“Don’t Touch My Junk” and Intelligence-Based Security

Jena McNeill /

“Don’t Touch My Junk.” The anthem of one furious airport passenger has become a rallying cry for airport passengers around the United States.  Who can blame them? As Charles Krauthammer puts it in his recent piece in the Washington Post, at today’s airport screening line “[w]izened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives…”. There must be something wrong when a 15 hour road trip with the entire family seems a more convenient way to get to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving than flying.

To Americans, most of this seems downright wacky and unrelated to their security.  But the debate over junk, scans, and pat-downs is missing a critical line of conservation.  Folks should be asking and TSA should be explaining exactly what security measures actually are necessary and indeed do make passengers safer against terrorism?  While there are undoubtedly some who would favor no security at the airports, it is clear that most Americans support security measures of one form or the other. In fact, in 2008, a study of 2,800 people found that 70% thought that the government was “doing an excellent or good job protecting air travel.”  That’s opposed to 13% who thought the Department of Homeland Security was doing enough to enforce immigration laws (that’s for another blog). (more…)