure is used on children and the elderly.

The new procedures have been criticized by the same people who have been saying for years that there is not enough security in the nation’s airports.

Fortunately, a planned protest that would have slowed down the security checks at the nation’s airports on the day before Thanksgiving never materialized. Passengers may be mad about the pat-downs, but they are not stupid.

For readers in Queens who live a short distance from two of the nation’s busiest airports, security is not a theoretical issue. An undetected bomb could send an airliner crashing into homes and schools. Already one airline passenger was caught with a bomb hidden in his underwear. Had the bomb worked as planned, the crew, passengers and hundreds of people on the ground could easily have been killed.

The campaign against the pat-downs has been fueled by politically motivated hysteria and hype. According to the TSA, fewer than 2 percent of the nation’s airline passengers have submitted to a pat-down. Most passengers accept the body scans.

Critics of the heightened airport security have disparaged the character of TSA employees, implying that they take pleasure in the scans and searches. Nonsense. These airport workers are doing what security experts say is necessary to prevent another 9/11.

Hopefully, someday the government will come up with a less invasive and more effective way to detect bombs and weapons. Until they do, we suggest people stop complaining. This is an inconvenience that could save lives.

Updated 6:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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