TSA and Pat-Downs: How Far do we Go for Safety?

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) volunteer demonstrates a full-body scanner at O'Hare International Airport

Unfettered freedom vs complete security: Those two extremes are stances that only the most fringe utopian anarchistic libertarians and totalitarian communist types are for. But our country has enacted a slew of safety measures since 9/11 that are meant to make us more safe. How far should we go?

There have been some stomach churning examples of the well-intentioned rules set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) being taken just too far for most people. Full body searches of little boys and girls have gotten a lot of play in videos that have gone viral, and the most recent of these is Miss USA, Susie Castillo, who put out a video that has gone viral where she talks about her personal example of being felt up by a TSA agent.

See the video here:

In case you don't want to watch the whole thing, Castillo vents about a pat down that she felt like amounted to molestation, where the TSA agent actually touched her in a place nobody wants to be touched not once, but four times. The video fades out, and she comes back with a story about her talking with some TSA-manager-type saying how she can complain. She also touches on the crux of the issue, namely how far security people should be allowed to go.

The example she uses is how drug smugglers will have drug mules carry drugs through security in their bodies... so are we going to allow security to do cavity searches on everyone who wont submit to full body scans? This is a reasonable question to ask I think.

I hate using lines like, "if we do this, we're letting THEM win...", because this really isn't about THEM at all. This is about US.

Sure, maybe some terrorists will stick a bomb you know where, or somehow develop bombs powerful enough to do damage that you can swallow, that can't be detected with other security measures currently in place, but people take hundreds of millions of flights a year... should we submit everyone to overzealous pat downs? Is maybe tapping somoene in the groin a maximum of one time perhaps enough, to check for underwear bombs? Where is the common sense?

This strikes me as absurd as requiring everyone to drive bumper cars because people get in car accidents and die. Flying in airplanes, even without heavily fortified cockpit doors, is dozens of times safer than driving somewhere (much more if you compare based on miles traveled), even with the very occasional example of hijackers and terrorists. So now that we've made it nearly impossible for hijackers to take over a plane and crash it int, yet we molest some people in the name of safety.

So should we let State Patrolmen randomly stop every car on a highway just in case one of them is drunk? Or spot check cars for properly functioning brakes, seatbelts, turning signals, accelorators, or all the other things that might lead to an accident?

I don't know about you, but I draw the line at multiple touching of peoples' private parts. I don't think that is unreasonable, and really - isn't it absurd that we're actually still talking about this? How unreasonable is it for the government to have a policy that leads to things like this occurring, children being felt up by security agents, or anything of the sort? There must be a way to incorporate a common sense clause into all of this.

Otherwise... it's not that "they're winning", it's that we're so amazingly paranoid about safety that we've lost all sense of proportion.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.