Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The airport body snatchers

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TSA beta test of new passenger screening device.
(Source: Salem Stock Photo Service, Inc.)

This weekend I took my first flights under the new TSA program that allows them to view your naked bod in all its glory or lack thereof, or alternatively, enjoy a taxpayer-supported massage, including areas that are out of bounds for most masseurs.

My own security screening was the same as usual: flight bag, shoes, belt, keys in the tray; a walk through the metal detector. It probably wasn't because I had an honest face or radiated goodwill, more likely that "the Treatment" is administered randomly (except for Muslims, who are no doubt unofficially exempt) and my number didn't come up.

I had thought beforehand about what I would do if given a choice between the body x-ray and — as the TSA notice at the entrance to the security lines put it — a "thorough" hand search. Reluctantly, I put aside any notion of staging a protest, knowing that the penalty would be severe and would probably prevent me from reaching my destination.

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But I did see others given "the Treatment" by our TSA guardians:

A middle-aged woman, who happened to be behind me in the queue, was ordered into the peek-a-boo scanner, which had plexiglass sides; it reminded me of the booth in the photographs of Adolf Eichmann on trial in Israel.

A man and a young woman were given the super frisking. I was careful not to appear to be paying too much attention lest I attract suspicion, but it was "thorough," all right, although you would have to ask one of them exactly how thorough. The passengers' arms were spread horizontally during the feel-up, like martyrs about to be crucified. Both smiled while being palpated, which annoyed me, but I suppose they, like me, just wanted to avoid trouble.

Has the airport security farce finally gone far enough to provoke a serious reaction?

Frankly, I wouldn't bet on it. Not many chumps actually believe these enhanced searches make them any safer, and lots of people are angry, but people are angry about all kinds of things and all their steaming does is cook their insides. The TSA is widely viewed as a dole for bureaucrats and a jobs program for the underclass, but it's far from unique as such, and the public puts up with the others. 

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There are calls to abolish the TSA. I don't think disconnecting the agency and turning its functions over to private companies would solve the basic problem, which isn't inefficiency but a screwy, politically correct concept of security.

Aviation security shouldn't be a game of find-the-needle-in-the-haystack, looking for dangerous objects on every passenger. Real security is a matter of intelligence, in both senses of the word. While there is no absolute way of neutralizing every threat, we could do a damn sight better at it if we concentrated on the kind of people who are most likely to be terrorist threats. Everyone, including TSA management, knows perfectly well who they are. But we must pretend that terrorists are found equally among all demographics, as likely to be a 75-year-old man from Iowa as a Sudanese Muslim. So we're "sensitive" to the feelings of the Muslim, but parents of a five-year-old American who don't want his genes subjected to God knows how much radiation have to turn him over to a TSA functionary for a spot of child molestation.

The strategists of al Qaeda must be laughing till tears run down their faces at how easily they've tangled the world's superpower in knots, making it treat its own citizens as war criminals until the TSA decides they are innocent. After all, the alternative of profiling and discrimination is a Forbidden Thought, but looking at you through your underwear is the price we have to pay so Dar al Islam won't be offended.

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13 comments:

Stephen Hopewell said...

I too am about to go through the experience, as are many people with plans for the holidays. I was becoming a bit resigned to it myself, but the idea of the health consequences of the scans - not to mention the invasion of privacy - is making me and my family rethink. I'm inclined to start arriving early and demanding the physical pat-down. It is a question of which violation you prefer to be subjected to.

They ARE laughing us, but "no one is blinder than he who will not see."

I hope outrage against this will fan the flames of popular resistance, and motivate more people to face some of those socially forbidden truths.

Rick Darby said...

Afterthought: I did not mean to be condescending about the TSA employees on the front lines. A small minority of the uniformed workers get kicks from their authority over travelers, but most are poor people, glad to have any job at all in this economy, and behave courteously. I'm sure most of them detest having to conduct body searches, and they are not to blame for the ridiculous procedures they are ordered to follow.

Stephen Hopewell said...

(I don't think you are referring to my comment, but to clarify: by "they" I meant "Al Qaeda," etc.)

Sheila said...

I agree that most people will complain and privately steam inside, but ultimately do nothing and submit like the sheeple they are. I will not fly - I will neither submit to the body scanner nor the groping.

You are too kind and overly concerned with the "poor" TSA workers. Many of them are the same fast-food type workers with a brand-new federal salary. From what I've seen, they are hardly bothered or embarrassed by having to conduct these searches; rather, they quite like the petty power it gives them over people (the cultural enrichers and "women of color" particularly seem to enjoy harassing Whites).

Aside from the Kabuki theatre of the TSA checks, flying now takes at least as long as driving, with the necessity of arriving 2-3 hours in advance. When I consider the time required, the harassment, the overcrowding, the lack of service, and the assumption that the peons have no right to challenge such treatment, I far prefer to just stay home. I'm glad I did my flying when I was young, healthy, and single - and before the PC reign of terror reached full flower.

Rick Darby said...

