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In Defense of Airport Security

Wednesday, 17 Nov 2010 | 10:53 AM ET

Oh, I know. You have to pretty much disrobe to go through airport security. I hate it, too.

It's been almost ten years since 9/11, and we're still taking our off shoes, throwing our belongings into bins, and pushing them along folding tables to the conveyer belt. Not much has changed.

What has changed, we like even less.

A TSA officer demonstrates what the images form the Advanced Imaging Technology unit look like.
Getty Images
A TSA officer demonstrates what the images form the Advanced Imaging Technology unit look like.

New scanners allow TSA officers to basically see you naked, and there are concerns about radiation.

Critics allege this is the worst kind of funny business.

I did try to have a little fun with the situation last week, showing off new TSA T-shirts and a fake children's book mocking cavity checks. Then John Tyner told that TSA guy not to "touch his junk", and the web exploded with videos warning us what could be next. Check out this alleged training video for doing full body checks on prison inmates (my favorite line is to the female inmate, "Ok, you can drop 'em.")

There's also a new song called "I Don't Like the TSA." "I don't see how they keep me safe," sings a guy who might freak out Juan Williams, "and if I refuse them groping me, then they'll treat me like a detainee." The song promotes a group called We Won't Fly, which encourages travelers to opt out of scanners for both health and privacy reasons.

"If you can avoid flying, don't fly," it suggests.

Exactly.

Let's not forget the bigger picture here.

One year ago a man tried to bring down an airliner with a bomb in his underwear. Terrorists are now putting bombs on cargo jets. If you don't like going through all the security measures...don't fly.

Flying is a privilege, not a right. An enclosed tube at 30,000 feet is a dictatorship not a democracy. I don't like it, but I'd rather give up certain rights for a few hours to better my chances of arriving safely. We know the TSA doesn't catch everything, but I'd like to let them catch as much as they can.

TSA agents take a lot of abuse, though rarely in person—it's not worth the risk of being arrested. However, I fly a lot, and in my experience nearly all of the TSA personnel I encounter are courteous and professional. They appear to be doing their best to get passengers through long lines while still checking bags intently. Do they make mistakes? Of course. Do some of them abuse us? Undoubtedly. They're human, like police officers, soldiers, waiters, surgeons, managers.

I don't doubt for a moment that some TSA employee will sneak out naked x-rays and make them public. Based on the images I've seen so far, I wouldn't even recognize myself.

I also wouldn't be surprised to learn that the radiation coming off the new scanners is more serious than we've been led to believe. But in a world where everyone is tapping on a mobile device, where wireless signals are constantly moving through all of us, where we spend hours every day in front of computer screens, where TVs are blaring programming from every room...I don't think an airport scanner is going to make much difference.

If it really bothers me, I'll drive.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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