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Freedom of choice: Molestation or Radiation
June 28, 2011 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Following a widely-reported incident in which TSA agents required a 95-year-old cancer patient to remove her adult diaper for inspection before being allowed to board her flight, TV pundit Keith Olbermann has designated TSA chief John Pistole the "Worst Person in the World" and called for his removal. In other news, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) says it has obtained evidence that "the Department of Homeland Security has failed to properly evaluate the level of risk from airport body scanners." Documents obtained by EPIC via the Freedom of Information Act reveal that "even after TSA employees identified cancer clusters possibly linked to radiation exposure, the agency failed to issue employees dosimeters - safety devices that could assess the level of radiation exposure." (News report with video: TSA workers fear radiation dangers from scanners.) EPIC says the documents also indicate that DHS "mischaracterized the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, stating that NIST 'affirmed the safety' of full body scanners.". In a private email response (PDF link), NIST stated that the institute had not tested the safety of the scanners. And yesterday the Texas legislature approved a watered-down version of its TSA "anti-groping" bill. The Idaho legislature is also considering an anti-TSA-groping bill.

PDF of NIST report on body scanners.
posted by thescientificmethhead (171 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Defund the TSA, shift the money to cancer research.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:01 PM on June 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


I had a TSA pat-down recently, because I refused the pornscan on a flight from Chicago O'Hare. I must say the gentleman was very professional and polite, and told me exactly what he was going to do before he did it. He did touch my front bottom, though. I was quite perturbed.
posted by Decani at 5:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is this the adult diaper that will spark a revolution?
posted by Trurl at 5:07 PM on June 28, 2011


This TSA "blogger Bob" post from a couple of days ago is the best thing. I present it without comment.
posted by eugenen at 5:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wrote the TSA a letter asking for them to institute an exercise program, to sell commemorative prints of their scans, and suggested John Pistole step down. They didn't write back. Memail me if you want a copy of the letter.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:07 PM on June 28, 2011


Radiation is good for you. Builds character. And the extra limbs are handy for fighting off the AARP's terrorists trying to board our planes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure

Then the procedures are problematic and should be changed. Dramatically.
posted by theredpen at 5:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ann Coulter: Radiation is good for you.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 5:09 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then the procedures are problematic and should be changed. Dramatically.

But how can we make the procedures more dramatic?
posted by mrnutty at 5:10 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is this the adult diaper that will spark a revolution?

Depends.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 5:11 PM on June 28, 2011 [128 favorites]


Didn't Olbermann say that he was going to stop proclaiming people to be "the worst person in the world" in the wake of the Rally and/or March to Restore Sanity and/or Fear?
posted by Flunkie at 5:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ann Coulter: Radiation is good for you.

I listen to the beginning of Sean Hannity's radio show while I'm getting drive-thru for lunch.. He spent the entirety of his opening segment explaining how Bachmann's "the founding fathers opposed slavery" statement was actually a more sophisticated, contextualized understanding of the historical record that "the Ivy Leaguer George Stephanaopolous" was too dumb to understand.
posted by Trurl at 5:19 PM on June 28, 2011


TSA SUCKS AMIRITE

Seriously, fuck the TSA. And fuck the assclowns who use every whiff of threat as an excuse to upsell the government on the latest in useless "scare" insurance.

I want our freedoms back. I will happily waive my rights to a bomb-proof airplane in exchange. I am not afraid of terrorists. Death happens. Cowering behind our plexiglass overlords, though: that's on us. And why don't we have body scanners and pat downs at the entrance to every skyscraper and busy intersection? OMG - someone could get hurt! Accidents happen!

Get over yourself, America. Before the world gets over you, first.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [85 favorites]


He did touch my front bottom, though.

"Front bottom"? Is this a Britishism I'm not familiar with?
posted by armage at 5:34 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


But how can we make the procedures more dramatic?

TSA agents could be required to sing all instructions and do synchronized dance moves at all times.
posted by The World Famous at 5:34 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


I took a boat from Japan to Korea. There was no security check whatsoever, just a customs declaration.

Same as Florence, I don't care about accidents or terrorism. We live in a very safe age for travel. If I'm paying for it I'd rather have dignity than security. I wish I could take a boat to Boston for less than five times the cost of a plane.
posted by shii at 5:34 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


And fuck the assclowns who use every whiff of threat as an excuse to upsell the government on the latest in useless "scare" insurance.

The problem is that the TSA and the contractors it works with have a symbiotic relationship that includes controlling the nature of the dialog of transportation security in the US.

The TSA and contractors control the narrative through "we're never at fault, because we're protecting you" stonewalling, and it works.

It doesn't help that we're in an Orwellian, quasi-permanent state of war against stateless enemies, either.

Contact your elected officials about war profiteering.

If we can't get Congress to give oversight over the executive branch launching unilateral and illegal wars overseas, we should at least try to get contractors out of the business of deciding how security procedures work for taxpayers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:35 PM on June 28, 2011 [24 favorites]


Get over yourself, America. Before the world gets over you, first.

Er, horse, stable door, bolted, etc.
posted by unSane at 5:39 PM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


That Olbermann vacation was all too brief.
posted by mecran01 at 5:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


And why don't we have body scanners and pat downs at the entrance to every skyscraper and busy intersection?

We will. The people arguing that if you didn't want to get scanned or groped you could take a bus or train were wrong. I was in an Amtrak station the other day, and on continuous loop was a video talking about security policy and searches. It was surreal.

As technology increases, it will be used to implement searches and movement control in every major transportation node.
posted by formless at 5:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


TSA agents required a 95-year-old cancer patient to remove her adult diaper for inspection...

This is why we should profile. Inspect a million Depends, and you won't find a single weapon. Inspect a million turbans, however...
posted by troll at 5:43 PM on June 28, 2011


Give it up, nothing it going to change and you damn well know it.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is why we should profile. Inspect a million Depends, and you won't find a single weapon. Inspect a million turbans, however...
posted by troll

Well, at least you're honest.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:45 PM on June 28, 2011 [19 favorites]


[go to MetaTalk and don't threadshit please, thank you]
posted by jessamyn at 5:47 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stop profiling me.
posted by troll at 5:47 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone here familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment?

People put in that kind of situation, where they have nearly complete power over others, sometimes become bullies. I wonder if some of the TSA abuses are by people who have succumbed in this way?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:57 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Something worth considering.
posted by p3on at 5:58 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is why we should profile. Inspect a million Depends, and you won't find a single weapon. Inspect a million turbans, however...

None of the 9/11 hijackers wore turbans, nor did the shoe bomber or the underwear bomber.


Also this blogger bob thing really irritates me. Why should the government be able to blog anonymously?
posted by delmoi at 5:59 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


The whole industry to create and sell these machines is a racket. Apparently though even when Nobel winners say the science is bunk on the safety of these machines, it isn't enough to stop the purchase of this crap.
posted by humanfont at 6:02 PM on June 28, 2011


None of this has anything to do with safety, security, protection. It is all to do with getting US citizens okay with people performing illegal searches pretty much whenever they want.

No more planes for me, no more airports, soon no more trains; all travel I do will be on the road.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:02 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Something worth considering.
Total bullshit. It's certainly true that lots of right wingers were unhappy with the TSA stuff, but lots of left-wingers were upset too. Some random Obama fanboys who felt the need to defend everything he does chimed in with some wild conspiracy theories sans any evidence.

I mean, what's the thought process here?

"This policy is disgusting and morally wrong, however, by pointing that out you make Obama look bad, and therefore anyone pointing it is just trying to make Obama look bad"

The people who point this out often say stuff like "how-come the outrage started right when it did!?" and of course the answer is that it started right after the TSA changed it's policies.
posted by delmoi at 6:03 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's time for Americans to be brave again.

Time for us to stop putting up with being groped, prodded, threatened, and treated like cattle because of some nebulous fear of terrorism. Time to walk proud on two legs.

Better to die free than lived cowed.
posted by orthogonality at 6:04 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Enjoy the roads while you can dancestoblue. In parts of AZ and New Mexico, there are covered, permanent installations on the interstates where Border Patrol halts all the traffic and checks immigration. It's not a far stretch for TSA to go "Hmm well while we've got everyone stopped..."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:06 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Have you not considered how much easier it is to control a walking population?" Moneo asked.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Inspect a million turbans, however...

...and you won't find any guns either.
posted by schmod at 6:09 PM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I forgot I'd posted the TSA letter to my facebook page.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:10 PM on June 28, 2011


Something worth considering.

Total bullshit indeed. Opposing tyranny is not a partisan issue.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:13 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: Anyone here familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment?
At Metafilter? Yeah... yeah, I'd say a few people are familiar with it...

:)
posted by hincandenza at 6:14 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rules are for suckers, laws are for taking advantage of people that think "rules" and "laws" have merit.
posted by Max Power at 6:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rah Idaho!

Too bad the adult diaper wasn't full of mashed potatoes. I'll bet that TSA agent would have left off with just a pat-down.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:17 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pornoscan.us is one of the strangest states I've seen in some time. I have no idea how this government got its citizens wedged into their scanners, or why.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:19 PM on June 28, 2011 [35 favorites]


Osama Bin Laden is laughing at us from above.
posted by Sailormom at 6:19 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


People here complain about kids, old people and others who clearly aren't terrorists being searched in this way at airports with good reason. However if the authorities targeted people who were deemed higher risk - e.g. young males of middle eastern appearance - for extra searching while reducing the intensity of searches for low risk grannies and toddlers there'd be endless threads about them being racists or discriminating against Muslims. If they didn't search people at all, well, you're risking another 9/11 which happened because there were basically no security checks on American domestic flights at the time. It's all very well complaining about security theatre but there clearly is a threat - a host of attacks on American soil have been foiled in the planning stage by the types of surveillance and investigation which are also very unpopular on Mefi. It seems to me you can't both be politically correct and argue that everyone should have an equal chance of being searched so nobody is discriminated against and also complain when everyone is searched on an equal basis to this end.
posted by joannemullen at 6:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


If they didn't search people at all, well, you're risking another 9/11 which happened because there were basically no security checks on American domestic flights at the time.

What in THE hell are you talking about?!?
posted by The World Famous at 6:24 PM on June 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


Osama Bin Laden is laughing at us from above.

I'm guessing 'below', but yeah.
posted by unSane at 6:26 PM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


The Idaho legislature is also considering an anti-TSA-groping bill.

How about a regular anti-TSA bill?

If they didn't search people at all, well, you're risking another 9/11 which happened because there were basically no security checks on American domestic flights at the time.

Damn it...I have to head over to a test. DAMN IT, damn it. I always miss the best scenes.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:26 PM on June 28, 2011


If they don't X, then we'll have Y, because Y happened before we had X!

From history - the 1980s - we know that:

X = wear legwarmers as fashion accessories, Y = free love
posted by zippy at 6:28 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Out of context, this quote has such creative potential --

undergarment was "wet and it was firm, and they couldn't check it thoroughly."
posted by salvia at 6:31 PM on June 28, 2011


Opposing tyranny is not a partisan issue.

Not when the "tyranny" is being driven as a partisan issue. Look, I don't like the procedures and abuses thereof any more than I liked the color-coordinated "terror alerts" back when the Republicans were in power, but you simply can't deny that while the problem is the same, the reaction to it has been flipped along a partisan line. The TSA has become a massive right-wing dog whistle, all to reinforce the supposed conservative truth that we are all socialists who want to take away your freedom.

As I said in an earlier deleted thread:

I am so sick of this. We deemed it necessary after 9/11 to do this kind of shit, and for eight years (okay, seven and a half) while GWB was in the White House we were constantly told that "FREEDOM ISN'T FREE" and other even less-sensical things, but ever since a (black!) Democrat got in the TSA has been a complete right-wing punchline to the point where you can actually hear the Usual Suspects wetting their pants every time the TSA is pretty much forced to do what they say they are going to do.

Knock it off, assholes! No, not you people doing your jobs - the ones gleefully pointing out EVERY TIME THEY DO THEIR JOB AND THAT THEY DON'T LIKE IT!!!!
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:07 PM on June 26 [+] [!]

posted by Curious Artificer at 6:32 PM on June 28, 2011


I could not believe this when I saw it on TV news and I can't really believe it now. The TSA may be a useful concept, but the actual agents are morons with badges. If someting like this doesn't cause a cleansing backlash then we are fucked as a society.
posted by Splunge at 6:33 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


salvia: "Out of context, this quote has such creative potential --

undergarment was "wet and it was firm, and they couldn't check it thoroughly."
"

Put your hand in it. FOR SAFETY! Or the terrorists WIN!
posted by Splunge at 6:35 PM on June 28, 2011


I'm guessing 'below', but yeah.

He's everywhere.
posted by Sailormom at 6:35 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


He touched me on my front bottom.

Please tell me that was a reference, Decani.
posted by dobbs at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2011


While I hate the indignity of air travel as much as anyone, one thing that bothers me on the "fuck tsa" stance is how it is never followed with a proposal of how these things should work. I understand that security theater is not security, but what is? Should we let people waltz into planes like they do in buses or trains? Should TSA agents be allowed to profile? Is there an acceptable level of security?

As an anecdote, I always heard how intelligent the Israeli approach was compared to the American approach. I flew ElAl when I went to Israel last year and the whole process was every bit as inconvenient as in the US. Maybe more efficient security wise, but every bit as annoying.
posted by falameufilho at 6:45 PM on June 28, 2011


My dad always called it the frontum. So you had your bottom and your frontum, and nobody was supposed to touch you on either one.
posted by KGMoney at 6:46 PM on June 28, 2011


joannemullen: "If they didn't search people at all, well, you're risking another 9/11 which happened because there were basically no security checks on American domestic flights at the time."

Uh, yeah. I distinctly recall going through security checkpoints at the airport before 9/11.

The 9/11 terrorists took over the planes using plastic knives. The security practice that changed in response to that was to harden cockpit doors. Everything else is dramatic security overreach. For example, tapping everyone's phone without a warrant? Fail. The 9/11 hijackers did exactly none of their planning on the phone. Meanwhile the pornoscanners would not only fail at detecting the same plastic knives used by the hijackers, but would also fail to detect a third of a kilo of plastic explosive.

The TSA is security theatre and a welfare system rolled into one.
posted by mullingitover at 6:48 PM on June 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


it is never followed with a proposal of how these things should work.

Just go back to the way it worked before TSA existed. It was fine and at least as effective as the current way of doing it. It is no harder to get contraband on a plane now than it was then. The 9/11 terrorists didn't have bombs or guns or too much shampoo or whatever. There's no reason to have to take my shoes off.
posted by The World Famous at 6:48 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


The 9/11 terrorists took over the planes using plastic knives.

I'm pretty sure they used box cutters.
posted by devinemissk at 6:49 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


They should just let law-abiding citizens carry guns on planes. Then when someone tries to set their shoe on fire someone will just shoot him.

</half sarcasm>
posted by unknownmosquito at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The TSA has become a massive right-wing dog whistle

And you and others are trying to make outrage-over-TSA-outrage a left-wing dog whistle. I was against the erosion of civil liberties and the expansion of police state when George W. Bush was the face of government, and I'm still against it now that Barack H. Obama is the face of government. We should be rejoicing that "right-wingers" are waking up to the erosion of liberties as a dangerous and unnecessary development. As long as you perpetuate the left-vs-right football game mentality you are part of the problem.

Freedom is our common bond as Americans. Without freedom you can't be a progressive Democrat. Without freedom, you can't be a right-wing nutjob. Without freedom, you can't be a tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. Without freedom, you can't be a fundamentalist Christian, or an atheist, or a Buddhist, or whatever. Freedom means letting other people be free, even if you disagree with them. Maybe especially if you disagree with them.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [36 favorites]


While I hate the indignity of air travel as much as anyone, one thing that bothers me on the "fuck tsa" stance is how it is never followed with a proposal of how these things should work. I understand that security theater is not security, but what is? Should we let people waltz into planes like they do in buses or trains? Should TSA agents be allowed to profile? Is there an acceptable level of security?
I think for most people, just going back to the standard from before last November when they implemented the "X-Rays or groping" policy would be a big improvement. The underwear bomber's bomb didn't go off. Neither did the shoe bomber. So do they really need to rummage through people's underwear?
posted by delmoi at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not when the "tyranny" is being driven as a partisan issue. Look, I don't like the procedures and abuses thereof any more than I liked the color-coordinated "terror alerts" back when the Republicans were in power, but you simply can't deny that while the problem is the same, the reaction to it has been flipped along a partisan line. The TSA has become a massive right-wing dog whistle, all to reinforce the supposed conservative truth that we are all socialists who want to take away your freedom.
What's your point, exactly? That there's nothing wrong with the TSA procedures? That it's not a big deal and we shouldn't complain because a democrat is president?
posted by delmoi at 6:54 PM on June 28, 2011


They should just let law-abiding citizens carry guns on planes.

Not to be all New Testament-y or anything, but I'm sure that'd be a great policy if you could find a law-abiding citizen. I've never met one. Have you?
posted by The World Famous at 6:55 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


that'd be a great policy if you could find a law-abiding citizen. I've never met one. Have you?

Hahahaha well good point. And not to go all Objectivist on you but I believe the applicable Ayn Rand quote is

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."

And of course, that's one reason I was being half-sarcastic. We don't need any gunfights in the air :P
posted by unknownmosquito at 6:57 PM on June 28, 2011


"Front bottom"? Is this a Britishism I'm not familiar with?
posted by armage at 1:34 AM on June 29


Reference.
posted by Decani at 7:04 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


salvia: "Out of context, this quote has such creative potential --

undergarment was "wet and it was firm, and they couldn't check it thoroughly.""

Put your hand in it. FOR SAFETY! Or the terrorists WIN!
posted by Splunge


Sorry to derail a serious topic, but the idiot father of my children used to check the kids nappies (yeah, I know, diapers) by sticking his hand down the back, palm-outwards so it didn't look like he was grabbing their butt. None of this wimpy smell-it-to-discover-what's-in-it rubbish.

I regret that he wasn't around his children enough to eventually plunge his hand into a nappy full of nice, warm, wet shit.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:06 PM on June 28, 2011


"Front bottom"? Is this a Britishism I'm not familiar with?
posted by armage at 1:34 AM on June 29

Reference.
posted by Decani at 7:04 PM on June 28 [+] [!]


That may have been your intent, Decani. But here in the United States of America, we take things a little more literally.
posted by The World Famous at 7:11 PM on June 28, 2011


You want a solution? How about we use the same security system as the Israelis use. And then we just have to change the entitlement that people in the USA are used to.

There you go. Fixed. I won't even ask for a footnote.
posted by Splunge at 7:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sigh.

9/11 worked because the rule was "Cooperate with hijackers, you are more likely to survive." The 9/11 attackers exploited that to get control of four planes, because they didn't intend to survive and didn't care about the hostages.

The attack was countered before the last plane fell out of the sky -- the pax and crew of UA93 fought to retake the plane, and prevented it from being used as a weapon.

That attack is done. It will not happen. Nobody will cooperate with a hijacker now, because hijacking means more than death, it means your death and the potential death of thouands more.

That's why we're safe from hijackers. It's not the TSA. It's the pilots, crew and pax that will not just let a plane be taken. It's the locked door to the cockpit to give the pilots time to defend the plane, and if they can't, make sure it cannot be used as a weapon.

The fact that we're not just laughing at the shoe and underwear bombers is proof of just how bad we suck.
posted by eriko at 7:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [57 favorites]


If you will lose your job by not getting on an airplane, then get on the plane. If your parent is dying and they live half way across the country, get on the plane. But otherwise, just don't fly. If the people who are upset by the TSA boycotted the travel/vacation industry for 12 months, this would come to an end.
posted by marsha56 at 7:17 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


If they didn't search people at all, well, you're risking another 9/11 which happened because there were basically no security checks on American domestic flights at the time.

This is a strawman, although, I think, a well intended one. I think you'll find it difficult to to argue that everyone is objecting to security checks that efficiently accomplish their purpose (at least anyone here).

The objection is to security checks that are expensive, invasive, have possible negative effects on health, and, due to problems with their implementation, have no security value whatsoever.

Expense: The body scanners cost approx. $250,000 each. They are slower than the previous security screening methods, by a factor of at least 5. It takes a few seconds to walk through a metal detector, but at least 30 seconds to undergo a body scan. Now you need more staff to screen the same amount of passengers, plus to have to pay for the machine. The machines weigh a lot; floors in some airport had to be reinforced to bear the weight = more costs.

Invasive: The 'enhanced' pat downs implemented by the TSA generally involve contact with genitals, breast and buttocks. Without exceptions, even where people have removed their clothing, are wearing skin tight clothing, or are tiny kids; those examples are unnecessarily invasive. Plus the whole 'depictions of nudity' kerfuffle - that could have been avoided if the TSA used technology that showed possible threats on a generic avatar (see the link below for examples), but they didn't bother doing any consultation before they implemented the system, and so never thought about that. I understand that they are now retrofitting the existing machines to use avatars.

See also my previous post about the privacy-related discrimination inherent in the body scanning process.

Health effects: With respect to the backscatter x-ray technology: uncertain - see the link above. I think that there are few objections to mm wave radar tech in that respect.

Implementation: Random isn't random. It has been found that when screening officers have the option of selecting whom to scan, they will, by and large, choose people who they think will not give them any trouble (i.e., screening officers are lazy and don't seek out confrontation). Those people are unlikely to be carrying weapons. Or they will profile, which is discriminatory and generally ineffective - terrorists don't try to look like terrorists, or there would be no reason to have security in the first place; do you really think that there are no white, middle aged extremists? Plus, there's some evidence that the body scanners might not be effective, even if you do pick the right guy for a scan.

Further, the machines are so expensive and labour intensive, and therefore rare, that only a handful of people can be scanned. So, if you accept the assertion that there are security threats that only body scans can possibly detect, terrorists could easily brute force the problem by sending five bombers instead of one - the probability that they would all get 'randomly' chosen for the scan is exceedingly low.

So yes. It's security theatre. It's there to provide the impression (and therefore the deterrent, but not not the actual outcome) that bombers would be caught if they attempted to get through. But that simply doesn't hold up - it's not an effective security measure. Further, because the holes are so obvious, it's not an effective deterrent either.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:24 PM on June 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


Further, the machines are so expensive and labour intensive, and therefore rare, that only a handful of people can be scanned

In my local airport, and other airports I've flown out of, the "expert traveler" lines (that promise shorter, faster security lines) every person is required to go through the scanner (or pat-down if they opt-out).
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:32 PM on June 28, 2011


So you had your bottom and your frontum

That would make a lot more sense if your butt was called a "backum." Just saying.

I fly 25+ times a year. I've been subjected to every indignity. I know some TSA agents by face, at least, at certain airports. The whole thing is stupid and when you see them stripping down some 90 year old in a wheelchair (which I have seen) you just shake your head. God knows how much radiation frequent fliers absorb in those machines. But dammit, the really stupid part is that we know very little of it is effective.

The obvious solution is just to drug everyone to sleep on every flight.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:32 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


BTW, thescientificmethhead, thanks for this post. I find the growing revolt of the States against the US Federal Government particularly interesting.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:33 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my local airport, and other airports I've flown out of, the "expert traveler" lines (that promise shorter, faster security lines) every person is required to go through the scanner (or pat-down if they opt-out).

So, if you wait in line longer (in the non-expert traveller line), you won't get scanned? You just go through the standard metal detector, x-ray bags, procedure?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:35 PM on June 28, 2011


Huh. I guess that's that when it comes to my attempts to get weed on the plane, then. Also, what the fucking fuck?
posted by angrycat at 7:35 PM on June 28, 2011


Profiling. Hmm. I think many airport security employees are already doing that. Here in Australia, while trying to board domestic flights, I have been pulled out for the explosives testing about 75% of the time. This, despite them saying that no profiling is used. This test happens immediately after you've gone through the WTMD, which never beeps for me because I've worked out a quick routine for removing my no-lace air-travel shoes, belt, wallet, keys and even my spectacles (tiny metal screws, why take a chance?). But I get pulled out all the time. It is hard to believe that they aren't profiling.
posted by vidur at 7:36 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's time for Americans to be brave again.

Time for us to stop putting up with being groped, prodded, threatened, and treated like cattle because of some nebulous fear of terrorism. Time to walk proud on two legs.


It's time... to write a strongly worded letter and post it on the internet!
posted by indubitable at 7:37 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


You just go through the standard metal detector, x-ray bags, procedure?

Yes, the standard "take off your shoes, your belt, and empty your pockets" procedure.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:37 PM on June 28, 2011


But I get pulled out all the time. It is hard to believe that they aren't profiling.

As do I. Brown guy with a beard. Surprised?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:39 PM on June 28, 2011


This is why we should profile.

Janet Napolitano: Screening Muslim men is not "good logic."
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2011


But I get pulled out all the time. It is hard to believe that they aren't profiling.

As do I. Brown guy with a beard. Surprised?


The beard is optional, in my experience.
posted by vidur at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2011


1) I will never go through the body scanner. If the government collects data that shows associated health risks, we will NEVER be told about it.

2) I went through the enhanced pat down recently. I thought it was very non-invasive. I have had a more thorough groping trying to get into a concert. Perhaps my TSA guy wasn't that good at it.

