Ever since the announcement came out about Transportation Security Administration (TSA) going to the body scanners and the new pat-down procedures, I have been on the phone. I wanted all the inside information on what was going on with TSA and the new procedures. You see I used to work for TSA. Almost five years with the most hated US government agency, even more hated than the IRS. At least it is paying off somewhere.
I really have two minds about TSA. From being on the inside and doing the job I understand why TSA does some of the things they do and will defend those things regardless of my personal feelings for TSA. On the other hand, TSA does things they don’t need to do that makes the job harder on the front line employees and the traveling public.
I have five years of experience with TSA. I was in the first TSA training class in Orlando and the first TSA group to take over the Orlando International Airport. I have worked every aspect of the TSA officer job. I worked the checkpoints, baggage, international flights, and the cargo area. I have been gone for the past three years but still have some very good friends who work there. For full disclosure I was fired from TSA in 2007. I believe, strongly enough to file a Federal lawsuit against TSA, that I was fired in retaliation for Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) participation. I can’t really discuss it but thought it should be disclosed.
Body ScannersThe body scanners are just what they are called – body scanners. They will scan your entire body and produce a pretty detailed naked picture of you on the screen. Will some TSA employees point and laugh behind the scenes, YES! Will some call their buddies over for a really good looking or well-endowed male or female passenger they just screened, YES! Will some TSA employees make fun of any oddities they see, YES! Is it unprofessional, YES!
So who wants to be subjected to that kind of ridicule? No one does, but fact is you won’t be subjected to it because you won’t see the employee that is doing the screening. The TSA officer is in a separate area from the passenger. This is done to ensure privacy. It sounds harsh to say but any offense is in your head. You won’t actually know if that unprofessional behavior is going on or not, in regards to your particular image. It doesn’t make it right on the part of the TSA officer but that is an issue that TSA management needs to make sure is under control. TSA management is the one that should be monitoring the employees to make sure that type of unprofessional behavior is dealt with. If they don’t and you become aware of the unprofessional behavior, then you have a good case to complain. You the passenger should never know the unprofessional behavior is going on so you have to trust that TSA management is doing their job and removing employees that can’t do their job in a professional manner. You have to trust that TSA is doing everything they can to ensure your security and your comfort but security comes first.
I am not saying that people have no right to care about being seen naked. Of course you have a right to care. Air travel, though, is not a right. It is a conditional use mode of transportation. If you want to use that mode of transportation then you have to meet the requirements to use it. Right now one of those requirements is the body scanner. TSA is listening and is looking into ways to alleviate the passengers’ concerns but TSA’s job is security so when they have to choose, passenger concern over security, security wins out. The concern of the naked images is so great that L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and OSI Systems Inc.’s Rapiscan have created an upgrade to their technology. This upgrade changes the image on the screen from the actual naked image of the passenger to a generic avatar that highlights any areas that need to be checked. TSA is reviewing and testing out this upgrade to see if it meets the security requirements necessary. If this new technology can meet TSA security requirements and alleviate passenger concern then great but if it can’t the naked images will be used.