November 17th, 2010

Changing Airport Security on our Own

I am taking my weekly article on a detour today. Usually I’ll ramble on about some local issues that may or may not be pertinent to your day, but today is different. Today I am addressing something that not only affects Houstonians but travelers all over the country and the world. Between the increased use of Advanced Imaging Technology, Nude-o-Scopes to the layperson, and new pat-down procedures it is not a fun time to be a frequent flyer. In fact, you may need a shirt like this just to add a touch of comic relief to the ridiculousness.

As more airports receive the backscatter and millimeter wave machines you will have two choices when you fly, either go through the machines or have an “enhanced” pat-down performed. Neither option should be acceptable. A lot of people want to say that the radiation is the main concern and sure with the backscatter machines I would agree with them (the millimeter wave machines have not been tested enough). What concerns me more is where we go from here. Will we have to resort to cavity searches before enough people say to themselves, “there has to be a better way”?

ERJ Landing at IAH

There is a push for a National Opt-Out Day on November 24 that calls for every traveler to “opt-out” of the scan and receive the pat-down. I have little hope for a majority of people participating in such a protest. It will be an inconvenience for travelers and will not influence the TSA administrators enough for them to change procedures.

We have another option though. Byron York from the Washington Examiner points out that airports can opt-out of the TSA being in control of security:

“Did you know that the nation’s airports are not required to have Transportation Security Administration screeners checking passengers at security checkpoints? The 2001 law creating the TSA gave airports the right to opt out of the TSA program in favor of private screeners after a two-year period. Now, with the TSA engulfed in controversy and hated by millions of weary and sometimes humiliated travelers, Rep. John Mica, the Republican who will soon be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is reminding airports that they have a choice.”

Sunset over IAH

Sure, the outsourced security screening has to follow TSA procedures but they can also choose not to have the advanced imaging technology scanners in place. As a city we can make a difference in what happens at IAH and Hobby. Using the following information, contact the Houston Airport System and let them know you want the TSA out and spell out why. The city’s budget is fairly tight right now but getting our voices heard is what is important. If the people who work for us in Washington won’t listen, then maybe they will listen when their contacts at the local level raise enough of a fuss.

The point in all of this is to make our voices heard. I have serious doubts about the potential for success on National Opt-Out Day but we need to do something. By contacting the Houston Airport System, I hope that our voices are heard. We employ the people who run the TSA, we should have the right to tell them they’re doing a terrible job.

A sign of things to come is this two year old report from a Houston reporter on his own daughter being searched in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Contact information for the Houston Airport System:
Houston Airport System
16930 JFK Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77032

You can also contact your Congressmen/women and Senators. There is a great list up at

— Stephan


Rorschach — Friday, November 19, 2010 11:29 am

Stephan, there is of course one small problem with the local opt out provision. If an airport opts out, then THEY have to pay for security instead of the feds paying for it. There are no vouchers.

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