The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 30, 2013

Americans give up more and more of their privacy

By Nerissa Young
Columnist

— Call me a conscientious objector. Perhaps the more accurate term is contrary objector.

I forgot to drink my water last August en route from Anaheim, Calif., home. That meant I got to go through the airport security checkpoint twice — the second time after I chugged it.

The Washington Post recently checked in on the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, which allows airline passengers to bypass some of the more common security procedures, thereby reducing congestion and frustration.

Travelers who participate in the program can expect their checkpoint time to be halved, The Post reported. A recent time test showed 20 minutes versus 10 minutes at Dulles International near D.C.

The program started in October 2011 and allows those who are registered to keep their shoes and coats on and their laptops and liquids stowed, the story said. Further, they pass through metal detectors instead of the full-body screening machines.

Heightened security measures put into effect after 9/11 don’t apply to these special customers, who may participate in several ways, The Post reported.

Enrollment in Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program, active military service, frequent flier programs offered by airlines and a new TSA program to be unveiled by year’s end are routes to such preferred treatment.

The TSA is actively trying to expand PreCheck, The Post reported. More than 100 airports in 42 states and two territories and nine airlines are participating. The goal within just the next month is to have one quarter of all travelers in the faster security lanes.

“The more information you give us about yourself, the more likely you will be selected,” a TSA spokeswoman told The Post about impromptu PreCheck selection at check-in.

And there, quite literally, is the rub — or pat, as the case may be. To enroll in PreCheck, applicants must submit to fingerprint checks and supplemental interviews.

To be treated as humans instead of cattle loaded onto a truck, people must waive their human rights. They must willingly allow more of their privacy to be invaded by the government and its agents — in this case the airlines.

When the government practices natural selection, it never does so in a way that makes sense. Frequent fliers may be immune to extensive searches. What about flying often makes that person more stable than one who doesn’t? It would seem the reverse is true — flying often under these security measures would make a person more likely to tip over the edge of sanity.

God bless the folks who serve in our military, but sewing a flag patch onto their shirt sleeves makes them no more mentally stable than someone wearing a Hell’s Angels patch. Take, for example, the Fort Hood psychologist who opened fire on post.

And so it goes … and goes … and goes. Americans give up more and more of their privacy for convenience, believing that the government can be trusted to do the right thing with it and that the government is infallible in its exercise of these powers.

I don’t, and I won’t. I don’t like disrobing in public any more than anyone else, but if some can get preferred treatment, all should be able to. Until that happens in a way that doesn’t invade the privacy of the masses, I’ll keep showing the world my holey socks and bargain underwear.

It’s the principle of the thing even when I have to drink the water.

Young is a Register-Herald columnist. Email: ynerissa@frontier.com.

© Nerissa Young 2013