After the deadliest terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, airport security measures heightened considerably, starting with the formation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act a couple months following the event.
While the TSA’s mission is to “protect the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce,” many travelling Americans approach the security checkpoint portion of their trip filled with sentiments of dread.
Although airport security has not always been such an arduous process, its evolution into the more intensified procedure that it is now has been necessary to ensure the safety of Americans.
In December 2001, after the establishment of the TSA, a British man was able to bring a bomb onto a plane that he had hidden in his shoe.
As a result, the TSA began requiring shoes to be removed while going through customs. In August 2006, there was an attempt in the United Kingdom to blow up a plane through the use of liquid explosives.
Following this event, the TSA placed liquids, gels, and aerosols on the list of items that cannot be carried on flights in a passenger’s personal luggage.
The next month, TSA modified the ban on liquids to allow for toiletries that are under three ounces and fit in a single quart-size clear plastic bag, which is known as the “3-1-1 Rule.”
Following the attempted “underwear bombing” in 2009, flight security measures were amplified. In 2010, the TSA instated the infamous pat-down procedures that so many travelers are up in arms about. Contrary to popular opinion, pat-downs are not the first step in the security procedure.
Rather, the pat-down method is only used when a passenger opts out of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening, or when alarms are set off after a person does go through the AIT machine.
The Advanced Imaging Technology seeks to quickly and efficiently scan passengers for any potential threats and hazards that may be on their person, and should the system be set off, then the individual is patted down.
There are regulations in place in regards to pat-downs, as they are not meant to be invasive or degrading to passengers.
During this screening, the passenger is to be patted down by a TSA officer of the same gender, has the right to have another individual with them at the time, and is given the option to sit down at any point during the screening if they feel unable to stand.
In addition, TSA has taken measures to ensure that children are not overly screened or made to feel uncomfortable. Anyone under the age of 12 is allowed to keep their shoes on, and parents will never be forced to separate from their child.
The uproar over heightened security measures as invasive and infringing upon the rights guaranteed to Americans is unwarranted. A toll of items discovered by TSA in 2013 included 562 stun guns in carry-on bags, and an average of about five firearms found per day in carry-ons at security checkpoints.
It is the goal of the U.S. government and the TSA to anticipate attacks and impede them before they can be carried out, rather than react to the events after lives have been lost, even if it means that the process of airport security must take longer and be more extensive.
As terrorists get more creative, these increased precautions have become necessary, and it is justified to make security more intense in order to ensure safety to travelers.
Those travelers who are not willing to comply with security standards are not allowed to continue to their flight, and that is as it should be: the nation’s sense of safety should not be compromised for the convenience of individuals.