3) If a terrorist really wanted to end us, all they would need to do is develop a bomb that is stored in the anus/rectum area, and is also not-detectable by the body scanner. Given our reactionary approach to airport security, if that happened, then god help us. Your local TSA agent will have his/her finger up every single passenger's bunghole. I don't think our country could survive that. But on the brighter side, early diagnosis of prostate cancer is a good thing.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]



In my local airport, and other airports I've flown out of, the "expert traveler" lines (that promise shorter, faster security lines) every person is required to go through the scanner (or pat-down if they opt-out).

You just go through the standard metal detector, x-ray bags, procedure?


Yes, the standard "take off your shoes, your belt, and empty your pockets" procedure.

So, what you are saying is, if I was a terrorist trying to get a bomb on board, and (as asserted by the TSA) the only screening method that would detect me is a body scan, all I have to do is wait in line ten minutes to GUARANTEE I won't get scanned?

I'm weeping openly now. People are staring at me.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:44 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


3) If a terrorist really wanted to end us, all they would need to do is develop a bomb that is stored in the anus/rectum area, and is also not-detectable by the body scanner.

Done and done. In 2009.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:45 PM on June 28, 2011


If a terrorist really wanted to end us, all they would need to do is develop a bomb that is stored in the anus/rectum area, and is also not-detectable by the body scanner.

Done. What now?
posted by vidur at 7:47 PM on June 28, 2011


Jinx.
posted by vidur at 7:47 PM on June 28, 2011


Full-body scanners may not have thwarted Underwear Bomber
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:48 PM on June 28, 2011


you simply can't deny that while the problem is the same, the reaction to it has been flipped along a partisan line. The TSA has become a massive right-wing dog whistle, all to reinforce the supposed conservative truth that we are all socialists who want to take away your freedom.

Sure I can. I took offense to warrantless wiretapping, denials of due process to terror prisoners, torture authorization, and all kinds of other awful policies under the Bush administration because they were horrendous violations of civil liberties and human rights, not because they were Republican policies.

For the same reasons, I take offense to the ever-increasingly-absurd TSA security theater in general, and specifically the recent TSA policy change that forces you to choose between invasive physical contact to your genital areas or stupidly expensive machines that have unevaluated health risks and have been shown by independent tests, and admitted by their manufacturers, not to actually detect the threats they are intended to detect. (Especially since, when news of these machines under development first came out, we were mollified with all kinds of stories that turned out to be outright lies. "There will be no penalty for opting out of an advanced imaging scan" - nope, you'll be forced to step aside and wait for 15 minutes for someone to grope you instead. "They will not be networked and there will be no way to save images" - in fact, the purchase contracts required that they be able to save and transmit images over a network)

It's not a party-line disagreement, this isn't a dog whistle issue that only Republicans care about. There are a lot of progressives, like myself, who hate it too. And I don't give a shit if it reflects poorly on the current Democratic administration for people to get upset about this type of thing. If they're so worried about it, maybe they should try not instituting these bullshit policies in the first place, instead of trying to get us to shut up or turn against each other if we question them.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:48 PM on June 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


"What now?"

How about "chill the fuck out?" Explosives are not magic. They only carry so much energy per pound. You need more explosives than you can cram up your ass to do any damage to anything or anyone.
posted by ocschwar at 7:48 PM on June 28, 2011


Jinx.

Damn it. I owe you a coke.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:49 PM on June 28, 2011


This TSA horseshit is completely baffling. You'd think the one issue we could all get together on is no federal agents touching my genitals or the genitals of my spouse and children, thanks all the same.

But no, somehow the same rotten, make-believe partisanship and competitive synchronized bedwetting that poisons everything in this seething cauldron of bug-addled insanity finds its way into even this dead-simple mental exercise -- and meanwhile federal agents are touching my genitals and the genitals of my spouse and children.

I used to love flying. Flying synthesizes everything that's good in life: sitting, staring, snappy uniforms, congealed food. Whatever. Go to sleep in Queens, wake up in Russian airspace. Holy shit! But I'll piss beetles before I set foot on another plane, not until this TSA horseshit is reigned in. I wrote that down and mailed it to my assembypeople, congresspeople, and airlines, for all the good it'll do.

Defund the TSA, set the money on fire, and use the ash to draw giant Glyphs of Warding all over the terminal -- the likelihood of dying in a terrorist incident is exactly the same as it is when federal agents are touching my genitals and the genitals of my spouse and children.
posted by milquetoast at 7:49 PM on June 28, 2011 [18 favorites]


fourcheesemac: "So you had your bottom and your frontum

That would make a lot more sense if your butt was called a "backum." Just saying.

I fly 25+ times a year. I've been subjected to every indignity. I know some TSA agents by face, at least, at certain airports. The whole thing is stupid and when you see them stripping down some 90 year old in a wheelchair (which I have seen) you just shake your head. God knows how much radiation frequent fliers absorb in those machines. But dammit, the really stupid part is that we know very little of it is effective.

The obvious solution is just to drug everyone to sleep on every flight.
"

You know where that goes, don't you? The future.
posted by Splunge at 7:50 PM on June 28, 2011


I take offense to the ever-increasingly-absurd TSA security theater

People keep referring to the TSA dehumanization as "security theater," but when the agents are sticking their hands down your pants, smacking your genitals, and taking naked body pictures of you than the operation has become interactive theater on a level the Blue Man Group never dreamed of.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:51 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I avoid flying as much as possible. I can't wait til I'm forced to make a choice between getting groped or getting radiated and having the piece of metal in my neck (bone graft after a car accident many years ago) shows up.

And I found myself thinking that I wouldn't personally like anyone in that family in that TSA filming incident but I'm glad they did what they did.
posted by etaoin at 7:51 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about "chill the fuck out?"

I'm with you on that. But I'm not the one who needs convincing.
posted by vidur at 7:56 PM on June 28, 2011


Osama Bin Laden is laughing at us from above.

below, Sailormom, Osama Bin Laden went to hell, he's laughing at us from below
posted by the noob at 7:59 PM on June 28, 2011


Reminder that five years later we're still putting up with the stupid tiny liquid bottles in a plastic bag hassle because we're afraid of bombs that would be impossible to successfully assemble, and which couldn't create enough energy to do any real damage.

But hey, ten years after the first guy failed miserably to use a shoe bomb, the TSA's still dying for someone to develop an automated shoe-scanner that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece, so maybe by 2016 we won't have to take our shoes off anymore! You know, after we throw hundreds of millions of dollars in kickback contracts at former officials in the national security apparatus to install the things in every airport, while slashing funding for worthless budget items like WIC and the EPA.

it's just so goddamn depressing that neither party seems the least bit motivated to change anything about this
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 8:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Some random Obama fanboys who felt the need to defend everything he does chimed in with some wild conspiracy theories sans any evidence.

Haha oh man, you haven't read The eXile(d) before have you
posted by p3on at 8:09 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


the actual agents are morons with badges

"TSA is nothing more than a jobs program for the otherwise unemployable."

As technology increases, it will be used to implement searches and movement control in every major transportation node.

Amtrak Chief Targets TSA For Conducting “Illegal” Grope Downs

TSA to oversee searches at Santa Fe prom

it's not an effective deterrent either.

Fed Retaliation: TSA Sexual Assault on TX Lawmakers 'Left Private Parts Sore'
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:12 PM on June 28, 2011


For some real terror, picture twenty guys who understand op-sec, who are patient, realistic, clever, and willing to die, and who know what can be accomplished with a modest stash of dimethylmercury.

Jesus. I really wish I hadn't pictured that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:13 PM on June 28, 2011


Inspect a million turbans, however...

I'm in favor of this as well in case of future incidents of Voldemort hiding on the back of seemingly innocent teacher's heads.
posted by NoraReed at 8:27 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's not a party-line disagreement, this isn't a dog whistle issue that only Republicans care about. There are a lot of progressives, like myself, who hate it too. And I don't give a shit if it reflects poorly on the current Democratic administration for people to get upset about this type of thing. If they're so worried about it, maybe they should try not instituting these bullshit policies in the first place, instead of trying to get us to shut up or turn against each other if we question them.

The Democrats didn't invent the TSA, they inherited it. The difference between the parties is that the Republicans didn't give a shit about the civil liberties issue when Bush was in charge, and if Obama had set about dismantling the TSA they would be screaming that he was exposing Americans to the risk of terrorism, that he was a crypto-muslin (sic) and what-all else.Republicans, by and large, do not care about this issue deeply except insofar as it inconveniences them. They are manipulated into caring about it, and folks like yourself, who actually do care about it, are manipulated into thinking that you have something in common with them. You don't; you're being used.

