Tuesday, October 6 , 2015, 1:45 pm | Fair 73º

Susan Estrich: Let TSA Screeners Do Their Jobs

Personal modesty doesn't warrant limiting pat-downs and body scans

By Susan Estrich |

A revolt is apparently growing at the grassroots level — being fanned by politicians and right-wing talking heads — against the new procedures being used by the Transportation Security Administration to ensure that people with bombs and weapons don’t get on airplanes with you and me and our loved ones. If you ask me, it’s ridiculous. The revolt, I mean.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich

Are people’s memories so short that they have forgotten that it was just last Christmas when a man with a bomb hidden in his underwear was caught on a flight to Detroit?

Have we forgotten the “shoe bomber”?

Have you turned on the television lately? As I write this, bomb-sniffing dogs have located a suspicious package at Boston’s Logan Airport, and the cargo area has been cleared.

And people are complaining about TSA pat-downs?

I’m behind the TSA 100 percent in its efforts to secure safety in the sky. If anything, they need more discretion and more leeway to do their jobs properly.

I travel a lot. I put my money where my mouth is. I’ve been through those full-body screens. Big deal. I’ve had TSA officials (women) poking at my underwire bra. Couldn’t care less. If it means the plane is more likely to take off and land safely, you can poke away all you want.

Of course, having had children, mammograms and the occasional surgery, I’m way past worrying about modesty. I am lucky and blessed in not having any prosthetics, or the like, that need to be removed. Even so, I’d like to think that those who suffer from such great inconveniences would also be grateful — understanding the possibility that prosthetics could be used to hide explosives.

To be sure, not all of the rules make sense. In an effort to avoid the appearance of profiling (even though every seasoned traveler will tell you to avoid the security line with the Muslims ahead of you), I’ve been subjected to full searches by agents who recognized me from television. Why me, I asked one of them, a Fox fan, as we discussed whether Sean Hannity was really a nice guy (he is). He pointed out the mark on my boarding pass, which had assigned me randomly for supplementary screening. I’ve seen elderly ladies singled out for searches because they were traveling on one-way tickets. A waste of time, to be sure, but if it makes the system “seem” fairer, fine with me.

But to limit searches in the name of personal modesty is just plain nuts. It’s particularly nuts when the people complaining are half-naked in the first place. I really did start laughing when a woman who looked like she was planning to hit a Hollywood club the minute we landed (top cut down to her navel, skirt cut up to her underwear) started complaining about the intrusiveness of the search. As for the men complaining that they don’t want their “packages” touched, I’ve got news for you: The TSA folks couldn’t care less about any package unless it’s potentially explosive.

Have there been instances of TSA officials acting unprofessionally? No doubt. The same is true of doctors, nurses and orderlies, but we don’t have them examine us with our clothes on.

By all means, people should complain if they are mistreated. But that has simply never been my experience. The TSA folks I see in action are overwhelmingly hardworking men and women trying to do a job that allows for no margin of error. My hat is off to them. And so is anything else they want taken off.

Happy holidays. And travel safely.

— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.

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» on 11.30.10 @ 04:44 AM

“Are people’s memories so short that they have forgotten that it was just last Christmas when a man with a bomb hidden in his underwear was caught on a flight to Detroit?”

Remind me again how TSA caught the panty bomber. I know I have a short memory but I seem to recall that TSA didn’t do squat and he was thwarted by fellow passengers. We should be profiling Muslims, not inconveniencing Americans.

» on 11.30.10 @ 12:55 PM

Body scanners can not detect clear liquids or anything hiding in one’s crotch. The pat downs are invasive no matter how you want to spin it. And since religion is not an OPT OUT, I can just see Nuns who’ve taken a vow of chastity now get felt up by TSA agents under the false guise of security. Those Nuns will be virtually raped each time they fly.

Terrorist don’t care about scanners or pat downs, what they do care about is dogs. Why TSA refuses to use a tried and true method of detection is beyond me. A dog doesn’t care the religious nature of the subject, doesn’t care about his/her race. Doesn’t care about racial profiling. What a dog will do is sound the alarm when it detects something and will point out and pick who and what is subject. If a terrorist sees a dog at the airport, they will turn away right away. It’s not rocket science.

But the TSA is either lining their own pockets with money from machinery which is no safer than you walking through security with a gun. And we don’t protest which is also an indication that we as a people don’t care. And for those of us that do, we are now becoming the minority. Wrong is now the majority.

» on 11.30.10 @ 01:29 PM

Both men were in the process of setting off bombs… they were not screened at all. If the underwear bomber went through the scan, or the pat down, nothing would have been found. The liquid that was hiding in his crotch was clear liquid and would not have shown up on the scanner. A pat down of his genitals would reveal nothing.

The shoe bombers shoe was noticeably glued together and no one thought it inappropriate. He was told that smoking was not permitted but still went unnoticed.

If his shoes were removed and put on a scanner, it would reveal nothing. The X-Ray machine for baggage would only show it as a shoe because the rubber would be shown as a large mass.

So having people virtually strip totally naked, subject to a cavity search without probable cause is a violation of our constitutional and civil rights. And why is it that no one notices that these terrorist aren’t flying out of the USA, they are coming in. And no one gets screened coming into USA.

The people who have been caught are all of international descent. Not born here.

We do not screen people coming into this country which are the real threat. We are scanning citizens who fly between states when we should be screening those coming into our country. We have more security at an airport then we do at the border in which a large amount of people cross illegally every hour.

» on 12.02.10 @ 12:58 AM

The liberals have already forgot about 911—and now portland.

This will never stop until they are all killed, even though the hippy’s want to dream that the terrorist will love us one day if we are nice to them.

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