First of all, a little perspective: 2 million people in the United States get on planes every day. So a handful of outrageous security incidents is no big deal, right? Unless of course, it's your little girl getting the pat-down or your 95-year-old grandma-type whose adult diaper was removed during her screening experience.
The incident with the little girl occurred back in April; the 95-year-old woman got the treatment a little more than a week ago after a Transportation Security Administration officer found something "suspicious." The elderly woman, who has cancer, was taken to a private area, and while the TSA now says it did not order the removal of the her diaper, the woman's daughter who accompanied her mother says it was made clear that the diaper had to be inspected or they would not fly.
So the younger woman reportedly decided to remove it in a restroom and the pat-down proceeded. Through it all, the older woman reacted with quiet dignity to this embarrassing situation.
There have been other incidents, perhaps more sad than outrageous, but nevertheless horrific: In November, a bladder cancer survivor's urine bag reportedly leaked all over his clothes during an aggressive pat-down. In April, a former Miss USA endured a pat-down she likened to a molestation and told the world about it via her own video. "Am I a threat to U.S. security?" asked Susie Castillo. "I was Miss USA for Pete's sake!"
And it's not just the TSA either: In May, news reports noted that two American Muslims who passed through security without incident were ejected from their plane by the Atlantic Southeast Airlines pilot, supposedly because they might make others "uncomfortable" (the kicker is, they were on their way to a conference on prejudice against Muslims).
Meanwhile, some passengers get through security with guns they forgot they packed.
Believe me, I know securing a nation of fliers is a difficult and maybe even impossible task. And I do believe most of the TSA screeners out there are dedicated individuals who are only following the rules set down for them, and why not? If they fail to follow regulations and let one benign-looking individual off easy when it comes to screening, and that individual then somehow takes down a plane, well, try to imagine that. I'm sure the screeners can, and I'm sure that's a fear they live with every day.
But surely, there's a place for commonsense in all this.
It's all about the risks, and the TSA is starting to recognize this. It'll start testing its "trusted traveler" program -- in which passengers who voluntarily submit to in-depth questioning and background investigations will enjoy a quicker security experience -- later this year. Part of this is already set for testing at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport later this summer, with the focus on airline pilots.
I don't have a problem with pilots. Pilots already have us at their mercy; they can take down a plane anytime they want to (and here's where I'll note that pilots undergo rigorous security and background checks as part of getting hired).