Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TSA Security Kabuki...

Here's a first here at MArooned. Gay_Cynic over at Free Thinker approached me about doing a collaborative post on the new, intrusive TSA "security" measures. I've been somewhat reserved in my response so far, declining comment on the farcical comedy of errors that has become airport "security" where grandmothers and toddlers are groped, probed, and otherwise manhandled in the interest of appearing to be doing something about the safety of air travel. Gay_Cynic came up with the intriguing idea of working together on a joint post where we shared our thoughts and feelings about recent events, and the result is what follows.

His words and mine are intermingled; simply assume that the well-written parts are his and the spittle-flecked bits are mine and you will be right 95% of the time.


If you create an entity, and give it unlimited power while carefully insulating it from any sort of realistic negative feedback mechanism, it is only a matter of time until that power is abused - likely to the extent of inspiring rebellion in the masses, whether that rebellion takes the form of work-arounds ("screw flying and the TSA, I'll drive"), ridicule, white mutiny, litigation, bringing criminal charges, or outright confrontation with a sprinkling of violence to keep things from getting boring.

For those that cannot - or will not - submit to the indignities of these invasive procedures (such as myself), document each instance where the TSA costs the airlines money. Because the TSA is an unelected government agency - and thereby largely unaccountable to mere mortals - our only recompense is to deny them (the TSA) the opportunity to grope, fondle, X-ray, fold, spindle, or mutilate us by refusing to fly and thus declining their tender ministrations.

Sadly, this will damage an already fragile airline industry – an industry that, coincidentally, has lobbyists and influence in DC circles. If we can demonstrate the degree to which the TSA costs the airlines business, they will notice - and help reign in the TSA. Or perish.

That the entity in question is keeping a list of the non-submissive that they are apparently willing to pass along...is a hint that the stimuli for rebellion phase has been passed a while back, and the recent "Nuke or Grope" for profit policy is simply the hurling of the phosphorus torch into the giant lake of gasoline, in addition to being an indication of a loss of sanity (and perhaps a claim to decency and status as civilized persons) by TSA leadership and those who perpetrate such acts of petty tyranny while “just following orders”. The list should, obviously, be destroyed and the creators disciplined (if not unemployed) as a fundamental violation of privacy. A bunch of glorified rent-a-cops with delusions of grandeur led by wanna-be’s making it up as they go along have no business keeping a list of "those to be harassed" – nor, for that matter, does any other agency.

Every chance you get - each time you drive (Skype, stay home,take a train, etc) to a destination that you would otherwise have flown to, get a quote from several different airlines and send them a note telling them about the business they are losing. Drive home the fault of the TSA - that you would rather burn time than health or dignity.

Even the media is noticing. Even liberal blogs.

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security." – Benjamin Franklin

It would seem we’ve given up a whole range of essential liberties in exchange for some rather questionable illusions of security as executed by a legion of petty tyrants. Getting them back isn’t likely to be easy. And creating a two-tier system with less offensive procedures for an “elite” while letting the full range of privacy-invading fondle-measures rain down on the rest of us, is simply not acceptable.

“Unions that represent pilots for American Airlines and US Airways, representing a total of 16,500 pilots, say they want a more efficient screening process for pilots instead of having them pass through the security procedures used for passengers. Pilots have compared the new pat-downs to "sexual molestation."” – Fox News, Stephen Clark, 11/15/10.

Separate but equal has never worked out terribly well for our nation. Just this once, let’s not stumble down that well-beaten path to idiocy and litigation.

Events would tend to bear out the notion we’ve given up essential liberties in the name of a false sense of safety.

“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.” – Fourth Amendment, United States Constitution - December 15, 1791

At what point did we surrender our freedom and, by passive submission, become cowardly accomplices to TSA Porn-o-Scans’ and the punitive molestation of men, women, and perhaps most offensively, children?

The most insulting part is that these measures are mere theater, inflicting humiliation and civil rights violations for no gain better than “looking busy”. Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber”, was not stopped by airport security, he was stopped by the passengers on the plane. He got on the plane in England with everything he needed to cause havoc and mayhem. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber”, got on board a plane in Amsterdam with 80 grams of PETN sewn into his shorts. Once again, technical incompetence, combined with the help of passengers, averted a tragedy. The recent “printer” bombs sent via UPS also failed due to human intelligence and legwork, not from scanning.

All of these plots have two critical things in common: First off, they were not stopped by screeners. Secondly, and more importantly, all of these attempts originated outside of the United States - yet the TSA responds by forcing American citizens to endure humiliating, most likely unconstitutional, and pointless assaults (and yes, assault is precisely what this is) because of the inability of screeners in areas outside of our control. We are being forced to remove our shoes and submit to strip searches because Yemen, Amsterdam, and the UK have failed to prevent persons with illegal items from getting on airplanes.

It also ignores a very basic truism: you could make every single person get on board the plane stark naked and keep them in a drug-induced stasis the entire flight, and all it takes is one fanatic with 100 grams of PETN implanted in his gullet to bring down the plane. These folks are ready to give their lives to take down airplanes - setting themselves up as organic bombs won’t phase them in the least.

The recent media coverage of the San Diego blogger (follow-up 11/14/10)first barred from the secure area of the airport (and thus prevented from boarding his flight) when he declined both the back scatter X-Ray Scanner (aka, TSA Genitalia Examination Device) and the enhanced “Grope’n’Molest” pat-down is but the tip of the iceberg. While subsequently having been directed to do so, the blogger was then assailed by a TSA supervisor threatening him with lawsuits and unappealable $10,000 civil fines if he left prior to completing the screening he’d objected to.

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” -Seventh Amendment, United States Constitution– December 15, 1791

Reports are still coming in, but the author of Nobody Asked Me recounts his recent experience which certainly bore out, in my opinion, the kind of fun we’re all destined to enjoy if we keep flying or tolerating this sort of vaudevillian Security Theater. But these were far from the first, or only, incidents indicating a culture of reckless incompetence and disregard for civil rights over in the Homeland Security/TSA cesspool. Reported on November 14th over at HotAir.com (and since “mysteriously” vanished down the memory hole) the “forced body search”/molestation of a screaming and crying three year old girl by TSA officers. Forcing an 8 year old boy to remove leg braces and walk unassisted through a scanner, apologizing only after the incident became public. A rape survivor re-traumatized by an invasive pat-down.

Amputee’s could have told us months and years ago – if we’d been willing to listen, and more importantly, take action. Pt I Pt II Pt III .

And for little or no benefit, as illustrated in Part III.

Being puny humans, most of us needed a larger clue-bat applied upside our collective heads. A clue-bat the TSA is only too happy to provide. We don’t have rights, they tell us, if we buy an airplane ticket – we waived them when we bought the ticket. Foo on that silly Bill of Rights, anyway.

That the “Grope Option” appears to be primarily punitive in nature, intended to compel compliance via humiliation, fear, and embarrassment with the “Nuke Option” doesn’t make things any better. One is given the choice of a potential health risk and significant privacy violation vs. emotional, physical, and mental harassment.

Clearly, neither choice is acceptable – particularly with the additional knowledge that the only way to keep an electronic image or data private is to never create or record said picture or data in the first place (various banks, credit card companies, and institutions have been gracious enough to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt with repetitive massive data losses and exposures despite of what we are assured are absolute top-notch security measures).

Late as it is, however, a series of responses seems to be gelling. National Opt-Out Day on November 24th, where *all* passengers are encouraged (website here) to opt out of the invasive body scanners (scanners with questionable safety and certain invasion of privacy) is one such measure. Others are both more public and more personal, ranging from Tam’s notion, to a few cynical thoughts, to letters to the airline industry, vows to give up flying, more direct means, mainstream calls to abolish the TSA in its’ entirety, and more.

When direct confrontation can carry unwanted consequences, the approach of malicious cooperation (historically referred to as a white mutiny).

To the extent practical, we would endorse making *EVERY* Wednesday a “no-fly” day after the November 24th event until both the “Nude Nuke Option” scanners are gone from our nations airports, and the punitive pat-down has been ended. Punish the airlines with our lack of custom until they pressure Congress to take appropriate action.

We support all those finding other means of travel allowing them to avoid what we consider a violation of both privacy and what we suggest are fundamental civil rights. We believe that the leadership and staff of the TSA have long since forfeited any claim to civility, let alone all but the most insincere and unhelpfully enthusiastic cooperation. We favor filing criminal charges against TSA personnel at the vaguest hint of impropriety. We actively suggest asking every question, however trivial, regarding procedure and acceptable items vs. contraband that you can imagine. We encourage immediately reporting *anything* you observe that is even *slightly* out of place in or near any secure area in a fearful and panicked tone of voice. We hint that it is NEVER a good thing to go ANYWHERE with a TSA agent, demanding that unless you are actually under arrest that all interactions take place of full view of the public, so you can be certain of witnesses.

We cannot suggest the use of body functions as a communications tool, as that would (in many jurisdictions) be considered assault – which, regrettably, gets in the way of pointing and laughing at those who offend you.

We suggest loud orgasmic sound effects and requests for further stimulation as a viable alternative, though you may wish to consult an attorney prior to employing this approach. Almost as embarrassing, and in our lay opinion, less likely to produce jail time and other complications. Teaching children that it is especially appropriate to scream “RAPE!!” and “BAD TOUCH!! BAD TOUCH!!” when inappropriate fondling is performed by persons wearing a TSA uniform occurs seems to us, as non-attorneys, to likely be well inside the safe zone – if they can cry on command for the camera, it’s a bonus. It seems likely that such a technique might also be useful for teens and adults, as well.

We are annoyed, and believe that the “system” – which depends for its function upon cooperation, reason, and submission - harbors a vast array of mechanisms with which to vent our annoyance while remaining utterly within the law. We urge you to select strategies for maximum effect and an acceptable level of risk for yourself and those you care about.

Until such time as sanity starts to rear its head at the security gate, I will not fly.

Until you have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you understand the difference between true security and the sick farce you foist upon us, I will drive or find another way to my destination - or I will simply not go. You have managed to make any destination in a 10 hour driving radius pretty much the same time as flying: 1.5 hour flight with 1 hour on either end to/from the airport and arriving 2 hours ahead for probulation = 5.5 hours total to fly. I’ll give up four and a half hours to not have to subject myself to the indignities you force upon us.

The TSA has shown us, time and time again, that they prefer Security Theater to actual security. To hassle those defenseless by virtue of their age, gender, disability, or generally law-abiding nature. The TSA would rather an eight year old boy be humiliated going through a metal detector, or a three year old girl be scarred for life from a grope-down, or humiliate a grandmother than take actual security measures. It is time those abuses not only end, but result in consequences.

Humiliating children has nothing to do with keeping people safe on an airplane. Molesting a rape victim doesn’t improve air security. Harassing elders and the disabled certainly cannot be considered a valid preventative measure that requires ignoring 4th Amendment guarantees. There are, perhaps, other reasons for such measures – whether simply a political drama or for more sinister purposes matters little, as these measures are sufficiently objectionable as to make the reason for them largely irrelevant. They simply must cease. Swiftly, lest a law-abiding American trained from birth to expect his or her civil rights to be respected, their children well-treated, and their friends and parents not be ill-used at bureaucratic whim – simply snap.

I refuse to be that American - therefore I will not fly until these intrusions end.

I, also, will not be that American. I will also not be the American who remains silent and asks "who or what's next?" or meekly goes along to get along. I will avoid flight where practical, and employ painfully lawful strategies to express my dismay when I must fly.




JD said...

I wonder, If I make a foil hand giving the finger and tape it to my body will it show up on their scan? Can I get busted for it??

TOTWTYTR said...

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

I think we are rapidly approaching a tipping point with the TSA.

Anonymous said...

How about holding accountable the companies involved in building and installing the scanners (Alltech and Raytheon for starters). They were just in it for the money, not to protect the American public. Were not other companies charged with war crimes and held responsible for WWII atrocities? (Bayer) They can't claim, "I was just following the Purchase Order!"

Wally said...

Am I the only one who figures that if the flycott takes hold, then the airline industry gets bailed out again? It has only been 9 years since the last airline bailout, maybe now they can be natioinalized. Seems to fall in line with the TSA's grab for my other junk too.

My last job was international travel 10 months a year. Then I got the CCW religion and dropped interational travel. Post 9/11, I would only travel somewhere that I could drive home from. I'm comfortable with long drives, and It's now the norm for me.

Anonymous said...


Nuff Said.

Jay G said...

It would not surprise me in the least if they had this in the very back as a fringe benefit.

I think, first and foremost, this is yet another in a long line of intrusions into our freedom in the name of "safety". Get us used to grabbing our ankles and all that...

Midwest Chick said...

Another option would be to contact your nearest airport and tell them to punt the TSA. Per the original legislation, airports were only under a two-year obligation to use them. The airports can now get rid of them and put their own security measures into place.


(via http://middleoftheright.blogspot.com/2010/11/we-dont-need-tsa.html and http://www.saysuncle.com/)

Hopefully ones that would be more flyer-friendly....

bluesun said...

I said it before, and I'll say it again.

Burn it up, and burn it down.

ASM826 said...

If we want to change the way we are treated by the airlines and the TSA, the only way to do it is to stop accepting the mistreatment. It is the same thing as a battered woman that does nothing to separate herself from her abuser. People that know her shake their head and wonder why she keeps going back, knowing that more abuse was inevitable.

