After Osama Bin Laden, Rage over Airport Security Continues

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Did you hear about the two Muslim religious leaders -- both residents of the Memphis area -- who missed their Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight last week? No, this wasn't a security problem per se. They were cleared by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers and boarded the plane. Then, according to news reports, the pilot told them to take a hike.

Which no doubt gave the two gentlemen plenty to talk about at the conference in Charlotte they were headed to -- a conference on prejudice against Muslims (by the way, the men eventually received an apology and were put on another flight).

Maybe this signifies nothing more than an alleged bias on the part of the pilot, or perhaps a misplaced concern for passengers (the pilot reportedly refused to fly with the religious leaders "because some other passengers could be uncomfortable"). Or maybe it signifies a certain hysteria that the death of Osama bin Laden has done little to dampen.

Even with Bin Laden gone, flight security remains a hot-button topic for many Americans.

For more travel news and insights see Rick's blog at farecompare.com

Sure, most people through the motions of airport security without outward protest, but many vent their bile over what they see as foolish or inept security measures on the world's bulletin board: the Internet. And the rage continues.

If you don't think so, just look at some of the comments left on the TSA's own blog. Here's one:

"Unlike shoes, shampoo, mastectomy scars, breast prostheses, and ostomy bags, bin Laden was an actual threat, and thus no concern of TSA."

The author of this comment is no doubt referring to the alternative to the body scanner: the "enhanced" pat-down. I've had both, and was certainly not crazy about my vigorous pat-down; when given a choice, I'll opt for the scan, with some misgivings (I'd like to see more testing and research done on any possible long-range health effects of these machines).

I'm not alone in this concern, of course. One of my employees recently told me about her "first time" experience with the body scan, saying, "Nothing to it." Then she added, "Of course, I've already had my children." She was joking. Kind of.

Love it or hate it, airport security is not going to disappear suddenly. As the TSA's own website trumpets in a headline, "Osama bin Laden Dead, Threat Still Very Much Alive." Understood -- but what angers some is whether much of our airport security actually works.

Consider the occasional story -- we've all seen them -- about people (often "investigative reporters") who somehow manage to get through security with forged documents or items on the TSA banned list. One fellow who apparently genuinely forget he had a gun in his suitcase had no problem getting it through airport security in Houston last fall. Later, when he discovered what he'd done, he reported it to authorities.

Still, we haven't had what I suppose could be called a true security incident since the attempt by the so-called "underwear bomber" on Christmas Day 2009, and let me add here that I think the vast majority of our TSA officers are diligent and hard working. However, many critics say the system itself is broken. Here's another comment:

"If the goal of the TSA is to continually keep the American public in a state of fear, you're doing a great job."

And another:

"Please stop these insane attempts to frighten us into allowing the TSA to violate our rights & our bodies. The TSA is, unfortunately, a failed experiment in both actual security & emotional security."

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