TSA uses fear of terrorism to increase fees and decrease privacy
In this last month of summer vacation, many UH students will be completing last travel plans before school begins in the Fall. Anyone wishing to travel by plane should not be surprised to encounter some of the recent changes being made at airports and airlines both nationally and internationally.
The Wall Street Journal reported that as of July 21, the September 11 Security Fee initiated to help fund the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was increased, more than doubling the fee on a domestic round-trip ticket from $5 to $11.20. The fee for a one-ticket was changed from $2.50 to $5.60 per leg of a trip. The previous cap of $10 per-ticket has been removed.
Business post-graduate Travis Hookeham said he is not happy about the increase, but understands its importance.
“I’m not a fan of the fees. It’s going to cause ticket prices to go up, and it’s another thing you have to pay for that, to be quite honest, one wonders where the funds really go,” Hookeham said. “But I guess it’s in the name of safety, so maybe it’s beneficial.”
However, the fees are no longer being used entirely for safety. The increase stems from a congressional budget deal, and much of this increase will not go to TSA, but rather to the general fund to help reduce the federal deficit.
The fee’s name misleads the paying passengers, some of whom are willing to pay more to protect the country from another terrorist attack.
Supply chain management junior Adam Jaber said he thinks it is worth it to raise the fee because current security is working.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it. I think any precaution to keep us safe should be taken,” Jaber said. “I think its fine right now, because there haven’t been (any major) incidents since 9/11.”
With that mindset, TSA safety measures have increasingly become more extreme.
An article by ABC News reported on an announcement by the Department of Homeland Security that the TSA has implemented measures at certain overseas airports that check some electronic devices of passengers flying to the U.S. more carefully.
“As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones,” a release from the TSA said. “Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”
This is in response to concerns that Al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria are collaborating with an Al-Qaeda group in Yemen and are trying to develop a new kind of bomb that could be hidden in electronic devices.
Whether it is a necessary precaution in the name of safety or an overreaction is unknown. Nevertheless, public relations junior Alex Lopez said she questions how much should be done in the name of public safety.
“I appreciate the fact that people are trying to take care of the citizens and making sure that everybody is safe and all of that, but at the same time I feel like they go overboard. It makes things more of a difficult process to go through,” Lopez said.
With every threat has come a new security measure, and computer science junior Harry Pho said he doesn’t agree with the increasingly long and uncomfortable process to get through security and onto the plane.
“I traveled back to my country, Vietnam, last year, and we didn’t have that at that time,” Pho said. “This year I don’t have any plans, but if I have to do that, it’s a little uncomfortable and (will) take a longer time for you to go through the gate. It already takes you a lot of time to take (your) shoes off, (your) jacket off and everything else off to put in the trays to put it through the security gate.”
That is not even mentioning the random additional screenings and pat-downs that give TSA an increasing amount of power as passenger’s privacy rights diminish. TSA agents have also been known to be overzealous and discriminatory, practicing racial profiling and making mistakes in the process. This discrimination has been said to be fueled by the increasing fear of terrorism.
According to a 2012 article by the New York Times, TSA officers at Logan International Airport in Boston used a method called “behavior detention” that allowed them to detain “passengers who fit certain profiles.” Passengers who fit this profile were “much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for suspicious behavior.”
In addition, last year’s revelation that the National Security Agency conducts mass surveillance through the cellphone records of all U.S. citizens was also defended in the name of national security. With these new airport security measures, the constant threat of terrorism continues to allow the U.S. to infringe on citizens’ rights in the name of the same citizens’ safety.
However, whether people like it or not, these changes are here to stay and will likely only increase. Therefore, we must carefully weigh how much each is worth as a country.
Opinion columnist Eileen Holley is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected]