Friday, November 12, 2010

Travel Industry, Pilots Meeting With Homeland Security Over TSA Checkpoint Furor

The rising furor over aggressive airport-security patdowns and the use of and procedures for those new body-imaging machines has prompted a meeting today between top Homeland Security officials and travel industry representatives.

Representatives of the industry, including airline pilots who increasingly are vowing to "opt out" of body-scans, are meeting today with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and with John Pistole, the former deputy FBI director who became the T.S.A. chief in July.

Napolitano, Pistole and others in Homeland Security and the T.S.A. were evidently caught flat-footed by the public outcry that followed a new program of more aggressive patdowns that started on Nov. 1 -- at a time when airline passengers increasingly were being confronted with the body-scan machines.

[Some conservative and libertarian media are engaged in a relentless campaign denouncing the T.S.A. and the intrusive patdowns. See this for an example.]

There are also increasing calls -- especially by groups like the pilots -- for an independent assessment of the real radiation risks associated with the backscatter form of the machines. The T.S.A. has cited studies showing that the radiation effects are "minuscule," but pilots and others are expressing concerns about the backscatter machines and about cumulative effects of repeated doses. See also here.

The former Homeland Security boss, Michael Chertoff, runs a consulting firm that represents the manufacturer of those machines, which the T.S.A. is buying along with another version of imagers that use less controversial millimeter wave technology. Here's some background on Chertoff's business interests, and the business interests of other well-connected officials, in the body-scan industry.

The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group for the travel industry, which accounts for over $700 billion in direct spending in the U.S. annually, has expressed concerns that the security-checkpoint furor will crimp the ongoing rebound in travel, as people simply decide a trip isn't worth the hassle of the related trip through the T.S.A. paddle-wheel at the airports.



Anonymous said...

Mr. Sharkey - Could you or someone please tell me if any of these plots that TSA seems to be so concerned about (e.g. explosives hidden in shoes or underwear) ever involved a terrorist who's travel originated in the United States? I can't think of any? Why are we implementing these invasive searches and pat-downs of U.S.-originating passengers when the threats are coming from abroad where security is lighter or non-existent and the U.S. seems all too ready to cave to other countries' demands to delay or change various so-called travel safety enhancements (e.g. delaying our demand for machine readable passports, delaying implementation of ESTA and setting up the trusted shipper program)?

paleolith said...

All this furor is the surface. The real problem, which no one is talking about, is that we are depending on walls for security. Walls like the Great Wall of China, the Maginot Line, and the Berlin Wall. Those were sooo successful. We are stuck with some walls in the short term, but for the long term we need to be building bridges instead. And no one is talking about that.