TSA’s latest relaxed rule for seniors — is it about safety, or simply more theater?

by Janice Hough on June 6, 2012

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No one said TSA screening was supposed to be fun. But these days, after a decade of being prodded, x-rayed and walking barefoot, most Americans have gotten used to all the new rules, as annoying as they may be. After all, safety is paramount.

From a personal standpoint, the most frustrating rules are those that are not consistent or that are different from those in other countries.

Flying from Mexico to the U.S., for example, laptops are not required to be removed from carry-on bags for the x-ray process. OK, some would say, “That’s Mexico.”

From the United Kingdom, where they know about security and terrorism, passengers don’t have to take their shoes off, unless they are wearing knee-high or taller boots.

Now, here at home in the United States, children don’t have to remove their shoes; soon, seniors over 75 will be exempted from the barefoot walk through the scanner. Plus, as an added bonus, anyone over 75 will also be able to keep their belts and jackets on throughout the security process.

Curiously enough, a TSA spokeswoman said, “Passengers will not be identity checked for age but staff will rely on visual judgements to decide which children and seniors qualify for the relaxed rules.”

(This last should be all sorts of fun in Los Angeles, where looking young, or at least attempting to look young, is a serious sport. I almost pity the first poor TSA agent who figures a 65-year-old woman with extensive plastic surgery is over 75.)

If seniors trip the alarm, then they will be subject to additional screening — it’s not as if they are getting a completely free pass.

TSA says they hope to make older travelers feel safer and more comfortable. This is probably a reaction to some of the stories of elderly women being patted-down, medical devices being damaged and adult diapers be examined.

So far, in the U.S. there haven’t been any women of any age implicated in airport terrorism. So if we’re loosening the rules on anyone over 75 on the grounds that they aren’t dangerous, why not loosen them for all females? Or, for that matter, for everyone under 18?

I’m of two minds on this sort of thing. It’s not that I want to make the screening process any worse than it is and certain children and seniors seem like lower risk groups.

But, why wouldn’t terrorists who are willing to kill indiscriminately use any and all Americans as potential innocent carriers?

Of course, since the British aren’t worried about shoes, maybe they aren’t that much of a risk? (Didn’t the shoe bomber come from Britain?) And, maybe most belts and jackets aren’t that much of a real worry either. But, if they’re not, why make most people go through the time and effort of taking them off?

No doubt TSA has its reasons. However, from the outside, much of this process is starting to feel like “security theater.”

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  • Frank

    So far, in the U.S. there haven’t been any women of any age implicated in airport terrorism. So if we’re loosening the rules on anyone over 75 on the grounds that they aren’t dangerous, why not loosen them for all females? Or, for that matter, for everyone under 18?
    ———————————————————————————-

    Suicide bombers used to be a male dominated activity of terrorism in Israel.  Until WOMEN entered this arena:  http://www.ict.org.il/Articles/tabid/66/Articlsid/94/currentpage/20/Default.aspx

    And, maybe most belts and jackets aren’t that much of a real worry either. But, if they’re not, why make most people go through the time and effort of taking them off?
    ———————————————————————————–

    uhhh, they make the METAL DETECTOR go off, thus making you go through a secondary check and/or go back and remove items, thus HOLDING UP THE LINE.

  • Frank

    I was just LOOKING at your TSA SCREENING AREA picture above.  My first thought?  What DUMBY left their purse unattended?  Seriously, I watched the same thing on the aircraft this week.  A female passenger got to her row, dumped her purse on the seat, left it unattended with another passenger in that row and left to stow her bag.  I thought, OMG, NOT SAFE.  I’ve actually lectured women on this, being the victim of having my bags either opened by a passenger or TAKEN OFF the plane.

  • Marilyn

    Frank, my thought about the unattended purse with the shoes sitting right next to it is that they belong to a woman similar to myself.  My artificial knees set off the metal detector every time so I must stand helplessly in a certain spot unable to touch any of my things until a female TSA agent can be called over to finish my patdown.  Usually that agent will ask me to identify my belongings and she will carry them over near where the secondary screening is done but until then, I can only watch my belongings from afar. 

  • Phil

    Frank mentioned the purse on the bench at the TSA Screening Area. Sadly I can say I have experienced something similar to that more than once when I went through the line and upon walking past the x-ray screener and attempting to get my carry-on bag, belt, shoes and the bowl in which I was forced to put my billfold and watch I was ordered by a TSA officer to immediately follow him.  Each time I pointed to my items still coming out of the x-ray and asked to retrieve them and each time the TSA office angrily ORDERED me to leave them and follow him for a pat down exam.  It is hard to be cooperative during such a procedure when you are constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure no one is walking off with your belongings.  Each time I complained that my belongings were not safe being left completely unattended and each time the TSA officer scoffed at my complaint.

  • Janice

     Frank, sometimes belts do, sometimes they don’t.   I have a thin belt that some TSA people tell me to leave on actually.  But jackets and sweaters and wraps don’t trip anything.

  • Janice

     Frank agree on the picture, I don’t choose pictures but you have a good point.  I always try to put my purse through last.  Especially when wearing a long skirt which at least a third of the time seems to trigger a patdown.

