TSA at PHL raising eyebrows; travelers consider taking Amtrak.

Feb 18, 2010

I've only been to Philadelphia a couple of times, all of them by driving to and from there. After reading about some of the stuff going on there not only do I not particularly want to visit that city, but I'm not entirely certain that I really want to fly again.

This particular news story leaped out at me for its sheer WTF factor even though the incident seems to have taken place in March of 2009. Bob Thomas, a 53 year old Camden police officer, his wife Leona, and their four year old son Ryan were flying down to Orlando, Florida to celebrate Ryan's fourth birthday. It should be noted that Ryan was born three months premature and is developmentally delayed as a result (he's almost five as I write this). His lower legs are not properly formed, nor is the musculature of his legs. The family dutifully doffed all of their outerwear, broke down the stroller, and loaded everything onto the conveyor belt to be scanned. Ryan's leg braces set off the metal detector, but rather than follow established TSA procedure the screeners forced him to remove his braces and attempt to walk through the metal detector unassisted. The TSA extended an official apology to the family for the screener's actions, but that's beside the point. Why aren't some of the screeners working at PHY using their heads, or at least following the playbook the way they're trained?

On top of that the TSA has begun a program in which people will be swabbed at random to test for traces of explosives. They've been doing this to baggage on a more or less random basis for about a decade now; I got screened that way the first time I flew back in 2000. How accurate these measures will be remains to be seen. Depending on the particular test used, the number of type I errors could be high due to the prevalence of cosmetic products used today or it could actually be reasonable. Only time will tell. Nevermind the fact that someone trying to get a bomb onto a plane will just have someone else wire them up so they won't have explosive residue on their hands. Or maybe They'll stop going for planes and decide to detonate an antipersonnel device while standing in line at the security checkpoint while we're all crammed in there like sardines in a can. Or maybe common sense will be declared a sign of terrorist activity.

I don't need to tell you what a crock all of this is, someone far more intelligent than I has already put it better than I ever could.