You don't have to be a fan of the TSA; I'm not. But to get some traction, it's important to propose a less intrusive but credibly effective alternative, because I guarantee that the day Obama says he's dialing back airport security the rightwing will turn on a dime and start complaining that he's making Americans unsafe.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:29 PM on June 28, 2011


the rightwing will turn on a dime and start complaining that he's making Americans unsafe.

Who gives a damn if we can all agree that DHS is making Americans un-free.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:36 PM on June 28, 2011


The TSA has become a massive right-wing dog whistle
There's a quote (by an Isaac Asimov character??) that I wish I could remember more precisely. It goes something like:

"Isn't it better that they learn justice through adversity than that you forget it in prosperity?"

If some parts of the "right wing" (obviously not most parts, or this travesty would be over already) have figured out that a police state apparatus is a bad thing, then you ought to be welcoming them and figuring out how to build on that common ground, not switching to pro-police-state views to spite them. The idealists don't deserve your spite, and the hypocrites are just going to take advantage of your groundwork once they're back in power.
posted by roystgnr at 8:38 PM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts wrote The 'enhanced' pat downs [are implemented] without exceptions, even where people have removed their clothing, are wearing skin tight clothing, or are tiny kids; those examples are unnecessarily invasive ...

[Screening officers] choose people who they think will not give them any trouble... Those people are unlikely to be carrying weapons...

[Profiling] is discriminatory and generally ineffective...


You seem to arguing that certain categories of people (the very young, the demure, the naked) are obviously not a threat - or at least are less threatening than other categories - and should be excepted from enhanced techniques. I know that you are referring to profiling in the conventional sense (dark, bearded, and Muslim), but how is making exceptions not a form of reverse profiling: "Oh, that person is clearly not a terrorist." How do you reconcile random screening with selective non-enforcement?

To be clear, my first post was a joke and I don't advocate ethnic profiling. But I am wondering where we draw the line. I think any reasonable person should know the elderly lady in the FPP did not warrant a strip search, but by making that assumption are we not profiling the remaining population by default? Are "don't inspect Muslims more often than others because they are not more likely to be terrorists" and "don't inspect the elderly more often than others because they are less likely to be terrorists" contradictory positions and in fact, profiling?

Again, IANAT(roll).
posted by troll at 9:04 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


David Foster Wallace: "Assume for a moment that some of these measures really have helped make our persons and property safer—are they worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether they’re worth it? Was there no such debate because we’re not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?”
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ack, I meant don't inspect the elderly as often as others.

Key distinction.
posted by troll at 9:25 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Democrats didn't invent the TSA, they inherited it.

Yeah, thanks for the clarification. It's also an executive agency, which means that the current administration gets to appoint its leaders and has some input into its current direction.

They are manipulated into caring about it, and folks like yourself, who actually do care about it, are manipulated into thinking that you have something in common with them. You don't; you're being used.

You don't have a fucking clue why I care about what I care about, and I'm not being used by anyone. I know the Republicans didn't suddenly start caring about civil liberties, and I never claimed otherwise. I was responding to Curious Artificer's claim that this was a party-line issue that only Republicans "care" about, and you seemed to have missed my long explanation of why I care about it. Hint: This isn't some change in position I've recently arrived at, and it's not a result of anyone "using" me. Hint 2: Condescending at people who don't value the same things as you is dickish.

You don't have to be a fan of the TSA; I'm not. But to get some traction, it's important to propose a less intrusive but credibly effective alternative

This is the problem: The current policies aren't effective. Did heightened security catch the shoe bomber? No. Did making people take off their shoes stop the plot (which wouldn't have worked, see link in previous comment) to make binary liquid bombs on a plane? No. Did the tiny-bottles-in-a-bag liquid policy stop the underwear bomber? No. Have any of the heightened screening procedures caught any further underwear bombs, liquid bombs, or shoe bombs? No. But here's the thing: Even without those heightened procedures, did anybody succeed in committing any other acts of terrorism on American planes? No!

So here's my alternative, which is exactly as effective as the current policy: Keep the reinforced cockpit doors and make sure passengers know to use their superior numbers to confront attempted hijackers. Keep x-ray screening machines and those scanners that they use to swab down zippers and scan for chemical traces. Get rid of the shoe shit, the backscatter machines, the dumb liquid policy. Check it out, my suggestion works exactly as well as the bullshit we put up with now, costs significantly less, saves time, and isn't a horrendous invasion of privacy!

I guarantee that the day Obama says he's dialing back airport security the rightwing will turn on a dime and start complaining that he's making Americans unsafe.

Agreed, but this is a messaging problem, not a security problem. Look, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are infinitesimal. You're over 300,000 times more likely to die in a car accident. You're 50 times more likely to be struck by lightning! You cannot make a plausible argument that this risk is worth the time, money, and dignity we spend on airport security measures.

Turn it against Republicans. They're obsessed with seeming like tough manly men. Get Pelosi and Barney Frank up there to give them shit for being cowards. "It's been ten years since 9/11. Bin Laden is dead and disillusioned youth in the Arab world are turning to democratic uprisings to improve their lives, instead of terror. Our FBI's investigative prowess is beyond compare. Ten years ago was a scary time, but we're a safe nation now. The Republicans want you to be scared, they want you to cower in fear. That's no way to live, and it won't make us any safer. It's time to stop being cowards and start going back to living normal lives again."

(The odds of a modern Democrat actually saying something that ballsy and accurate are probably about as low as the odds of dying in a terrorist attack, so I'm not holding my breath)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 9:28 PM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


You are more likely to be killed by a cop than by a terrorist.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:34 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


If they didn't search people at all, well, you're risking another 9/11

No. Just no. This was a lie back in 2001/2 when they started ramping up the TSA, and it's a lie now.

Things that would successfully prevent "another 9/11":

1. Passenger and crew awareness that a plane is more useful as a weapon than as a container full of hostages. The planes that flew into the WTC did so, I expect, with the passengers buckled into their seats, probably believing that if they played it cool they'd end up in some banana republic sitting on the tarmac for a while while negotiators and/or the Hostage Rescue Team sorted things out. Now, there is no question that it's better to rush the would-be hijackers and take your chances than die when they kamikaze the plane.

2. Reinforced cockpit doors and better procedures for flight-deck personnel. Together with #1, a hijacking is now much harder to physically accomplish. I'm not sure the doors themselves matter without the attitude shift, but they don't hurt either. The only people really inconvenienced by this are the flight crew and a whole lot of 11-year-olds who will sadly never be able to go see the cockpit while in-flight like their parents might have once done.

That's all that is or was ever necessary. All the other crap the TSA has done is either security theater, or is designed to counter other—sometimes seemingly hypothetical—threats. It has nothing to do with "another 9/11".

Most of the really invasive crap the TSA does isn't about preventing hijackings, but about preventing bombings—a totally different scenario. While this might on its face seem like a noble goal, keep in mind that we know from experience in other countries that terrorists are the ultimate opportunists. And the TSA have happily created densely-packed security lines outside their checkpoints which on any given day contain more than an airliner's worth of passengers, to which a would-be bomber can walk a rolling suitcase's worth of explosives and shrapnel right into the middle of. (Or they could just drop it into one of the many wastebaskets conveniently placed to receive travelers' forbidden nail clippers, nose-hair tweezers, and bottled water, and detonate it from afar—this eliminates the need to find someone willing to take the express train to paradise, much more of a problem for terrorist groups than most Americans realize.)

I am, to say the least, a bit skeptical about an agency that obsesses over three-ounce containers of exotic (perhaps nonexistent) liquid explosives, while at the same time lining passengers up like ducks in a shooting gallery for anyone who can get their hands on some TATP and nails. It seems a little, well, inconsistent. However, it is perfectly consistent if you view the TSA not as an actual anti-terrorism agency, but really as a sort of government-funded PR theater troupe putting on a benefit concert for the airlines, using props purchased at great cost from companies like L3. The principle at work seems to be: as long as Joe Jihad doesn't get his bomb actually onto an airplane, which tends to make people a bit skittish about the whole flying business, it's not really a problem.

