Rand Paul's TSA moment: airport patdowns around the world
Sen. Rand Paul says US airport security officials are invasive without being effective. How are air passengers treated in other countries?
When US Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky set off the scanner at Nashville airport and refused to submit to a more intimate pat-down by Transportation Safety Administration officers, he set off a minor debate about the efficacy of security at US airports.Skip to next paragraph
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After the Sept. 11 attacks, American support for aggressive security checks was strong, but in the past decade, bipartisan complaints about the TSA have begun to mount. But while Americans may be getting annoyed at all that wanding, patting, and scanning, there have been very few security incidents at US airports over the past decade. And compared with the intense scrutiny other countries give travelers at their own airports -- in India or England, Israel or Indonesia – it’s fair to ask how the US methods compare.
In a recent congressional report, “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” Congress noted that the TSA has grown into a massive agency, spending $57 billion over the past decade, with a workforce of 65,000 employees. But there have been more than 25,000 security breaches at US airports, and 17 “known terrorists” have managed to travel on 24 different occasions through airports monitored by TSA. Fewer than half of the US’s 35 largest airports have complete in-line explosive detection systems to screen baggage.
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For Senator Paul, the TSA’s increasing invasiveness is a problem.
“Is it too much to ask to have a little dignity when we are traveling?” Senator Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday. “I feel that our dignity is being compromised, but I don’t feel more safe.” He urged the TSA to be more selective, with fewer pat-downs of babies and the infirm elderly, and more pat-downs of international travelers, for instance.
So what do airport security people do in other countries?
In Israel, airport security personnel are famous for focusing on the “human factor,” using racial profiling to single out those who seem to have Arabic names or features for extra attention. All passengers are asked their purpose for traveling to Israel, and extensive and repeated questions about their travel agenda to trip up those who might be lying.