Rand Paul Airport Pat-Down Shows How TSA Security Measures Harm our Health, Privacy, and Dignity


Rand Paul was briefly stopped this week by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airport security because he refused to submit to a full-body pat down. This perfect storm of the TSA's requiring the Senator to submit to a full body scan and pat down and his indignant response serves as a reminder: TSA gate security is badly designed and ineffective.

The TSA is a reactionary organization. Likewise, the design and escalation of airline security measures follow terrorist activities rather than preempt them. Shoe screenings were created because of the 2001 attempted shoe bombing on Flight 63 from Paris to Miami. In 2006, the TSA restricted liquids in carry-on items after the British foiled a plot to blow up planes using liquids hidden in carry-on luggage. The 2009 “underwear” bomber precipitated the TSA's new imaging and pat-downs.

By the time the TSA measures are installed, terrorists are on to a new method to attack U.S. planes and civilians. The newest security measures are so flawed that they cause more harm to innocent passengers than aspiring terrorists.

The TSA self-described “new pat down procedures," which to the average person look (and feel) more like dispassionate groping, are affronts to personal dignity and privacy. The full-body scanners are liable to cause as many as 100 people to get cancer (who otherwise would not have had cancer) each year. The European Union recently removed the scanners from airports because of their threat to people’s health.

TSA security measures expose innocent people to health risks, violate their personal privacy, and force passengers to buy overpriced beverages for no clear gain in security.

There is no solid evidence of TSA measures’ effectiveness in preventing a terror plot on a plane or at the gate. According to Science Daily, the TSA cites number of confiscated products as proof of effectiveness, but there is no information on how many of these items would have actually caused a threat. Yet, the TSA spent billions of dollars year on ineffective gate security.

The TSA has said it completed its “no fly” watch list in November 2010, but they have failed to improve the procedures for checking identification at point of purchase, security check, and boarding. Because of flaws in tracking identification (not personal objects in carry-on luggage or on one’s person) which have not been fixed since 2008, a terrorist could elude the watch list.

TSA measures at the gate are ineffective and the newest full-body scans and pat downs pose harm to our health and personal dignity. The TSA should repeal these procedures, remove the scanners, and invest its money in centralizing, validating and tracking information to keep those who have shown to be hostile toward the United States from getting to the airport gate in the first place.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons