On Sept. 22, the White House launched a program called “We the People” – a site where people could create a petition, and if it got 5000 signers within a month it would be reviewed by policy experts. The intent of the program was to give people a chance to get a say directly to the government and make it feel like they have more of a chance to be heard.
The usual hot button topics of gay marriage and marijuana legalization are there en masse, but there was one petition that stood out. The petition called for the Transportation Security Administration to be disbanded and funds reallocated to more direct forms of security. With 20,000 signatures within less than a week, public officials are sure to take note.
Originally formed after 9/11, the TSA was intended to protect the average citizen from terrorists and others who wanted to harm the U.S.A.. Whether or not the TSA has prevented acts of terrorism is of some debate but in a press conference on Aug. 21 this year, the TSA claimed a system of over 20 layers of security as well as intent to custom fit screening procedures for each person. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone, questions must be asked of the continued relevance of the TSA.
The TSA, if it were needed before, is questioned now because we have entered a unique time. It is a time where our greatest foes have been scattered; Osama Bin Laden is dead, al Qaeda is fragmented, Libya is busy fighting a civil war, and Egypt has overthrown a dictator. Such strict “security measures” serve only to take away from the common citizen what they intend to protect.
This irrelevancy was compounded with security decisions that unnecessarily affect citizens. In November 2010, the TSA stepped up their security procedures to include new backscatter X-ray machines which would theoretically detect non-metal weapons as well as hastening the lines. Many criticized this as a big brother action that paves the way to even more rights stripped away with the fear of terrorism being the excuse.
News has been fraught with TSA agents going above and beyond to search citizens who no logical person would consider a threat. In June of this year, a 95 year old woman was forced to remove her adult diaper because of security fears. It is extremely unlikely, to the point of absurdness that a 95 year old woman is going to bring a bomb into a plane, especially when the groups we fear the most think of women as something that are to be seen and not heard. The TSA has a horrible track record of blanket policies that spark public outrage, such as an 8-month-old child who was pat down in May this year because the stroller flagged explosive screening. Such barbaric tactics seem out of place in a world where terrorist groups are closely monitored.
Ever since 9/11 the average citizen knows that the moment a plane becomes hijacked all bets are off. No one is going to sit around anymore and hope for the best, the simple fact is that we live in a society that is more aware of the dangers facing it and no longer are we surprised by these acts of aggression.
However, do not mistake the situation for something it is not, there are still groups today that want the United States to fall, and just because they are currently in disarray does not mean they could not rally under a new leader tomorrow. But this chance of danger will always be present, whether or not you are fighting a war in a thousand places or whether you try to offend as few people as possible. Just because we want to be safe does not mean we should give up even the smallest luxury to reinforce that safety.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This has never been truer than in the digital age, in which sophisticated satellites can track the movement of every airplane and where emergency services are three swift thumb movements away.
The United States would be better off if we were to suffer a thousand terrorist attacks than give up one iota of personal freedom for the modicum of safety we would gain. The events of 9/11 should be seen as a chance to correct our faults and face the world with its varied ideologies rather than retreat inside and defend ourselves.