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May 14, 2012

Dear TSA, I will gladly take off my shoes

by: Mary F. Schiavo

Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it is abandoning its search for scanners that would allow travelers to keep their shoes on during the airport security screening process. Passengers typically bemoan removing shoes and walking through security checkpoints in bare or stocking feet. It turns out the technology has just not caught up with the needs of the 21st century.

First though, a history refresher. The 9/11/01 attacks occurred because the airline security personnel did not properly or thoroughly screen passengers and find the weapons carried by the hijackers through the security checkpoints. A decade of litigation and the longest aviation investigation in history have illustrated this. Just a few years later, we had the attempts by the shoe bomber, who walked through security with explosives in his shoes, and the underwear bomber, who had explosives in his underpants.

Before 2011, we had the Tokyo subway sarin gassings by a terrorist cult, in which several people died. I lived in Tokyo then and carried a sarin mask when I rode the subways to work. In the decade since 2001, we had the British transit bombings and the Spanish train bombings. All these attacks were carried out by terrorists with explosives concealed on their persons and sometimes in their shoes.

So, when someone who complains about removing their shoes as a precaution to protect us from terrorists wishes to fly on an airplane with dozens or hundreds of other passengers who want to be protected from terrorists, I say: Learn to fly or buy your own plane or live somewhere else or take a bus or car. But, get out of the way of intelligent, reasonable, cooperative people who understand we need security competently performed by real law enforcement officers who are citizens of the United States of America and who are sworn to protect the United States of America and her citizens from criminals who wish us harm. These security protections help to ensure that our ability to freely exercise our Constitutional rights to interstate transportation is not infringed by terrorist criminals who have targeted aviation almost 1,000 times since 1930.

Yes, I get irritated with people that think we are doomed to repeat history. I, for one, do not believe my country is too dumb to learn from its mistakes. I believe my country and its citizens are smart and DID learn. We cannot leave security in the hands of non-citizen, non-trained, underpaid airline contractors who let the 9/11 terrorists, 19 for 19, walk through security with weapons with the avowed purpose of killing Americans.

Therefore, we are all going to be taking our shoes off a while longer, and we should all be cooperative and patient while removing our shoes and whatever else is needed to insure safe transportation.

"While the procurement was canceled, TSA looks forward to continuing to work with its partners within DHS and the industry to identify the best technologies and solutions for the security checkpoint." said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for TSA, in an article published by Nextgov.

I am often the first to point out the TSA is not perfect. For example, in my opinion, they should not have deployed body scanners without fully assessing the radiation exposure. Now that they have admitted their error and are doing the testing, we should move on. Same with shoe technology – it is just not there yet. The worst thing we can do is fail to stay the course.

Now, is it so difficult to remove your shoes? My kids learned to take off their shoes before they could walk. I understand that removing shoes at checkpoints is inconvenient – but too difficult? The next time the person in front of you at the airport is worried someone might see his socks or, even worse, his toes, try not to yell at the TSA (they can arrest you for that). Ask your fellow traveler to please be courteous, fly safe and enjoy the Constitutional right to interstate travel.

Enough nonsense, enough whining, griping and moaning, enough forgetfulness and enough heads in the sand. Enough baloney out of Congressmen (those saying it are men) about, “let's go back to how it used to be and give airport security to my constituent’s security company in Florida.”

Get real, get smart or get out!

The TSA’s security measures are a small inconvenience in exchange for the harm they can prevent in the event of an attempted terrorist attack. All things considered, I will happily remove my shoes if it helps maintain safer skies. The day I won’t is the day I will need to buy my new plane and dust off my pilot’s license. Learn more about travel resources and your passenger rights.