And all that's without even getting into the issue of the mandatory "papers please" ID check, which is actually the main cause of the checkpoint lines, does literally nothing for security, is nearly unparalleled in the U.S. in peacetime, and conveniently prevents travelers from swapping tickets with each other at the last minute without paying hefty change fees to the airlines.

it's important to propose a less intrusive but credibly effective alternative

Here's the alternative: eliminate the TSA, scrap the pornoscanners, and roll security back to a sane, ID-check-free pre-9/11 standard. Take the budget money and give it to the FBI, who are tasked with investigating terrorist organizations on U.S. soil as it is, and let the people who hopefully have an understanding of the actual threat decide where to spend it. Train U.S. bomb squads to the Israeli model, which emphasizes not only the technical aspects of responding to bombings and threats, but also the need to restore order and normalcy quickly. (The Israelis have teams of cleanup crews—up to and including teams of Orthodox volunteers who pick up body parts in compliance with religious customs—who move in the second the investigation and evidence-collection stage is complete, with the goal of having a site bombed in the evening of one day restored and ready for foot traffic the next morning. Regardless of your feelings on Israeli policies generally, that is how you spit in the face of terrorism.)

The American public has been cowed and manipulated by fear of 9/11 for more than a decade now, but I think that if we could get political leadership able to resist the temptation to use that fear for their own base purposes, we would find that Americans are just as able to square our shoulders and drive on, as are those in other countries who have dealt with terrorism more sanely.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [23 favorites]


Maybe the silliest part of the TSA situation is that in the end, September 11 killed more people in cars than in airplanes, because of the hysteria and stupidity. Comparing the 12 months after Sept. 11 to the 12 months before, there were 57 billion fewer domestic air passenger miles. Assuming that these people went by car instead, and assuming the average fatality rate of 3.1 deaths per billion passenger kilometres, there were an additional 285 road deaths, compared with the 246 people who died on the four airplanes. And that's including the terrorists.

Meanwhile, in the world of anecdotes: the last time I flew, I had a long wait to get to security, during which I realized that I had been planting my garden immediately before coming to the airport, and my garden is only two Rubbermaid tubs on my balcony, so it's hands-in-dirt fertilizing, digging and so on. I realized I may well have had fertilizer residue on my hands, which is also potentially a bomb-making component. There was a line in the room I was in, or another line in the next room. I saw that they were swabbing people's hands in my room, so when I got spot where the line splits, I went to the next room. Where they weren't swabbing. I assume that if I am smart enough to figure out that I may have a suspicious chemical residue on my hands, anybody who's just been building or handling a fucking bomb has figured that out, too. So the entire procedure protects... nobody.

The TSA are not "protecting" flyers from terrorists (which is a demographic likely consisting of about ten people to begin with). They are protecting flyers from the sliver of terrorists who are smart enough to plan a successful attack on an airplane, but stupid enough to get caught by the TSA. I suspect this to be a group consisting of absolutely nobody.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:56 PM on June 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


Assuming that these people went by car instead

I don't disagree that the response was stupid and in many cases counterproductive but this is a giant begging of the question. It's very, very possible that people simply traveled less.
posted by Justinian at 10:13 PM on June 28, 2011


TSA managment are a bunch of complete idiots. The bodies aren't even buried and the skeletons are out in the open. Someday I will come back with some stories.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:44 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guarantee that the day Obama says he's dialing back airport security the rightwing will turn on a dime

I also dream.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:49 PM on June 28, 2011


I don't understand, if we all write the person in charge, she/he can change these horrid tactics, right?

I mean, who has the power to stop this. That is the person to blame. If you yell and scream marginal similes, direct them at the person in power.
posted by clavdivs at 11:05 PM on June 28, 2011


I don't know if it's been mentioned in this thread, or perhaps before... But let's face it. If a "terrorist" wants to do maximum damage, why do they have to get on the fucking plane?

The bottleneck at the check in would kill more people.

Let's get real folks. The aircraft isn't the issue. The "terror" is.
posted by Splunge at 11:09 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


You want a solution? How about we use the same security system as the Israelis use. And then we just have to change the entitlement that people in the USA are used to.
Yeah, let’s make it so any Muslims or non-white-Christian Americans have to spend hours going through security. And be sure to quiz people about their religious background so you can prove they’re not lying about it. That’s the American way!
because I guarantee that the day Obama says he's dialing back airport security the rightwing will turn on a dime and start complaining that he's making Americans unsafe.
So fucking what? Why are democrats so afraid of rhetoric?
The Democrats didn't invent the TSA, they inherited it.
These rules, which is what people are complaining about started under Obama under the TSA chief he appointed and stood by.
posted by delmoi at 11:22 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


You seem to arguing that certain categories of people (the very young, the demure, the naked) are obviously not a threat - or at least are less threatening than other categories - and should be excepted from enhanced techniques.

Troll, this is not my argument.

My point in that respect is there is no security utility in patting down someone who is nearly naked, and could not possibly be concealing weapons or explosives on their person. If there is zero security utility, why do it?

Regarding the tendency to select passengers who are unlikely to be cause trouble, my point is that so called 'random' screenings are not always actually random. If they are deliberately screening people whom they don't believe to be a threat, there is zero security utility. Further, that means they are missing out on the opportunity to screen people who they think might be a threat!

Random screenings arguably have security utility, in the same way that random breath testing does - you might get caught. Any move or effect that makes random screening less random degrades that security outcome.

Are "don't inspect Muslims more often than others because they are not more likely to be terrorists" and "don't inspect the elderly more often than others because they are less likely to be terrorists" contradictory positions and in fact, profiling?


Not necessarily, and yes, in a way. But neither of those questions are particularly relevant or important. The reason that both options are bad is that they undermine true randomness, and the resulting deterrent. If you clearly don't inspect old people, then old people will be used to carry bombs and weapons. But that doesn't mean that you have to slavishly stick to poorly formed protocols when there is clearly no security threat, resulting in public humiliation and trauma.

As a side note, smart people with relevant knowledge and qualifications say that profiling, that is to say, automatic profiling based on isolated characteristics such as race or age doesn't work
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:48 PM on June 28, 2011


Wait. I thought Y.D.A.U. was 2009, not 2011.
posted by funkiwan at 11:56 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


but this is a giant begging of the question. It's very, very possible that people simply traveled less.

Fair point. Absolutely, some of the travel was not made, and that was a simplistic overestimate. On the other hand, I didn't account for the fact that air travel was increasing (2001-02 should have had higher travel than 2000-01, not the same as I assumed), and I didn't include reduced international travel (84 billion passenger miles reduction). Most of that international travel would be trips that weren't made, to be sure. Some of it (e.g. NYC-Toronto or Montreal; PDX-Vancouver) could switch to car. A fair portion of international travellers, I would suggest, would swap their plans from an international air trip to a domestic car trip.

And a flight from SFO to Asia* is as dangerous as a drive to Monterey; a flight from NYC to Europe* is twice as dangerous as the drive to Atlantic City.

* average of distance 10 busiest airports in continent
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:29 AM on June 29, 2011


Joannemullen: It's all very well complaining about security theatre but there clearly is a threat - a host of attacks on American soil have been foiled in the planning stage by the types of surveillance and investigation which are also very unpopular on Mefi.

But have any of them been prevented by TSA searches? Otherwise, unless your argument is "people on MetaFilter dislike these things, and these things have prevented attacks, therefore everything else people on MetaFilter dislike must also prevent attacks", I don't think I follow the logic.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:00 AM on June 29, 2011


If a terrorist really wanted to end us, all they would need to do is develop a bomb that is stored in the anus/rectum area, and is also not-detectable by the body scanner.

Gives a whole new meaning to the MeFi-ism "asplode."

Also been thinking apropos the wildfire eating Los Alamos that the smart terrorist would have much bigger bang for his buck just dropping lit cigarette butts around, say, major weapons labs in the bone dry southwest.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:51 AM on June 29, 2011


delmoi writes "So do they really need to rummage through people's underwear?"

If you think that physical body searches are reasonable than it should be self evident that you can't make policy to not include specific areas of the body.

troll writes "I think any reasonable person should know the elderly lady in the FPP did not warrant a strip search,"

A reasonable person who thinks physical searches are effective in any case should know that you can't exclude supposedly non-dangerous persons.
posted by Mitheral at 3:54 AM on June 29, 2011


But have any of them been prevented by TSA searches?

And of course we don't know if any attacks have been prevented by TSA searches. We know those searches are woefully inadequate and let many dangerous substances and items through while inconveniencing and embarrassing non-criminal travelers. But I'd be careful not to say they haven't stopped any terrorists from trying.

But that's so like America, always locking the gate after the horses are out. Look, at this point these guys can move to softer targets. A shoulder-fired missile fired from a boat at a jet leaving Kennedy airport perhaps? Parking a tanker truck full of flammable gas on a railroad crossing maybe? Lighting a wildfire downwind of a major nuclear plant?

