National and international security had become an issue of major concern to almost every nation. With the ever increasing criminal activities and the real threat of international terrorism, security checks into major public and private places were a major requirement. Airports, whether local or international were considered entry and exit points of nations. It is for this reason that their safety and security should have been top-notch(Transportation Research Board, 12). There ought to be water-tight security measures to ensure that passengers entering our airports do not carry with them items and luggage that would threaten the security of fellow passengers and that of the nation. Consequently, security checks were considered to be the best option in ensuring that anyone entering such a public place had to undergo a security check mandatorily. Whereas, the security checks were important, there were some issues arising on how it ought to be conducted without trampling on the privacy of other people. This article, would, therefore, look at the major concerns with the current methods used in carrying out security checks within our airports. The paper would also try to propose how to handle the security checks in a better way without having to be seen as harassment of passengers and the citizenry as a whole.
As noted above, the security of every individual ought to have been guaranteed. It was the duty of every dignified state to ensure that its subjects are safe and secure all the times. Whether the citizens were walking up and about town or traveling out of the nation, they ought to be secured. Every nation, therefore, had put in place the necessary security measures to ensure that its citizens were secured at all times. These measures were also put at all the entry and exit points of such nations. These points included airports. At airports, passengers were subjected to security screening involving both their luggage and body checks. These were carried out using metal detectors and pat-downs.
The use of metal detectors and pat-downs, thereafter, became an issue of concern to individuals and several human rights groups. There was an argument that these two commonly and widely used methods infringed on the rights of the passengers. Of major concern were passengers who had special medical conditions such as metallic joints. It was true that that by using metal detectors the individuals would not go past the security check desks. It would also be humiliating to ask such a person to remove all the metallic objects on their body. A better and humanely justified way of dealing with such a situation would be of necessity to the security apparatus.
According to the security organs, all these checks were necessitated by the ever growing threat of terrorism. The authorities were taking every substantial measure available to ensure that no weapons were carried into air flights. Such weapons could pose real security threat to the passengers and the nation as a whole. The above is an argument that every security conscious citizen would support. According to the CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/23/holiday.travel.medical/, Thomas Sawyer, a cancer survivor, had worn a urostomy bag for three years. He complained of an experience he had at the airport with the pat down checks. He noted that a security check officer opened the bag's sealed part and urine spilled out; “onto his shirt and down his pants." (Wayne Drash, CNN November 23, 2010). Though he concluded that he understood the security demands of the country, the broken bag was very embarrassing at a public place. That was a reported incident. There could be many others that could have gone unreported worldwide. Better means of handling such cases ought to be discovered so as to save the citizenry such embarrassing moments.
With the ever expanding domestic and international flights, millions upon millions of people go through the airports daily. As noted earlier, their security needed to be ensured. The respective nation, as a result, needed to ensure their airports were safe in order to attract more and more flights. The more the flights into the country, the more the country benefitted economically. The security of these airports, therefore, needed to be guaranteed. The metallic detectors and the occasional pat-downs were considerably necessary. However, considering the human traffic that flowed through the airports, a much faster means of security screening needed to be put in place. Such would save the passengers time and enhance their comfort. The screening process should have been maximized thereby reducing the waiting time for passengers in the screening line.
As happened during the September 11 in the US, subjecting every passenger to a mandatory security check was considered a necessity. But therein lay the real concern. In the event that a passenger luggage contained explosives, what were the precautionary measures in place? These were the major issues arising out of these security measures that were put in place. Explosives detectors were also a major requirement. As the situation was right now, these could only be detected at the entry point which still would pose a real security threat to the airport users. Faster and efficient explosives detectors ought to be put in place.
There was also an urgent need and demand to train the security personnel on how to deal with special case passengers like that of Thomas Sawyer, highlighted above. There should be a dignified and respectable way of handling such passengers. In this category were also the mentally challenged and children that might be found to have issues with the screening system. The pat-downs were seen as a means of harassment. A case in point was highlighted by the CNN in which a video was circulated of the transport safety officials in the US appearing to harass a child with his father watching. (Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN, November 23, 2010, http://edition.cnn.com/2010). The video highlighted the need for proper training of the security staff on ways of handling such special groups.
