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Coffee, Tea or should we feel your pregnant wife's breasts
December 22, 2002 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Coffee, tea or should we feel your pregnant wife's breasts? Well, like most of you I've read many personal accounts of the change in air travel since 9/11. But this one packs a major wallop, well written, infuriating and containing one of the best concluding sentences . . . ever. ( via Blogdex )
posted by jeremias (138 comments total)

 
There is now a division between the citizenry and the state. When that state is used as a tool against me, there is no longer any reason why I should owe any allegiance to that state.

And that’s the first thing that child of ours is going to learn.


Amen.
posted by letterneversent at 7:28 AM on December 22, 2002


In addition, I was banned from Portland International for 90 days, and just in case I was thinking of coming over and hanging out around its perimeter, the officer gave me a map with the boundaries highlighted, sternly warning me against trespassing.

They give maps to potential terrorists now? Being a terrorist is such a cushy job. All you have to do is shout and stamp your feet and the authorities do your research for you.
posted by vbfg at 7:30 AM on December 22, 2002


I'm not worried because nothing has happened to me personally. What's the big deal? Only criminals get arrested because if they weren't criminals they wouldn't be in handcuffs.
posted by chris0495 at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2002


After a short time I received a visit from the arresting officer. "Mr. Monahan," he started, "Are you on drugs?"

Exactly the right question; unfortunately, asked of the wrong party....
posted by alterego at 7:43 AM on December 22, 2002


Meanwhile, more details about FBI agents being told not to investigate actual terrorist suspects are emerging:

"The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me: 'You will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects,'" Wright said. Even though they were on a terrorism task force and said they had proof of criminal activity, Wright said he was told not to pursue the matter.

In 1998 al Qaeda terrorists bombed two American embassies in Africa. The agents say some of the money for the attacks led back to the people they had been tracking in Chicago...Yet, even after the bombings, Wright said FBI headquarters wanted no arrests.

"Two months after the embassies are hit in Africa, they wanted to shut down the criminal investigation," said Wright. "They wanted to kill it."


Well, at least pregnant women's breasts aren't being used to hide weapons. But, you know, yelling at screening grunts is about the stupidest response to a travel injustice I can imagine. My sympathies are totally with Nick, but had he not exploded, he might have been able to actually do something about the initial embarrassment to his wife. I don't think he did anything wrong (quite the opposite), but it sure wasn't the best strategic move in that situation.
posted by mediareport at 7:54 AM on December 22, 2002


I'm not worried because nothing has happened to me personally. What's the big deal? Only criminals get arrested because if they weren't criminals they wouldn't be in handcuffs.

horseshit, troll. ever heard of due process?
posted by angry modem at 8:04 AM on December 22, 2002


a bit overblown. As for the fabulous final sentence: does this mean he withdraw from the country and will not pay his taxes? Seems he is being a bit bombastic here, overall. Compare what takes place with El Al...if there are some indignities associated with searches, so be it if it makes us more secure...as far as caesarean: nonsense. Perhaps her doctor had a golf game on tap and wanted to get there on time.
posted by Postroad at 8:12 AM on December 22, 2002


horseshit, troll. ever heard of due process?

It seems pretty clear that you've never heard of sarcasm, angry modem. Even I could pick that up, and I've only been awake half an hour.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:13 AM on December 22, 2002


ever heard of due process?

Ever heard of irony?
posted by biffa at 8:14 AM on December 22, 2002


MediaReport - I really feel for Nick Monahan and his wife. What an ugly tale! But, these sorts of abuses of power have always occured: in the US and everywhere. Humans often abuse positions of power and authority with minor provocation. Power="Alpha-maleness", and "alphas" don't like to be challenged. No, not one bit. They tend to react with predictable sadism and violence.

But now it is the articulate US upper middle class -and not just the poor- who are suffering from the abuse of police/state powers.

However, the Wright/Vincent allegations against the FBI (!!!) - these describe more than personal abuse of authority. They suggest a deep institutional evil, a perversion of power and justice. Will anyone be called to account for this "incompetence"? Somehow, I doubt it. I think that to call anyone to account for the FBI's bizzare behavior would be to risk dumping the whole putrifying mass of 9-11 associated "incompetence" out on the floor for the public to see.

It would not be pretty.
posted by troutfishing at 8:15 AM on December 22, 2002


Oh god. Oh my god.

The reference to the Gulag Archipelago is beginning to seem only mildly hyperbolic. Just what the bleeding christ is going on in America?

Y'know, I signed my name to a petition in Seoul the other night, having to do with the (difficult and nuanced but disturbing) case of the two Korean girls run down by a US Army vehicle. The petitions were being sent, like so many of their kind, to George W. Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Later on I tried to reassure myself that my name wouldn't be put on some sort of watch list for having signed such a thing. I managed for a little while.

Until I read that.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2002


Let's be sure to thank the Democratic Party for those "federal employees". The Democrats pushed for this and that's what we got: unaccountable affirmative action thugs who will funnel money to the Democratic Party by way of their corrupt union.
posted by paleocon at 8:23 AM on December 22, 2002


It's understandable but regrettable that he lost it when he saw his wife had been crying, but that was 90% of the problem right there -- these goons are taking no chances. That's why, for years now, you can't even frickin' joke about stuff in a security queue, First Amendment or no First Amendment.

The rest of what happened sounds to me like a combination of incompetence, bureaucracy and basic ass-covering.
posted by alumshubby at 8:40 AM on December 22, 2002


paleocon, is there no sin venial or mortal that you cannot somehow - however improbably - park at the gates of the Democratic Party or the left?

I frequently feel that you must be some autonomous agent set free on the Web, equipped with algorithms that allow you to recombine hot-button phrases in ways that escape sense entirely but are otherwise grammatically well-formed. Can you disprove me?

Please pull your head out of your ass.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2002


Paleocon: Are you on drugs?

Should you be?

There's a guy who stands at corners here in South St. Louis. Before the elections, when I left for work at 6:45 and when I got home at 5:30, and presumably a lot of time in between, he could be seen hoisting a "Carnahan" sign high in the air and chanting. He looks somewhat like a homeless person, but since his clothes change day to day, I assume he's not. Anyway, every time I saw him, I cringed; while I appreciate support of the campaign, this guy made it seem like all people who vote Democratic are crazed hippies. Paleocon, you're doing about the same effective job for the conservative side.
posted by notsnot at 8:49 AM on December 22, 2002


For me the most powerful part of the article was this:
I can never prove that my child went breech because of what happened to us at the airport. But I’ll always believe it. Wrongly or rightly, I’ll forever think of how this man, the personification of this system, has affected the lives of my family and me. When my wife is sliced open, I’ll be thinking of him. When they remove her uterus from her abdomen and lay it on her stomach, I’ll be thinking of him. When I visit her and my child in the hospital instead of having them with me here in our home, I’ll be thinking of him. When I assist her to the bathroom while the incision heals internally, I’ll be thinking of him.
Then there is this:

I don't think he did anything wrong (quite the opposite), but it sure wasn't the best strategic move in that situation.

Which is perfectly rational but a lot more rational that I think we can reasonably expect a tired man whose more primal instincts to protect his wife and child have been set off. I might have been homocidal.

And considered strategically, coldly, and rationally the smart thing to do is pretty far removed from what you might feel at the moment. The smart thing is to take your lumps, swallow your pride and get out of there documenting everything you can so you can legally and safely strike back later. At the time the system will only use your impulses against you.

It bothers me that if you consider slightly less rationally that situation, and others like it I think you'll find the necessary ingredients for getting more government buildings blown up.
posted by wobh at 8:49 AM on December 22, 2002


I read as much of this article as I could stand. It's so obviously sensationalist and one sided that I gave up.

Lift your shirt. Gentle pat down. Admittedly it's unpleasant but it seems like a reasonable precaution. We don't have the same right to privacy in an airport that we have in our homes. Do you really think it's unreasonable to submit to screening in an airport on principle? Or should we only screen people with beards and swarthy complexions?

Perhaps screenings could be handled with more tact but it seems like this woman over reacted. And the husband was nuts. What do you think was an appropriate response to someone screaming and yelling at airport security personnel? We can quibble about some of the details but I think it calls for a stern response.
posted by stuart_s at 8:52 AM on December 22, 2002


I hastily add that I do not, and in no way, endorse the blowing up of government buildings. But if we are going to learn anything from the war on terrorism is that if people's button's get pushed enough they'll have an extreme reaction. If anyone has any ideas on coming up with a metric for determining the difference between a real and a percieved injustice, speak now.
posted by wobh at 8:58 AM on December 22, 2002


Nonsense, stuart_s: bland apologist nonsense that would make Robert McNamara proud. Had you ever been in such a Kafkaesque situation, with so much at stake, you might think differently about the wisdom of such "stern responses."

I'm not going to trot that Niemoller quote out now, but go Google it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:06 AM on December 22, 2002


I am about to travel to the US in a few days, and I have mixed feelings about airport security. On the one hand, there really are people who would like to ignite their shoes on commercial flights. On the other hand, there is no denying that this guy's story is an eloquent example of the shock that Americans must be feeling as their basic rights are tramples on.

I went through Israeli security some years back during a period of relative calm. They squirted foam into my wife's bras, took apart my tape recorder, exposed my film, and took apart my colleague's accordion. But - hate to admit it - they were pros. Can that be said of airport security personnel such as these? I think not.
posted by zaelic at 9:09 AM on December 22, 2002


This is one very disturbing story. I don't think you could pay me to visit the U.S. at the moment, or for the foreseeable future. I'm not worried about terrorists, but power mad idiots like these.
posted by spinifex at 9:11 AM on December 22, 2002


I read the entire article and I got a few things out of it:

1. the airport personnel could have handled his wife's inspection much more tactfully and privately. No doubt. Did she suggest this? We have no idea.

2. He was pissed off, by his own admission, even before that. "Soon I was standing on one foot, my arms stretched out, the other leg sticking out in front of me àla a DUI test. I began to get pissed off, as most normal people would" You know, I don't get pissed off when I am asked to stick out my feet. I've been in airports a lot since 9/11. The whole implication of "why don't you guys go after the bad guys, not me and my wife?" really smacks of bizarre American privilege. He started yelling before he had even talked to her.

3. the airport personel then treated him shabbily. No doubt. Probably lied about it too. Uncool. But, anyone that doesn't know that freaking out in an airport has real consequences, just surprises me. Was it right what they did to him? No. Could he have behaved better and made the whole episode go more smoothly? Yes. The breech birth and the uterus-on-belly description really did nothing to further the guy's case, in my opinion. And neither does his grating "I've been wronged!" tone of voice. It sounds like he has a good case, and was treated badly. I only wish he could do a better job of making himself seem sympathetic.

There are much better examples about the removal of civil liberties from people in the US over the last 16 months. And, as zaelic points out, it's not as bad here as it is other places. I thinkpeople would feel a lot better about these airport ignominies if they thought that the people performing these checks really knew what they were doing.
posted by jessamyn at 9:12 AM on December 22, 2002


Stuart_S - seems like a few judiciously placed privacy screens could eliminate most of such incidents.


Paleocon - Isn't there a far more extensive history (in countries which never went communist) of 'action thugs' being use by the far right - by the forces fascism, in fact?

For that matter, George Bush's grandfather Prescott Bush, through his management of the Union Banking Corp. (siezed in '43 under the "Trading with the Enemies" Act) played a significant role in managing the personal accounts of the head of the (German) Thyssen industrial empire which were used as the largest early source of funding for Hitler's 'action thugs' (SS and SA). Allen Dulles (later head of the CIA) worked along with Prescott at Union Bank also. [Links to extensive documentation available on request].
posted by troutfishing at 9:22 AM on December 22, 2002


had he not exploded, he might have been able to actually do something about the initial embarrassment to his wife.

Oh, please. Like what? It has become clear that people have NO recourse whatsoever in such situations. I would have had no trouble whatsoever flying on September 12, 2001, but I will NOT fly in this country until these absurd policies are altered. I hope the rest of the airlines follow United right into bankruptcy. Those who excuse these kinds of abuses are as much a part of the problem as the criminals who create them.
posted by rushmc at 9:26 AM on December 22, 2002


I might have been homocidal.

I might have *felt* homicidal, but not *acted* homicidal. I mean, come on, at this point aren't we all expecting to have something like this happen to us sooner rather than later? I sure am; it's part of the reason I haven't flown since 9/11. I was getting regularly stopped at airport x-ray machines *before* Osama became a household name; I'm not in any rush to put myself through that wringer now. But I damn sure know to smile and keep a lid on my emotions - while standing firm if I think I'm being unnecessarily abused - throughout the entire process.
posted by mediareport at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2002


stuart_s - i have things under my shirt I don't want the whole freaking world to see - and so did she.... if it's indecent exposure in one instant why let it all out at an airport?
posted by dabitch at 9:38 AM on December 22, 2002


I just bought a lovely new motorcycle in October. That's how I plan to get around the country from here on out.
posted by black8 at 9:43 AM on December 22, 2002


I went through Portland International's security checks within a week of Mr. Monahan's experience. It's true that there weren't any privacy screens; they ought to fix that. But the security people weren't goons or "unaccountable affirmative action thugs" (and I think we all know what you mean by THAT, paleocon); they were just regular people trying to do a difficult job. The security guy who wanded my feet (my shoes had metal shanks) seemed competent and polite, but generally this experience seemed to be as embarrassing for him as it was for me, and just now I'm realizing that he goes through it dozens of times each day.

Maybe they could've done a better job checking his wife; of course I don't know how they behave after they've arrested a person. But it seems like the author chose to be part of the problem that day, instead of being part of the solution.
posted by coelecanth at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2002


I'm not sure if privacy screens are the solution either. Fewer witnesses.
posted by wobh at 10:03 AM on December 22, 2002


Of course, I'm not sure if more witnesses are the answer either.
posted by wobh at 10:08 AM on December 22, 2002


Of course, the half of a woman's stomach between her bra and the top of her maternity pants isn't indecent exposure but troutfishing's point was correct. "A few judiciously placed privacy screens" would be exactly what I meant as far as handling the screenings with more tact.

Ah yes... First they came for the pregnant middle class women. Isn't a reference to Robert McNamara pretty close to a Nazi reference? I certainly feel that way. No one is coming for you or me. They just want to know that we don't have bombs under our shirts. I think the public interest involved here outweighs the harm of the private invasion.
posted by stuart_s at 10:17 AM on December 22, 2002


Well, I do think this piece reads one-sided, but that is the point. It's a personal account of one man's experience with the dull wall of bureaucracy. All the stonewalling, the apparent falsification by the authorities, we might not know if they are 100% true, but we've all been there, perhaps not to the same extent, but we recognize the feelings.

This *is* tied into a larger issue: who will be held accountable for abuses of power? What sort of mechanisms are in place for this? If you train a society to accept the authorities' word as the last word, that sounds less and less like a free country to me.
posted by jeremias at 10:26 AM on December 22, 2002


But it seems like the author chose to be part of the problem that day, instead of being part of the solution.

Maybe the guy overreacted, but I think more people need to overreact. If these (IMHO) unreasonable searches actually were catching scads of criminals and terrorists, I might feel differently, but are they? Are more actual terrorists in jail because of these heightened security measures, or are we just getting the same as before, the illusion of safety and security, with the added bonus of trampled civil liberties? If someone can point me to some figures that say we've caught X number of terrorists or X pounds of explosives or whatever that we wouldn't have caught before, I'll change my mind, but until then, it's beginning to look a lot like a police state, everywhere you look.
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2002


"Oh, please. Like what? It has become clear that people have NO recourse whatsoever in such situations."

you can decide not to fly after all. not a great option, but better than having no options.

personally, i can't tell from the story where the "fault" lies exactly. i always look for deeper causes. i'd say some fault lies with every american citizen. these guys were just doing their job to some extent. maybe they weren't very professional, but if the guy had just relaxed and said "sure, no problem" or just nothing when they asked for his hat, it's my bet that none of it would have ever happened. the lesson here for those who are travelling is to just relax and comply with the security people. if your rights are really being compromised in such a serious way that you'd rather not fly, then you have the option not to fly. you'll probably forfeit your ticket purchase price, but such is life.
posted by muppetboy at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2002


I am astounded that there are people satisfied with the personal privacy violations that are becoming more and more common in the USA. What the hell's happening down there?

Stalinist Russia, meet your new baby brother, Modern America. He's a smart little tyke and wants to learn from the best.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2002


"This *is* tied into a larger issue: who will be held accountable for abuses of power?"

the even larger issue is who is going to do that and how are we even going to know about such abuses. increasingly, the "fourth estate" (the press) is utterly useless in checking up on power. they've become a bunch of corporate yes-men who will only report what the authorities say. anyone who is not in power is not a "reliable source".
posted by muppetboy at 10:34 AM on December 22, 2002


But it seems like the author chose to be part of the problem that day, instead of being part of the solution.

There is no solution to this problem. When I read this last night, I googled up about 12 more accounts of abuse at the hands of police and airport security. I'm surprised there aren't more of these.

The sad thing is, we asked for this. We demanded more and better security at airports. The contract agencies were heavily criticized and lawsuits are in various stages of completion because of the perceived lack of security per 9/11. Most airports/airlines hired a glut of personnel, the local police agencies posted more people.

Now, there are a lot of security people that are very nervous and jumpy. Every single one of us that they see could be the next potential villain that gets them fired or worse. No one is above reproach or scrutiny at this point and I don't think it will let up for quite some time.

I feel very badly for this family, I don't think any part of it was sensational or otherwise. In fact, I commend him for not being more hateful and bitter toward the disgusting system we insisted that we needed. When I read personal accounts such as this I question what it is about this country that we Americans hold as so great. A fundamental indication of freedom is the ability to travel at will. This seems not only compromised but, it looks like we aren't far away from checkpoints to ensure that our "papers are in order."

