CommunityPam's House Blend

Congress wants to cut airport security

A “report” on airport security improvements, courtesy of the Bush White House spin machine.

We’ll be in long lines come holiday time if Congress has its way. Why do they hate America? (USA Today):

Airline passengers will face longer airport security lines starting this fall if Congress goes through with plans to cut up to 13% of the nation’s checkpoint screeners, a top Transportation Security Administration official said Thursday. Thomas Blank, TSA’s acting deputy administrator, said the Homeland Security Department is fighting a Senate spending measure that would cut 6,000 of the agency’s 45,000 screeners.

The House voted to cut 2,000 screeners in the budget that takes effect Oct. 1, Blank told a Capitol Hill hearing. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Homeland Security funding, disputed Blank’s figures and said the House is not cutting any screeners but is cutting unnecessary management costs. [I’d like to see what that refers to.]

Airport directors predicted enormous lines if 6,000 screeners are cut as air travel hits record levels.

There’s a chart on the USA Today page that outlines proposed cuts at particular airports. New York’s Kennedy airport stands to lose 162 screeners. Not that the TSA screeners were doing much anyway. Way too many of the ones I encountered over the last year were barely bothering to compare my photo ID to my boarding pass; in one case another didn’t even bother with that formality when Kate was going through.

I went back to my personal web site, where I remember posting a rant about airline insecurity back in October of 2001, when everyone was jittery about air travel. I went to NY to attend my 20th HS reunion at Stuyvesant. I’m posting an excerpt here; read and see how not much has changed…

Friday, October 12.

Pre-9/11, I could get into RDU and onto a flight to LGA within 45 minutes. On 10/12, when the new, “increased” security measures were in place, including the national guard presence, I flew again from RDU to LGA for a 7 a.m. flight. I arrived 3 hours ahead, anticipating long processing at the ticket counter and security (and every minute was needed).

The distressing thing was, after waiting on the long security line to get to the x-ray machines with the low-paid, undertrained screeners on the job, my small shoulder satchel sailed through, barely spending 7-10 seconds tops on the belt through the machine and out to the other side.

No one asked me to empty my bag or asked about anything. I expected, actually wanted them to do so because it was stuffed to gills, and contained the following:

* wallet
* cell phone and charger
* pda (palm pilot)
* palm pilot keyboard
* mp3 player
* 35 mm camera
* digital camera
* batteries
* pills/medicines not in the original containers
* insulin pen preloaded
* syringes

That the last two items weren’t scrutinized is frightening. I could have gotten aboard my flight and used the syringe to disable the flight attendant, a pilot, etc. It could have been filled with a poison or something. I thought patients with such devices had to provide confirmation or prescriptions or something. even show a medicalert ID. _anything, something_.

Never mind the jumble of electronic devices that could have had dubious uses. the security person “scanning” the bag had no time to really identify what what in there.

I got the feeling they just wanted to herd as many people onto the planes as quickly as possible and “security” was just the presence of the national guard brandishing weapons and barking for folks to put their coats, jackets and laptops on the belt.

I’d like to blame this on RDU’s lack of security, but on my return flight from LGA on the 14th, the same bag sailed through unquestioned on the screener’s xray belt again.

The bottom line is I don’t mind the extra time, if it’s actually representing extra security. It currently isn’t and they aren’t screening what’s going into the belly of the plane (and haven’t done background checks on workers with access to the plane), so god knows what could be put on board.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding