Government

Florida Republicans Attack TSA Search Procedures

New poll finds most Americans tolerate full-body scanners, more hostile to pat-downs
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: November 25, 2010 4:05 AM
Republicans from Florida are taking aim at new search techniques being employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on airline passengers -- even as a poll shows most Americans accept these measures as necessary for greater security.

Last Wednesday, outgoing U.S. Sen. George LeMieux grilled TSA Administrator John Pistole at a U.S. Senate Transportation, Science, and Commerce Committee hearing on the TSA’s new security procedures -- including a pat-down process that critics have called extremely invasive.

The Republican senator, considering a run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012, agreed with the critics.

“I would not want my wife to be touched in the way that these folks are being touched; I would not want to be touched that way,” said LeMieux. “I agree that our main focus has to be safety, but there needs to be a better balance.”

LeMieux voiced his support for increased use of scanners -- which have also drawn controversy for being too invasive.

“We should be moving forward with full-body scanners and other nonpersonal-contact screening methods and use more common sense when addressing the risk of terrorist-related activity by travelers,” added LeMieux.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney jumped into the fray two days later and went further than LeMieux in criticizing the TSA.

“Passengers are angry, and they should be,” said Rooney on Friday. “Full-body pat-downs and explicit photo screenings have gone too far, and the security benefits of implementing these procedures on random passengers are dubious at best.

“TSA full-body screenings and pat-downs are an invasive, unnecessary infringement on passengers’ rights,” continued Rooney. “Congress must exercise its oversight authority to investigate why TSA has mandated these new procedures and whether they actually provide stronger security for airline passengers.

“Unfortunately, TSA has become a bloated federal bureaucracy with more than 70,000 employees,” added Rooney. “In a classic example of ‘mission creep,’ the agency has vastly overstepped its original charter and is no longer effectively administering its duties and responsibilities. Congress should act immediately to reform TSA.”

Rooney was joined Monday by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who moved to Florida earlier in the year where he has remained politically active. Huckabee blasted President Barack Obama for backing the new TSA measures.

“President Obama is defending the humiliating and unconstitutional electronic strip searches by machines that are making its [sic] manufacturers filthy rich and the flying public hopping mad,” said Huckabee who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and may do so again in 2012. “The president also says that there isn't a choice about the federal fondling and groping of the private parts of totally law-abiding citizens by government agents."

Huckabee threw down the gauntlet, even offering a personal challenge to Obama.

“Mr. President, I issue a challenge -- if you don't find anything wrong with these practices that presume the guilt of an American before he or she proves innocence, then I ask you to take your wife, your two daughters, and your mother-in-law to Reagan National Airport and have them go through the full-body scanner and then be subjected to the same and full-body grabbing grope by the government agents that you authorized to do it,” said Huckabee. “Do it in public where all can see. When you do that, maybe some of the rest of us won't be as angry as watching our wives, daughters, and mothers humiliated and degraded like criminals just in order to fly on a plane.”

Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack did not go quite as far. Mack, who is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2012, said on Tuesday that he opposed the new pat-down technique that TSA officials are using to search airline passengers.

“TSA’s new enhanced security screenings are outrageous and have gone too far,” said Mack. “We all want our nation to be safe, but this security must not come at the expense of our freedoms. I’m extremely concerned that TSA’s enhanced pat-downs infringe on individuals’ privacy rights and give the federal government unprecedented power.

“The enhanced pat-downs should cease immediately,” continued Mack. “Congress and the administration must examine whether there are other measures we can take such as privatizing TSA or revising the security searches to ensure our national security while protecting one’s rights.”

But a new poll from Gallup on behalf of USA Today found that most Americans have no problem with the new scanners, though they remained ambivalent about the pat-downs. The poll of 757 frequent air travelers was taken between Nov. 19-21 and found that 57 percent of those surveyed didn't mind the full-body scanners, while 42 percent had no qualms with the new pat-downs. The poll found 18 percent of those surveyed were angry about the scanners and 24 percent were bothered but not angry about them. The new pat-down method got lower marks -- with 29 percent angry about it and 28 percent bothered but not angry. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.


Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

Comments (1)

ironboltbruce
10:20AM NOV 25TH 2010
I was in Aylesbury--a quaint little duck-loving town in Buckinghamshire chock-full of disarmingly friendly people and Anglo-Saxon history, but a wee bit lacking in memorable pubs--when the three World Trade Center buildings were brought down on 11 September 2001. My last name wasn't Bush or Bin Laden, so my stay in Merry Olde England was extended several days as I waited anxiously along with thousands of other American expatriates for an opening on any flight back to Sweet Mother Texas and my loved ones. And with the sad August 2008 exception of one flight home to my current digs in Miami after blowing Hidalgo's engine in the Chihuahuan Desert attempting another BBG 3000, "9-11" marked the end of commercial air travel for me.

Nowadays if I need to get from anywhere to anywhere on the continent, a motorcycle is my primary--nay, exclusive--means of motorized transportation. Rain or shine, it's worth the extra time. And compared to the headaches, humiliations and horrors of post-9/11 TSA goodie grabs ... chronic departure delays ... tarmac torture sessions ... and peanut-free (Hell, nothing's free) no-frills airline flights, that "extra time" can be a small price to pay. Allow me to explain:

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS.gov), in 2009 the average non-stop distance flown per departure for U.S. domestic commercial flights was 618.6 miles, or roughly the bee-line distance from Miami, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia. According to Orbitz.com, flying American Airlines coach class direct non-stop from Miami to Atlanta will cost you $79.00 with a "flight time" of 2 hours. Your door-to-door trip time, of course, will entail a lot more than just the stated flight time. First you must travel to the airport, which can easily take 30 minutes. Next comes "airport processing" and, believe it or not, according to SpiritAir.com, "The average time it takes to enter an airport terminal, check in, clear TSA security and board [an] aircraft within the U.S. is approximately three (3) hours." Then, after spending all that time being handled and herded like beef on the hoof, and quite possibly felt up like a teen queen on a second date, Time Magazine (Time.com) says to be prepared for an average flight delay of 57 minutes somewhere between actually boarding, finally taking off, flying the distance and then actually touching down. Add to that an hour or more to deplane, grab your bag, and rent a car or catch a cab to take you to your final destination, and your total door-to-door time flying from Miami to Atlanta could easily exceed 8 hours.

EIGHT FRIGGING HOURS TO "FLY" SIX HUNDRED MILES.

But what if--instead of having to endure 8 hours of degradation and discomfort with your fate and maybe even your junk in somebody else's hands--you twisted your own throttle and RODE from Miami to Atlanta? According to Google Maps (Maps.Google.com), you'd be looking at a ride of 661 miles that should take you 10 hours and 44 minutes. Gas and out-of-pocket expenses for the ride should be less than what you'd pay to fly. So in this example, riding instead of flying would cost you a little under 3 hours but maybe save you a little cash.

The trade-offs to consider, however, go beyond time and money. Given the choice, for instance, how would you rather spend an entire day: Subjecting yourself to the pains of being processed, inspected, stamped and transported like so much meat? Or enjoying the pleasures of the wind in your face, a thundering engine beneath you, and the open road ahead of you? And what about privacy and practicality? Would you rather pack what you really wanted and needed to take with you, or worry about whether your shaving cream, pocket knife or party favors will make it through security? And last but not least, just how much individual freedom and personal dignity are you willing to sacrifice in return for a questionable promise of protection from some ethereal "terrorist threat" that may or may not exist? Would you rather spend 8 hours being confined, controlled and at the mercy of an inept and unaccountable bureaucracy, or 11 hours with the controls of your bike and your fate in your hands?

Yes, I freely concede that for many of your trips the distance will be too far, the travel time too long, or the weather and road conditions too poor for riding to be a practical alternative to flying. But I'll wager that for most of you there will be just as many trips where freedom of the road would be a better choice than flying the fascist skies.

Bruce Arnold

Bruce Arnold ... record-holding long distance motorcycle rider ... disappointed bikers' rights activist but proud member of The 100 ... disillusioned political agitator targeting social injustice and piercing the veil of our two-puppet system to expose the institutionalized greed of the Kleptocracy pulling all strings Left and Right ... like Thomas Jefferson, an aficionado of ethnic aesthetic and a philosophical anarchist who accepts the State as a necessary evil under which the best government is less government. Follow Bruce on twitter @ironboltbruce

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