Does it start now?
October 20, 2010 1:05 PM   Subscribe

"Better people than I have sacrificed more than their careers, their livelihood, for the cause of freedom. Americans need to wake up and stand up." Michael Roberts, a pilot for ExpressJet, refused to enter the millimeter wave machine. TSA called the police and sent him home.

The latest chapter in the controversy about total body imaging. Ongoing: The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit over the summer to suspend scanner use. Backscatter technology on the streets. The people who make them just want to use "patented technology for the most comprehensive detection of organic and inorganic materials on a person." Good thing they've got TSA and DHS heavy hitters lobbying for them.
posted by peachfuzz (142 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
For whatever reason, whenever I think of this machine, it reminds me of this scene from Spinal Tap.
posted by geoff. at 1:08 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


TSA's reasoning is that the pilot couldn't possibly do anything to harm the plane unless he snuck a weapon on board?
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:08 PM on October 20, 2010 [117 favorites]


There is no reasoning. It's just a process.

It's a process for the sake of a process.
posted by Tavern at 1:12 PM on October 20, 2010 [30 favorites]


If they offered on the spot print outs of your body scan i bet more people would accept them.

I know I'd pony up 10 bucks for one.
posted by Max Power at 1:14 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Like theater for the sake of show. And to display that everyone gets the same treatment, even though we know that isn't true.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:14 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pilots can't chose to be patted down like the rest of us?
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm encouraging everyone to refer to these machines as "pornoscans".

As in, "avoid that security lane over there, it's the pornoscan one." If we can make that catch on, they're sunk.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:15 PM on October 20, 2010 [62 favorites]


Your problem in understanding this is that you used TSA and reasoning in the same sentence, jenkinsEar.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:15 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pilots can't chose to be patted down like the rest of us?

He refused to be patted down as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:16 PM on October 20, 2010


TSA's reasoning is that the pilot couldn't possibly do anything to harm the plane unless he snuck a weapon on board?

Exactly. I suspect the pilot could trivially crash the plane during takeoff or landing before the co-pilot could do anything about it. They could probably also manage to crash into the airport or another plane while they were at it. Some takeoffs and landings involve the plane coming quite close to large buildings as well.

Pilots should be trained and screened for things like psychological and substance abuse problems, but once you're going to let them fly the plane, you've got little choice but to trust them.
posted by jedicus at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Can somebody write a ballad for this guy please?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


He refused to be patted down as well.

It's sad, but these are the problems people face after a fresh penile implant.
posted by uraniumwilly at 1:18 PM on October 20, 2010


"Better people than I have sacrificed more than their careers, their livelihood, for the cause of freedom. Americans need to wake up and stand up."

I'm glad to find that people are willing to take a stand against full body scans and being questioned upon re-entering the country, but not for loss of habeas corpus or requiring warrants.

...
posted by yeloson at 1:19 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


eponysterical
posted by borborygmi at 1:20 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I encountered the first of these machines in my life just a couple of days ago. I was nearly tempted to take the patdown line. I may do it next time. You know, just because... might as well get my money's worth out of the employees I'm paying for when I go through the security checks.

But then... I'm still left wondering what happened to all the reports at the end of 2008 that the TSA was going to start allowing people to carry liquids onto airplanes again. It's like, they made all those announcements, and then nothing changed, nothing happened. I have yet to actually find the announcement of the reversal of the previous announcement, but I'd sure like to read about what changed between the time they decided we could maybe carry our toiletries onto the plane again and the time they rescinded the decision to change that policy.

Or something. I'm confused with all these reversals and changes.

Security theater, indeed.
posted by hippybear at 1:20 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can somebody write a ballad for this guy please?

It's already been written.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:21 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


But... terrorists!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:21 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good for him - being subjected to this crap at SFO over the summer left me in a sputtering rage. The sacrifice of our dignity in the name of minimum wage security theater is a national disgrace.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:21 PM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Last time I was in an airport they tried to send me through one of those and I refused. The guy didn't scream or arrest me or anything but he was fairly pissed off and made it clear (I think intentionally) that I was making his life more difficult, plus then I had to wait a while for a female security officer to pat me down. Although it's not nearly as bad as calling the police, I think this type of disincentive can be really powerful; I am absolutely NOT going through one of those things and there are signs in the airport telling me I have the right to make that choice. If I have the right to make that choice I have the right to make it, and I shouldn't be penalized for it by having the security officer get pissed off at me (it didn't even make significantly more work for him, he just shouted across to a female officer and it was all set). It shouldn't be implied that even though I have the stated right to refuse going through the machine I really shouldn't exercise it because that makes me a troublemaker or a pain in the neck.

Even if the machines didn't creep me out (and they do) I think I would still refuse to go through them because I worry about the possibility that if almost everyone went through, they'd start to make them mandatory or hassle you even more if you refused (which apparently they have done). It's not just that I don't like the machines, it's that I want to make sure that I am part of the percentage of people who didn't go through so that as these machines become increasingly mainstream it is more difficult for the manufacturers/TSA/whomever to cite statistics claiming that we might as well make everyone use them anyway.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:22 PM on October 20, 2010 [37 favorites]


Amazing. Hey Mr. Jerkwad? This is how it's done.
posted by eeeeeez at 1:23 PM on October 20, 2010


He refused to be patted down as well.

