The Third Option

Let's acknowledge that when it comes to flying, we're all willing to make a few compromises in the interests of safety. We're willing to subject ourselves to some minor inconvenience if other passengers do the same. To be honest, we'd prefer that every stranger who gets on a plane with us go through the most stringent of tests - body scans, pat downs, strip searches and waterboarding, topped off by an interview with Jack Bauer. But unfortunately, these strangers have the right to expect the same of us. Therein lies the dilemma. How do we fashion a security system that satisfies the sensibilities of a very diverse populace, while ensuring fairness to all? The TSA's answer is to offer essentially a Morton's Fork. Behind door number one is the full-body scan and behind door number two is the pat down. Take your pick. That's like offering death by hanging or death by firing squad. Both are equally unacceptable. And the TSA's choices are equally humiliating depending again on your sensibilities. I, for one, have had the pat down and quite frankly was only mildly uncomfortable with the procedure. But I can see that others might feel differently and I would probably not care to have my wife or daughter undergo this treatment. Others object to the full body scan as a major intrusion on our privacy. After all, the purchase of what other product or service requires that we agree to basically strip down in front of strangers? It's a ridiculous notion and Americans are waking up to the absurdity of it all. But again, if that's the choice some of my fellow passengers want to make, more power to them.  

The problem is that there is at least one other option that we're not being offered, and that's to be profiled. I understand that certain people believe that profiling is un-American, not consistent with our principle of equal treatment under the law. So be it. Don't choose to be profiled. Choose one of the other options. But I want to be profiled. I want my fellow passengers to know that I'm simply interested in getting from point A to point B, and not a threat to end their lives. So give me the option to be profiled. Look at all the information you have about me - nationality, ethnicity, religion, sex, age, destination, prior travels and behavior. Ask me questions about my travel plans. Judge the sincerity and veracity of my responses. Add it all up and then decide whether I'm a potential threat to other passengers and therefore should undergo a more thorough check. If my profile is statistically inconsistent with a terror threat, then send me through the non-invasive metal detector and on my way. In practice, this can be implemented very easily. When you buy a plane ticket, you select one of three security options 1) Full body scan 2) Pat down or 3) Profiling. Your ticket is issued with your selected option clearly visible and you're treated by security appropriately.

 

We're Americans and we expect options. When it comes to travel security, we want a third option - Opt-In Profiling. When profiling is an individual choice instead of a TSA policy, it becomes much more acceptable and an option that many travelers would select over the alternatives.


Let's acknowledge that when it comes to flying, we're all willing to make a few compromises in the interests of safety. We're willing to subject ourselves to some minor inconvenience if other passengers do the same. To be honest, we'd prefer that every stranger who gets on a plane with us go through the most stringent of tests - body scans, pat downs, strip searches and waterboarding, topped off by an interview with Jack Bauer. But unfortunately, these strangers have the right to expect the same of us. Therein lies the dilemma. How do we fashion a security system that satisfies the sensibilities of a very diverse populace, while ensuring fairness to all? The TSA's answer is to offer essentially a Morton's Fork. Behind door number one is the full-body scan and behind door number two is the pat down. Take your pick. That's like offering death by hanging or death by firing squad. Both are equally unacceptable. And the TSA's choices are equally humiliating depending again on your sensibilities. I, for one, have had the pat down and quite frankly was only mildly uncomfortable with the procedure. But I can see that others might feel differently and I would probably not care to have my wife or daughter undergo this treatment. Others object to the full body scan as a major intrusion on our privacy. After all, the purchase of what other product or service requires that we agree to basically strip down in front of strangers? It's a ridiculous notion and Americans are waking up to the absurdity of it all. But again, if that's the choice some of my fellow passengers want to make, more power to them.

 

The problem is that there is at least one other option that we're not being offered, and that's to be profiled. I understand that certain people believe that profiling is un-American, not consistent with our principle of equal treatment under the law. So be it. Don't choose to be profiled. Choose one of the other options. But I want to be profiled. I want my fellow passengers to know that I'm simply interested in getting from point A to point B, and not a threat to end their lives. So give me the option to be profiled. Look at all the information you have about me - nationality, ethnicity, religion, sex, age, destination, prior travels and behavior. Ask me questions about my travel plans. Judge the sincerity and veracity of my responses. Add it all up and then decide whether I'm a potential threat to other passengers and therefore should undergo a more thorough check. If my profile is statistically inconsistent with a terror threat, then send me through the non-invasive metal detector and on my way. In practice, this can be implemented very easily. When you buy a plane ticket, you select one of three security options 1) Full body scan 2) Pat down or 3) Profiling. Your ticket is issued with your selected option clearly visible and you're treated by security appropriately.

 

We're Americans and we expect options. When it comes to travel security, we want a third option - Opt-In Profiling. When profiling is an individual choice instead of a TSA policy, it becomes much more acceptable and an option that many travelers would select over the alternatives.


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