No wait, we've already done that this week...
posted by Dean_Paxton at 10:37 AM on December 22, 2002


if your rights are really being compromised in such a serious way that you'd rather not fly, then you have the option not to fly.

Brilliant. Let's expand that to other activities:

if your rights are really being compromised in such a serious way that you'd rather not travel without a pass, then you have the option not to travel without a pass.

if your rights are really being compromised in such a serious way that you'd rather not vote in free elections, then you have the option not to vote in free elections.

if your rights are really being compromised in such a serious way that you'd rather not watch uncensored television broadcasts or read uncensored books, then you have the option not to watch uncensored television broadcasts or read uncensored books.

See how that works?
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:42 AM on December 22, 2002


dean, i remember hearing someone talk about their first-hand experience in watching germany evolve under the nazis. the kinds of things we're talking about here on metafilter have an eerie similarity to his experience, where one little abuse led to another over a long period of time, with no outrageous violation being quite enough to really rouse people into opposition... just a kind of slow slipping away. with our lack of critical thinking and lack of a critical press, i think we've got a lot to be concerned about already.
posted by muppetboy at 10:45 AM on December 22, 2002


ryland, i don't think those things follow. airports are special because of security conditions. voting is not at all similar to air travel because you're not getting into a vehicle waying hundreds of tons that will be flying at hundreds of miles per hour.

there is another side to rights. the rights of the group (other individuals) are at stake too. while i think there are things that could and should be done to ensure that airport security screeners obey the letter of the law (video and audio surveillance of their activities would be a start), i think that airport security is important now. it is also a right to board a plane where passengers have been properly screened for weapons.

my point was only that people have another choice. people also have the choice to petition for video surveillance of security screeners so that they can be held accountable for their transgressions. abandoning airport security is not a reasonable alternative.
posted by muppetboy at 10:52 AM on December 22, 2002


I think the situation was handled poorly by all sides at the airport (although even discounting the likely bias of the account, 79% of the apparent blame lies, in my opinion, on the tactless, power-mad airport security staff). But the real point of anger here for me is the treachery of the bureaucracy that conspired against Mr. Monahan and his family after the event had transpired. The fact that he could not get even an apology and a removal of the charges is absolutely inexcusable to me. But the putrid fact that they retroactively changed what happened, offering proofs of his behavior that didn't exist -- that's Big Brother. I'm sorry. That's lifted straight off of page 267 of the Franklin Mint edition of 1984. I don't care that the abuse of power was used to justify a trifling incident such as a shirt-lifting and a $300 fine. They altered the truth. And they got away with it. That's abhorrent, that's horrific, and I think that's where most of the trauma in this episode comes from.

Let me say it again ... they shifted reality.

They altered the truth. They didn't adjust it. These aren't white lies. There's Winston, Julia, O'Brien and the whole bunch in this story.

Sickening.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:54 AM on December 22, 2002


Moral of the story: If you are an American man, never attempt to protect a woman's honor. If you're a man whose pregnant wife is getting felt up in public, if you're a president whose young intern is getting her name dragged through the mud, if you're a big strong construction worker watching a teenage girl get the worst of a street fight with young male gangbangers, just stand around with your big strong male arms folded and let some middle-aged woman with thick glasses try to physically defend the girl instead. Women should protect their own honor with mace and their fingernails, just like Gandhi said. If fingernails and mace aren't enough to defend your honor, ladies, what are you doing out there driving around by yourselves on back roads where any passing police officer could pull you over? Ladies, why do you keep putting yourself in situations like wearing bras in airports, where your sexuality brings embarassment and shame to those around you? Remember, American man, if you refuse to disclose a woman's sexual activities, or step in to physically defend a woman's honor, it's assault and perjury charges for you, for you are Taliban or worse.

From everything I've heard, the Israelis handle airport security in a serious, professional manner - but I bet they also pay their security people a living wage, provide good training, and have regular evaluations for competent performance.
posted by sheauga at 10:54 AM on December 22, 2002


grrarrgh00, that's sickening all right. but the really sick part of it is that all this is happening in our supposed democracy, which is now so weak - and in a large part because of the press, money in politics and corporate power (especially in the arena of law) - that we are just sitting by while 1984 comes to life. if feel like our press are the real Ministry of Truth these days.
posted by muppetboy at 10:59 AM on December 22, 2002


I'm incensed. I've gotta post again. God, I'm sorry. I'm just prolific this morning. I feel like I should take a shower.

Can someone else please get mad too so I can at least believe there's a Brotherhood??

Jeremias, you seem like a sensible chap. What do you say? Be my Goldstein? Please?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2002


The guy kind of lost me with the whole "airlines caused my kid's breech birth" angle. I would bet that the author spiced up some of his accounts of the story (although his account is probably closer to the truth's than security's).
posted by stifford at 11:02 AM on December 22, 2002


If government is greedily snapping up opportunities to become a police state, it isn't at the security checks in airports. These aren't jackbooted thugs intent on imposing their vision of America (no flammable liquids in our bags? no rivets in our blue jeans?) on the rest of us. They're just trying to keep everybody safe; and please, spare me the rhetoric about trading safety for freedom. You can wrap your presents and trim your toenails when you get there.

Also, five fresh fish, comparing the US to Stalinist Russia is just plain silly; take a couple of deep breaths and do a search on "Beria," or "Ukrainian famine."

Or not. Godwin's been lurking in this thread for a while now. Would someone please wake me when the airport screeners storm the Reichstag?
posted by coelecanth at 11:02 AM on December 22, 2002


while i am apalled by this account -- in all fairness, most of my recent airport security encounters have been nothing but polite and good-natured, all things considered. not all airport security drones are assholes.
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:03 AM on December 22, 2002


Great. Just don't fly. I've got to go to Atlanta, Georgia for two days in January for specialized training for my job (polysomnographic technician), and I'm the only tech we have (the lab just opened last month), which means I don't have the time to drive or take the train.

The remarks about just avoiding the whole situation are specious for some of us. My bosses are some really great guys I like a lot, but if I tell them we're going to have to close the lab for 4 or 5 days because I am choosing to avoid airport security humiliation, they're going to have some real issues.

I've always agreed with "voting with your wallet" but sometimes you're just backed into a corner.
posted by Samizdata at 11:09 AM on December 22, 2002


i seem to be on some kind of screen-him-every-time list. i haven't been able to go through airport security without having my bag searched in years. no idea why, but it gives me the creeps to know that the government is putting in place a program to intercept internet traffic and spy on things like my metafilter posts. how long before i post something and a few minutes later hear a rap at the door? i'm seriously considering going off the internet entirely. not sure i want the government reading all my correspondence and public and private internet posts. i just hope i'm not on some "special list" being composed by ashcroft. also thinking seriously of making some plans to leave the country if ashcroft or his like becomes president.
posted by muppetboy at 11:10 AM on December 22, 2002


Gah, I'm flying out of PDX tomorrow. I did -not- need to read this.
posted by SpecialK at 11:15 AM on December 22, 2002


Let me say it again ... they shifted reality.

Well, maybe. Or maybe Mr. Man there doesn't remember things right, or is lying about them. Neither would particularly surprise me, given how... selective... he is in his description of what went on. Or maybe none of this happened at all. There's no particular reason to disbelieve him, but there's no real reason to actively believe him either. I hate to break all your hearts, but people can in fact fib on the web, and have been known to do so.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:19 AM on December 22, 2002


and your post, rou, demonstrates exactly why we need oversight of power. who's going to do it?
posted by muppetboy at 11:21 AM on December 22, 2002


Hyperbole?

"So we called the ACLU, figuring they existed for just such incidents as these. And they do apparently...but only if we were minorities. That’s what they told us. "

Nah, I don't see any hyperbole.
posted by dglynn at 11:23 AM on December 22, 2002


"Also, five fresh fish, comparing the US to Stalinist Russia is just plain silly; take a couple of deep breaths and do a search on "Beria," or "Ukrainian famine."

You really think it's silly?

I don't. I think the US government is taking small steps towards that destination. Sure, it hasn't engaged in the wholesale slaughter of citizens... but it is imprisoning people without due process, is eliminating personal privacy rights, is engaged in spying on its own citizens, and is no longer regulated or moderated by its citizens.

I think that if American citizens don't start standing up against their government, they're going to find themselves living in a repressive regime in which freedom is something that happens in other countries.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 AM on December 22, 2002


I was chosen for the full-search once; anyone who flies regularly will get it sooner or later. Sure, I was surprised at the level of detail, but I was more surprised at the profuse thanks I got from the security agent for being cooperative. I didn't volunteer to strip down or anything, I just stood there politely while they did their job. If they're that appreciative when someone doesn't get "pissed off" the way Mr. Monahan did, you can imagine the assholes they're subjected to in the course of a typical day. Of COURSE the search process sucks, but if Monahan had not acted like a 5-year old during his own inspection, he might have had a little more credibility when his wife did actually suffer something a great deal more imposing. If you're nice to the security and airline personnel, 99% of the time they'll be nice right back. Instead, Monahan comes off as a typically self-centered, self-righteous "ugly American" -- and in his own story, no less. It's astounding that someone who writes about topical events could have been so blind to what he might have to deal with in the process of flying.
posted by boomchicka at 11:38 AM on December 22, 2002


muppetboy: if I were God-Emperor of America, and I will be soon enough and you for one will welcome your new Culturnik overlord, I'd just have required that the airport people maintain the videotapes of any incident resulting in someone going into custody (at a bare minimum). And told them to get some privacy screens pronto.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:41 AM on December 22, 2002


oh, right.. so nobody here has been subjected to rudeness without first instigating it. happens to me all the time, even though i am very co-operative in airport searches.
posted by dabitch at 11:49 AM on December 22, 2002


He should have demanded a lawyer as soon as the questioning started. "Mr. Monahan, are you on drugs?" "I want to see a lawyer."

Sig Heil, Herr President!
posted by Cerebus at 11:53 AM on December 22, 2002


Five fresh fish: Yes, it is silly. Please do a little more research before declaring the US as a police state. We still have an enormous amount of personal freedom compared to some other countries. The fact that everyone's so indignant about being delayed for a three-minute security search just goes to show how spoiled we all are. Of course Monanan's wife was treated unfairly, but that seems to be an exception.

You have to remember, the pendulum swings both ways. Sure, right now we're relatively locked down. It'll level off. Please try to look at the big picture before overreacting.

On preview: Of course not nobody, "dabitch." That's not what I said.
posted by boomchicka at 11:53 AM on December 22, 2002


Oops, make that Monahan's.
posted by boomchicka at 11:54 AM on December 22, 2002


"You have to remember, the pendulum swings both ways. Sure, right now we're relatively locked down. It'll level off."

"the pendulum" doesn't do that by itself. the people rise up and make it level off. i have a hard time seeing that happening in america. democracy is in tough shape and people are more concerned about what's on TV than illegal detainments. by the time that changes, it may be too late. in the case of germany, "the pendulum" had to be swung the other way by a world war killing millions.
posted by muppetboy at 12:03 PM on December 22, 2002


Can we stop talking about airport security? It's a bitch. Yes. I've always been treated nicely, even in full screenings, and I'm black. I have tons of Muslim friends with horror stories. Once again, a bitch. An annoyance. Hardly the end of civil liberties in America. I agree completely.

The issue at hand, for me at least, is that the truth is conspicuously absent. We have Mr. Monahan's account, and we have the account of the security staff (sort of, by proxy). Either could be true. Some facts in the case are easily researchable and verifiable ... was Mr. Monahan truthfully taken into custody? Was he ordered to pay a $309 fine for his troubles? He should be able to furnish proofs of these matters. From these basic facts, one of two outcomes is acceptable:

1. The airport ushers forth, as a matter of public record, their corroborating evidence (the security tapes), and the matter is dismissed. Mr. Monahan is publicly branded a liar, to the satisfaction of all observers. 1984 averted. Civil liberties of the populace? Safe.

2. The airport regretfully testifies that the corroborating evidence does not, for whatever reason, exist, and the fine is dismissed. Mr. Monahan is returned his sum and issued a public apology.

It may be a lot of trouble for a $300 fine, but where do we stop just accepting the word of the bureaucracy over that of the individual?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:07 PM on December 22, 2002


I'm still posting. I'm sorry. Took a shower. Still absolutely unappeasable.

Also writing letters. But posting, because it's like small and immediate catharsis, and it helps me sort out my thoughts.

ROU_Xenophobe and boomchicka, explain to me what your thoughts would be if you could know beyond a doubt that Monahan were speaking the truth? That his version of the story (and his wife's, I imagine) is correct, to the letter, and that the airport did fabricate this entire matter? Or if, at the very least, the head airport official were brought to freely confess that Mr. Monahan's version of the story is aligned almost completely with the truth, and that the falsehood was all on the airport's side? Where would justice lie, in that instance? And do you think it would be worth the trouble to see justice done?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:16 PM on December 22, 2002


the airport personnel could have handled his wife's inspection much more tactfully and privately. No doubt. Did she suggest this?

Should she have to? No doubt, she shouldn't.

anyone that doesn't know that freaking out in an airport has real consequences, just surprises me

Well, Mr. Cool, perhaps you can rent yourself out as the Jiminy Crickett of abused travellers, whispering calming affirmations in their ear while they're treated badly.
posted by holycola at 12:19 PM on December 22, 2002


"Of course Monanan's wife was treated unfairly, but that seems to be an exception."

Is this an exception?

http://www.msnbc.com/news/850160.asp?cp1=1

How about this?

http://www.oregonlive.com/letters/oregonian/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/editorial/1038625681193931.xml

Oh, my... another exception!

http://www.cnn.com/2001/LAW/11/24/inv.ins.detention/index.html

And more exceptions!

http://www.cnn.com/US/9709/09/prisoners/index.html
http://www.msnbc.com/news/849920.asp?0dm=C226N&cp1=1
http://www.msnbc.com/news/801099.asp?cp1=1
http://www.msnbc.com/news/690559.asp?cp1=1
http://www.msnbc.com/news/654959.asp?cp1=1
http://www.msnbc.com/local/wews/a1335851.asp?cp1=1

and this is just a couple of minutes searching "respectable" news sites.
more "offbeat" sites have a much larger litany of allegations.
i think there's very much a pattern emerging.
maybe you should do some research yourself!
posted by muppetboy at 12:32 PM on December 22, 2002


Godwin's been lurking in this thread for a while now. Would someone please wake me when the airport screeners storm the Reichstag?

Sig Heil, Herr President!

I believe the screeners have arrived.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:33 PM on December 22, 2002


boomchika, you have a hellva lot fewer freedoms than you once did. That does not seem progressive to me.

You do not seem to care that you've less freedom and privacy, and may well never get them back.

I hope your complacency and naive trust in government serves you well in the long run. I really do. I hope like hell that I am wrong, and that America isn't running headlong into some sort of Orwellian nightmare.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:41 PM on December 22, 2002


I think the thing which most disturbed Orwell was the perversion of language and truth. We're already well on our way to something like Newspeak. The word "war" for example no longer means what it used to mean. With the original meaning, you can't have a *war* on drugs. It's nonsensical. Nor a war on terrorism. And what the hell does the phrase "humanitarian bombing" mean? And the word "democracy" is code for "capitalism". The US very often undermines democracy to support capitalism. But if democracy means capitalism because the meaning of the words has changed, then we *do* support democracy! I think you can see what I'm getting at. Newspeak is already here. Our ministry of truth is the corporate media. I'm not so concerned that they don't get the facts right... it's more a question of what's "newsworthy" and who is considered a "reliable source". If you define those two things right, you don't even need to lie to subvert reality. I think in some sense, America has gone beyond Orwell already.
posted by muppetboy at 12:52 PM on December 22, 2002


"The premier anti-state/pro-market site on the net"

I would just like to point out that the site this came from is pointedly political. I'm not saying there are not issues of concern in the article, just that it is also here on lewrockwell.com as an editorial with a libertarian slant.
posted by readymade at 12:54 PM on December 22, 2002


forgive this tangential remark on our young joseph k, but i thought his account read like a script from
thirtysomething(TM) and i'm wondering who i can see about extracting said show's theme song from my head now.

DISCLAIMER: this post should not be read as an endorsement of orwellian police culture


posted by Zoyd Wheeler at 1:11 PM on December 22, 2002


paleocon: It was the "private sector" guys--Republicans who wanted private companies and not federal people to do the airport security checkups. Then it turned out that in fact illegals and convicted criminals were doing the job! It was a Republican majority and a Republican president who passed and signed on for having the govt run things. If you are going to be so overly simplistic in your assigning all guilt to the Democrats, you ought first do some basic reading in the daily papers so as to make your argument seem much less laughable and just plain silly.
posted by Postroad at 1:26 PM on December 22, 2002


Airport security sucks because

(a) it enforces submissive conformity of speech, thought, behavior and appearance;
(b) it terrorizes and humiliates people at random, so that you never know if you're the next victim;
(c) it doesn't catch the bad guys, as far as anyone has been able to verify so far.

"We" did not ask for it; we stood idly by while politicians and bureaucrats arranged it, rather than risk being accused of doing nothing.

Of course the wage slaves doing the dirty work mostly don't enjoy it, but this only makes it worse since travellers bear the brunt of both the TSA's desperation and the frustration, annoyance and ennui of the screeners.

The good news is that over time, the wackos who DO enjoy fondling accountants and making scoutmasters sweat will rise to the top through perseverance. Then you'll really have fun at the airport.
posted by anser at 1:41 PM on December 22, 2002



Jeremias, you seem like a sensible chap. What do you say? Be my Goldstein? Please?


Not getting the reference, but that's ok.

Yes, this story gets me very upset. This is a well written, compelling story, the sort that gets most people's blood boiling. When one person or a group of people abuse power for powers' sake it's hard not to feel angry. Nobody likes bullies.

But maybe we'll start to see more of these stories as the directive *from the top down* is that this sort of thing is regrettable but necessary in the name of "stronger homeland security". Where is the critical mass? How much of this could a collective people take?

We've been very fortunate in that there have been no attacks on American soil since september 11, 2001. I get very scared to think of what else we may accept as "necessary" if there are more.
posted by jeremias at 2:19 PM on December 22, 2002


"I marched up to the woman who’d been examining her and shouted, 'What did you do to her?'"

I'm sorry, but when you're dealing with airport security these days, you do not "march up" and you do not shout. You comply. It's not like the feds broke into his house and copped a feel. He and his wife were getting into a small space which they would share for an hour or two with several other vulnerable people. And so they made him take off his baseball cap, and a woman at the airport touched his wife's breasts and made her show her tummy. Big deal.

I have zero sympathy for this guy and his precious, precious little life.
posted by judlew at 2:20 PM on December 22, 2002


Judlew, as much as you think you may not need it, I can't say I have no sympathy for you and yours.

Yes, his actions were mildly reprehensible, if understandable. But does the subsequent perversion of truth (if we are to believe Mr. Monahan's story) incense no one but me and muppetboy?

I finished my letter, went shopping, and am going to see the Two Towers. Mild catharsis. But I hope I'm still as mad about this when I get back.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 2:37 PM on December 22, 2002


it's not so much this incident in isolation which incenses me as the whole background of neo-orwellian madness. the new definitions, lies and omissions are what incenses me - the total lack of respect for anything resembling logic, process or the truth. it really feels like the end of the enlightenment.
posted by muppetboy at 2:46 PM on December 22, 2002


ROU_Xenophobe and boomchicka, explain to me what your thoughts would be if you could know beyond a doubt that Monahan were speaking the truth?

About the ass-covering? My usual answer is that cops who abuse their authority should be publicly hanged, but this is well within the range of assuming stupidity rather than malice. Minimally, he should have pled not guilty, asked for a new trial date, and then pointed out that they destroyed evidence or, if the video exists, subpoena it and see what's on it.

I'm sorry, but when you're dealing with airport security these days, you do not "march up" and you do not shout. You comply.

Well, no. You walk up calmly and, without shouting or waving your arms or otherwise being threatening, you explain that you feel you've been mistreated, are planning to file suit and wish to speak to someone with the appropriate authority, and will need copies of any videotapes for that suit. Ideally you should ensure that this is recorded in some manner of official complaint report, of which the traveler should make sure to get a copy. You'll probably miss your flight though.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:50 PM on December 22, 2002


"Nick Monahan works in the film industry. He writes out of Los Angeles where he lives with his wife and as of December 18th, his beautiful new son. "

Glad it's all worked out allright.
posted by semmi at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2002


Of course, the half of a woman's stomach between her bra and the top of her maternity pants isn't indecent exposure

I submit that that is not your call to make.

when you're dealing with airport security these days, you do not "march up" and you do not shout. You comply.

Do you also cringe and duck your head, while whimpering softly for pardon?
posted by rushmc at 3:41 PM on December 22, 2002


I'm sorry, but when you're dealing with airport security these days, you do not "march up" and you do not shout. You comply. It's not like the feds broke into his house and copped a feel.

And if the feds did break into his home and cop a feel, and rummage through all his belongings while they were at it, meanwhile insulting him and his wife and telling them there was nothing they could do about it... you would still be saying he shouldn't shout, he should comply. That's what gets me about all the people in this and other threads who keep saying "don't get so upset, it could be worse, we still have more freedoms than [pick your favorite immiserated country]"—I get the feeling that no matter how bad it gets, you'll be saying the same things. "So they're arresting people for e-mail now and nobody ever hears from them again and everybody has to be strip-searched every time they enter and leave their office buildings and it's illegal to criticize the government... it's still better than being an Iraqi, so quit bitching!" The time to bitch is now, without waiting for the most anesthetized among us to wake up to the danger.
posted by languagehat at 4:07 PM on December 22, 2002


Boyzone indeed!

As a female traveler, I can attest to the intrusiveness of airport screeners. Would you (the males) submit willingly to have your scrotum/testicles prodded with a metal detecting wand? [And no, it will not be done by the hottie of your choice.]

Having my breasts repeatedly swiped via the aforementioned wand by a man who gave me the creeps anyway is a minor intrusion compared to what this man's wife went through. Remember, alot of women are not particulary pleased with their pregnant visage and having to display it for complete strangers would be enough to bring many to tears.
posted by sillygit at 4:15 PM on December 22, 2002


Would you (the males) submit willingly to have your scrotum/testicles prodded with a metal detecting wand?

"Submit willingly"? Hell, I've paid good cash money for that.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:52 PM on December 22, 2002


Mostly, I am disappointed with this blasé acceptance of atrocious behaviour. I can now see how easy it is for a society to slip into ugly behaviour. All it takes is a shrug of the shoulders.

I hope that if my country ever starts heading down the same path, I have the good sense and guts to stand up against it.

What surprises me is that the guy was so restrained. You just don't threaten a pregnant woman when her mate is around. I'm surprised he didn't go completely caveman and beat the living shit out of everything within a twenty-foot radius of her. Shit, that's his wife and child you're messing with! You're almost guaranteed an asswhupping, and rightly so!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:20 PM on December 22, 2002


f_f_f, note that you've only seen "blasé acceptance" from a few here, and (properly, IMO) outrage from many others. Do not go despairingly into that etc. etc.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:23 PM on December 22, 2002


Jeez, take off for a few hours of shopping and dinner, and all hell breaks loose.

Muppetboy: I realized where you were coming from as soon as I checked out your very-snarkily-presented list of exceptions. Seeing that not one of them dealt with airline travel, it becomes obvious that we're arguing two different points. I said that Monahan's wife's treatment during airline travel was probably an exception. And given that millions of people travel on any given day with no significant problems, I maintain that position. But you're talking about more than airline travel. You even admit that:

it's not so much this incident in isolation which incenses me as the whole background of neo-orwellian madness

I fully respect your right to be paranoid. I can even relate to your and five fresh fish's passionate indignance; I would have reacted similarly at nineteen or twenty. Maybe I'm too jaded to get all up in arms about this, but the older I get, the less likely I am to freak out about every scare. I've seen so many similar "scares" come and go and not pan out to be half the hell as bad as I thought they would be. So if I'm complacent, f f f, at least it's based on plenty of experience.
posted by boomchicka at 6:21 PM on December 22, 2002


Remember, alot of women are not particulary pleased with their pregnant visage and having to display it for complete strangers would be enough to bring many to tears.

Yahbut, it isn't crazy to want to make sure that the lady with the big tummy is actually pregnant and not muling something. The problem was that they didn't have a privacy screen, which they should get. It's not like they're expensive.

FFF: there's a place for men who go apeshit and beat up everything within twenty feet because their wives suffered an indignity: prison, because they certainly don't belong in society. If he didn't like the way he or his wife were treated, he should have calmly gathered the evidence to press suit against the airport, not threatened people with bodily harm.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:24 PM on December 22, 2002


If he didn't like the way he or his wife were treated, he should have calmly gathered the evidence

Not married, are you, Xenophobe?
posted by languagehat at 6:47 PM on December 22, 2002


This guy sounds like a total tool, huffing and puffing through having to stand on one foot (the horror!) and finally totally blowing it with his temper tantrum.

Everybody knows the airports are inefficient and ridiculous, the security guards stand around asking volunteers to submit to searches. This is the beauty of federal beaurocracy at its most magnificiently meddlingly moronic.

Two things for the toolbox: Pregnant women cry, they have dizzy spells and swollen ankles, and don't respond well to huffy husbands and strangers ogling them. Maybe if sir huff-a-lot had taken it easy his wife wouldn't have gotten so upset, and he wouldn't have found a way of blaming everybody and their second cousins, curiously excluding himself.

I enjoyed the nasty little sarcastic "let freedom reign" swipe after seeing the wrong side of the temper-tank bars. Anyone's fault but one's own eh, hotshot?
posted by hama7 at 7:58 PM on December 22, 2002


Not married, are you, Xenophobe?

Am actually, but I have these funny notions about violence and its place in a notionally civilized society, and for some weird reason I favor rationality over brutish reactivity.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:37 PM on December 22, 2002


By entering a plea of no contest and declining to stand trial, the man has no justification in saying the system has failed him. He bailed on due process, and didn't give the system a chance to prove itself. His plea was a forfeiture of his right to trial made for his own convenience, and does not prove that the US constitution has been undermined by the Patriot Act.
It may very well be that it has, but I'm not going to believe it until someone actually goes to court on trumped-up charges and loses. Some guy saying he got a raw deal without having anything to back it up or the principles to fight it just won't cut it.
posted by cardboard at 9:15 PM on December 22, 2002


Thank you, Hama7! Finally, a much-needed voice of reason in this melee. Boys don't know what they're talking about sometimes.
posted by boomchicka at 9:16 PM on December 22, 2002


He was pissed off, by his own admission, even before that. "Soon I was standing on one foot, my arms stretched out, the other leg sticking out in front of me àla a DUI test. I began to get pissed off, as most normal people would" You know, I don't get pissed off when I am asked to stick out my feet. I've been in airports a lot since 9/11. The whole implication of "why don't you guys go after the bad guys, not me and my wife?" really smacks of bizarre American privilege. He started yelling before he had even talked to her.This guy sounds like a total tool, huffing and puffing through having to stand on one foot (the horror!) and finally totally blowing it with his temper tantrum.

You guys nailed it. You can't go in being an asshole and then act shocked that they clamp down on you. I look like a goddamned terrorist, but I go through being nice and polite and enduring these people who are just doing their jobs, and guess what? I don't get a lot of shit. Yes, I get asked to take my shoes off every time and I get my bag checked both at the counter and at the gate every time, but I don't go pissing and moaning about it.

I pity this guy's kid, growing up with a dad who's that fixated on having everything his way.
posted by anildash at 9:34 PM on December 22, 2002


Why would you need to hastily jam a baseball hat on a 5 AM anyway? If it's that important a 5AM, no wonder he flipped when he was asked to remove it in public. What an affront to his own vanity!!
posted by marvin at 10:04 PM on December 22, 2002


Whoah. Whoah!

I am surprised at you guys - your cynicism especially, and unwilligness to accord the presumption of good faith. "Fixated on having everything his way"?

Look, I couldn't care less about the breech birth or the wedding, per se. To me, the important part of this narrative isn't the incident at the security checkpoint, either, but a citizen's lack of recourse thereafter: the retrospective rearrangement of testimony, apparent removal of objective evidence, and so forth.

So maybe you wouldn't want this guy as neighbor. So what. The whole point is that a polity's rule of law must be enforced equally on behalf of the least sympathetic among us if it is to have any meaning at all.

(BTW, I do sort of agree that he surrendered much of a right to complain by not pursuing the formal venues available to him in the name of his own convenience. Doesn't change a damn thing about the nature of his allegations, though, which are shocking and disheartening.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:27 PM on December 22, 2002


This points out an important role that the public has in helping the totalitarianism train run smoothly. By labeling anyone who runs afoul of the police state's growing mechanisms a whiner, a loser, a malcontent, a nut, etc, etc, we make it easier to ignore the minority who still have the courage to protest what's going on. By proudly proclaiming that we've run the fear-gauntlet any number of times and it was nuthin', we were proud to do it, etc, etc, we set the bar of mindless conformance at a reachable height for others. Of course nobody's luck lasts forever & eventually the bravest braggart will be stripped, tasered and carted away for banning, but by then nobody's listening - there are new star-spangled voices drowning the old farts out.
posted by anser at 10:28 PM on December 22, 2002


I have to admit I'm just a little amused by this story. Some white guy gets into a snit, stamps his little foot and proclaims "I've got rights." Sorry, folks. This is a lesson the less privileged learn at an early age. In this kind of situation you don't have rights. The cops hold all the cards and you can't win. If they get you into a patrol car or jail cell they can do anything to you and say anything about you and you have no recourse. They will resort to testi-lying if necessary. Once you have been through these sorts of abuses from the authorities a few times you get smart and learn that you must remain calm and cooperative at all costs because if you are taken out of the view of witnesses, your ass belongs to them. The poor, minorities, teenagers, gays and other authority targets learn these lessons well. Protest under these circumstances will get you nothing but a broken head. You must know when and where to fight your battles. Consider this a strategic withdrawal in preparation for the real war. When you want to make a point through some sort of civil disobedience or direct action you must do it on your own terms at a time of your choosing. Fighting back against these mindless foot soldiers does nothing to prove your point or advance your cause against the real power holders. These are the practicalities of the fight for civil liberties that you don't learn in a high school civics class.

It's amusing because many of us learned these lessons long ago on the battlefront for civil rights. Average middle-class folks have never been confronted with the harassment and injustice that the less fortunate face every day on the streets and in our neighborhoods and have shown little sympathy. If your encounters with the new homeland security authoritarians change your position in the struggle for rights, I welcome you to the cause. I just hope you remember the rest of us when its not just your own ox that is being gored.
posted by JackFlash at 10:32 PM on December 22, 2002


I wonder if this is he.

[snark]

Glad the film industry's working out so well.

[/snark]

yah, I know -- there's way more to "the film industry" than makes it onto that site...but I just couldn't resist, y'know?

I'll echo what others have said: Treat people nicely. If they don't treat *you* nicely, be assertive but fair, courteous, and generally not a jerk. I get pulled at security all the time (I've never flown out of Raleigh-Durham without getting de-shod and wanded), and have been singled out for supposedly "random" searches that weren't. Even though I'm a stocky, Germanic-looking (and very white) guy, i.e., not the popular conception of a terrorist, I flew to DC last November and December quite a bit...each time traveling solo and using a one-way ticket bought the day before or the day of the flight. Like hell it's random.

Besides, in my experience the TSA screeners are light-years ahead of the private ones in terms of rudeness (none to speak of under the TSA) and casual pilferage of pocket change (ditto.) I find the TSA screeners to be uniformly efficient and personable. Security is no longer the worst part of the flying experience (as it used to be whenever I flew out of Atlanta.) THAT distinction now belongs to the airlines.

It is disturbing that the evidence apparently disappeared. But if you don't want to prove your innocence in court and plead no contest instead, it's hard to talk about getting railroaded by the system.
posted by Vidiot at 10:49 PM on December 22, 2002


I'm really suprised at how many people here are down on this guy. Taking off your shoes and having your bag checked is one thing, but would any of you really remain calm if it was your pregnant wife who had been driven to tears? He didn't attack the security guard, he shouted at her. Ideally he should have been more composed, but under the circumstances I think his reaction was totally understandable. We've all got a point where we can snap, and that would do it for a lot of people. At least they could have showed some understanding afterwards, but the way they treated him thereafter was petty and malicious.

Meanwhile, the American government continues to turn a blind eye to the permissiveness of the government whose people who actually fund terrorism.
posted by homunculus at 11:15 PM on December 22, 2002


JackFlash: negative, negative. Again, this is not about "some white guy" (how offensive) and what you see as his insulated bourgeois naivete regarding the workings of power.

To say that, in America, once you're out of sight of witnesses anything may be done to you by uniformed thugs: justifiable. We've all seen the Rodney King video, and too many others. To say, however, that one is without the recourse of due process and the equal protection of law is insulting, and ignorant.

Did the system ever work perfectly, on behalf of "the poor, minorities, teenagers, gays and other authority targets"? Of course not. The extension of the rule of law to include the powerless is always going to be an ongoing burden for any civil society. But since the post-09.11 psychodrama, we've been sliding backwards with a stomach-churning rapidity, to the point that tales that we used to regard as historical - think Joe Hill getting dragged from his cell to his death - now seem unnervingly prospective.

Be afraid, Americans. Be very afraid. But don't just be afraid: be angry, and active, and always remember what we used to stand for and will hopefully stand for again.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:17 PM on December 22, 2002


Well I've read everyone's comments and I saw, like homunculus saw, that a lot of people were down on this guy. That he should have acted more cool. Well, I can agree that he could have acted better, but then again, it was 5 in the morning and his wife was pregnant. That is probably a good combination for high emotional tension. I would think the airport security might have been a bit more understanding under the circumstances. But it might have depended on how much Mr. Monahan lost his cool (which I guess we can't judge too accurately).

On a side note, I found out while flying from OKC to Cleveland that they will search you at every checkpoint at every airport if you don't have any carry on luggage. It was just me, myself, and I, and I got searched every time. So bring something on the plane.
posted by Ron at 12:24 AM on December 23, 2002


Oh dear. As he 'works' in the 'film industry', I wonder what his reaction would be if he was on location and he came across some dude who was raging at one of his colleagues?
His anger on the day seems (to this unqualified amateur) to be more related to his tiredness, stress and general grumpiness. It doesn't matter if you're a billionaire, or an airport employee - if you have some bloke screeching into your face, you're not going to smile sweetly and wish the geezer well. They were probably concerned that his anger may not have abated and may have escalated instead.
There is a cultural divide here. In England, we are used to heavy duty security at airports. I don't feel my rights are being devalued at being checked out, because it reassures me that the rest of my fellow passengers have been checked out, and thus my chances of reaching my destination with all limbs intact are increased.
He needs to work on that c.v. though...
posted by apocalypse miaow at 1:25 AM on December 23, 2002


I swear to god, you can just stick you fucking government up your collective asses. Its your own fucking fault.
posted by jackiemcghee at 2:31 AM on December 23, 2002


I swear to god, you can just stick you fucking government up your collective asses. Its your own fucking fault.

As someone who's just decided to move his honeymoon to Oceana I can agree with this one... at least until it spreads. I don't trust any government because no matter who they are they will always be corrupt in one way or another, but the current American lot does seem a tad OTT in its dealings.

Still... a war, whatever it be on (even your own people) is always good for getting yourself re-elected. (Or elected, depending on if you live in Florida or not. ;) )
posted by twine42 at 4:53 AM on December 23, 2002


There is a cultural divide here. In England, we are used to heavy duty security at airports. I don't feel my rights are being devalued at being checked out, because it reassures me that the rest of my fellow passengers have been checked out, and thus my chances of reaching my destination with all limbs intact are increased.