Yeah, I didn't bother to read the article, this being OutrageFilter and all.

US Pilots are unionized, or they should be. This is something that should be dealt with through the union - it's impossible to change it through individual action. Obviously that just results in getting fired as an example to other employees who don't want to be patted down as a condition of daily work.
posted by muddgirl at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I worry about the possibility that if almost everyone went through, they'd start to make them mandatory or hassle you even more if you refused

I worry about the possibility that if almost everyone went through, they'd have to come up with something even more ridiculous that no one wanted to do.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are you allowed to move in these scanners? (I have yet to see one)

If so, I think some dancin' and wagglin' certain body-sections are in-order... Maybe enough of us morbidly obese people putting on horror shows can burn out the eyes of the watchers...
posted by jkaczor at 1:28 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Kadin2048, I will use pornoscan at my next flight, but in return, can we refer to pat-down agents as "flightfondlers?"

"Yeah, let's skip the pornoscan and go straight to the flightfondlers, please. I was not as lucky as I hoped last night."
posted by adipocere at 1:29 PM on October 20, 2010 [55 favorites]


How do the patdowns work with regard to sex? Can I claim to be gay so I can be patted down by a person of the opposite gender?
posted by mullingitover at 1:29 PM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


You know, good for him. It is good to see someone stand up for the Fourth Amendment. It is the ultimate irony that the only place it seems to have any effect any more is in a criminal courtroom.
posted by bearwife at 1:33 PM on October 20, 2010


With all the outrage and indignation, I am surprised no one has mentioned that they'd far prefer the TSA employees remain unthinking drones rather than autonomous agents of security. I know I prefer that. Same rule for everyone, don't ask them to make decisions/judgements. Actually I'd prefer sensible preflight screening, but that's not going to happen.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:37 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


adipocere: "Yeah, let's skip the pornoscan and go straight to the flightfondlers, please. I was not as lucky as I hoped last night."

I damn near ruined my keyboard with bits of sandwich at this.
posted by bayani at 1:38 PM on October 20, 2010


Thanks for the reminder to send EPIC some cash.

My first few jobs out of law school were all about defending the rights of people accused of stuff. Which is really hard cause you meet a lot of people who think defending the rights of people accused of things means "tricking the courts into letting bad guys go free so cops aren't allowed to do their jobs anymore and prosecutors can't use all the true facts to convict". It was hard.

I can't imagine how much harder it is to defend the rights of people who are not only accused of nothing but who also seem so fucking willing to roll over and take it.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Next time I fly, I'm going to take off all my clothes as I go through security.
posted by serazin at 1:41 PM on October 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


I didn't really intend this to be OutrageFilter. We all know that TSA sucks and that the system is a bunch of smoke and mirrors hiding a giant pile of money. There's nothing new there.

What is interesting about this pilot, though, is that he didn't try to change the system. He's talked about how he didn't mean for this to be some kind of gauntlet-throwing statement - but he's not backing off. Lots of people who may have been complacent about encroaching crap like this will note the absurdity of the whole situation, on the order of what jenkinsEar pointed out above. Good for the pilot for speaking up for what he thinks is okay and not okay, and good for him for not backing down once it became obvious it would cause trouble.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:41 PM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


it's impossible to change it through individual action.

I think it depends what "it" is, exactly. It one person opts for a pat-down over going through the pornoscan (see how quickly that caught on?), it's a small show of resistance.

And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both pilots and they won't take either of them.

And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in, refusin' to go through the pornoscan and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in refusin' to go through the pornoscan and walking out. And friends they may think it's a movement.

And that's what it is, the ExpressJet Anti-Pornoscan Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.
posted by kcds at 1:42 PM on October 20, 2010 [75 favorites]


Next time I fly, I'm going to take off all my clothes as I go through security.

Something about that just seems ever so right. Would they be paralyzed by the contradicting impulses to arrest you for indecent exposure and the impulse to applaud you as the finest citizen ever?

But, uh, maybe they would just start making everyone do it.

The long I think about this, the more it seems like a bad plan.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm too tired to get the reference, kcds, but what you're describing is a union.
posted by muddgirl at 1:44 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Exactly. I suspect the pilot could trivially crash the plane during takeoff or landing before the co-pilot could do anything about it.

Yep... it's been done before.

I'm personally not very concerned about the scanners per se, but the TSA has a $7 billion budget with a majority of this paid out of public funds. I'm not a libertarian but the government really has no business bankrolling special services for any private industry. I can't help feeling that my tax payments are just being squandered away to line the pockets of GE and Raytheon.
posted by crapmatic at 1:47 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]



Maybe I'm too tired to get the reference, kcds
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:47 PM on October 20, 2010


jenkinsEar writes "TSA's reasoning is that the pilot couldn't possibly do anything to harm the plane unless he snuck a weapon on board?"

Doubt it. It's probably that if the TSA gave pilots a screening exemption security would be compromised because it's easier to impersonate a pilot than to sneak contra band thru security checks. Besides exemptions would grant pilots the ability to plant contra band (either bombs for blowing planes up or weapons and supplies for hijacking) on planes they aren't flying. Either way (or both) it's reasonable to require flight crews to submit to security inspections as part of a security in depth process despite the whole process being mostly theatre. The less exceptions you have in SOPs the better.
posted by Mitheral at 1:47 PM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I worry about the possibility that if almost everyone went through, they'd start to make them mandatory or hassle you even more if you refused

That's a legitimate worry. Used to be you could refuse to take your shoes off. They would pat you down and swab your shoes for explosive residue, but you could keep 'em on. Then they changed it: all the shoes have to come off and go through the X-ray. I think if more people had opted not to take their shoes off, it might still be an option.
posted by jedicus at 1:49 PM on October 20, 2010


Ah, just too young. I know that the song exists but I doubt I've ever heard it or thought to google the lyrics.
posted by muddgirl at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2010


Maybe I'm too tired to get the reference, kcds, but what you're describing is a union.

It's a reference to Alice's Restaurant, protesting the draft.

The Commercial Appeal article talks about a system the Air Line Pilots Association proposed, crewpass, which would let airline employees go through with expedited screening. It apparently was tested, but never implemented.

posted by peachfuzz at 1:51 PM on October 20, 2010


I think if more people had opted not to take their shoes off, it might still be an option.

Oh, like that's going to happen. By next month Delta's going to start saying you have to pay $25 to wear shoes on the plane. And people will pay it because raising taxes for high speed rail is stupid.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:51 PM on October 20, 2010 [24 favorites]


gah! stupid html.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:51 PM on October 20, 2010


Better people than I have sacrificed more than their careers, their livelihood, for the cause of freedom.

Related: Former Marine Lieutenant Dan Choi has asked to join the Army as a Specialist, an enlisted rank just above Private.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:52 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do the patdowns work with regard to sex? Can I claim to be gay so I can be patted down by a person of the opposite gender?

Sure. They've even got a special asexual TSA-guy to pat down the bisexuals.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:53 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Isn't it that the ground crews and miscellaneous airport staff are the real security hole? Not pilots or passengers? I know there's a citation for this, but can't dig it up.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 1:55 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thing that gets me is the belligerence shown when you ask to opt out. The pat down is there for a reason. Every fucking report I read of people opting out of the scans involves belligerent agents.

From simple harassment and aggression to bullying pregnant women to go through an x-ray, to one report of a TSA agent squeezing a screenees testicles during the pat down, this is fucking ridiculous.

1. Let us opt out. For real. Not this chicken shit harangue us until we give in, but let us fucking opt out.
2. Treat us reasonably. Don't cop a feel or be aggressive with the fucking pat down if we opt out.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:55 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


(I said)
It's gettin' secure in here (so secure)
So take off all your clothes
It is gettin' so secure
(uh uh uh uh)
I wanna take my clothes off
Yeah yeah come on
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:55 PM on October 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


By next month Delta's going to start saying you have to pay $25 to wear shoes on the plane. And people will pay it because raising taxes for high speed rail is stupid.

Well, it makes sense. After all, they have high speed rail in Soicalist Europe and Communist China. Rail also became widespread at the same time Marxism was developed.

Coincidence ? I think not.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:02 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


For what it's worth, I was fairly ambivalent about the pornoscans until kcds' post.

(That may not say very good things about my personality, or at least my love for Alice's Restaurant, but I like the 'let's make it a movement and refuse on principle' bit too.)
posted by kalimac at 2:10 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Next time I fly, I'm going to take off all my clothes as I go through security."

I was pulled aside and specially screened on my way back from Atlanta because I was wearing "too much clothing".

Meaning a relatively tight fitting sweater.

I was told that I don't need a sweater in Atlanta.

Well no shit, but maybe I need one in the airport, on the plane, or on the Eastern Seaboard.

Obnoxious.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2010


This is why I'm taking the train home for Thanksgiving.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would much rather get pornoscanned than patted down, by the way. I've been patted down in full view of leering creepy TSA agents so it's not like it's some prevention against creepiness.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2010


I wonder what he thinks of drug tests.

"Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium"

Is that a dog whistle? Or just a catchy quote ...
posted by mrgrimm at 2:13 PM on October 20, 2010


adipocere: Kadin2048, I will use pornoscan at my next flight, but in return, can we refer to pat-down agents as "flightfondlers?"

May I suggest "preflightfondlers"? They aren't fondling you in flight, they're preparing you for flight.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:15 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw one of these the last time I flew and I'm hosed if they make them mandatory. I'm claustrophobic and there no way I can deal with standing in a little booth while a machine spins around me. Looks as bad as an MRI. *shudder*
posted by JoanArkham at 2:16 PM on October 20, 2010


Is that a dog whistle? Or just a catchy quote ...

