Advocacy groups criticize proposed security change at Albany airport


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Albany Times-Union:

Advocacy groups criticize proposed security change at Albany airport

The New York Civil Liberties Union says a plan to make it a crime to refuse additional security screening at Albany International Airport won’t make air travel safer but will sow confusion and lead to unwarranted arrests.The group panned the proposal, which it believes would be the first of its kind in the country, in a statement released Monday as Albany County lawmakers were preparing to hear public comment on it Tuesday evening.
The NYCLU’s criticism is echoed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany’s Commission on Peace and Justice and a coalition of local mental health professionals who say the law would be especially punitive to trauma survivors who sometimes experience anxiety about being touched and may need to leave security lines.

Among other things, the group argues, the law could make “urgent need of a restroom” punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail and otherwise make “criminally suspect a broad range of conduct that is entirely innocent.”
Introduced in April with bipartisan support, the proposal would make it a misdemeanor to refuse security screening once a traveler has entered a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint — currently only a violation of TSA civil regulations.

Albany County lawmakers will hear public comment on the proposed airport search law starting at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday on the second floor of the Albany County Courthouse at 16 Eagle St.

“This law is ill-conceived and could criminalize a broad range of lawful activities,” Erika Lorshbough, legislative counsel for the NYCLU said in a statement. “If TSA agents or law enforcement have a good reason to suspect criminal activity, they already have the authority to stop and question a traveler.”
The group also said security protocols should be uniform nationally lest local variations confuse passengers and security staff.

Sheriff Craig Apple said he proposed the measure at the urging of Bart Johnson, head of TSA security operations at upstate airports, who hopes it will become a model for other airports. It is co-sponsored by Democratic Majority Leader Frank Commisso and Republican Minority Leader Frank Mauriello.
The law is intended to cover what Apple described as a soft spot in the current system that allows passengers to walk away without boarding their flights if security staff flags them for additional scrutiny.

I’d agree that the protocols should be the same nationwide.
I also don’t see what the problem is since anyone who leaves the line would still have to come back and go through screening. I’d be in trouble 1st because I have a peanut bladder and 2nd because I can’t stand for a long time due to a disability so I’d ask somebody to watch my stuff until my turn was coming up. I’ve done that for people at bus stations.


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I guess the idea is that people planning to do harm could just try to get through and then balk at going through extra security, and just not travel that day, trying again when the security is looking less diligent or something.

But I agree it is a bad idea. When I get nervous it affects my digestion, so for me the mere fact that it would be a crime would probably make me nervous enough that I would have to leave.

Maybe if there were some way to leave your photo ID with TSA if you had to leave and come back? Then if you didn’t come back, they’d have your picture at least, even if it were a fake ID.

I’d agree with that as long as it doesn’t mean that they would all have to be like the proposed ones in Albany. As it is, people could just avoid that airport.

This is a side issue, but in an airport, doing what you suggest is probably already illegal. You’re supposed to have your bags in your control at all times from when you pack them. Theoretically, if you happened to pick a terrorist to watch your bags, or if the person wasn’t watching them very closely, someone could put some sort of explosive in your bag and blow up a flight they weren’t even on. Or they could put in something that that would get you in trouble if TSA found it.

I’m pretty sure you can (and probably should) borrow a wheelchair to use in the airport if you have trouble standing.

But in the end, it’s already really inconvenient to leave the security line. I don’t think making it a crime is an improvement. Much as it’s weird for me to agree with someone from the NYCLU, this law really would criminalize too many innocent activities.

–Jen


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