The modified screening techniques follow those enacted last fall when the TSA decided children under 12 years of age no longer had to remove their shoes or light jackets for screening, and allow a second scan for anomalies rather than a physical pat-down. Many people (of all ages) have protested the increased physical screenings conducted by the TSA over the past year.
The policy shift is part of a new TSA focus to put more scrutiny on potentially high-risk passengers. According to Kathleen Petrowsky, the TSA federal security director at O'Hare, TSA screeners will make a visual assessment to determine which passengers are 75 or older and inform them of changes to the screening procedures.
Whooo boy, I think this opens up a can of worms. I’m not even sure where to start. So, let’s just scratch the surface.
OK, so first, the assumption is that aging people are not likely to be a threat. Statistically speaking, perhaps this has been the case with airport incidents. However, ideology doesn’t magically disappear because one turns 75 (and who decided that was the magic “old” number anyway?). This feels a bit dismissive of our intelligence.
Second, the TSA officers will decide by “visual assessment” who looks 75 and older. Sure, maybe it makes it easier on those who don’t have to go through the extra security measures, but I don’t know a single woman who would want to be selected for that group because she looks 75. Can you imagine the indignation if the TSA officer gets it wrong? In all seriousness though, doesn’t this seem like the same concept as racial profiling, albeit in reverse?
I get it. Really, I do. It is a decision made to ease the burden for the aging. It can be difficult to take off and put on shoes. A pat-down can be embarrassing, perhaps especially so to an often more modest generation. The rushed feeling of the security line can be very disconcerting or cause stress. I am not a heartless young person who doesn’t understand the dimensions of aging. I just had a gut reaction to this announcement that was somewhat negative, or at the very least questioning.
Maybe this is the right thing to do. Maybe it isn’t. In the end, they didn’t actually ask my opinion before enacting this, and I’m OK with that too. I do think it provides an interesting point for conversation though! What do you think about it?
In addition to being the Center's Senior Projects Director, Kristin Huff teaches courses for the Center's new Project Management Certificate for Human Services Professionals.