Flight travel post 9/11 has become very hazardous and laborious, especially for USA based passengers. As is often the case, reactions turn into over reactions...often times without foundation or reason. This seems to be happening on both sides of the travel security equation. Governmental security continues to over react to many perceived terrorist threats, while travelers often over react to new processes put in place to secure the general travel public's safety.
The most recent illustration of this phenomenon is the John Tyner pat down case in San Diego. According to the Youtube taping of the incident by him, he refused the machine scan process and chose the optional "pat down" method...but took exception when they said they would be touching his genital area. When told by a supervisor who was called into the situation that he could submit to the process...or leave and not fly today...he chose the later. He was escorted by TSA and police to an American Airlines counter who refunded his non-refundable ticket. During that process, TSA management with the police came back and asked him to resubmit himself for the screening or basically be charged criminally on some sort of code that they didn't seem to mention. Apparently those charges have been filed with an $10,000 fine attached. Now Mr Tyner and other citizens are going more public with their fight against this perceived governmental tyranny.
Personally I see paranoia and over reaction on both sides of this conflict. I think the general public wants security to be thorough and secure the people who are allowed to travel with them. I would rather go through the scanner machine than to be physically patted down...yet many people, apparently including the pilots union...are paranoid about over exposure to that technology for health reasons. I supposed if I had to be scanned multiple times every day, I might have the same concerns. I don't have that concern for occasional flying. If someone doesn't want to go through that machine, then pat downs make sense somewhat. Yet, I think the genital touching is going overboard on that front as well.
My biggest disconnect with the TSA approach is their "randomness" approach of who they pull aside for more thorough examination...and on the other hand their paranoia about "profiling" people. This has never made sense to me. If your typical "terrorist" is of Arab decent and between the ages of 18-40...I don't "get" pulling American retirees in wheelchairs over to one side for a "pat down" or sniff test. With today's access to technology and ID verification...these people should be screened and risk levels accessed on each passenger long before they even reach the airport. The Israelis do this and they seem to have a much better record of controls on flying terrorists. They also are not afraid of "profiling" the bad guys.
Unfortunately, many of us normal citizens are now getting paranoid about traveling and the overt governmental presence and oversight of our lives. 9/11 caused in my opinion an over reaction on the government's part in suspending many privacy rights and freedoms granted by our constitution. The "Patriot Act" was supposed to be a "temporary powers" type of bill that has somehow turned into a permanent contract with our government powers. We are rightly paranoid when our government can arrest or search us without due cause or process of law. Many of the attitudes and tactics being used by our government are reminiscent of the "Gestapo" tactics of the Nazi era. They used many of the same justifications and stirring of paranoia to gain the upper hand over mass civilians in limiting their rights and freedoms. Travel is now just another extension of overstepping governmental regulation into our way of life.
Thanks to the immediacy of internet media we are now seeing natural balance and access of information...as well as disinformation...being distributed to the masses. Hopefully this will help us find a balance of what is acceptable between government actions and the constituents they serve. We need balance and reason instead of over reactions and manipulation of emotions. We want our governments to get the bad guys without making us all suspected criminals. The problem is that at the end of the day "humans" are on each side of these conflicts. Humans run our government bureaucracies. Humans run the airlines and travel agencies. And of course, the general public is full of humans. All are imperfect and we all need to work together to arrive at the balanced common good.
I am convinced most disconnects in this dynamic is based on egos and human pride. All the role players in the San Diego pat down incident to me are so representative of the various factions in this "play". You have the systematic messaging and direction given by particular TSA "worker bees"...who when faced with a John Q Public that doesn't agree to the process calls over a manager of bigger ego. When that person doesn't succeed in getting compliance from the citizen...they make it into a scene with uniformed police escort away from the "security area". The worst part of the TSA reaction was when they brought in the "suit" management guy who is determined to "win the argument" and "complete the process" whether the civilian likes it or not...at the threat of criminalization and hefty fine. That was way over the top and too authoritarian a position for a "public servant" to take on. You are there to get "terrorists"...not turn a citizen into a candidate for being one. STUPID.
The overarching sadness for me in this "dance" is that all sides are playing roles that perpetuate the problem. The more authoritarian governmental entities become, the more rebellious become various sectors of citizenry. This has the potential of pushing more and more bystanders into the side of the "terrorists". It's kind of like the psychological aspect where if you accuse someone of being a criminal or treat them like one long enough...they will start acting on the notion. It is negative psychology on the grandest of scales.
I hope all the publicity on this issue affects reason and brings positive change for travelers as we approach the holiday travel season. Meanwhile, I will try to reduce chances of conflicts with the "authorities" as much as possible while traveling. I will probably chose the machine over the pat down...and dress as little like a terrorist as possible, including leaving the wheelchair at home.