Air travel is loads of fun. It’s a wonderful experience that we all love to share with our families. It’s exciting. It’s breathtaking to soar among the clouds, leaving our cares behind. And I think it’s pretty darn cool how everyone dresses up in their fanciest and finest apparel to zip across the country. And the service provided by the airlines…why it’s second to none. Oh, that’s right, we mustn’t forget about those TSA agents. Aren’t they the most polite and happy people you’ve ever encountered in your entire life? Yes indeed, I sure do love me some air travel.
Passengers are also happy and polite creatures, especially those with small crying children. Then there’s the guy seated next to you who hasn’t bathed since Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Or, how about the man seated behind you? You know, the guy with the bladder trouble who absolutely must visit the restroom every ten minutes, and to help his lard a** up, he grabs your seat-back pulling you downward until the top of your head is resting at his crotch. Then he kindly releases the spring-loaded chair sending you and your two ounce cup of Diet Coke into the next row.
As most of you are aware, flying these days is not even remotely close to the good old days author Donald Bain wrote about in his popular bestselling book Coffee, Tea, or Me. In fact, air travel today can be summed up in one word…RUDE. Flight attendants are rude. Passengers are rude. Vendors are rude. Screeners are rude. Luggage handlers are rude. And they all make me want to be rude right back.
The most important thing, though, is that we’re all much safer today than we were back in the day when we could leave on our shoes and weren’t groped and leered at by security folks who possess x-ray vision. Makes me feel safer. How about you?
Okay, before I completely explode thinking about the joys of air travel, lets talk about the things TSA does to make us safe when flying the friendly skies (besides groping and checking out my naked and ever-so-flattering nude waistline).
SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) is one of the tactics TSA agents use to spot terrorists. It’s a foolproof (yeah, right) method of identifying people who want to do us harm, and the idea is quite simple. Agents randomly observe and chat with travelers, checking for signs of suspicious behavior. You know, things like rapid eye movement and excessive perspiration.
Well, all that’s fine and dandy, however, I just looked at the warning labels on two of my medications and, please, take a wild guess at the side effects. Yep….excessive perspiration and rapid eye movement. I guess it’s a requirement that all terrorists consume similar medications before stuffing their shoes and underwear with explosives.
TSA agents are on high alert for a passenger’s rapid eye movement
TSA SPOT experts are also trained to speak with travelers to see if they can pick up on other indicators of terrorist-type intent. Now these really do make sense—they watch our facial expressions for signs of fear, anger, surprise and/or contempt. Now, I ask you, who, after being groped, prodded, scanned and had their unmentionables pawed by a beady-eyed, hairy-armed female TSA agent, is not angry, surprised, a bit fearful, and filled to the brim with contempt?
But, the program is producing fantastic results. So far, out of the tens of thousands of people who’ve been referred for secondary screening based on TSA agent scrutiny, only 1083 have been arrested. HOWEVER, the arrests were for drug and weapons violations, and for outstanding warrants. Not a single terrorist has been identified by the more than 2,800 TSA agents employing the SPOT techniques. Not one. But that’s okay because, to date the program has only cost taxpayers a mere $878 million. The average street cop could catch that many drug dealers and wanted criminals in a single week with one arm tied behind his/her back. And all it would cost taxpayers is a few hundred dollars, some gas for a patrol car, and maybe a meal or two at a local Denny’s.
You should be aware that, if you are referred to a secondary screening based on an agent’s expert assessment of your behavior, certain personal information is obtained during that stage of the game. Things like:
– first, middle, and last names
– aliases and nicknames
– home and business addresses and phone numbers
– employer information
– identification numbers such as Social Security Number, drivers license number or passport number
– date and place of birth
– languages spoken
– height and weight
– eye color
– hair color, style and length; and facial hair, scars, tattoos and piercings, clothing (including colors and patterns) and eyewear
– purpose for travel and contact information
– photographs of any prohibited items, associated carry-on bags, and boarding documents
– identifying information for traveling companion
The above information (your personal information) is entered into a database (the hard copy is destroyed…whoopee) that’s accessible by law enforcement, Office of Intelligence (I’ll hold my tongue on this one), and many, many more, including contractors for the NSA (does the name Snowden ring a bell?). Your information is held in the database for 15 years, or longer.
You are not permitted to decline giving this information to TSA, even though no crime is involved. You have no say so as to who has access to your information.
But please don’t be alarmed, because the SPOT system is foolproof. After all, it’s based on a TSA officer’s observance and interpretation of human behavior, not science.
But I’m okay with all of this because TSA agents are the experts, right? They’re always on their toes, keeping us safe no matter what.
I know I sure feel safer knowing they’re on the job.