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Are there other options for airport security?

A passenger undergoes a security scan at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on Dec. 28, 2009.

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: Controversy continues over hundreds of full-body security scanners installed in more than 60 airports here in the U.S. And now, passengers and authorities are starting to think about other options, as Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


George Hobica: I haven't seen this much outrage, um -- ever.

Eve Troeh: George Hobica runs the website Airfare Watchdog. He's written about air travel for 15 years. He says the scanners use radiation to see through your clothes. If you refuse them, you get an external pat-down -- that could include your privates. Some passengers call that a deal-breaker.

Hobica: People are sending us emails saying: take me off of your email list for low airfares, because I'm not flying anymore.

Republican Congressman John Mica wrote to 150 major airports, urging them to ditch TSA and hire private contractors who wouldn't use the scanners to screen passengers.

Steve Lott with the International Air Transport Association says some Europeans countries and Dubai have suspended the use of the scanners. He says there are smarter ways to collect passenger information.

Steve Lott: You know we really need to work toward increased intelligence at the checkpoint.

And that, Lott says, should begin well before passengers even arrive at the airport.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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So far the profile of someone boarding a plane with the intent of harming other passengers hasn't changed much since the days people tried to take planes to Cuba: usually males under 40, no luggage, and traveling on one-way tickets paid for with cash or a credit card that doesn't match the identity and/or address of the person flying. Those who are responsible for checking passengers should use the information already in their systems when an individual presents him/herself for boarding. Then maybe my 100 lb, 85-year-old mother with 3 artificial joints wouldn't be subjected to a pat-down every time she flies.

If Mr. Bush hadn't killed 150,000+ men, women and children in Iraq we wouldn't need all this security in the first place. I say, stop all this nonsense and let's fly taking our chances. It is still safer than driving!

There is another angle to this issue which may have a profound impact the nation's supply chain and economic recovery. With the 100 percent cargo screening rule required for cargo flying on passenger airlines, there are some freight forwarders who may elect to not even bothering and, instead, move air freight on cargo-only airlines.

Am I the only one who sees this as a win-win situation?

The real problem is that the TSA is looking for a needle in a very large haystack and an enemy that will stop at nothing (e.g., suicide underwear bombers; bombs in the luggage of pregnant girlfriends). If there is a more effective way to go through this haystack, I haven't heard it. And no, the Israeli solution not scalable or constitutional. If you don't like it, then take a train, bus, car, or ship.

Mark from CA - You wrote and suggested boycotting flying. Why are we punishing the airlines for something they have no control over? Not to mention some people have to fly for a living. I get the outrage, and I am on your side. But you will get better results with calls and e-mails to your representatives than you will boycotting flying. All you will accomplish is getting more airline folks laid off, and they had nothing to do with this.

Just a note: the picture for this story is misleading: all the scanners in place at US airports see more detail, and the backscatter scanners can see every detail. Other than the trivial aspect if whether this constitutes a reasonable search according to the 4th Amendment, there are way too many ways to get past these scanners to make their use worth it. Despite what Pistole says, they aren't even likely to catch the underwear bomber, which is supposedly why we "need" then in the first place.

Israel has been at the forefront of the war on terrorism for years and very successful at it too. How do they do it? Profiling. They know that certain countries (such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen) are the source of most terrorists, and therefore they screen them.

In the USA, the Constitution prohibits search and/or seizure without "probable cause". However, the "probable cause" clause has been superceded by the "anti-profiling" clause. Apparently the "anti-profiling" clause was hidden in the Constitution for over 200 years until liberal democrat activist judges recently discovered it.

My 11 year-old son and I travelled to San Diego last weekend to help my mother settle into a new home. On the way back @ SAN we went thru our first full-body scan, then both were patted down. They asked to pat down my hair and because my son wore a belt, inspected the waistband of his jeans. The tsa agents were very "official" and unfriendly, although they did ask my permission before they searched my son.

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