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TSA officers just trying to keep passengers safe

I am responding to Anna Quindlen's Nov. 12 article, "Taking off your shoes for America." First, let me make it clear that I am writing my personal opinion and in no way am I speaking for the Transportation Security Administration.

For Quindlen to denigrate TSA security officers by referring to these committed men and women as "low-wage line workers" and "despots" is sad and unprofessional. These security professionals are the front line against terrorism on our airlines, and they all take their responsibility seriously.

Their families, friends and neighbors, as well as your family, friends and neighbors, put their trust in them every day to provide for their safety and security when traveling.

Our security officers are thoroughly and rigorously trained and educated for your safety. To have their integrity and commitment minimized by Quindlen because she was inconvenienced is unacceptable.

Oscar Wilde noted, "There is much to be said in favor of journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps in touch with the ignorance of the community."

In her commentary Quindlen states, "there are terrorist watch-lists in existence; it's plain that the bored men and women comparing boarding passes with picture IDs aren't using them." These hard-working individuals she finds necessary to insult are not responsible for checking the lists she refers to.

Quindlen's statement that "much of what goes in the cargo hold of commercial planes hasn't been screened" is wrong. All checked baggage and a significant percentage of other cargo is screened before being loaded.

I could write exhaustively about what the TSA is doing and trying to do to become a world-class security agency. What I will stress is that we, as an organization, have done nothing other than to try to develop a plan that addresses both security and customer service, which is very important to all those using our airports.

I have no doubt that Quindlen would be one of the first journalists to criticize the unfairness if the TSA were to adopt the practices of the Israelis and our European counterparts - telling you to be at the airport four to five hours before your flight so you can be interviewed, complete inspection of your person and all your personal items without regard for your privacy, and be refused passage without empathy.

We are blessed to be in a country where we still have the latitude to deploy procedures that are minimally intrusive, but at the same time effectively meet the threat. Do we have shortcomings to overcome? Yes. Do we do our best as security personnel at the airports to protect the customers every day? Emphatically, yes.

I wish Quindlen safe and hassle-free experiences in all her travels. When she encounters a TSA security officer, she should try saying thank you - because she is sincerely welcome.

Brett O'Neil is customer support manager at the Buffalo TSA.

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