Perspectives: Airport Security is Essential

Every time I go through security, I get a complete check: shoes and jacket off, my bag is always searched. I still beep and wait patiently while airport personnel check me with the metal detector. On a recent trip home, it was  clear that I had nothing on me but the shirt and skirt I was wearing. Of course, I still had to follow protocol, so I waited for that metal detector search and a new security procedure that tests your hands to see if there are any chemical residues on them. While this was going on, one security guard turned to me and said, “It’s a little bit stupid, isn’t it?” We laughed about how it was a waste of time, but a necessary part of his job.

Going through security is time consuming and often irritating, especially for those of us with dark hair, dark skin, and a Middle Eastern appearance. But the last thing I would call it is stupid.

Recently, complaints over the TSA procedures have caused uproar among travelling citizens, who call them “invasive.” One unnamed ABC News employee said her experience was “worse than going to a gynecologist.” Even if the most extreme scenarios people have described are true, such as TSA officers feeling around travellers’ groins, breasts, and thighs, they hardly constitute that dramatic exaggeration.

Another traveller, a US Airways flight attendant, complained that she felt like she was taken advantage of after a TSA agent checked her extensively. Perhaps she thought that she, as a flight attendant, would be exempted from these searches. However, security measures should apply to all travellers, regardless of their occupation. I’ve been following these stories in the news the past few weeks and I’m genuinely surprised. Almost a decade after 9/11, people have already forgotten why security measures like these are in place.

The reason why even children, the elderly, and 20-year-old girls go through rigorous testing is that in order to ensure security, you have to think like your enemy. If a terrorist wanted to tamper with the flight, don’t kid yourself into thinking he or she wouldn’t stoop so low as to force a child or an older person to hide the explosives.

Perhaps the procedures seem a little silly or even inappropriate, but the purpose is important and should be commended. If an innocent person is checked for 10 minutes, then we can be hopeful that more suspicious people are checked for even longer—and that guilty ones might get caught.

I understand that we all have a right to basic privacies, but in this case, protecting privacy might also cause harm to our fellow citizens. Reducing the use of these procedures only makes us less safe.

That particular airport employee who told me the procedures were “a little stupid” probably had a long day and was tired of checking 20-year old girls for bombs. It might seem redundant to him, but to everyone who has to fly, it’s a life-saving measure and one I’m thankful exists.

This was published in the McGill Tribune as part of my bi-weekly column, Perspectives.

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