If you pay your money to line up and be mistreated, and you already know it’s going to happen, exactly whose fault is that?

Paul, Dammit! said...

I'm actually glad to see this polarizing event take place. The 150,000 of us employed directly in the maritime trades have been dealing with the same ineffective security theatre- but instead of not being able to fly, most ports won't allow us to go ashore, have visitors, get supplies, or access the US mail.

Ruth said...

I was aware of the problems that amputees' have, I am curious though, what happens if you have metal inside your body? Such as a metal plate or screws in a joint or the like? Anyone have any idea how this is being handled by the TSA? I came far closer than I'd like to having screws implanted in my wrist permently a while back, and its still something I might have to deal with in the future. Not that I have any intention of flying again, but still....

Butch Cassidy said...

I started to writ e arational comment, and devolved into vitriol and cursing. I'll save it for my own blog in the morning.

Suffice it to say that this post summed up my feelings far more cordially than I ever could.

Keystone said...

I'm curious what would happen if you made the screener as uncomfortable as you were. If you are going to be miserable while some dude fondles your junk, you might as well make him just as miserable. Loudly instruct him to feel HIGHER HIGHER, loudly request that he checks an area again, etc.

Of course, they might try and hit you with a sexual harassment lawsuit, but really, how much legal ground does a guy holding your block and tackle have with regards to YOU sexually harassing HIM?

Heath J said...

Excellent write up, gentlemen.

Old NFO said...

I'm opting out EVERY time I fly, and I'll be filing a complaint every time one of them grabs my junk... I think we need a national opt out day, AND a no fly Wednesday every week!

John Stephens said...

"Anyone have any idea how this is being handled by the TSA?"

Badly, I suspect.

Wraith said...

Welcome to the party, guys--I made the decision a long time ago. Rotten food, indifferent service, being treated by turns as a child, a criminal and cattle--and now being subjected to sexual abuse in the bargain?

There's nowhere on Earth I need to be that badly. Call me when I can carry my pistol on the plane.

Nancy R. said...

If you are required to fly for business reasons, maybe the place to start is your own HR or legal department. Explain the hazards of cumulative radiation (maybe offer to contact OSHA for details on this, heh heh), and that the alternative requires that you submit to a groping that would get your fired should you do the ssame thing in the office.

Maybe if companies are afraid of lawsuits from their employees they may have a little more influence communicating with the TSA than we mere mortals.

Anonymous said...

I was in charge of the TSA implementation at our local airport after the 9/11 attacks. That the FEDS demand and get what they want is sickening. They have no common sense. They actually made me import bomb sniffing dogs and sniff the cars parked at our airport- as though 911 had anything to do with bombs. This is a rural airport servicing a ski resort.

The TSA was another exploitive page in the annals of responding to one disaster by creating a seperate and secondary economic disaster. Every hi paying cush job was given to existing and retiring federal agents from other services. That the Federal Gov practices discrimination defies belief.

TSA was one of the very reasons I became a libertarian and learned to hate the intrusion and over reach of government into our lives. The TSA like the Federal Cabal will never leave our lives.

In the end, lacking a complete and unified populist movement to take back our country...I see no other solution than that which arrives at the end of a gun barrel.

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Matt said...

How about holding accountable the companies involved in building and installing the scanners (Alltech and Raytheon for starters). They were just in it for the money, not to protect the American public. Were not other companies charged with war crimes and held responsible for WWII atrocities? (Bayer) They can't claim, "I was just following the Purchase Order!"

I'm sorry, but I can't support this. This is blaming the tool, not the user, the exact same logic that resulted in all of the onerous anti-gun legislation we are all (presumably) against.

Back-scatter X-ray technology has its uses, but this security application is not one of them.

Anonymous said...


Good point, and I agree with your argument. while backscatter technology has it uses, in the proper place, for the proper time, this machine was designed, tested, and put in to use solely to scan human bodies. Sort of like making cigarettes... legal, but inherently dangerous.

Silver the Evil Chao said...

Is it wrong that I seriously want to hurt someone now?

CowboyDan said...

Metallic foil may show up on X-ray, as may zinc oxide ointment or a makeup containing either zinc or titanium.

Someone suggested on another blog that people who can't NOT fly paint pistols or knives on their bodies to get a rise out of the TSA people.

The single finger salute is good, but won't draw near the reaction that a painted on pistol will.

Back some years ago, I learned one of the cardinal rules of Frisbee is to never say more than "watch this" when you're about to try a trick, lest it not work out quite the way you'd planned. Be sure and alert your fellow passengers a little in advance.

"Watch this!"