Tom Purcell, 3/27/2017 [Archive]

With TSA, Indignity Security's Price

With TSA, Indignity Security's Price

By Tom Purcell

It was probably worse for the Transportation Security Administration officer than it was for me.

Maybe I'd better explain.

I recently had the misfortune of experiencing the TSA's recently enhanced pat-down procedure.

According to ABC News, you see, an audit by the Department of Homeland Security determined that TSA officers failed 95 percent of airport security tests in which undercover agents snuck mock explosives and banned weapons right by them.

As a result, the TSA modified its screening procedures. Officers used to have five pat-down types to choose from - five degrees of thoroughness, in a manner of speaking - but now they have one.

And, boy, is it invasive.

As I attempted to board a flight in San Antonio, Texas, my computer bag was flagged by the X-ray machine. The TSA officers pulled me aside for "special screening."

Three officers rooted through my computer and carry-on bags like crack addicts looking for change.

A fourth snapped on a fresh pair of white plastic gloves and began working me over like I was a side of Kobe beef.

I tried to maintain my composure, but "no means no" had zero effect. "Don't touch my junk" fell on equally deaf ears.

Now, I can empathize with the poor fellow who was doing my screening. It's not his fault that religious fanatics are driving cars into innocent crowds, shooting co-workers at Christmas parties and attempting to hide explosives in their skivvies so they can blow our planes out of the sky.

But how do I, a freckle-faced fellow with a hint of Jameson on his breath - I don't enjoy flying and the hooch calms me - fit the profile of the fanatics hoping to commit these horrific acts?

I don't.

Neither do the little old grannies or nuns or countless other people who must now go through overly invasive pat-downs when their baggage sets off the X-ray machine.

I understand the process is even worse for women. Because they have more undergarments - and more places to conceal explosives - they're being patted down in a manner that used to require dinner and a show.

In a saner world, we would make a couple of key changes to end this pat-down madness.

First, we could modernize the dated technology most airports are still using.

"The machines the TSA is using at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to scan carry-ons at checkpoints are nearly a decade old, and the practice of X-raying a bag goes back far longer," reports CBS News.

Three-dimensional CT scanning technology, commonly used in the medical industry, "can detect explosives in laptops, liquids and gels, which means the days of having to take things out of your carry-on bag could be numbered," says CBS News.

So why aren't we using it?

Second, why aren't we using better screening processes as practiced in Israel?

Despite considerable threats, Israel boasts some of the safest airports in the world - without groping millions of innocent people.

Here's why: Israel's security people are highly trained. They conduct multiple checkpoints and screenings before you enter the gate. And they profile.

Profiling does not mean "stereotyping by skin color or nationality," either. It means that highly skilled agents are continuously assessing behavior and any oddities. These processes are extremely effective.

Why are we afraid to do something that sensible?

Because we're afraid of offending people who keep telling us they want to blow our planes out of the sky?

All I know is that the next time you fly, there's one thing you'd better be prepared to leave at home.

Your dignity.


©2017 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Wicked Is the Whiskey," a Sean McClanahan mystery novel, both available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at

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