Or hell, drive to Virginia, go to a gun show, buy an AR15 and 2000 rounds of ammo, modify the gun to be fully auto in an afternoon with a nail file, walk into a mall, and kill 300 people in 10 minutes.

Can you imagine TSA in every shopping mall?
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:56 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The AR15 shoots a .223 standard. A larger round would be in order. And the full-auto function is enabled by adding a part, not removing. Just sayin'.
posted by troll at 4:25 AM on June 29, 2011


I've actually fired one. I know what round it uses. A few .223s in you and you're toast.

Never modded one to full auto however, so I stand corrected there.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:40 AM on June 29, 2011


(because that's a 10 year stint in federal prison, so i sure hope you haven't either)
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:49 AM on June 29, 2011


Nothing is going to happen to the TSA. The GOP is too terrified of Muslims and the Liberals know that if they relax even one TSA standard, Andrew Breitbart will sneak a box cutter onto a plane and that will be the end of it. The purpose of the TSA is not to seriously avert terrorism, it's to "prove" that we take terrorism seriously.

Even if there were a major airplane-related terror event, no one would argue (no one with any power) that this is evidence that the TSA is useless. They would instead argue that it doesn't go far enough and we all need to be anesthetized and embedded in lucite before boarding a plane.

The only good thing here is, since the handful of real terrorists, the multitudes of phantom terrorists, and Washington DC are so obsessed with air travel, we don't have agents checking our diapers as we enter a mall or Disneyworld or movie theater.
posted by Legomancer at 6:18 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


And of course we don't know if any attacks have been prevented by TSA searches.

I think we do, don't we? I mean, generally the government reports when it has foiled a terrorist plot. The shoe bomber and the underwear bomber weren't hushed up; if someone was actually caught at a US airport trying to carry a bomb or a gun on board, I feel pretty confident it would be reported in the media.

If you mean "of course, we don't know whether terrorists have abandoned their plans to bring guns or bombs on board planes because of TSA searches" - that's definitely true, but it's probably not a net profit if terrorists decide not to try to smuggle guns or bombs onto planes, and instead look for softer targets. As you say, there are plenty of ways to perform terrorist attacks which don't involve getting through airport security. Whereas if they decide to abandon their terroristic ways, that is a net profit. It's hard to quantify that sort of thing, though.

But Joannemullen's point seemed to be that other things that are unpopular on MetaFilter (surveillance, investigation) have successfully prevented attacks on American soil, and therefore that the TSA's current actions, because they are unpopular on MetaFilter, are ipso facto an effective prophylactic against terrorists. By which logic we should have a circumcised, declawed cat superglued to an iPhone in the cargo hold of every plane.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:19 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The GOP is too terrified of Muslims and the Liberals know that if they relax even one TSA standard, Andrew Breitbart will sneak a box cutter onto a plane and that will be the end of it.

Jean Baudrillard referred to this situation as a system of binary regulation stabilized by two political parties, two superpowers, etc.

"For Baudrillard, this binary system constitutes a 'deterrence model' in which all radical change is ruled out, since the very fact of an option between different political parties, products, life-styles and so forth acts as a deterrent against demands for radical social change." - Douglas Kellner, Jean Baudrillard: From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:33 AM on June 29, 2011


The GOP is too terrified of Muslims and the Liberals know that if they relax even one TSA standard, Andrew Breitbart will sneak a box cutter onto a plane and that will be the end of it.

And then we can give that fucker Breitbart the chair once and for all. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:41 AM on June 29, 2011


Just saw this on Drudge:

The Transportation Security Administration employee charged with assaulting a coworker who taunted him about the size of his penis after his genitalia was exposed by a full-body scanner has agreed to attend anger management classes and write a letter of apology as part of a settlement of his criminal case, records show.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:08 AM on June 29, 2011


I had a TSA pat-down recently, because I refused the pornscan on a flight from Chicago O'Hare. I must say the gentleman was very professional and polite, and told me exactly what he was going to do before he did it. He did touch my front bottom, though. I was quite perturbed.

Charlie Rangel, is that you??
posted by stenseng at 9:40 AM on June 29, 2011


What possible justification do they have for redacting all of the actual data from that NIST report? Every empirical figure is redacted.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:04 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If some parts of the "right wing" (obviously not most parts, or this travesty would be over already) have figured out that a police state apparatus is a bad thing, then you ought to be welcoming them and figuring out how to build on that common ground, not switching to pro-police-state views to spite them.

Except the frothers getting worked up about this aren't concerned about a police state, they're concerned about a Democrat in power and everything associated with that position. As soon as the reins get handed back to someone who serves their favorite flavor of kool-aid, their handlers will stop blowing the whistles and frothing pack will happily go back to not giving two shits about civil liberties.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:07 AM on June 29, 2011


If some parts of the "right wing" (obviously not most parts, or this travesty would be over already) have figured out that a police state apparatus is a bad thing

They have not. They have figured out that a police state apparatus is unpopular and that the President is a Democrat, so they should grandstand against it. Even the Republican Speaker of the Texas House has publicly admitted that their bill is a publicity stunt.

The TSA is bad. Groping and pornoscanners are bad. Security theater is bad.

But the Republican politicians who are temporarily arguing against the TSA now are still not your friends and not on your side. They have no intention whatsoever of actually doing away with pornoscanners or groping or taking your shoes off or any other bits of security theater, not if there's contractor money to be made. The right reply to Republican politicians grandstanding against the TSA now is not "Hey, good job!" but "Fuck you! Where were you when security theater was getting started? Where were you when Bush made us start taking our shoes off? Where were you when the TSA was doing notionally random patdowns under Bush?"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the republicans are for civil liberties and less invasive airport security, even if it is only show, I would want democrats to reach out and actually get some changes made -- and if they back down, well, at least democrats tried.
posted by Shit Parade at 10:41 AM on June 29, 2011


If the republicans are for civil liberties and less invasive airport security

THEY ARE NOT. They have never been. They are not interested in making any changes. They are interested in passing grandstanding legislation that would, if enacted, almost inevitably be struck down by courts.

If they were interested, even in the remotest way, in actually doing anything for civil liberties and less invasive airport security, you know what they would do? They would spend an insignificant amount of money -- even $500K -- to hire a lobbyist to work the US House. They would instruct their state attorneys general or solicitors general to file suit against the TSA. They would not write the biggest, most bombastic piece of legislation they possibly could, knowing full well that a state law that criminalizes federal activity has almost no chance of surviving.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2011


The TSA's tentacles spread
posted by homunculus at 11:45 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A conservative friend posted an article about this on Facebook. An even more conservative friend of hers (describes self as "Evangelical Christian" and "not a Democrat that's for sure") responded: "Sad that the world we live in has brought us to these measures."

Short of being herded off to a detention camp there are some people who seemingly would never feel their rights are being violated needlessly as long as some authority daddy tells them the World is Very Bad and It's For Their Own Good.

This willingness to believe that these extreme invasive measures are necessary and are keeping you safe is a dysfunctional and self-delusional belief. It seems to me very similar to the idea that owning a gun will keep you safe, and that we must allow that to occur in a completely unfettered manner.
posted by NorthernLite at 1:28 PM on June 29, 2011


I like to think that one day, dealing with airports won't be one of the major reasons I rarely visit my home country.

I'm not holding my breath though. I can't be the only one who's moved past angry outrage and into resigned disappointment.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:08 PM on June 29, 2011


troll: "This is why we should profile. Inspect a million Depends, and you won't find a single weapon. Inspect a million turbans, however..."

I used to wear a turban. I couldn't imagine hiding a weapon in there. The best I ever managed was a joint, and a pair of in-ear headphones so I could listen to Appetite for Destruction during study period. Fold up the shirt collar and nobody will ever know.
posted by vanar sena at 2:17 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even if there were a major airplane-related terror event, no one would argue (no one with any power) that this is evidence that the TSA is useless. They would instead argue that it doesn't go far enough and we all need to be anesthetized and embedded in lucite before boarding a plane.


I fly weekly, and I can say that during the present summer travel season, this is a policy I could probably embrace.
posted by Thistledown at 6:14 AM on June 30, 2011


Yeah, let’s make it so any Muslims or non-white-Christian Americans have to spend hours going through security. And be sure to quiz people about their religious background so you can prove they’re not lying about it. That’s the American way!

