I used to be scared of flying overseas. Not knowing if someone is going to hijack the plane and fly it into a building is a pretty scary unknown to face. But, then I had a safe flight over to Paris last summer, and that alleviated my fears.
Well, now I'm a bit apprehensive again, after the recent attempt to blow up a plane bound from Amsterdam to Detroit, by a Nigerian man with alleged ties to al-Qaida. By now, most -- if not all of us -- know the story here.
Since I am set to fly to, and from, Rome, Italy in April, any news about attempts to blow up planes, or fly them into buildings, is going to give me a little bit of pause.
Let me just say, though, that I trust the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to put measures in place to keep travelers safe. Who I don't trust are reporters and bloggers, who are all too eager to break a big scoop on the TSA's top secret security actions.
Already, according to the Associated Press, at least two online bloggers have been subpoenaed by the TSA because they posted on their web sites top-secret security directives the TSA put in place after the Christmas Day bombing attempt.
Come on guys, I'm a reporter. I know how reporters work. I also value my safety, so if the TSA is using secret methods to detect terrorists, I don't want it publicly known because I don't want terrorists to have an opportunity to find away around those methods. I would prefer it if a would-be bomber could not make it onto a plane that I'm sitting on, or any other plane for that matter.
Let the TSA do its job. Let the TSA keep people safe.
Now, here is a rundown of what the TSA says we can expect when we travel by air. The TSA's web site says the basic list of visible security steps includes: Explosive detection canine teams; extra cops; gate screening; behavior detection, and "other measures both seen and unseen."
In a written statement on the TSA's web site, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere."
Some people have problems with these kinds of security measures. They want full safety and total privacy at the same time. They just want to go along their happy little lives as if nothing is wrong.
But, you can't have it both ways. You have to recognize that you can't be safe without abdicating some of your privacy.
To some people, though, even extra security officials may seem like the government is overstepping its boundaries. Now, on this point, I'm going to level with you. When I was in Paris, I saw French soldiers carrying heavy-duty, military-issue assault rifles while patrolling the platforms in subway stations.
So, some extra Atlanta police officers at the airport (or their Italian counterparts in Rome) does little to unsettle me.
I would actually suggest that all the metal detectors in airports around the world be replaced with the full-body, millimeter wave machines. Those are the devices that you step into, and a scanner quickly spins around you, while a person in another area of the security checkpoint watches X-ray-like images of your body, so they can identify drugs and bombs and similar items.
I've been given a demonstration of how the ones at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport work, back in 2008, when the TSA was about to begin using them. There have been some reports on national newscasts that people think it invades their privacy, but the truth is your face is blurred, so the person viewing the image can't see who you are, and they are not allowed to make copies of your X-ray image scans.
This is a great tool to see if someone is hiding something nefarious on, or in, their body. It shouldn't be held back because someone is afraid a person sitting behind a computer will see their genitalia.
But, I don't know. People can be funny like that sometimes.
All I'm saying to the TSA is: "Please, keep me safe." I'm not yet scared of flying again.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.