Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some Get It, Some Don't

I used to have a sense of humor. There was a time when I would roar with laughter at the whole ridiculous scenario of air travelers being given the choice of a full body scan or a physical pat-down as part of the Global War on Terror. Scenes of women my age, or 4-year-olds, being treated as potential terrorists would seem screamingly funny. I don't laugh at that kind of stuff anymore. I just get angry.

What the TSA, in its sublime arrogance, has decided is that people who desire the privilege of boarding an aircraft must submit to intrusive inspections of their bodies. It's for our own good, we are told, so we should just shut up already.

The New York Times, while implicitly condoning the invasion of privacy involved, at least excoriates the TSA in its editorial for the agency's arrogance and belligerence in handling the controversy:

The Times reported on Friday that civil liberties groups have collected more than 400 complaints since the new pat-downs began three weeks ago. That is a minuscule number compared with all the people who flew. But there are far too many reports of T.S.A. agents groping passengers, using male agents to search female passengers, mocking passengers and disdaining complaints.

Lawsuits have been filed asserting that new, more powerful body-scanning machines violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches. In general, it seems to us that the scanners are not unconstitutional, but the lawsuits are a healthy process that will require the government to prove that the scanners are reliable and more effective than other devices.

The Fourth Amendment would certainly protect Americans from unnecessary, overly intimate security checks. And nothing in the Constitution permits power-happy or just downright creepy people from abusing their uniforms and the real need for security. The government could start by making their screening guidelines clear. And they should respond to the concerns of people like the woman who told The Times that she is patted down every time because of an insulin pump.

On the Left Coast, however, the "center left" editorial board of the Los Angeles Times doesn't even bother with the nasty concerns of the flying public.

The quest to keep up with terrorists' shifting methods never ends; as soon as you block one potential attack route, terrorists often find another. In reaction to the new high-tech scans, suicide bombers may well switch to buses and trains rather than airplanes, or airborne killers might resort to inserting explosives into their body cavities, where the machines can't detect them. So, it's reasonable to ask, what's next? Anal probes at the airport? It's safe to say that if the TSA gets to that point, it will have crossed the line, and it might be time to explore less invasive methods. Meanwhile, though, a full-body scan isn't a terribly high price to pay for a measure of peace of mind.

...The new scans might not be foolproof, but they'll spot more dangerous materials than the old detectors and keep passengers safer. If you can't handle such a minor inconvenience, perhaps you should stay on the ground.

Here's the kicker, however. While we are being told to get over our own hang ups with respect to our bodies, our leaders are neatly avoiding the whole issue.

From an AP report published in the Fresno Bee:

On Friday, the GOP's John Boehner was guided past the metal detectors and hand inspections given to other passengers on his flight home to Ohio.

Sweet, eh?

Well, the good news is that Americans are finally beginning to understand just how much they've lost in terms of civil liberties since the Global War on Terror was begun. It appears that a whole lot of people are finally pissed off.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question: How will Americans know they've lost civil liberties?

Answer: When the hand of the United States government starts feeling around their testicles and vaginas.

My family and I refuse to submit to Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening and enhanced pat-down procedures.

We are strongly opposed to the AIT screening and enhanced pat-downs on privacy grounds. Those procedures are an outrageous violation of our Fourth Amendment rights and an affront to the dignity of all airline passengers.

Please do not underestimate our resolve. We vow to never fly commercially in the United States again, as long as AIT screening and enhanced pat-down procedures remain in force.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Jay Ackroyd said...

Hey Diane.

Just got back in, having run out this morning. Sorry I did not note your post in my atrios post.

You might be interested in the discussion I had with Fallows and Schneier last June:

5:21 PM  

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