Clark Kent is protecting you

An inspector general’s report came out recently that claims that passenger screening at airports is no better today than it was 17 years ago. On reading the report, Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio said, “The inadequacies and loopholes in the system are phenomenal.’’

According to a news report on the web recently, “The inspector general’s report, as well as a study by the GAO, portrayed the TSA as an unresponsive, inflexible bureaucracy that is failing to provide an adequate level of security at airports.” Again, according to this news story, Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin “told lawmakers the TSA screeners and privately contracted airport workers performed about the same, which is to say, equally poorly.”

First of all, let me say bravo to Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin’s mother who clearly had no qualms about naming her son after her favorite comic book fantasy.  And don’t we all feel better in some way knowing that Clark Kent is in charge?

Secondly, let me just say that if security is now no better than it was 17 years ago, I want to know why I’m standing in line for an hour to get through security and why I practically have to strip nude to pass muster and be allowed on the plane.

I should state at the outset that as someone who has traveled extensively, I am all for tight security. I am more than willing to show up two hours early for a flight if that security will keep out people who might want to land the plane I’m on in a skyscraper somewhere. 

But when I think about the fact that they took a small pair of cuticle scissors away from me that I’d forgotten were in my carry on bag, I have to wonder how they could find them but not real weapons. Or when I remember the old lady with a walker and oxygen hose being pulled aside for ringing some bell going through security, it makes me wonder if security isn’t still poor because we’re wasting our time trying to confirm that the bell dinged because of the metal in her orthopedic shoe.

And while I think profiling of any sort is a slippery slope for a democracy to start on, the idea that you have to be so blind to the probabilities of one person over another being a potential hazard to flight that you are strip searching two years olds does seems to border on the ridiculous.  As my friend said when they called her out of line to search her son, “I hope they find a present in his diaper. Then they can change him.”

If you want real security at airports, then get serious like they do in many South American countries.  I’ll never forget my departure from Peru many years ago. You went to the ticket counter and checked in.  They kept your ticket and handed you a paper that allowed you to go through security.  At security, they took your carry on bags.  You didn’t see them again till you were boarding.

You went to a boarding area and exchanged your little slip of paper for your ticket. At that point, you did not leave the boarding area room again till you were escorted to the plane. The plane didn’t leave until every slip of paper was exchanged for its corresponding ticket.

You picked up your carry on as you walked to the plane. It was all lined up along the way with dogs sniffing each piece as you grabbed it.  If all the carry on was not picked up, the plane didn’t depart.

It may sound complicated but it certainly seemed to work. You don’t hear about a lot of plane hijackings in South America. And if we are going to spend so much on airport security anyway, and spend all that time standing in line, we should at least get good service for our money, time and patience. 

Meanwhile, rest easy tonight. Clark Kent is protecting you.