How secure is your package?

By Roy Ribitzky

Pat downs. Body scanners. Metal detectors. Cameras. What do all of these have in common? America’s safety. The real question, then, is how do we strike the balance between protecting the lives of innocent travelers and not infringing on peoples’ privacy?

Since I was a child, I always remembered going through metal detectors at airports and sending my bags through the X-ray machine. I figured it was normal; it made sense to me. Besides, I’d rather have my flight disturbed by a crying baby than a disturbed traveler with a bomb. What didn’t make sense to me was that, when TSA officials “screened” our baggage, they never actually looked at the X-rays; they were always talking among themselves. That was something I had a problem with.

After 9/11, I expected even more security at airports, but I still don’t feel any safer in airports or on planes. When the body scanners were introduced, the first thing which came to my mind was not the massive invasion of privacy, but how much longer lines would be.

All of a sudden, politicians and travelers were up in arms about this invasive technology. Ron Paul calls them “porno-scanners.” But how do other countries handle homeland security?

Like Europe, Israel takes security very seriously – some would argue too seriously. Security officers interview every single airplane passenger. X-ray machines the size of a mini-SUV check every single bag. Even the people behind the ticket desk ask security related questions. But it doesn’t stop in the airport.

Every major mall has a security officer who checks bags and purses. It only takes ten seconds, but the security is still there. Regardless, I’m not sure this would make me feel any safer. On the one hand, knowing everyone gets the same treatment flushes out potential terrorists, but the simple presence of police also makes me feel nervous they are anticipating something.

However, it would be impossible to impose this type of security in America due to the sheer size of this country. It takes six hours to go from the south to the north of Israel; it takes a few days here. We also have millions more travelers than Israel, which also means more chances for terrorists to hide in the crowd.

But at what cost are we trying to protect ourselves? We obviously cannot go back to the time when there was no security and anyone could just buy a ticket at the gate. Yet going in the opposite direction creates an atmosphere of discomfort for some travelers. The reality is that certain organizations are trying to destroy us. Not just America, but any country or people which opposes these groups’ fanatical ideologies.

These extremists are not all hiding in caves in the Middle East; there are homegrown terrorists here, and they are not all Muslim. Timothy McVeigh could have gotten on a plane and flown it into a building if he had wanted to. More recently, Joseph Stack flew a small plane into an IRS building.

The security measures the TSA is putting into place are there to prevent those who plan to carry out terror plots using various transportation methods. Is a pat down by someone you will never see again worth the outrage, considering the damage other people can do? I’m not the biggest fan of my body, but I don’t think officers checking the body scans are uploading the images onto Facebook. If they are doing their job, they won’t be checking out your package, but will be looking for an AK-47 or a bomb.

If there were no threats facing us, there would be no point in having security. If we went by the better and more comforting “honor system,” terrorists would just take advantage of it.

 We all know it is uncomfortable going through security, but does anyone think TSA officers actually enjoy touching travelers? I think not. But until we figure out a secure way of decoding terrorist plans and finding their planners, I’m going to stick with whatever security Logan, Kennedy, or Hartsfield has to offer, however uncomfortable it may be.

 Roy Ribitzky is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].