Accur81’s recent post on the topic of the rendering of full honors to the TSA agent who was murdered at the LAX airport got me thinking. I can certainly appreciate his law enforcement officer’s perspective. I’m not a cop and as such will never be able to see things the same way as a cop. That said, from where I sit, I don’t see the problem with rendering honors to Gerado Hernadez. Mr. Hernandez was a federal agent and is the first person from that agency to fall in the line of duty. When Mr. Hernandez took the job of TSA screener, I really don’t think that he considered that his life may one day be on the line, but it was thanks to the actions of a mentally disturbed individual. Mr. Hernandez was shot and killed simply because he worked for the TSA . . .
The TSA takes a lot of (often deserved) crap from this website and many other sources, but I want to offer a slightly different perspective. For every TSA agent who has a mall cop attitude, there are probably ten more who are professional and who do a job that is important. They meet with nothing but derision from their fellow citizens and that is wrong. I don’t travel as much as I used to, but every single time I have traveled, the TSA agents I have met have been nothing if not polite, professional, and courteous. The rules for transiting the security checkpoints are clearly posted and if you follow them, you will usually have a smooth experience. The people working the security lines don’t make the rules, but it’s their job to enforce them. Granted, some act like jerks, but every barrel is going to have a few bad apples.
Recently when traveling with my family, we approached the checkpoint which was using the full body scanners. I asked the agent if there was an alternative to the scanners for my kids (both under 10). The agent informed me that kids DO NOT go through the scanner; rather they go through the magnetometer. My wife was told that she could also skip the scanner so that she could remain with the kids. Even when a bottle of water was encountered in my young son’s carryon (he slipped it in there without our knowledge), the screener was professional and simply removed the offending item without any comment or issue.
I’m not saying that the TSA is not without its flaws. We should continue to complain about the ludicrous restrictions that are imposed from on high and the preferential treatment they give celebrities, cops, and fellow TSA employees, but we do need to remember that the TSA like the private airport security screeners who worked the checkpoints prior to 9/11 does serve a vital function. Most people are probably too young to remember air travel before security screening became ubiquitous. From 1969-1972, airline hijackings and bombings were in their heyday. More than a few flights were hijacked to Cuba, hijacked in the Mideast, or blown out of the sky by bombs smuggled aboard. Airplane hijackings were one of the reasons that Delta Force was created in the early 1970’s. In 1974 mandatory security screenings went into effect and terrorist incidents against U.S. aircraft went to nearly zero.
Sure, some of the rules seem silly – remove your shoes, remove your laptops, no water bottles, no liquids in larger quantities than 6 ounces, etc. but remember that these rules all came about as a result of actual incidents where people tried to blow up planes. I’m not wild about the full body scanners but I suspect that those will be done away with as more research is done into their effectiveness and risks. Besides, they are not used 100% any more. I’ve been on flights recently in several major airports when they were not being used at all. Anyway, I don’t mean to turn this into an apology for the TSA in total but rather a reflection that the TSA performs a necessary function. I’ve traveled for more than three decades and can honestly say that aside from some of the newer minor annoyances I mentioned above, traveling through security checkpoints is not that much worse than it was twenty years ago (it really all depended on the airport).
Back to Mr. Hernandez – if they want to send him out with honors, I don’t see a problem. Just because he did not carry a gun or was ostensibly in harm’s way as much as a police or fireman is not the point. The fact that he was killed by someone specifically targeting TSA agents because of who they worked for certainly would suggest that perhaps the job of TSA agent is not quite as safe as we thought it was on October 31, 2013 (the day before the shooting). Although he is not considered a police officer, he was a Federal Agent and was killed in the line of duty. What I do have a problem with is the potential politicization of this act by the President, Holder, and others. This death should not be handled a like a political event. It should be an opportunity to offer respects to a man who was killed in the line of duty – a duty that helps to keep America’s skies just a bit safer.