Denver International Airport has been making headlines lately, and it's not good news. Two weeks ago, a 22-year-old woman claimed she was raped in a mostly deserted concourse while two janitors walked by and did nothing. Then, two days later, a Berthoud man cried foul over a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pat down at the airport, saying what he experienced was akin to sexual assault. While the incidents are unrelated, it makes us wonder: what, exactly, is going on with security at places like DIA?
We broached the issue on a recent episode of the Denver Diatribe podcast. As part of the show, University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Peter McGraw, an expert on marketing and psychology, discussed his research into how government officials decide on anti-terrorism policies. His findings suggests such policies aren't always based solely upon what is going keep Americans safe, but also on what efforts are going to best protect the politicians.Denver Diatribe Podcast #30 clip: TSA at DIA: WTF? by Denver Diatribe (To listen to the entire episode, click here.)
Such conclusions aren't that surprising, what with the caliber of many elected officials in this country. But it's disconcerting nonetheless, considering just what is at stake with airport security. Take the case of Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic, who in order to expose the futility of current security measures traipsed through TSA checkpoints with fake boarding passes, pocketknives, box cutters and Islamic Jihad flags without a single alarm sounded -- although he was relieved of his nail clippers and shaving cream. Goldberg's argument was that such security measures are little more than a façade, designed to make travelers feel safer but not suited for catching sophisticated terrorists.
We put up with the inconvenience and discomfort of TSA checkpoints because we believe there is a method to the madness -- that behind all the bother, such programs will protect us. If that's not the case, why bother to begin with? After all, are there better ways we could be spending our terrorism dollars? While the TSA cannot be blamed for the atrocity that was the recent alleged rape at DIA -- TSA agents aren't responsible for policing airport grounds like that -- it's worrisome to imagine the security personnel who were likely standing around at the security checkpoints while, not too far away, a woman was crying for help that never came.
We are not suggesting TSA security measures should be done away with altogether. The idea of strolling onto a plane without security checks makes us feel downright exposed and uncomfortable, as if we were settling into business class wearing nothing but our skivvies. But as ever more TSA horror stories hit the press, it's time for travelers to be reassured that such security measures really are in their best interest. We'll consent to the pat downs, but only if such awkward touching actually makes us feel safer, and not just really gross.
The Denver Diatribe is a weekly podcast about culture, politics and stuff as it pertains to Denver, Colorado. Listen to "Denver Diatribe Podcast #30: Creepy ticklers are not funny edition" and other episodes at Denverdiatribe.com. Subscribe to the Denver Diatribe on iTunes and check them out on Facebook.