I'm sorry but I guess my point was badly stated. I guess I meant that there should be a more human approach. Even if it means having people go through a question session with seriously trained professionals rather than security theater. Of course it wouldn't be exactly the same as the way that it's done in Israel, but similar and perhaps by trained professionals instead of minimum wage drones. And I'm sure that the way I said that will piss someone else off. But something always will.
posted by Splunge at 10:00 PM on June 30, 2011


In fact I have a very serious question. Everyone here that doesn't like the present form of security. Every person that likes to jump on the bandwagon and call out FREEDOM!

Feel free to place you solutions right here. I've mentioned mine and gotten shot down. But I'm not too bright. Those of you who are smarter than me, now is you time. What is your solution? How do you keep flying safe? Roll on up and give it your best shot.
posted by Splunge at 10:12 PM on June 30, 2011


Roll on up and give it your best shot.

I already did this, you can read it, if you want, further up in the thread. The tl;dr version is that no security changes were really necessary after 9/11 in order to prevent "another 9/11", because 9/11 did the job itself. (Act weird on a plane now, and the other passengers will literally kill you. Game over.) The reinforced cockpit doors would not have been a bad thing to mandate into new aircraft, or add as they were overhauled.

Nothing else needed to change. The "terrorist plots" that have been foiled since have mostly been due either to bad luck and/or incompetence on the part of the terrorists—which makes sense once you understand that there really isn't a deep bench full of talent on Team Suicide Bomb—or more traditional policework on the ground, outside the airport. The emphasis always should have been there, on defense in depth, not on a 21st century moat and keep.

Putting more police officers into airports strikes me as a good idea, although they need to understand that although terrorism is something to be aware of, it's vanishingly rare and they'll probably never, ever encounter an actual terrorist. But hey, it'd probably cut down on luggage theft.

But fundamentally, I'm hesitant to really respond to the question as asked: there is no way to "keep flying safe" in the way many people would understand that to mean. That's not a reasonable goal, and only an idiot would take on such a doomed mission.*

First of all, because there's always a non-zero risk of a mechanical malfunction that will bring the plane down and probably kill everyone. (It's truly an amazing testament to our engineering skills that more planes don't just fall out of the sky on a regular basis, and that strapping yourself into one and flying at just under the speed of sound at 35 thousand feet off the ground is considered a sane and routine thing to do.)

Second, even if you perfected TSA-style gate security, to the point of stripping every passenger naked, probing their orfices, X-raying them until they glowed, and then knocking them out with Ambien, you would just shift the threat to the airport terminal and the security line, or to other crowds of people. We need to keep in mind that airplanes were to Al Qaeda just a means to an end; once you make airports and airplanes harder targets, it's reasonable to assume they'll start to look for ways to create the same casualties and mess elsewhere. So "airport security" needs to be just one facet of a more general anti-terrorism policy, and not something that requires a special Cabinet-level agency.

* And insofar as the TSA has exactly this mission, it's prima facie evidence that anyone who volunteers to head it must be an idiot.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:42 PM on June 30, 2011


Drop back to 2000 level passenger security screenings to start with. Also stop requiring an ID and ticket match. Only allow people with outstanding warrants to be placed on a no fly list (I really don't understand why the no fly list is constitutional as it stands anyway).
posted by Mitheral at 11:47 PM on June 30, 2011


Every person that likes to jump on the bandwagon and call out FREEDOM!

It's awesome that you're keeping an open mind about this.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:17 AM on July 1, 2011


Time to Close the Security Theater -- Art Carden, Forbes blogs

We should ideally show these machines pose a real radiological risk to frequent fliers and jail the corrupt former TSA head who runs the company making them too.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:49 AM on July 1, 2011


Everyone P-P-Panic! The Joker al-Qaida is Sewing Bombs Into People!
posted by homunculus at 2:57 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ron Paul: Abolish the TSA, stop abuses and failures
posted by thescientificmethhead at 4:14 PM on July 6, 2011


"Belly Bombs": Terrorists look to implant bombs in humans

TSA to woman: 'We're going to have to examine your hair'
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:32 AM on July 7, 2011


Assuming that most terrorists, unlike the one in Iron Man, do not have expert surgeons able to implant electromagnets in non-sterile conditions in complexes in the mountains, this actually sounds like something of a bad idea. Unlike drugs, bombs tend by their very nature to be a bit explosive, and making one, then implanting it, then having someone with a bomb implanted in their body lying around convalescing for a week or so, hoping in the meantime that it doesn't malfunction and explode or become non-operational...

This feels like it may not be a bad road for terrorists to go down.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:56 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


TSA Agent Caught With Passenger's iPad in His Pants; Allegedly Took $50,000 in Other Goods, Cops Say
posted by thescientificmethhead at 4:24 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Playmobil TSA toy set
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:15 PM on July 7, 2011


running order squabble fest writes "Assuming that most terrorists, unlike the one in Iron Man, do not have expert surgeons able to implant electromagnets in non-sterile conditions in complexes in the mountains, this actually sounds like something of a bad idea. Unlike drugs, bombs tend by their very nature to be a bit explosive, and making one, then implanting it, then having someone with a bomb implanted in their body lying around convalescing for a week or so, hoping in the meantime that it doesn't malfunction and explode or become non-operational... "

It's an interesting problem. T'was me I'd probably insert expandable bladders via laparoscopic surgery, inflate them a pliable plastic explosive, insert a detonator, and then disguise a pair of wires as surgical staples. Recovery time would be minimal; risk of infection would be low and could be treated for the short time need with prophylactic antibiotics; and the detonators could be activated by any of numerous legal batteries including those in cameras and laptops. Risk of detecting the explosives with wipe tests, pat downs or pornoscanners is essentially nil. Metal detectors could pick up the staples but a) they generally aren't set so sensitive and b) the staples are completely normal.
posted by Mitheral at 2:05 AM on July 8, 2011


Video with Kate Hanni of flyersrights.org after a stun gun makes it through screening onto plane: "I believe TSA makes us less safe."


Mainstream media continues to push "implanted bombs" idea, new scanners must be on the way.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 4:04 PM on July 11, 2011


Are they trying to irradiate all the frequent flyers?

Any idiot could've stuck a bomb up their ass. We must clearly measure every passenger's anal dilation.

Are you listening The Yes Men, SNL, Anonymous, whoever? Please try being interviewed by CNN or Fox on the need to measure anal dilation.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:56 PM on July 11, 2011


A search for TSA anal probe yields 16700 results.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:15 PM on July 11, 2011


Video: Ron Paul introduces American Traveler Dignity Act of 2011.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:52 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


TSA takes first steps toward 'trusted travel' program

After hinting for months that he would start a "trusted traveler" program to expedite security screening for air passengers, TSA Chief John Pistole took his first step in that direction Thursday, announcing a pilot program to ease screening for passengers who voluntarily release certain information about themselves.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 3:01 PM on July 14, 2011


Court OKs Airport Body Scanners, Rejects Constitutional Challenge
posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on July 17, 2011


Spoof article: Man takes Viagra, wears sweatpants for TSA pat-down

A Wyoming man walked through a TSA checkpoint with a raging erection on Tuesday, daring TSA officers and even fellow passengers to give him an invasive pat down.

“I’m next,” Warren Kelvin, 34, screamed as he pushed to the front of the security line. According to TSA officials, Kelvin had ingested two Viagra and wore sweatpants without boxers for his Southwest flight from Nashville to Phoenix.

posted by thescientificmethhead at 1:16 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


No felony charges will be filed against the Colorado woman who allegedly sexually assaulted a Transportation Security Administration agent in Phoenix.

Police say Miyamae grabbed the female agent’s left breast, squeezed and twisted it with both hands on July 14 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Miyamae was getting ready to board a flight from Phoenix to Denver.

posted by thescientificmethhead at 2:15 PM on July 20, 2011


TSA worker stole watches, debit card from LAX bags, officials say
posted by thescientificmethhead at 10:19 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video: Woman sobs after TSA molestation
posted by thescientificmethhead at 3:20 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mexican activist's flight turned back over US airspace
posted by homunculus at 3:38 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


One-handed former boxer sues TSA for denying him employment and saying he's unfit to work
posted by thescientificmethhead at 2:17 PM on July 27, 2011


Doh! Just realized the above link to the TSA playmobil set is incorrect. Here it is at Amazon.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 2:19 PM on July 27, 2011




An off-duty T.S.A. agent accused of flashing his badge to get another driver to speed up in South Windsor is accused of harassing and intimidating another driver.

He told police he was upset that the woman was driving slightly below the speed limit on Sullivan Avenue, honked his horn a few times and showed her his TSA badge to try to get her to speed up, according to a release from police.

TSA Agents do not have local police powers, South Windsor police said.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 7:46 AM on July 28, 2011


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