This Time, I'm Pro Pat-Down

Today, we can expect as many as two million people to board domestic and international flights. I know there has been a lot of rabble rousing online about the new security procedures, which include full body scanners or, in the alternative, intensified pat-downs. Some are calling for a National Opt-Out protest on this, the busiest travel day of the year. But when it comes down to it, I predict people will not boycott. They simply want to get home to their families for the holidays and they will do what they have to do to get there safely.

At least American travelers have a choice. Some travelers will be subjected to the X-ray scan that can peer through their clothes. Folks who refuse the machines are offered a pat-down search that includes the crotch and chest. How often do we have a choice about anything? And while there have been some travelers who have complained about uniquely unpleasant encounters with TSA agents, these have been either because of the traveler’s unique circumstances (one travelers external urostomy bag broke during pat down) or the TSA agent’s unique insensitivity (according to one report in the Christian Science Monitor, a TSA agent made insensitive comments about Muslims during a body scan). Apparently, the concept is worse than the reality, according to most travelers who said that the scans and the pat downs were not much of an invasion or inconvenience.  

More to the point, the stepped-up measures are necessary in a post 9/11 world and—if you want to fly—are unavoidable. If you just can't bear the thought of either a revealing body scan or a TSA agent pat down, however, you needn’t board that flight. Yes, you have a right to privacy, but there is no constitutional right to fly in this country. If you feel your rights are being violated, find another way to get to Grandma's. Or stay home.

We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren't necessary, but that just isn't the case. TSA agents are just doing their jobs, not unlike a nurse in a clinic. They are not interested in groping people. They are not molesting people. They are checking for dangerous items and explosives that can be hidden just about anywhere. Surely we haven't forgotten the attempt by the (alleged) underwear bomber, less than a year ago during the busy holiday season?

Since 9/11, I have been one of those who has, almost always, argued for liberty over security. This is one instance, however, where we have to give up a little freedom in the interest of greater security. The government is desperately trying to balance security and privacy and is taking the public's concerns and complaints into account as it evaluates the new, more stringent boarding checks. For now, I think they are doing a pretty good job.  

Jami Floyd is a broadcast journalist and legal analyst for cable and network news, and is a frequent contributor to WNYC Radio. She is former advisor in the Clinton administration and served as a surrogate for the Obama campaign on legal and domestic policy issues.