TODAY'S QUESTION: Should public safety outweigh individual privacy in airport security?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

If nothing else, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab succeeded in thrusting debate about airport and aviation security back into the realm of public debate when he unsuccessfully attempted to blow up a plane traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25.

Two days after the botched ploy, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said the nation's aviation security "system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days." The next day, she conceded, "Our system did not work in this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way."

President Obama has ordered investigations of how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened. Abdulmutallab was placed on a U.S. security watch list after his father told authorities Abdulmutallab had "become radicalized," but the information was not specific enough to put him on the no-fly list, a National Counterterrorism Center official said.

Following the incident, Dutch authorities said "security was well-performed," but days later Dutch airport authorities announced they planned to make mandatory new, more sensitive scanners that can detect unusual objects on the body and hidden under clothing. The explosive powder and a syringe of chemicals Abdulmutallab used in his ploy were allegedly hidden in his underwear.

The new microwave scanners the Dutch plan to implement are not as strong as the see-through scanners that allow security staff to see passengers virtually naked and detect items swallowed or concealed inside the body. The see-through scanners are being tested at airports in the U.S. and around the world.

And this brings us back to the popular debate that pits the safety of the public against the privacy of an individual.

Should see-through scanners be installed at airports to make it harder to bring dangerous materials onto a plane? Should requirements be less stringent to place a person on the no-fly list? Or would these changes infringe too heavily on the privacy of individuals?


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Eric Cox December 30, 2009 | 5:23 a.m.

If the terrorist truly hate our freedom, there is so much less to hate now.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black December 30, 2009 | 1:53 p.m.

Eric, Exactly what freedoms have you lost lately? You can still vote, drink, smoke, carry a gun and run around with your hair on fire making false accusation about your freedoms. I haven't lost any freedoms this year. Or are you looking at the Glenn Hannitybaugh crystal ball that tells you what they REALLY mean? If so, what are tonights lottery numbers?

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock December 30, 2009 | 2:50 p.m.

Tony you must not live in Columbia because you can't smoke in bars or restaurants here. That was a freedom until the city council decided that they knew what was best for the citizens.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black December 30, 2009 | 3:59 p.m.

You are correct about that one. I do live in Columbia, but unless my memory is wrong, that was 2008, not 2009. And I don't agree with the ordinance. Vote with your feet. (or money) I just keep hearing how many of our freedoms we are losing, and I just don't see it. And Eric seemed to be speaking on a national level, not local.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 30, 2009 | 6:08 p.m.

("Should see-through scanners be installed at airports to make it harder to bring dangerous materials onto a plane? Should requirements be less stringent to place a person on the no-fly list? Or would these changes infringe too heavily on the privacy of individuals?")
Personally, I don't care if airport security people see me through an X-Ray.
Also, anyone on a no-fly list should spend some time with security personnel to determine:
1. Validity of the person being a threat and to what extent.
2. Why they made the list in the first place
3. If they can get "special permission" to board and what kind of follow-up surveillance is appropriate.
I don't see any major trade offs when it comes to Airport Security.
We can also take some lessons on the total involvement, training and expectations of all Israeli airport employees when it comes to making airports safer.
(Sometimes even a custodian needs to know what to look for and how to proceed.)

(Report Comment)
DANNY YELTON January 7, 2010 | 9:24 a.m.

I am a strong supporter of civil liberties, but due to today's terror threats, especially on airlines, we must, for our safety, submit to more strict security measures.

(Report Comment)

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