Yeah, the pilot is sort of a little bit anti-government around the ears - at the end of the Commercial Appeal article, he talks about how TSA is just a big scheme to make us thing the Washington establishment is doing something.

Even if he turns out to be some crazy Tea Partier, I like that he did this.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:21 PM on October 20, 2010



What is interesting is that this security stuff has become second nature to a whole generation of Usians. My grandchildren have grown up with it. They are so conditioned to removing their shoes as a condition of pre-boarding that when they are not required to do so they think it is odd.
posted by notreally at 2:22 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, fine they have a fancy scanning machine.. Can I please stop been forced to fucking take off my shoes now!?
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:26 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know I bet I could get some of these and spell things like "Heckuva Job", "Ineffective", and "Theater" across my chest for my next flight. Hell, sell them in stores as Safety Poetry Kits.
posted by hanoixan at 2:30 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want a printout dammit. I can't go through a cool techno gizmo without seeing how I look in it.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on October 20, 2010


And people will pay it because raising taxes for high speed rail is stupid

Well, high speed rail isn't going to get me to the East Coast in a reasonable time, and it's certainly not going to get me to Europe or Asia (unless it's some sort of super-cool train/boat hybrid thing). It'd help with a few short trips, and I fully support it, but it's not a replacement for air travel.

While I do think the TSA stuff is stupid, my outrage supply is just too depleted right now. I fly every other month or so, not so often that it takes up much of my collective time, and I've never had any issues or run into angry TSA people. Despite the hassle it's still the best way to travel long distances. The security doesn't really help, but once you've got the routine down it just becomes a ritual.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:42 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


War on Terror: Terror Wins.
posted by Biru at 2:47 PM on October 20, 2010



US Pilots are unionized, or they should be. This is something that should be dealt with through the union - it's impossible to change it through individual action. Obviously that just results in getting fired as an example to other employees who don't want to be patted down as a condition of daily work.


Can we say this again?

Quitting (or getting fired) doesn't make change. Keeping your job and rallying like minded individuals certainly can.

You don't even have to think about it as a right or left wing thing. Think about it as leverage.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:51 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


adipocere: "Yeah, let's skip the pornoscan and go straight to the flightfondlers, please. I was not as lucky as I hoped last night."

And I really hope the luggagemolesters don't make me have to re-fold all my clothes.
posted by quin at 2:54 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somehow there were 60+ comments in this thread without someone mentioning XKCD? fixed!

Someone should email posterchild to do some urban grafitti promoting the word pornoscan. (he'd probably do it... i think (I'm too shy to ask)).
posted by BurN_ at 2:55 PM on October 20, 2010


There was an ExpressJet pilot
Who was no shrinking violet
But when made to choose
between a gander, and a goose
He gave them the bird: "I'll fight it!"
posted by Kabanos at 2:59 PM on October 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


A demaning ritual, but a ritual nonetheless. I still find it amazing that it took them four years after 9/11 to go truly apeshit and make you take off your shoes and on and on and on. In the first couple of years, they just turned up the sensitivity on the metal detectors and used the ETD machines more often.

Well, they did come up with the secret list of stuff you can't fly with and stole a tool I use for work and had been flying with for many years, even though it was obviously not within the spirit of the ban on "tools" (they even showed me the section in the manual after I stood around for the better part of an hour waiting for the head TSA fellow at that particular airport, who happened to smell of booze that morning, to show up)b ut otherwise the change of uniform and the occasional National Guard soldier wandering around the airport was the only real change.

Before the blanket shoe removal policy, the policy was that if the heel was less than a certain height (2 inches, I believe), you didn't have to take it off or submit to any special screening. If it was thicker, you had to remove it or have them swabbed.

I've had a longstanding policy of refusing to do more than remove my laptop from its bag and walk through the metal detector. That means I don't fly anymore, although for many years they would just let me take the secondary search.
posted by wierdo at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2010


George Clooney wants scan proof underwear.
Jeff Goldblum doesn't see the big deal.
posted by Kabanos at 3:14 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Watch the TSA video. Look closely. Look closely at the passengers' feet--at the soles of their feet. You'll see a lot of barefoot unpleasantness there, I guarantee you. Grody barefeet, and even grodier socks.

When these machines were first publicized, my first thought was, "So, I guess we'll be able to keep our shoes on?" I was ready to say bon voyage to the barefoot two-step, wherein we're asked to remove our shoes and walk on cold linoleum that's been trod upon by countless other unshod feet, socks, and the shoes of TSA officers and other airport personnel.

But no.. No relief from this unpleasant, demeaning, unsanitary exercise in shoe removal.

I'll make a deal with you, TSA. Let me keep my shoes on, and I'll walk through your damn machine. Hell, I'll walk through it naked.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:19 PM on October 20, 2010


There are a couple of points to be made here.

1. The TSA could avoided all of this nonsense if they used a variation of the technology that didn't show actual bodies, but simply indicated areas of concern (i.e., detected foreign bodies against the skin) on a generic avatar. They use such technology in the Netherlands - the avatar looks vaguely like Gumby. I doubt people would care if their actual body features were not visible.

2. However, the people who really get screwed by all of this are the ones who actually have something to hide. I'm not talking about bombs and knives, I'm talking about people with, for example, semi-implanted medical equipment like colostomy bags. No one wants to explain to the TSA gorilla how they are incontinent, especially in front of fellow travellers - it can be deeply embarassing and has no security value. Trangendered persons are especially screwed, since they often wear prothetics which will show up in the scans - they will then have to out themselves to the TSA (who are not know for their sensitivity) and their fellow travellers. Since, when transgendered people out themselves, people have historically tended to mock, beat or kill them, body scanners will effectively prevent transgendered people from flying at all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:34 PM on October 20, 2010 [39 favorites]


So, serious question here:

Say you refused the scan in lieu of the full body pat down.

What would happen if you started moaning suggestively during the patdown? How far could you push it. I'd imagine the agent doing the patting wouldn't enjoy it very much. Would it be possible to do this often enough that the agents refuse to conduct patdowns (yeah, right)?
posted by keep_evolving at 3:34 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Clooney revealed in Esquire that he had his balls unwrinkled--"ball ironing".
posted by found missing at 3:42 PM on October 20, 2010


Next time I fly, I'm going to take off all my clothes as I go through security.

I bet I could get a research grant to take video of this happening across, say, 100,000 trials and chart the exact article of clothing at which the TSA officers stop smiling and nodding and start yelling and waving their arms.

I would call that moment Prompt Nakedivity.
posted by The Bellman at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Gordion Knott writes "I'll make a deal with you, TSA. Let me keep my shoes on, and I'll walk through your damn machine. Hell, I'll walk through it naked."

Really? Given the choice between having to take your shoes off and walk around in your socks and going through security naked except for socks and shoes you'd choose naked?
posted by Mitheral at 3:49 PM on October 20, 2010


The thing with such security theatre is that once you put it in place, you really can't allow any exceptions without having the entire theater collapse.

If you allow, say, pilots to bypass the system because they can do plenty of damage anyway, then all you are really doing is encouraging terrorists to create fake pilot credentials. Sure, you could then implement a protocol to check everyone claiming to be a pilot against the roster of pilots scheduled to fly in the next few hours. With all the real-time changes and fluid situations that exist at airports, you are just creating delays for everyone - including the pilots who were supposed to clear the system faster.

Also, where would you draw the line for such exceptions? Surely an army soldier can do plenty of damage to US interests in the battlefield or at any of the various Forts around. So, let all soldiers through. Surely a diplomat could cause lasting damage to US national interests with just a few strokes of pen. So, let all diplomats through. Plenty of other categories I could name. And for every such exception, you'd have to make sure that you have a fool-proof way of verifying their identities. Else, all you are really doing is encouraging terrorists to create fake Special Person credentials and bypass the barriers.

Plus, there is the issue of a terrorist slipping something into a Special Person's carry-on luggage that could be used later.

There is no limit to these things once you start making exceptions.

Far more "secure" to make everyone follow the procedure.

PS: I personally think that most of the security theater is rather pointless. However, if we are not going to protest against the theater itself, then there is little to gain from supporting exceptions for Special Persons.
posted by vidur at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't get it. I mean, I understand the pilot not wanting to do the pornoscan (I had the option in Toronto and I just sighed and did it anyways, though I did feel a bit ooky but at least the person giggling at my fat ass was in another part of the airport), but why did he refuse to do the pat-down? Is this new? I thought all airline employees still went through the same screening as us (just in their own priority line)?

Of course, as other have mentioned, if he wanted to do some harm himself he could just crash the plane, but I suppose there is always the possibility of smuggling something on board to either transport it or to pass along to someone s/he's in cahoots with for some kind of hostage situation, I suppose.
posted by 1000monkeys at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2010


Yes I know that there have been some hijack attempts since 9/11 that have been foiled by the existing or amped-up levels of security, but still, the #1 reason there hasn't been a significant incident since is that there hasn't been that many really serious attempts at it.

America, they're just not that into you.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:53 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I too encountered one of these for the first time a few days ago.

I saw no signs whatsoever letting me know I could request a patdown, nor did enough people chose that route that they had a designated "no body scan" line, but fortunately I already knew that I had a patdown as an option.

Everyone behaved in an entirely professional manner, and I can't complain in the least about the staff.

As for the specifics of the patdown, however, it seems 100% designed to discourage exactly what I did. First of all, they made me stand right next to the machine I refused to go through for a good 10 minutes waiting for someone to frisk me; I likely received 100x the exposure that I would have if I just went through the damned thing. Next, they led me to a very central spot just past security for my pat-down. I don't get embarrassed easily, fortunately, but they clearly wanted to make the experience as much of a public shaming as possible without a jumbotron.
posted by pla at 3:58 PM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


A little competition would be nice. I'd love the choice to fly with either the security-theater-heavy airline that pornoscans every single passenger and crew member, or the you're-on-the-plane-five-minutes-after-parking-your-car airline, along with a spectrum of choices in the middle. Some choices would of course be better than others. But the very presence of choices would be better than none at all. Monopolies suck.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:58 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read about this via the original thread the pilot, Michael Roberts, posted on an ExpressJet pilots forum a few days ago.

The debate that ensued amongst a bunch of pilots indicates that, while they do have a union, it's current leadership has been pretty feckless when it comes to pushing CREWPASS. I got the impression, in fact, that the current leadership made a lot of the right noises and then promptly displayed all the spinelessness of a Democratic congressional representative on this and all other issues important to their members once elected or appointed.

Also, it seems that this is even more of a song and dance than you'd think. Whether flight crew have to go through regular security is at the discretion of the TSA manager in charge of a particular airport. Even better, it seems that ground crew don't have to go through security at all.

I can't give you a solid and cite-able set of policies to point to on all this, but neither can the pilots, as the TSA policies are kept TOP SECRET, but read through that thread, and you'll see pilots talking about which airports make them do what and a lot of complaining about how the caterers don't have to put up with the security stuff.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:59 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, so ... if you don't go through one of these scanners you have to go through a pat down. You know, for security.

Except I have noticed that there are airports where these scanners have not been installed, and these pat downs are neither normal nor mandatory.

Which means that either
  1. a full body scan or a pat down is vitally required for our safety, and TSA is falling down on its job in most places, or
  2. pat downs are a method of intimidation used to force compliance (because who really wants to be touched by some random TSA drone).
But then I'm sure I'm just stating the obvious.
posted by moonbiter at 4:01 PM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, please insert pornoscan and preflightfondling in the appropriate places in the above comment.
posted by moonbiter at 4:03 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Winsome Parker Lewis writes "A little competition would be nice. I'd love the choice to fly with either the security-theater-heavy airline that pornoscans every single passenger and crew member, or the you're-on-the-plane-five-minutes-after-parking-your-car airline, along with a spectrum of choices in the middle."

Airplane security isn't just about people damaging the plane though; it's also about hijacking the plane and then using it as a guided Air to Surface missile. Having said that they do have what you are talking about at the supreme insecure end. It's called general aviation and there are even schemes about to allow you to lease fractions of a plane. It's ridiculous really that John Travolta can pony up and fly his 707 loaded with ANFO at any time he wants to pretty well any airport that can handle that plane and yet goofy shit like full body scanners for everyone flying commercially are required.
posted by Mitheral at 4:12 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next time I fly, I'm going to take off all my clothes as I go through security.

So tempted, every single damn time I fly.

Also, last time I flew I got not only pornoscanned but also flightfondlers - they were doing both to everyone in that line. Maybe the machine wasn't actually on. Anyway, it had never happened to me before, so it was news to me that the lady version includes checking (very briskly and professionally, but still!!) underneath the underwire of my bra.

:(
posted by heyforfour at 4:16 PM on October 20, 2010


keep_evolving: What would happen if you started moaning suggestively during the patdown? How far could you push it. I'd imagine the agent doing the patting wouldn't enjoy it very much. Would it be possible to do this often enough that the agents refuse to conduct patdowns (yeah, right)?

I would imagine that when TSA agents start refusing to conduct patdowns would be the day we no longer have that as an option, and everyone will be required to go through the scanners.
posted by CancerMan at 4:29 PM on October 20, 2010


Anyway, it had never happened to me before, so it was news to me that the lady version includes checking (very briskly and professionally, but still!!) underneath the underwire of my bra.

What, no dinner?

Do they even give you some sort of warning? 'Cause I don't know about you, but if I feel surprise fingers sneaking under there my first instinct is to smack away - and now I'm imagining myself slapping a TSA agent's hands away from my boobs and yelling "BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!" in the middle of the airport lineup.
posted by zennish at 4:30 PM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Flying is not a right. You don't want to go through security? That's your right. I respect it.

I do not mind theatre. Theatre is not worthless. I pay good money to see it on a stage so why would I deny myself the opportunity to see it for free? Good theatre, even bad theatre, can make you laugh, cry, and think. The theatre of airport security in 2001 maybe made Osama bin Laden think that getting a weapon onboard four aircraft was pretty much impossible. The fact is that he took the tremendous risk of putting five men n a plane instead of one.

So theatre maybe, but ineffective, useless, baa-sheeple theatre? Probably not.
posted by three blind mice at 4:31 PM on October 20, 2010


Mitheral wrote: "Really? Given the choice between having to take your shoes off and walk around in your socks and going through security naked except for socks and shoes you'd choose naked?"

I'm not the one that has to look at my body. And have you seen how gross those floors are?
posted by wierdo at 4:34 PM on October 20, 2010


To those parroting the 'a pilot doesn't need a weapon etc to crash a plane' ... Yes that's true.

