Government Standing Pat on Pat-Downs


Michael Hume
They’ve Got Their “Safety” Story Down Pat

The day before Thanksgiving – this year, that’s tomorrow – is one of the biggest days for air travel in the United States each year. If you’re one of the millions of people boarding a plane in the U.S. tomorrow, you have a dismal choice to make when you reach the security checkpoint. You can walk through a machine that will give the security checker a picture of every detail of your naked body, or you can “opt out” of that and instead endure a pat-down that many people think amounts to mild sexual assault.

Yes, it’s taken eleven months, but the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is finally responding to the threat representated by last year’s failed Christmas Day “underwear bomber” attack. And they’re doing it by focusing their energy and resources not on actual terrorists, but on… you.

As a very-frequent international traveler, I’ve had to submit to many types of security checks, before and after the tragedy of 9/11. I remember boarding an American-bound plane in Frankfurt and having to go through security not once, not twice, but three times… with an x-ray AND a “wand massage” each time. I got so tired of removing shoes, belts, and other metal objects that I decided a few years ago to fly in workout shorts and flip-flops every single time – even in the winter. (This got me pulled out of the security line in Munich two years ago exclusively for the purpose of having the security personnel ridicule me – seriously.) And yes, more than once I’ve had a pat-down that made me wonder if someone should be buying me dinner.

I’m a real pro at the security checkpoint. I take it as my personal responsibility to ensure no one ever has to wait one second for me, either before or after the scanner. I show up at the checkpoint with my laptop out, my liquids sealed in my regulation plastic bag, my boarding pass and ID out and ready for inspection, my cell phone and all other electronics safely stashed in my carry-on, and just enough clothing on to keep me out of jail on indecent exposure charges. The amateurs do all their packing and unpacking, dressing and undressing, once they get to the luggage conveyer at the checkpoint. I have to do all that stuff, too, but I do it elsewhere, which is what makes me a pro.

And I’ve suffered all this with what I feel is a good-natured attitude: “I’ll do whatever it takes for you to keep me safe.”

I’ll submit to the naked photo. I’m a former actor. Some actors are flat-out exhibitionists… I’m more in the category of someone who’s changed clothes in front of other people so many times I just don’t care about being seen by people with whom I’m not intimate. But, of course, most people do not have the same perspective, so the naked photo is tougher for most to endure. Several online groups have suggested that travelers opt-out en masse tomorrow, specifically to jam up the system with a lot of slower pat-downs.

That won’t keep the TSA from doing them, though. Get this: you have about a 25% chance of having to endure both the naked photo AND the grope.

The only real way to opt out is to find another mode of transportation.

I’ll submit to the grope, too. Not because I relish it, but because I have nothing to hide, and because I do want them to keep the airplanes safe.

However, there are some things I resent about the way our government has dealt with this.

I resent the unbelievable amount of money the government has spent on expensive naked-photo machines and TSA gropers… especially when they’re willing to raise taxes not only on regular taxpayers, but on the entrepreneurs who take risks, start businesses, and actually create jobs for new taxpayers. Meanwhile, our masters in the government elite – both political parties – grow rich in office.

I resent that I, who have been an upstanding law-abiding American citizen since birth, need to be controlled to the level of intrusions to my personal privacy… but illegal immigrants can get everything from a driver’s license to a home mortgage without submitting so much as a photo ID.

I resent the fact that the TSA gropers wear gloves so that they can be protected from any germs you might be carrying on your clothes… but they don’t wear masks, which might protect your health from whatever bugs they brought to work. When someone’s intimate enough with you to grope you, you can count on airborne germs and viruses from their exhalations.

I resent that they’re locking down the concourse, but they won’t touch the border.

And I resent the fact that, if a real terrorist had to submit to such indignities at a place like Guantanamo Bay, they’d have a real chance to find an ACLU lawyer who would sue the government for violating their rights… but no one thinks grabbing my junk or taking naked pictures of me constitutes the slightest violation of my rights.

Meanwhile, the terrorists must be doubled over in laughter, out there in their caves. Or, dreadfully, in their trendy downtown U.S. lofts.

I know it’s tough to figure out how to keep us all safe. I think most TSA personnel you’ll run into tomorrow are decent enough folks, just trying to do their jobs. They’re not the ones I blame. It’s the government executives who came up with this lunacy.

Want to keep American airports safe? How about starting by keeping the borders secure?

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.

Michael and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at