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TSA Tyranny
by Christine Whitmarsh
Dec 06, 2010 | 779 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“If we tolerate this, there’s something wrong with us.”

Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) said this about the “enhanced” Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) procedures creating controversy and national headlines.

And by “enhanced” I mean enhanced levels of radiation (the safety of which most doctors can’t seem to agree on), enhanced money lobbied to Capitol Hill for the enhanced number of body scanners (by the manufacturers of said scanners) and enhanced invasion of personal privacy by TSA agents that in any other situation would be grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

“Touch my junk” jokes aside, have you heard about nationwide airport incidents such as the busted urine collection bag, manhandled prosthetic on the breast cancer survivor, a strip-searched young boy or other unacceptable indignities? For what it’s worth, you might want to get your head out of the sand because there’s a man with a latex glove over there, telling me I got to beware.

Am I overreacting? We were, after all, told as kids that “no means no” and taught about those special places where strangers should never, ever be allowed to touch us. The new TSA policies are likely creating a very confused new generation of junior airline travelers. How would that PSA go? “Stranger danger except when the stranger has a uniform shirt and an official-looking laminated badge and rubber gloves.” Because nobody in real life would ever be able to replicate that, right?

To be clear, let’s be sure and direct our indignant rage in the right direction – Washington. I can (reluctantly) see how the airports and TSA employees may feel like Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employees on their worst day ever and, in addition to the eyesight test, now you have to pull on a pair of rubber gloves and simulate a testicular exam on some nasty crotches. From the standpoint of both groper and gropee, doesn’t it seem like the terrorists perhaps have already won?

As the debate rages online and on television, Brian Kulpin, spokesperson for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, wants to make sure that locally, we have our facts straight.

“We don’t select what the TSA procedures are,” he says. “We have no say in what or how they’ve implemented procedures at the airport. We are just doing our best to educate people so they can get through the process in the best way possible.”

As for whether he or his employees have had the joy of the “enhanced” new procedures, Kulpin reports that while Reno-Tahoe Airport does not have a body scanner, they have all seen the pat-down demonstrated and are “very familiar” with it.

He also encourages travelers to keep in mind that the TSA screeners are our “friends and neighbors in our community” and they’ve had a tough job in recent weeks.

My sympathy wanes just a bit when it comes to the airlines — the reasons we go to the airports in the first place. We are their customers after all. And, in the spirit of repairing their reputations as the “big bad corporate wolves,” perhaps they would see the benefits of standing with us in solidarity.

American Airlines has taken some steps toward this, defending its pilots. But where are the rest? Especially in a time where most are on such financially shaky tarmacs that passengers are paying for pillows and put on a six-peanut ration. Wouldn’t they be interested in protecting their bottom line by trying to prevent our flying experience from becoming even more of a hassle than it already is?

Here’s a “conspiracy theory” for you to chew on with your six peanuts: Federal government keeps escalating the level of customer harassment, customers who weren’t all too keen on flying in the first place because of jacked up prices and the hassle take their business to the road or rails, airlines follow the route of the bailed out automakers and bam! – government motors merges with national airlines. This may have seemed absurd a few years ago, but as the government gets bigger and bigger, scooping up more and more private enterprise, it’s hard to think of anything as being completely inconceivable anymore.

In the meantime, it looks like citizen travelers are adjusting to the latest government directive in the name of “because if you don’t, the bad guys are gonna get ya!”

“We haven’t seen any issues at our checkpoints and there hasn’t been anything that has interfered with airport operations,” Kulpin says. “Any phone calls are routed to the TSA.”

Apparently, we are “tolerating this.” I wonder how much more we will tolerate while still calling ourselves the freest nation in the world, chock full of rebellious patriots who take pride in their independence. It would appear, at airports for the moment anyway, that our “liberties” are now subject to thorough examination.

Christine Whitmarsh is the owner of local writing firm Christine, Ink. She can be reached at
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TSA Tyranny by Christine Whitmarsh

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