The wife of FlyerTalk member brennandunn was reportedly transported to the emergency room of a local hospital and transferred to a psychiatric ward for several days after suffering a traumatic “pat-down” at an airport security checkpoint at the international airport in Fort Lauderdale by a Transportation Security Administration agent who appeared to be insensitive to the plight of the woman.
The woman was violently sexually assaulted by three men and was threatened with death in Florida five years ago — and returning to Florida due to a death in the family brought back painful memories of the assault which took her two full years to finally conquer, with medication and counseling indefinitely thereafter.
When the woman was chosen to go through the backscatter scanning device which would allow Transportation Security Administration agents to see a naked image of her, she declined, wanting to go through the metal detector device instead. The Transportation Security Administration agent warned her in graphic detail about how they will touch private parts of her body during the “pat-down” which caused the woman to panic by sweating and shaking, choosing to go through the backscatter scanning device as the lesser of two evils.
Unfortunately for the woman, the Transportation Security Administration agents detected an “anomaly” in her bra on the scanned image, forcing her to be subjected to a “pat-down” of her breasts, causing her to panic even more. After requesting a private room with her husband at her side, the female Transportation Security Administration agent sharply admonished brennandunn — who attempted to comfort his traumatized wife by gently touching her arm — as she touched her breasts.
Although brennandunn was furious, his wife popped some pills after quickly leaving the airport security checkpoint for the flight home. Her trauma never went away, as she vomited in the bathroom at their home airport upon arrival and requested transportation to the emergency room of the local hospital. She will reside in a psychiatric ward for several days until she stabilizes.
This incident prompted brennandunn to ask if this was all worth it. No, brennandunn — I adamantly do not believe it is worth it. This entire situation could have been avoided if she had just been allowed to pass through the metal detector instead of the backscatter scanning device. She suffered a double indignity: rather than have a choice of either the backscatter scanning device or a “pat-down” — even a partial one — she received both instead.
One may argue that anyone could “play the victim” by pretending to have had a traumatic sexual experience in the past in order to avoid both the “pat-down” and the backscatter scanning device. My response is why should anyone have to endure such indignity? For security reasons? Yeah, sure — and if you believe that, I have some cruise vacations to sell to you which depart out of the marine ports in Hays, Kansas.
Many people know that this is all “security theater” designed for those who travel infrequently to feel safe as a result of the illusion of security — even if the screening process is demeaning and degrading. Surely there are better, more dignified ways for airport security checkpoints to increase the safety of travel without instilling fear, anxiety and discomfort into innocent people.
Instead, we have a breast cancer survivor having her breasts touched, an 85-year-old woman forced to be strip-searched, an advice columnist who felt like she was raped, and a mother who was arrested after she was appalled upon witnessing her 14-year-old daughter being groped in the crotch area during a “pat-down” at the international airport in Nashville — and do not even get me started on all of the innocent young children who suffered the indignities of airport security checkpoint “pat-downs.” American taxpayers even spend billions of dollars for the privilege of the possibility of a degrading experience at an airport security checkpoint. But do not worry — Edmund “Kip” Hawley has all of the answers on how to improve the airport security checkpoint experience.
As a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, should passengers be forced to either experience an intimate “pat down” or have their naked body exposed in an image which may not even be discarded if they are not fortunate enough to go through an old-fashioned metal detector?
I might buy into all of this nonsense if we were not constantly exposed to more dangerous threats every day, such as being involved in a fatal car accident, suffering from a deadly home invasion, dying of lung cancer from smoking, or contracting a serious disease simply because people neglect to wash their hands.
Allow me to use motor vehicle accidents as an example to put airport security into perspective: According to the United States Census Bureau, 33,808 people died in 2009 alone — greater than eleven times the number of people who did not survive the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — as a result of 30,797 fatal motor vehicle accidents. Think about it — despite these statistics, how many people do you know are afraid to step into a motor vehicle? How do you think the American traveling public would feel if there were checkpoints at state borders, truck weigh stations and rest areas? Imagine not being able to bring your super-sized drink into your car because it exceeds the amount of liquid you are allowed to transport?
To put it another way, you stand a far greater chance of getting killed in a motor vehicle accident than by being killed in a terrorist attack. More specifically, according to www.reason.com from last year:
…a rough calculation suggests that in the last five years, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. This compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000. In other words, in the last five years you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.
Now that we have established that you stand a far greater chance of getting killed in a motor vehicle accident than by being killed in a terrorist attack, should we force people who drive or are passengers in motor vehicles in the United States to suffer the indignities of strip searches, nude scans and invasive “pat-downs” for the sake of safety and security? After all, would that not make the United States safer for all? And why stop at motor vehicles? Why not trains, boats, buses, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, roller skates, or even walking? How about in your own home? After all, you stand a better chance of drowning in your bathtub or dying in a building fire than being killed by a terrorist.
Proper safety and security should not be at the expense of liberty or dignity, as those concepts are not mutually exclusive. The TSA Pre✓ program of the Transportation Security Administration is a good start in that participants bypass all of the nonsense of taking shoes off, taking out the little baggie of liquids and having to choose between a “pat-down” and a backscatter scanning device experience, but it should not have to cost a penny to join.
The sooner we can rid the airport security checkpoints in the United States of invasive and traumatic experiences such as the one suffered by the wife of brennandunn, the better.