The transcript from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” isn’t available yet, but here’s what we know: There was a lot of hemming and hawing — here’s a sample — and one keeper quote that could define her tenure.
“Everything is objectively better than it was two years ago, particularly in the aviation environment,” she told Candy Crowley this morning.
Look, I don’t have a problem with letting Napolitano put a little spin on her accomplishments, but let’s be realistic about it. The last two years have been awful for air travelers, with new restrictions, security procedures and invasive, unconstitutional searches being performed in the name of homeland security.
No, you’re stuck at the airport or in a motel, waiting for the winter storm to pass.
The National Weather Service has issued a warning for heavy snow in the mountain counties of North Carolina not bordering Tennessee, the mountains of South Carolina and Georgia, and the North Carolina foothills. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are under a winter storm watch. Airlines are proactively canceling flights and waiving cancellation penalties.
I spent a good part of yesterday fielding calls from reporters who wanted to know what to do if winter weather disrupts your holiday travel plans. Unfortunately, by “travel” they meant “air travel” — and that’s not how must of us are getting home. More than 90 percent of us are driving or taking the train. Or trying.
Do I have any advice for stranded travelers?
No, not really, other than to sit tight, pull out a good book or click on your favorite travel blog, and wait for the weather to pass. Airlines consider blizzards to be an “Act of God” and they aren’t required to do anything under their onerous contracts of carriage. As for motorists, when’s the last time you negotiated a meal voucher from a car that’s stuck in a snow drift?
Two weeks after declaring National Opt-Out Day a failure and renaming it TSA Appreciation Day, the agency charged with protecting our transportation systems has formally denied it turned off its full-body scanners in order to squelch the pre-Thanksgiving protests.
“As soon as the media started reporting that Opt-Out Day was a bust, reports started coming in from blogs stating that TSA had intentionally shut down the Advanced Imaging Technology machines,” the agency says in a blog post. “This claim is utterly and completely false as AIT operations were normal throughout the holiday travel period.”
The Transportation Security Administration’s little body-scanning/pat-down problem isn’t just keeping us media types busy. Lawyers are having a field day with it, too.
The latest lawsuit against the TSA was filed earlier this week by two Harvard Law School students who claim the airport security checks involving full-body scanners and pat-downs are unconstitutional. The suit claims the screenings violate their Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures.
With the economy slowly rebounding, 2011 was shaping up to be the best year for travel since the recession began. Prices were expected to rise only slightly, and people were making plans to take a long-postponed vacation.
But now that the Transportation Security Administration has introduced full-body scanners at many American airports, and subjected those who opt out of the machines to an “enhanced” pat-down, the 2011 outlook has changed, say travelers.
Will my flight be delayed? If you’re flying out of one of these airports, it should be smooth sailing, according to Flightstats (numbers in brackets are average on-time departure performance during the past three Thanksgiving holidays).
1. Salt Lake City (89.00 percent)
2. Minneapolis (86.61 percent)
3. Portland, Ore. (86.43 percent)
4. San Diego (85.00 percent)
5. Seattle (84.88 percent)