  • DCTA

    (This last should be all sorts of fun in Los Angeles, where looking
    young, or at least attempting to look young, is a serious sport. I
    almost pity the first poor TSA agent who figures a 65-year-old woman
    with extensive plastic surgery is over 75.)

    Now doubt she’ll be suing the Plastic Surgeon!

  • DCTA

     Sometimes at DCA they can get a little “impatient” with me for not
    hurrying through the magnetometer and waiting until I’ve seen my bag
    disappear into the scanner……  BUT once I explain why I’m lollygagging they’re all smiles – the TSA Guys, that is…

  • James Penrose

    *Starting* to feel like security theatre?  it has *always* been security theatre.

    Various group subject to public sympathy or who have political power get exempted as they respond to prevent these becoming organized centers of protest in order to keep their power from being eroded by common sense.

  • Carrie Charney

    And men don’t get plastic surgery? I notice it more and more on TV now.

  • Frank

    Horrible, Phil.  I would of “stopped right there”.  In view of MY personal belongings and demanded a supervisor.  And, Phil, never, never, never, ever put your wallet or watch into a bowl for everyone else to see or quickly grab.  PLACE IT INSIDE YOUR CARRY-ON,.  Zip it up.

  • Frank

    SPEAKING OF TSA, YOU ALL HAVE TO WATCH THIS: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/f7d1e74f88/security-theater

    TOO FUNNY!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000025282812 Dee Jaye

    “why not loosen them for all females? ” Feminist! 
    And I guess only females can get raped by the TSA. FUCK THIS Double Feminist standard. I got sexually assaulted at KLAS. I am tired of this
    And yes, it is the Illusion of Security Theater
    Mean while in Russia, a country with real terrorists, women are equally likely to commit terrorist acts
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9127907/Five-policemen-killed-by-Russian-Black-Widow-suicide-bomber.html

  • Anonymous

    Starting to look like security theater? Have you been under a rock?

    They say they will exempt children under 12, those over 75, frequent fliers, Global Entry members, active military, those with active security clearances including police, government employees and elected officials, Nexus members and diplomats on official business.

    of course, they continue to grope children as young as four and shove their hands inside the bras of elderly women, but if they do implement these changes, nop one will be going through security except the average person who only travels once every year or two.

    TSA is a joke. Nothing more than a jobs program for pedophiles like the ex-priest TSA supervisor in PHL or criminals who steal your wallet and laptop.

    Check Wikipedia TSA for a partial list of TSA crimes in the last two years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002152481201 TestJeff Pierce

    Let me expand on some of the comments.

    FACT: For over HALF A CENTURY, there have been ZERO suicidal airline passengers with working non-metallic bombs on US domestic flights.

    So, the supposed purpose of strip search scanners and sexual assault patdowns is to stop something that is basically a non-existent threat.

    Covering every commerical, private, and military flight globally, there is only 1 fatality in modern times – in 1997, a liquid bomb was planted on a Brazilian flight (internal revolutionary group, they can’t say the passenger stayed on the plane, and it might have required metal parts to initiate it) and it killed 1 person and the plane landed safely.

    The Egypt Air Flight 990 pilot (in the 1990s) killed over 200 people with a suicidal crashing of a jet that took off out of New York City. There have been no working non-metallic bombs, counting the 2009 plot where our intelligence agencies allowed the Nigerian guy on a flight over our State Dept protests. The most recent non-metallic bomb – not to be used with clothing according to a CNN quote of an intelligence official  – was given to a person working against the AQAP group, so clearly we have this stuff under control.

    In fact, the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management showed that if you add up the avoided flights (measured using flight segment databases, real hard core stats) and convert that to traveled miles by car, then likely 500 deaths a year have occurred because of the TSA instituting security procedures. With addition of unconstitutional strip search scanner searches and criminal assaults (unwanted touching of penises, testicles, vulvas, and female breasts), the TSA has likely killed more people than Osama Bin Laden did on 9-11.

    The fears of some travelers over things that won’t happen with any reasonable probability (0 out of 50 years so far…) is letting a dead, rotting corpse still “win”.

    The good news is that Freedom To Travel USA just finished its first congressional briefing and also attended a business-dominated advisory committee meeting at TSA HQ in recent weeks. Please join up with http://fttusa.org to stay informed on the illegal, abusive TSA practices and help fight back and get Congress to provide the oversight to reign in the over-reaching TSA procedures.

    If you want 95-yr old dying cancer victims groped in their crotches and the 50% plus non-ATR scanners to take nude pictures of children, then by all means….please don’t join.

  • Apater

    If you cannot express yourself without using atrocious language, that proves how intelligentt you are and the reader needs to move on. (Pun for move on intended.)

  • Anonymous

    re: ” However, from the outside, much of this process is starting to feel like “security theater.”

    Starting??   It’s been theater from day one, when the play opened with false flag attacks.

  • Janice

    I was trying to be diplomatic, maybe what I should have said MORE like security theater.  To be honest I think the whole process is a bit of a joke. And don’t get me started on sealed wine bottles.

  • Janice

    see response above. Was trying to be diplomatic but I agree with you actually.

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