Not that this is shocking news to our regular followers, but sometimes the Gormogons disagree with each other. Airport Security is possibly a case in point. While I fully agree that the government runs little well and shouldn’t be “in the business” of things outside of its Constitutional jurisdictions (i.e. national defense, legal system, etc.), I find the Czar’s option of privatizing airport security problematic.
First, let’s get past the radiation fear mongering that’s going on with the body scanners. The body scanners use one of two methods: milliwave and backscatter. The milliwave uses low level radio waves that are non-ionizing and therefore safer than holding that cellphone to your head. The backscatter rays use weak X-rays that deliver about 10 microRems of radiation per scan. Your daily exposure, on average, is 70-90 times that and in a airplane at 30,000 ft. is considerably more. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) both agree that a traveler would need over 2,500 scans annually to reach what is classified as a Neglible Individual Dose. A better concern would be to the shielding not provided to airline passengers as the fly through the less-protected atmosphere at 30,000 ft. But we don’t here much grumbling about that, so let’s dispense with the “radiation” argument here and now. And I wonder, how many of these people are the ones to consider the virtual heart checks or virtual colonoscopies which use similar technology?
The remaining argument is one that we’ll be dealing with for a long time. That is one of balancing national security and safety with individual privacy. This isn’t a new argument. We do background checks, financial investigations, drug screenings, etc. to allow people into jobs and roles where either national security or broad public safety is of concern.
So, if we pursue the Czar’s option of having airlines responsible and liable for security we open a few cans of worms – one of which is the increase in lawsuits which really chafes me. Imagine, Jan 1, 2012 comes with the new proposal in place and Acme Air decides to compete for revenue by going to simple metal scanners and relatively low-cost technicians running it. Now, we’re back to the possibility for someone to use non-metalic explosive devices and possibly liquid ones (if they don’t care so much about screening those too). Acme Air 123 is blown up mid air over some urban area with 300 people on board. 300 families, plus crew now sue Acme Air for some huge amount of money. Debris from the plane lands on a number of businesses and maybe injures or kills people on the ground. More lawsuits. Years and years of court time. The endless weighing of what monetary value does one put on lives. Will this happen? Maybe. One could take the same argument for the Motor Vehicle Administrations in the various states and privatize those – don’t you think that a private company could do it better than the state governments? The missing element in my strawman (and I’m sure the Czar would agree) is that some base standard must be met and maybe some level of accreditation done. This still requires some sort of oversight (either governmental or private) conducted.
Fine, even with those in place, let’s think about the logistics. Have you been to an airport recently? How much space is there for security? One of the issues is that the additional security has been crammed into space available. Now multiply that by the number of individual airlines at each airport. I’d wager, we’ll run out of room quickly.
I actually don’t have a problem with the body scanners – I’ve been through them twice (for the first and second time) within the last month. It was a quick and painless process. The guy in front of me didn’t fully empty his pockets (as directed, moron) and was quickly checked over. Maybe the TSA could be outsourced as a whole – or in parts (regions of the country, airport by airport), but I think I’d rather fly knowing that a lot was done to try to make the flight safe. Current polls are running that over 75% are not opposed to the scanners.