Monday, November 15, 2010

A Few on the Right Stuck in September 10 Mode

In radio talkshow host Mark Levin's inbox:
Dear Mark,

As a long-time listener I find myself agreeing with you more often than not, and even where we disagree I can see the logic that led you to your conclusion.

But last week you said some things about Transportation Security Administration airport screeners that I know from direct experience are untrue. I'm talking about the "perverts" and "groping" comments directed at TSA screeners.

As a member of the TSA's Mobile Screener Force in 2002 I trained screeners at several airports across the country. They are easily among the most professional and dedicated people with whom I have had the honor to work. In fact, TSA screeners take the same oath given to America's military officers, and most of them take this oath seriously. I know that I did.

Contrary to what one of your callers said, many screeners are ex-military and ex-cops, former teachers and professors, medical technicians - Americans from many different walks of life who have decided to take on a necessary but thankless job for lousy pay and rotten hours. They deal with people who are at their worst; stressed out from air travel and its inevitable frustrations.

I have never met a screener who enjoys performing patdown searches, though I suppose there may be a few out there. Patdowns are an unpleasant but vitally necessary part of the job. As far as your "busty Swedish flight attendant" speculation, patdowns are conducted by screeners of the same gender* as the passengers being searched. Flight crews have been upset since federalization of US airports because their airlines won't exempt them from screening, as baggage handlers and other airport workers are exempted.

You should know that airport screeners are bound by SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and have no discretion in security procedures, nor should they. Do you really want screeners to be able to decide, "Eh, you look American enough to me, go ahead and get on the plane." While granny is sweet and innocent, do you want to bet your life that she has watched her luggage and carry-ons like a hawk to make sure no one put anything extra in them? Or in the wheelchair that can't go through the metal detector?

Screeners are subject to abuse from passengers who don't understand the screening process, abuse from "suits" who were appointed above them and have, in many cases, no practical experience in airport security. They also earn the privilege of re-qualifying for their jobs semi-annually in a grueling week-long process that offers termination as the only result of failure in any aspect of the testing. Part of this testing is pat down procedure. Screeners who don't force the examiner onto tippy toes while searching the groin area will fail this part of the examination.

The icing on the cake is the approbation of people like you, Mark.

While I am no longer with the TSA because of a permanent disabling injury, subsequent air travel has shown me that the screeners still work to the same standard. They ask themselves..."Would I be comfortable with a member of my family flying on this plane?"

These are hardworking people, wearing the uniform of our country, and they deserve your praise, not your scorn.

Respectfully submitted,

Al Brown

*Actually, the rule is the same gender as the passenger presents him-, her-, itself at the checkpoint. I've witnessed female TSA screeners being required to pat down female impersonators.