Belts and the TSA – Why, oh Why?

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November 16, 2010 · 2 comments

in Security News, Security Theater

The TSA (US) has decided that everyone needs to remove their belts when going through airport security checkpoints. As usual, there’s an uproar (and as usual, it’s a small one) among people who think this is an absolute outrage, something that’s never been done before, not being done anywhere else, and something that there’s absolutely no justifying, whatsoever.

Well, there might be a point in the internet ravings this time. Removing belts has been a standard procedure in many, many countries for years and years when going through security checkpoints. Why? Because if you set off the metal detector, you’re going to get a pat-down, no matter what. That hasn’t been the SOP in the US up until now – if you set off the metal detector, you would just be sent back out to either remove your belt or your watch or whatever happened to set the damn beeping thing off.

In these times of “naked scanning” and “kiddie-porn machines”, there’s a lot more to the checkpoint than some guy waving a “wand” somewhere in your vicinity if you fail the initial metal detector test. The TSA says that the reason for the new regulations is that belts will interfere with the new “body scanners”, and that even when the checkpoint doesn’t have one of these fancy gadgets, the procedure should be “unified” across the board, and every passenger (and crewmember) has to take their belts off.

Body Scanner Image

This last point is what makes little sense. If the passenger has a non-metallic belt buckle, there should be no reason for them to have to take the belt off, since any concealed weapons in or behind the belt will be revealed either by the metal detector or a pat-down. Taking off someone’s clothes is an invasion of privacy from the get-go, and making it worse by taking off some items that are, for some reason or other, more sensitive than others will always make the process more of a burden than necessary, defeating some of the point of an automated, standardized procedure to security clear every single passenger, or person wishing to enter the restricted area.

In any case, while the TSA‘s latest efforts are misguided at best, the “outcry” from the internet “experts” (yes, like these) is the same. Moaning about how things shouldn’t be is a far cry from coming up with an alternative or a better method. Which would be no problem for these experts to come up with, right? After all, they do know so much better than everyone else. Right?

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