Almost two years ago, we made the decision that our daughter would attend college all the way across the country at the University of Alabama. It was a fiscally prudent decision. Our daughter was and is an excellent student – just the kind of student that ‘Bama rewards with generous academic scholarships. In fact, the scholarship they offered was so generous that even taking air travel into account, she’s attending college for a tiny fraction of the cost to attend our state’s flagship school, the University of Washington and will graduate after four years debt-free and with our savings intact.
Now we’re in the uncomfortable position of wondering if we made the right decision after all, not because of any financial concerns but because it has become all too obviously apparent that it’s no longer safe for young, unescorted women to travel by air within our own borders. The imminent threat doesn’t come from terrorists, although that’s not a danger that can or should be ignored, but from TSA workers operating under new guidelines for enhanced security.
I don’t believe I’m overstating the situation. At airports where the enhanced security procedures are in place, travelers have three choices.
The Naked Scan
You spend your daughter’s lifetime telling her that granting access to her body is at her sole discretion, then Uncle Sam tells her, no, sorry, it’s your duty to bare it all in front of a low level and poorly screened government employee even though everyone knows the chance that you’re an explosive-packing terrorist is next to zero.
The Public Grope
Should your daughter exercise her right to keep her privates private, she’ll be subject to the new enhanced pat-down. The TSA has declined to publish the full guidelines for the pat-down so your daughter will have no way to gauge whether or not the officer administering the pat-down is exceeding her authority. For example, your daughter is entitled to be patted down by a female TSA agent except in the case “extraordinary circumstances” but those circumstances are undefined in the guidelines available to the public.
The Private Grope
Finally, if your daughter doesn’t want to endure the humiliation of having her breasts and genitals groped in public, she can ask for a private screening room. Of course, she’s entitled to have a traveling companion with her during the pat-down. But – wait! – she’s traveling alone! What sane parent would advise their daughter to enter a private room with a stranger with the intent of letting that stranger lay hands on her body?
Which brings me back to my original question. The TSA has implemented a system where – for their own good – young women are subjected to security procedures that would be crimes were they conducted by private individuals. When faced with three equally abhorrent options, which do we advise our daughters to take?