Stephen,

I would think seriously about asking for the super-sized frisking. It will ruin your day. And yes, I understood who you meant by "they."

Sheila,

Although I don't fly that often, my observation is that most of the front line TSA personnel are doing their job without adding additional stress to the situation. There's no point bashing them. It's the "fast food" approach to the problem that needs a complete rethink, and that's where the TSA managers and their political masters have done their worst.

At the risk of repeating myself, aviation security is not a processing job, but a branch of intelligence work — HUMINT analysis at least as important as staring at X-ray images of baggage and physiques. We need professional, skilled intelligence officers at the checkpoints, capable of smoothly probing questioning and psychological profiling.

The best security officer I ever met was a young man at the Athens, Greece airport. He engaged me in some chit-chat, not at all unpleasant, but I knew he was watching for behavioral tells.

I'm not sure how true it is anymore, but a lot of the customs agents used to be savvy about profiling. I caught on to one technique: they'd ask some innocuous question, and when you answered it, regardless of what you said, they'd give you a hard stare like they didn't believe a word of it. I suspect it shook up amateur smugglers. Those old guys could teach the TSA a few tricks.

DP111 said...

Gone are those days when there was no security at airports. Just an examination of passport and boarding pass.

When you let Muslims into your society, they ruin everything.

Only way back

1. Everyone converts to Islam

2. Remove Muslims from the West.

Rick Darby said...

DP 111,

I choose Door no. 2.

Meanwhile, airport security is needed, but with a better system than the current lunacy.

Why al Qaeda would want to bother sneaking explosives aboard planes with all the devious planning, when the border with Mexico is wide open courtesy of our Quislings in Washington, is hard to understand.

DP111 said...

Rick

We are in a war in which we are always on the back foot, always responding to what Muslims do. This gives Muslims tactical advantage. They can choose when and where to attack, or not to attack at all, while our security services do the real damage in destroying the civilised society. The destruction is not just in the state but in the minds of the citizens -we become paranoid. This is not good. Even at the height of the Blitz, I don't think Londoners were as het up as we in the UK are at present.

So what is the answer? Airport security? We have that in spades, for all the good it is doing, but it certainly is destroying us a society.

I think we need to go on the offensive. This has the advantage of putting the Jihadis on the back foot, not knowing where the axe is going to fall.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Darby,

I agree with Sheila, I do hold responsible those TSA agents on the frontline just as much as I do that hideous "thing" J.N. who heads up the TSA monster. I'm sorry but guilty as guilty does as far as I am concerned.

The only solution is a total separation from Islam. Or surrender...

MDR

Mark @ Israel said...

This isn't a good scenario at the airport for many. It causes inconvenience and most of all, it is intrusive and not very effective. Though TSA may have good intentions of preventing any suicide bomber from getting past security, X-ray scanners are expensive and risky to the travelers' health. So, this is like putting someone at risk to prevent another risk. Wouldn't that be good?

Martin B said...

I saw an interview with a former deputy director of the TSA. He said that the fact that people had to sacrifice thier fourth amendment rights was regrettable but necessary, and that we'd just have to get used to it. The idiot journalist conducting the interview asked no follow-up question (american journalists never ask follow-up questions, least-wise, never any good ones).

What this two bit tyrant should have been reminded of is this: the fourth amendment is not optional. Neither he, nor John Pistole, nor Janet Napalitano, nor President Obama can simply chose to ignore it. And clearly, these searches are unreasonable - when you are effectively strip searching everyone, or subjecting them to humiliating pat-downs - when you are treating everyone as a policeman treats a suspected armed robbber - then that IS unreasonable. I don't know what is the bigger outrage - that the government is perpetrating this outrage, or that more people aren't outraged by it.

And I do hold the TSA employees personally to blame. They are tools of police-state tyranny. You eat the government's salt, you catch the government's flack. They get no sympathy from me. From now on, I'm referring to them as "Blue Shirts".

Martin B said...

Another point: I believe the TSA's policy is that we will be searched by TSA agents of the same sex. Presumably, this is to avoid any possible accusation that TSA employees are using these new search procedures for thier own sexual gratification.

Doesn't that mean that I am perfectly within my rights to ask the TSA employee if he is a homosexual? Actually, I'm entitled to more than that - he really needs to prove to me that he's not a homosexual. Afterall, he could be lying (why should I trust him anymore than he trusts me, which is.....not-at-all). I think his supervisor should have to swear out an affidavit that the assigned agent is not gay.

I will also be asking every TSA employee I deal with for thier name and badge number - for the purpose of possibly filing criminal assault charges against them, or in the event of any ensuing civil actions.

Martin B said...

Aw, who am I kidding. I'll try to avoid flying. And when I do have to fly, I'll knuckle under and submit like most everyone else. I'll take the scanner - I'm 46, and I can probably afford the radiation dose.

But still, we ought to be extremely outraged and concerned. This is a blatant act of the government simply ignoring the fourth amendment. It will establish a precedent for them to violate that amendment at will in other circumstances, and eventually to violate the rest of the bill of rights as well. It really does represent a fundmental line being crossed.