There was also need for a strategic planning in managing technology developments as well as arising humanitarian factors. There was a need for improvement of explosives detection as well as addressing human factors that are related to the performance of the security screening systems. Despite the efforts that were made to improve the explosives detection mechanisms, the system was still not efficient enough. The system still remained susceptible to criminals trying to sneak in explosives through the security checkpoints. Others still tried to assemble such devices hurriedly at these checkpoints. Therein lay the threat to the life of the other passengers. The need for the explosives detection system, therefore, was a necessity.
These issues of concern aside, security still needed to be more visible and vibrant. Maintaining the passenger check point efficiency needs to be prioritized. There was aneed to improve the speed and accuracy of the system. The passenger wait times needed to be taken into consideration. The number of checkpoints that could handle the human traffic at any given airport needed to be established. This measure though could vary from country to country. Careful study of passenger flow needed to be taken into consideration to ensure equitable distribution of the checkpoints. Validation of the checkpoints’ capacity to effectively handle the anticipated human traffic within the shortest time possible also needed careful consideration. With these measures put in place, the issue of passenger waiting time would have been adequately addressed. The accuracy and the efficiency of the systems were also an issue of immediate concern. There was a need to ascertain that the detectors were an accurate measure of the potentiality of risky weapons finding their way into the airports.
The need to establish security check desks for passengers with specific challenges was also a necessity. For example, cancer patients who had undergone corrective surgery, which may have had metallic plates inserted under their skin. There need to be a special desk to deal with such kind of passengers. They do not have to be mandatorily subjected to the normal checkpoints that would in a way prove embarrassing and humiliating to them like was pointed in the case of Thomas Sawyer before.
The pat downs were also viewed to be invasive to the passengers’ privacy. Of notable concern was the verification done in the passenger’s private parts even when the passenger was not guilty of carrying dangerous items into the airplane. The issues raised with this kind security check were more ethical and moral in nature. For instance, a female security official frisking a male passenger while touching his body to ascertain the safety was thought to be morally and ethically unacceptable(Washington, 12). Though it achieved desired results, the method too needed some modification. Female passengers, therefore, needed to be strictly subjected to female security staff to avoid embarrassments at the security check desks. By this arrangement, the moral and ethical issues would have been addressed. The manual frisking too ought not to be too intensive. It is vastly known that this process involves physically touching the human body. In the process touching of one’s private parts was involved. Some order of decency and privacy ought to be established to ensure that the passenger was not subjected to public ridicule.
Even though issues were raised in as far as the security check methods were concerned, the evolving world too had many developments that warranted the continued use of these systems. The criminals and the terrorists too devised new tactics to carry out their evil desires. New technological advancements in crime executions demanded more proactive measures. The need to physically frisk people entering the airports and boarding flights needed to be actively done. The use of metallic detectors to detect dangerous and harmful metallic devices too was also necessary to be carried out (Klitou, Demetrius, 10). These issues aside, there had been no other concrete plan in place to carry out such checks. And until an appropriate mechanism to counter the security threat was established, the use of pat-downs and metal detectors still proved a viable option. That said little improvements and adjustments in the way the checks were carried out needed to be factored in handling of children and people with medical difficulties needed consideration. The right to privacy too ought to be respected.
Klitou, Demetrius. Privacy-invading Technologies and Privacy by Design: Safeguarding Privacy, Liberty and Security in the 21st Century. , 2014. Internet resource.
Airline Passenger Security Screening: New Technologies and Implementation Issues. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press, 1996. Print.
Fusion of Security System Data to Improve Airport Security. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press, 2007. Print.
Wayne,Drash CNN (2010), retrieved on 23rdNovember 2014 from: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/23/holiday.travel.medical/
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN( 2010), Retrieved on 23rd November 2014, from: http://edition.cnn.com/
Public Transportation Passenger Security Inspections: A Guide for Policy Decision Makers. Washington, D.C: Transportation Research Board, 2007. Print.