I agree, we are. However I always believed that we were entitled to be searched by a member of the same sex in private. The poor lass would almost certainly have been jumped on by security for lifting her skirt up in the concours, so why is standing in line at security any different?

The guy is a jackass. Even I know that you don't piss off someone in security unless you really want to spend the night sharing a cell with a seven foot black guy call Bubba who thinks your arse looks rather cute. But you can understand why he'd get arsey about forcing his wife to flash.
posted by twine42 at 5:03 AM on December 23, 2002


Ever heard of irony?

A few years ago, we were told that irony was dead. I laughed. How could that be?

Now I can see that there may not be room, while traversing the public sphere, to be ironic. Things are coalescing into black and white, where every action and reaction is clear. No gray areas for interpretation. This, IMHO, is the real terror.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:11 AM on December 23, 2002


anser: I'm glad somebody's got their head screwed on straight.

would any of you really remain calm if it was your pregnant wife who had been driven to tears?

homunculus, I think many of these people have no idea what it would be like to actually be in this situation (sorry, folks, but having had to take your shoes off at the airport doesn't cut it), and they don't have the faintest idea how they'd actually react—they just want to show off how very cool and rational they (think they) are.
posted by languagehat at 7:35 AM on December 23, 2002


twine42: As someone who's just decided to move his honeymoon to Oceana

I thought Oceana was at war with Eastasia. Oceana will ALWAYS be at war with Eastasia.

Granted, languagehat, I'm not sure how I'd react. I've never been in that situation (and given that I'm not married, won't be for a while.) I'd undoubtedly be pissed off. But hopefully, I wouldn't bound up to the guard and start screaming and cursing. One can be polite but extremely assertive and forceful. Hopefully I'd have the self-control to do that.
posted by Vidiot at 8:15 AM on December 23, 2002


Languagehat, of course most of us haven't been in that situation (fortunately). But we HAVE been in the shoes-off situation, and we know that Monahan should have taken that one down about 9 notches. This is a good reminder not to cry wolf -- if you freak out about tiny things like the shoes-off inspection, no one will listen when you have a legitimate complaint.
posted by boomchicka at 8:31 AM on December 23, 2002


...a seven foot black guy called Bubba...

Let's keep the racism on-topic ok?
posted by sudama at 8:41 AM on December 23, 2002


Something yet to be answered: what was he doing standing on one foot?
posted by swerve at 8:43 AM on December 23, 2002


[sidetrack]
twine42: Even I know that you don't piss off someone in security unless you really want to spend the night sharing a cell with a seven foot black guy call Bubba who thinks your arse looks rather cute.

Where'd that come from? Even if I was with you on the 7 foot Bubba- and don't get me started on the ha ha prison rape theme again- why especially does he have to be a seven foot black guy? Is it because black dudes are just inherently scary or something? What went into the thinking of that line? It was an unconscious choice, an image that just naturally popped up when you thought "what are the dangers of challenging authority... hm, that would be anal rape by a 7 foot black monster", which is why I want to ask you about it.

The image just popped into my head that back in '48 or so, no doubt plenty of Strom and Trent types used the terrifying idea of the 'frightening black savage' to keep plenty of white folk properly in line with their authority.
[/sidetrack]
posted by hincandenza at 8:59 AM on December 23, 2002


whoops! Just noticed sudama's comment. Er... what he said.

swerve: The idea is you stand on one foot at a time, and raise the other one while the "security" "official" waves the wand around your shoes, and presumably checks your soles for thermonuclear material, or 15 hidden Saudi Arabians.
posted by hincandenza at 9:02 AM on December 23, 2002


While reading this article I began to wonder Just why would they single out a pregnant woman to expose herself in public this way? Are pot bellied man lifting their shirts to prove it is actually a gut and not some concealed weapon? Would it be proper for them to expect my 82 yr old grandmother to lift her blouse and expose her mid section? Grandmom would be horrified to have to submit to such treatment. Some peoples sense of decency are different than others. I tell you what, if they tried to make my Grandmom do that, they would have a really upset me on their hands. Maybe I too would be spending the night in a cell, but I would do that before having my Grandmother humiliated this way. When are we going to say enough is enough? If they deem it absolutely necessary to do any kind of inspection beneath a person's clothing, then by all means that should be done in private.
posted by SweetIceT at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2002


When are we going to say enough is enough?

Indeed. It seems to me that some in this thread (and elsewhere) have little concept of personal dignity, so it is not surprising that affronts to same make little impression upon them. What is needed is for people to have a little more self-esteem and a better idea of their own self-worth.

I don't care how you quake with terror at the thought of vague and unlikely threats to your person: efforts to increase security (or the perception of security, anyway) do not justify disrespect toward and abuse of anyone--much less your customers, without whom your business and your job will crumble.

Any and all security measures should have to pass the test of rational assessment: are they reasonable under current threat situations? Are they effective? Are they likely to achieve their stated goals? Are they real or for show? Do they treat people like herded sheep or like adult citizens with the rights and dignity of same? Any measures that do not pass all of these tests should be abandoned forthwith.
posted by rushmc at 11:07 AM on December 23, 2002


While reading this article I began to wonder Just why would they single out a pregnant woman to expose herself in public this way?

Actually, using a pregnant woman to carry bombs is terrorist tactic used repeatedly in the past. Don't know about the public part.

You would think that people in this country would understand what's at stake here, and instead of pissing and moaning about how intrusive airport security is, look to help make it better. Its hard to know from the article, but it sounds like this guy started his own problems by being outraged that he was being checked by security personnel at an airport.

There are larger issues at stake here than personal dignity. Really. It just goes to show what a bunch of spoiled brats Americans are.
posted by xammerboy at 11:37 AM on December 23, 2002


So xammerboy, when they expect you to drop trou for that oh so required cavity search within public eyesight, I expect you to comply fully without a whimper for "after all there are larger things at stake than personal dignity." YOUR personal dignity is of no concern to the rest of us......
posted by SweetIceT at 12:02 PM on December 23, 2002


I'd undoubtedly be pissed off. But hopefully, I wouldn't bound up to the guard and start screaming and cursing. One can be polite but extremely assertive and forceful. Hopefully I'd have the self-control to do that.

Vidiot: Exactly. "Hopefully" is the key word here. We all hope that we would behave well (rationally, with self-control) in any difficult situation life presents us with. If we get divorced, we hope we will behave with dignity and generosity; if we are in a fight, we hope we will display courage; if we find ourselves in a position of power over others, we hope we will use it wisely and not be corrupted by it. Alas, our hopes are often betrayed. When one has lived long enough to learn that one does not always behave as one would wish, one has more understanding of people who behave less than rationally (and frankly, in this particular situation, I'm not at all sure I would want to behave completely rationally; I share sheauga's reaction). When we're young and untried, we're satisfied with our fantasies of how well we'd behave under any and all circumstances, and we're far less tolerant of people who fall short of our imagined standards.

boomchicka, he was not freaking out about a shoes-off inspection. Reread his account, and this time try to actually imagine what it was like, don't just equate it to the minor hassles you've undergone.

And everybody who's pouring scorn on this guy and saying we should all suck it up because the fight against terrorism takes precedence: where do you draw the line? Just when do we have the right to get offended, to talk back, to cause trouble? Because if we never do, we'll wind up with no freedoms at all. That's how it works.

On preview: Right on, SweetIceT.
posted by languagehat at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2002


xammerboy: Actually, I don't think you are understanding what's at stake. We need to get serious about security. So that's why I support the new plan to strip, kill, then mulch all passengers, that's the only way they can pose no harm in the air. There are much larger issues here than personal freedoms, like, uhm, defending freedom!

Yeah....

Do we seriously have to accept any plan that's proposed or put in place is the "right" plan? Why is it whenever a thread like this gets started there are those that instantly jump to defend The Government [tm], regardless of issue?

People, our government isn't our Big Brother, it's just people doing their job. Sometimes people don't do their job well, and since they are supposed to be serving the general population we should let them know when what they are doing isn't satisfying us. It appears as though a lot of people in this thread have a problem with the way the searches are being carried out. That's important. They aren't saying that the searches are bad. They even say they have some positive value. However, our system is neither professional nor courteous. It's filled with people who are overworked and improperly trained. People who aren't even able to deal with an upset passenger without throwing him into a cell.

Now if someone can argue that the actions taken by the security/police (namely throwing an upset husband with a crying wife in a cell) are acceptable. Then fine do that. However, no one her is arguing that we decrease our security concerns, or let the terrorist have unfettered access to planes, or whatever your concern may be.
posted by betaray at 12:21 PM on December 23, 2002


What's at stake? For gods' sake, do some basic research. Other than the exceptional 9/11 event, there's been bugger-all in the way of aircraft terrorism in the USA. Airplane travel is safe.

There have been exactly six US aviation events involving terrorism, sabotage, or suicide over the past twenty years.