BUT - people wearing pilot uniforms and waiving around pilot identification should be screened the same as everyone else getting on a plane.

Otherwise, the easiest way to get your weapon on a plane is to get a pilot's uniform, a false id, act like a pilot. Assuming you know that you don't actually know how to get a plane into the air so as to crash it (even assuming you've waylaid the actual pilot from arriving), you can change your clothes once you're through security, get on the plane and get out your weapon.
posted by jjderooy at 4:56 PM on October 20, 2010


but if I feel surprise fingers sneaking under there my first instinct is to smack away

There's no sneaking - it's pretty much "hands run under arms, hands run under boobs." I think the agent who patted me down might have warned me first, but it was pretty fast.
posted by muddgirl at 4:59 PM on October 20, 2010


Yes I know that there have been some hijack attempts since 9/11 that have been foiled by the existing or amped-up levels of security

When? The ban on liquids is due to a bombing plot in the UK, IIRC, but the would-be-bombers were caught before they ever got near an airport thanks to good, old-fashioned police work. I'm not actually aware of any plots that have been caught at the airport due to increased security (there have been cases of nutballs running screaming through the security gates, but those would have triggered some sort of interest even before 9/11).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:10 PM on October 20, 2010


These machines have effectively grounded me for at least the duration of my pregnancy. I can't possibly imagine going through one of those with fetus in tow, and I fear that if I declined, rather than being patted down - I would simply not be allowed to board. Perhaps an unreasonable fear, but security theatre hasn't inspired much confidence in me. (Yeah, basically, this which has already been linked. Hello story that illustrates why I'm not flying nowhere!)

(And no way you could convince me one those things was "safe" for pregnancy. I'm not supposed to have X-rays or eat tuna or take Advil, fer crying out loud. I'm sure as hell not walking through full body scanners.)

Also: a full-body patdown is mandatory for passengers entering the US from Europe, so on one leg of most trips that I've taken recently I've had to be patted down *anyway.* Also mandatory: having your carryon unpacked and re-packed in front of you. And I would like to personally kick the underpants bomber in the shins for ruining the privilege of the tiny airplane blanket for the last hour of the flight. It's effin' cold on the plane! My legs is freezing! (No one checked my boobs though. I could carry plenty a concealed weapon in that cleavage, so I think perhaps this is a bit of an oversight. Srsly. I could fit a gun, a chicken dinner, a family of rodents...any number of security threats.)
posted by sonika at 5:26 PM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


then promptly displayed all the spinelessness of a Democratic congressional representative on this

Silly me for thinking that one simple thread today wouldn't be about US Democrats vs. Republicans vs. Tea Partiers *sigh*
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:29 PM on October 20, 2010


wierdo writes "I'm not the one that has to look at my body. And have you seen how gross those floors are?"

Sure, but remember it's not just you. Everyone one on line is going to have that option and they'll be leaning against doors, walls, ropes, luggage, etc. Having someone brush up against you in line is going to be highly icky to say the least.

three blind mice writes "The theatre of airport security in 2001 maybe made Osama bin Laden think that getting a weapon onboard four aircraft was pretty much impossible. The fact is that he took the tremendous risk of putting five men n a plane instead of one.

"So theatre maybe, but ineffective, useless, baa-sheeple theatre? Probably not."


I can't parse you're point here tbm. Are you saying the security in place made things riskier for the 9/11 hijackers? It didn't seem to really slow them down much; IIRC no plotters were detained or delayed by security. Five-ish men per plane would seem to be the minimum to keep things controlled considering how large jets are broken up into compartments.. They could have assigned more men per plane but that would have reduced the total number of planes.
posted by Mitheral at 5:41 PM on October 20, 2010


sonika: "Also: a full-body patdown is mandatory for passengers entering the US from Europe"

This must be fairly recent, since this was not a requirement two years ago. Interesting that, in response to virtually no incidents, TSA's intrusiveness grows apace.
posted by moonbiter at 5:50 PM on October 20, 2010


So how safe is it to allow TSA idiots to run a machine that exposes people to radiation? The first thing they’ll do is turn the damn thing up full blast to get the best picture possible. The only bright spot is that they’ll eventually die horrible deaths from standing around those things all the time.
posted by Huplescat at 5:58 PM on October 20, 2010


Srsly. I could fit a gun, a chicken dinner, a family of rodents...any number of security threats.

Full body scan or it didn't happen.
posted by Trochanter at 6:10 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't understand all of this resentment, so far only two people (as far as I can tell) in this thread have any direct objections to the equipment, genuine bashfulness and a reasonable fear for the safety of a fetus. But everyone else has some kind of point and I'm missing it

It reduces time spent, reduces bullshit, genuinely enhances security and in doing so provides a meaningful deterrent that no one has established methods for defeating.

Explosives don't matter so much, detonators and weapons are the only real issue and the TSA finally has a machine which will reliably detect them, no theater no bullshit. All you have to do is walk through a machine that will let someone, whose seen thousands, see a faceless and featureless mannequin representation of you. Pornographic? Really?

