Friday, November 19, 2010

And While We're On the Topic...

This whole TSA thing has gotten ridiculously out of control.  I understand wanting to fly safely, and make sure people aren't bringing bombs on board.  But the fact that we now have government employees literally touching the genitals of innocent Americans strikes me as ridiculous.  It frustrates me that Homeland Security and the higher-ups at TSA keep defending this madness as "it makes good sense."  No, it doesn't.  Stop for just a second and think about this objectively.  There are so many reasons why it doesn't make sense.  A lot of people have already said a lot of other really good things on this topic, so I'm going to post some of them here. 

First and foremost, this issue is about enduring the "Enhanced Pat-Down" if you either
  • a) opt-out of the Nude-o-Scopes, as they are being referred to, or
  • b) "fail" the NoS for some reason.  (A friend of mine "failed" when she accidentally moved her elbow while inside the NoS.)
So, the argument has been made that we should just "go through the scanner."  Well, fine, except for those who accidentally move their elbows, or whatever else.  Also, scientists are not exactly convinced that these things are safe.  I, for one, do not plan on going through the scanner.  I have been exposed to enough radiation in my life.  And we should note that when you have x-rays taken in a doctor's office, they give you the lead to cover up your ovaries, and everybody else gets the hell out of the room.  Doctors do their best to expose you to the least amount of radiation possible.  And yet the TSA just runs around saying, "Oh they're safe, it's like a cell phone."  Not to mention the risks to people who are getting radiation treatment for cancer, are pregnant, or are in any way extra-sensitive to the impact of radiation on their bodies.

So, moving on.  Let's say you've failed the PornoScanner and are now next in line for the Enhanced Patdown.  After you've reminded the TSO to put on clean gloves, you're so busy trying to keep an eye on your MacBook halfway across the checkpoint, that you don't notice until the person is grabbing your crotch.  They literally run their hands up and down the insides of your thighs and then touch you "down there" (and "up there" on the women).  This would be bad enough if it were just outside your clothing, but some people have even noted instances of the officers literally placing their hands between your underwear and your skin and running their hands front to back of a person's (male or female) "junk." 

I personally have made it a point in my life not to let anyone touch me "down there" until I'm married.  Call me an old-fashioned prude, I don't care.  It's a huge deal for me.  Even going to the doctor is a little anxiety-producing.  I don't fly next until the day after Christmas, and I'm already getting a little worked up about this.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I were a rape or sexual assault victim, and the trauma that would be induced by reliving that situation. 

So here's the text of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Some have argued that the purchase of a plane ticket implies consent to be searched or some such thing.  And you know, ok.  That said, I'm no Constitutional lawyer, but I think the key here lies in the word "unreasonable." It is one thing to walk through a magnetometer, to not be allowed to carry guns or bombs on board.  It is entirely another to have government employees conducting "search and seizure" operations that in any other setting would constitute sexual assault. As Charles Krauthammer wrote ,
Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? Okay. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population. 
But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else? 
Ann Coulter (who I don't normally read) points out some interesting statistics:
Only about a third of all Americans flew even once in the last year, and only 7 percent took more than four round trips. The majority of airline passengers are middle-aged, middle-class, white businessmen with about a million frequent flier miles. I'd wager that more than 90 percent of domestic air travelers were born in the U.S.
If the government did nothing more than have a five-minute conversation with the one passenger per flight born outside the U.S., you'd need 90 percent fewer Transportation Security Administration agents and airlines would be far safer than they are now.
She's right, of course.  The thing is, does anyone for one second look at the nuns and grandmas and babies and even the jerky 20-year-old frat boys being felt up in the line in front of you and then suddenly feel safer about the plane you're getting on?  No.  Of course not. 

And here's another question.  Do you feel safer knowing that your pilots haven't brought nail clippers on board?  Hint: If the pilots wanted to bring the plane down, they could just...bring...the...plane...down.  Being as they're the pilots and all.

The real question, I think that we really need to answer, is much broader in scope than whether 4 oz of shampoo is dangerous while 3 oz is not.  Here's the thing: are we looking for weapons, or terrorists? 

Because we can look for weapons all we want and always be reacting - this week it's shampoo, next it's underwear, now it's ink cartridges.  (Huh?)  Or we can start looking for actual terrorists by (egads!), yes, profiling. Acting as though each person traveling on any given day has the exact same probability of being a terrorist is stupid, a waste of time and money, and a misguided attempt to "treat people equally."  Really, this is no different than the fact that 20-year-old males pay more for car insurance than anybody else.  It frustrates me that we don't get this.  That we are "the world's only superpower" and we have been reduced to peeking in the underwear of ordinary citizens in order to stop terrorists from blowing up planes. 

I saw an interview with a Brooklyn City Councilman this afternoon.  He mentioned that we do a terrible job of screening the cargo on commercial air traffic.  And for that, he wins the "quote of the day" award: "We should be worried about the packages under the plane instead of the packages under your pants."

Heh.  /rant.

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