Only three these events resulted in substantial fatalities: the '87 San Luis Obispo murder-suicide, in which an airline ex-employee executed his boss and the pilots; the Lockerbie bombing; and the coordinated hijacking of the 9/11 aircraft.

There is less likelyhood of being harmed in an air-borne terrorist event than there is of getting food poisoning from the airline food. You sure as hell don't seem to be up in arms about the food, so why are you so irrationally paranoid about pregnant women?

If the population and politicians would just bloody well THINK instead of react, we'd be a damn sight better off.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 PM on December 23, 2002


adamgreenfield - He did not lack recourse, he abandonned his avenue of recourse by pleading no contest. His choice, and he gets to live with it. All the rest is him trying to make it someone else's problem instead of his own.

Really, is the wife some child bride? No, we're told she's a professional, but it's not her we're hearing from, it's the one that chose to give up the fight and then whine about it instead fighting for what he tells us he thinks is right. Who we are and are not hearing from in this from says a lot.
posted by NortonDC at 12:31 PM on December 23, 2002


My son went footling breech at 8 1/2 mo.and I had to have a c/section for his safety and mine. I'll have to try and remember what *trauma* I had forced upon me so I can sue. Give me a break. Definately a one sided story!
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 9:13 PM on December 23, 2002


Meanwhile, the guy who prevented Coleen Rowley from investigating Zacarias Moussaoui before the Sept. 11 has received an award for "exceptional performance" and a cash bonus.
posted by homunculus at 9:27 PM on December 23, 2002


...before the Sept 11. attacks has received... I blame the security guard for my typos.
posted by homunculus at 9:46 PM on December 23, 2002


There are larger issues at stake here than personal dignity. Really.

No, there aren't. Really.

And what fff said.
posted by rushmc at 11:18 PM on December 23, 2002


There is less likelyhood of being harmed in an air-borne terrorist event than there is of getting food poisoning from the airline food.

Y'know, that's not particularly reassuring...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:30 AM on December 24, 2002


The pregnant wife thing struck a chord with me. My GF is expecting our child and I can feel my protective instinct growing. If it was me, I would have been violent, I would have been in gaol and it would have been my own fault.

But I would have been suprised if my resulting trial involved such an obvious destruction of evidence and my peers thought this was "the price we pay for our security".
posted by fullerine at 5:55 AM on December 24, 2002


and a woman at the airport touched his wife's breasts and made her show her tummy. Big deal.

If someone wants to touch my breasts they had better be my husband, my doctor or my nursing child. If they're anyone else, then yes, it is a big deal, a very big deal. You see, this is my body, and last I checked I not only had a right to privacy about what was under my clothing but I had a right to be secure in my person from unreasonable searches. Someone putting their hands on my breasts because I might have some contraband and viewing that as "routine" is to my mind (and I think that the majority of women would agree) damned unreasonable.

That aside, we're now to a point where we have government agents who are free to do whatever they please to us in the name of security and an objection or refusal to go along passively can (and most likely will) land us in jail. Simply raising your voice, failing to be a quiet, good little citizen and suck it all up, is viewed not as an exercise of the (still extant, last I checked) right of free speech, nor as a person behaving as a person -- not a regulation-bound automaton -- might in an angering or embarrassing situation, but as a threat.

The frightening thing is that there doesn't seem to be any way around it. I've tried to imagine what would happen if someone were asked to expose themselves in some fashion or stand on one foot (something I'm physically incapable of, I wonder what they'd make of that) and decided they didn't think that flying was worth all of that and instead chose to turn around and walk away. And I mean walk away as turn back, gather your stuff and leave the airport. Does anyone think that pulling away from a security check -- even if your actions made it clear that you weren't trying to breach security because you were moving away from secure areas -- would be permitted? I'm having a very hard time believing so. But I know that I'm not going to be the one who tries.

Chalk up another who will drive there or not go at all.
posted by Dreama at 8:21 AM on December 24, 2002


Fish: "There is less likelyhood of being harmed in an air-borne terrorist event than there is of getting food poisoning from the airline food."

inpHilltr8r: Y'know, that's not particularly reassuring...


There were 572 passenger deaths due to sabotage, suicide, or terrorist incident on American-owned aircraft during the twenty-year period of 1982-2002.

In that same time period there were approximately 10 067 000 000 passengers.

Your chances of dying has been less than one in 18 million over that period. In annual terms, it works out to about a 1 in 352 million risk.

In other words, so small as to be as good as no chance.

Things that pose more risk to you:
- being killed by a dog.
- dying in your own bathtub.
- freezing to death.
- falling out of bed.
- killed by a drunk driver.
- killed by your own damn stupidity.

And yet despite the odds of these things killing you being hundreds and thousands of times more likely, the government doesn't see fit to protect you from them.

Go figure.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 AM on December 24, 2002


I think it's obvious that this guy didn't handle things in the best way possible. There was no reason to initially be upset when he was searched, or to be screaming for any reason. Or, for that matter, to be carrying scissors. But not handling things in the best way possible shouldn't be considered a reason to be arrested, to miss a flight, to be banned from a public area, or to be possibly charged with a felony.
posted by dagnyscott at 2:18 PM on December 24, 2002


While you're figuring, five fresh fish, you might wish to include the other 2,792 deaths at the World Trade Center, and the 125 deaths at the Pentagon, that were caused by "sabotage, suicide, or terrorist incident." You might also wish to consider the almost unlimited potential for further ground casualties presented, should a plane strike (e.g.) a nuclear powerplant. It isn't just an actuarial problem, and (obviously) future risks can't be assessed from past data.
posted by coelecanth at 4:42 PM on December 24, 2002


You might also wish to consider the almost unlimited potential for further ground casualties

Bah, it's nothing compared to the potential for casualties if a comet whacks us! If we're going to panic over intangibles, let's do it right, dammit!
posted by rushmc at 5:32 AM on December 25, 2002


It isn't just an actuarial problem, and (obviously) future risks can't be assessed from past data.

And if future risks can be abated by embarrassing a pregnant woman to the point of tears and prodding her breasts, then Monahan was completely in the wrong. But if they can't...
posted by Dreama at 5:51 AM on December 25, 2002


Sorry, coelecanth, I have to reject the on-ground body count entirely. (However, were we to start down that path, I'd have to point out that traffic accidents are killing many, many more people; ditto firearms, etcetera. None of which are receiving a rational amount of attention in comparison to air passenger "security" molestation.)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 PM on December 26, 2002


If we're going to panic over intangibles,...
rushmc: it is true that (to my knowledge) no comet has killed a human being in recorded history. However, on a single day last year, three airplanes killed four times as many people on the ground as had died from U.S. airplane-related terrorism, suicide or sabotage in the previous 20 years. In the context of planes causing ground casualties, only a person who doesn't know what "intangible" means could use that word in good faith; I suggest you look it up.

Five fresh fish: I didn't know you were in charge tallying the figures. I guess it's fine for you to "reject the on-ground body count entirely." I guess you can also reject gravity from mass, if you want, or calories from cake. But the September 11th hijackers boarded airplanes with the specific intention of killing people on the ground, and even counting the four who failed, and only counting the victims on the ground, each hijacker killed 157 people.

Traffic accidents and gun fatalities are a red herring. We're talking about airport security here. We've already got checkpoints at airports, and to date everyone who's killed or terrorized with an airplane has passed through one. If everyone who got into a car could be screened for, um..., future traffic accidents at some centralized checkpoint, they would be.

I'm sorry Monahan's wife had a bad trip, but the security people are doing a massive, new, and necessary job where a great deal is already demonstrably at stake. Nobody should end up crying at a security checkpoint, but can we please just dial back on the drama a little bit?
posted by coelecanth at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2002


Far more effective than feeling up the boobs of pregnant women, coelecanth, would be to eliminate high-density clusters of people! Eliminate skyscrapers! Spread out the cities!

That way, no one could EVER crash an airplane in a manner that kills thousands of people!

It's the most rational solution, you know.

It's cute how you give a sarcastic comment on tallying figures, and then go on to tally the figures yourself. I guess I'm not in charge of the tally -- you are!

Here's the key argument: We've already got checkpoints at airports, and to date everyone who's killed or terrorized with an airplane has passed through one... and despite that, the terrorists still get through. The next suicide bomber will simply stuff plastic explosives up his ass, and pass through security free as a bird.

There is no airport security. It's just a show.

It is ineffective, expensive, invasive, rude, tiresome, and out of all proportion to the actual risks.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 AM on December 28, 2002


I'll take that as a "No."
posted by coelecanth at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2002


The histrionics and high drama are on your part, guy. Three mass-murder incidents over twenty years and you're in a panic. You're worried about being killed in an event that's less likely than being struck by lightening. That's insane.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:08 PM on December 28, 2002


I haven't read this yet but it's relevant to our discussion. Penn Gillette receives a similar treatment at another airport. As I've been reviewing this discussion, I think I've come to see the other side. Of course, I hope I didn't change my mind because Penn is a celebrity or because the security guard touched something that I have.

I'm expecting that Penn's account will be much more evenhanded just as his response to the violation seems to have been.
posted by stuart_s at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2003


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