In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the federal government established additional government measures to safeguard American travelers from terrorism. Several new security measures were added, and existing measures were improved or enhanced. Today, these eight measures protect Americans as they travel.
- Federal Air Marshals – These law enforcement officials ride aboard commercial flights in order to provide protection to air passengers and to prevent terror in the air.
- Enhanced Airport Screening – Security measures in US airports have been significantly upgraded since 9/11. Beyond mere metal detectors, travelers are screened with backscatter x-ray and millimeter wave detection machines that help security officers detect metal and non-metal weapons. In addition, passengers can be singled out for additional searches of their person or their belongings if deemed necessary.
- Luggage Search – The Transportation Security Administration has the authority to search any luggage passing through American airports. In addition, they have the authority to cut, disable or otherwise destroy locks in these searches.
- Border Patrol – While the primary responsibility of border patrol is to prevent terrorists and weapons from entering the country, border patrol also helps protect travelers as they leave and enter the US, by performing searches of passengers and cargo as deemed necessary.
- Port Security – Passengers boarding vessels in the US are subject to port security searches and checks to ensure their safety once onboard.
- Coast Guard Patrols – The US Coast Guard patrols US coastlines and waterways to protect all Americans on any sort of water transportation in American controlled waterways.
- Security measures abroad – Newer TSA requirements went into effect in January 2010 regarding international flights bound for the US. Enhanced screening is required for all passengers bound for the US who are traveling from or through countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.
- The Transportation Security Administration also oversees security for general aviation in the US. These measures protect private and business small aircraft to ensure protection for travelers. Measures regarding security for general aviation are highly dependent upon the nature of each individual flight and airport.
Protecting American travelers is no easy feat, particularly with the number of commercial flights and the thousands of miles of land borders and coastline around the country. In its efforts to increase security in the aftermath of 9/11, the TSA has come under some criticism for invasion of passenger privacy and for making the process of traveling through US airports too time consuming and cumbersome. There have also been criticisms that, in spite of tougher measures, not all terrorists are weeded out.
However, it is certain that air, land and sea travel in the US is safer today than it was ten years ago. Despite its faults, the American government has clearly demonstrated that the safety of American travelers is taken very seriously, and that all necessary measures will be taken to thwart terrorists who aim to harm travelers or to use transportation as a terror device.
Phyllis T. Zerkle enjoys blogging in order to help students find the information they need about online homeland security degrees.