The inability of the TSA to think critically about what a pilot is physically capable of is a red herring, these machines are actually pretty cool.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:12 PM on October 20, 2010


Hopefully this kind of technology will catch on in malls, restaurants, and highway toll booths as well. I really don't like the idea of people moving freely about the country unless a government functionary has either seen them naked or touched their genitals.

Pinko rabble-rousers like this flyboy here should learn to take their routine federal fondling with dignity. Hold your head high, my man -- so you can better feel the security agent's sweet, nurturing breath on your neck.
posted by milquetoast at 6:13 PM on October 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


This must be fairly recent, since this was not a requirement two years ago.

Yep, it was introduced after the Christmas Day Underpants Incident. As of June, it was still going on, I have no idea if they have any idea of stopping that particular song and dance. This isn't TSA - it's a requirement placed by the US government for entering the country and is carried out by foreign security dudes/dudettes. In France, it was done by cops. Don't remember on my flight through the Azores if it was airport security, cops, or trained monkeys.
posted by sonika at 6:15 PM on October 20, 2010


"So how safe is it to allow TSA idiots to run a machine that exposes people to radiation? The first thing they’ll do is turn the damn thing up full blast to get the best picture possible. The only bright spot is that they’ll eventually die horrible deaths from standing around those things all the time."

Just because you don't understand it, doesn't mean its dangerous
posted by Blasdelb at 6:27 PM on October 20, 2010


Went through security recently. Got scanned by the new machine. Got frisked as they thought there was an object hiding down my inseam. He seemed a bit unprepared for what he found and the look on TSA guys face seemed to mix discomfort, fear and awe. For a moment we were just two straight men, having a very awkward moment. A grunt cleared the air, he waved me through and struggled to explain to the anonymous viewer who'd flagged me for extra handling the results of his investigation. He seemed to want to say it was nothing, and yet he settled for a long bit of stammering, "it's it's it's, move along sir, um nevermind I'll tell you later." I found myself oddly confident for the remainder of the trip. Though I do wear briefs when I travel now. Once was validating, a second time might feel more like molestation.
posted by humanfont at 7:09 PM on October 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


Does zinc oxide reflect x-rays? 'Cuz if it does, I'll write "Not a Terrorist" in Arabic on my chest.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:12 PM on October 20, 2010


I don't understand all of this resentment, so far only two people (as far as I can tell) in this thread have any direct objections to the equipment, genuine bashfulness and a reasonable fear for the safety of a fetus. But everyone else has some kind of point and I'm missing it

I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was unreasonable (a) to not want naked pictures of me viewed, stored, and printed for the pleasure of strangers or (b) to want to limit my exposure to radiation, even if I don't happen to know whether or not I'm pregnant.

To reduce legitimate privacy concerns to "bashfulness" and imply that only pregnant women should be worried about exposure to radiation is, frankly, ignorant.
posted by muddgirl at 7:17 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the backscatter wikipedia article:
In addition, it appears that real independent safety data do not exist. A search, ultimately finding top FDA radiation physics staff, suggests that the relevant radiation quantity, the Flux [photons per unit area and time (because this is a scanning device)] has not been characterized. Instead an indirect test (Air Kerma) was made that emphasized the whole body exposure value, and thus it appears that the danger is low when compared to cosmic rays during airplane travel and a chest X-ray dose.
Millimeter wave is obviously safer; however,
One potential side effect of using a millimeter wave scanner is that it may have a multiplier effect on the likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer.[9] Millimeter wave radiation and radio frequency radiation in general is not inherently carcinogenic (unlike X-rays and ultraviolet radiation), but exposure to lower frequencies of microwaves have demonstrated an increased risk of cancer and faster rates of tumor progression
posted by muddgirl at 7:23 PM on October 20, 2010


Blasdelb,

Presumably the therac-25 machines were all considered safe before accidentally cooking some people. I believe this also happened with a newer model of machine in the last few years (anyone remember that?).

Is exposing people to software and hardware which may have glitches worth the risk when a simple preflight fondle would suffice?

Also is this scanner cheaper over the lifetime of the device than a human? Given they way our government seems to operate I'd bet not.
posted by dibblda at 7:25 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one thinking he talks about people seeing him naked, and touching him naked, just that little bit too much?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:51 PM on October 20, 2010


> Does zinc oxide reflect x-rays? 'Cuz if it does, I'll write "Not a Terrorist" in Arabic on my chest.

Does Arabic even have a word/phrase for "Not a Terrorist"? *rimshot*
posted by vidur at 8:01 PM on October 20, 2010


sonika: "This must be fairly recent, since this was not a requirement two years ago.

Yep, it was introduced after the Christmas Day Underpants Incident. As of June, it was still going on, I have no idea if they have any idea of stopping that particular song and dance. This isn't TSA - it's a requirement placed by the US government for entering the country and is carried out by foreign security dudes/dudettes. In France, it was done by cops. Don't remember on my flight through the Azores if it was airport security, cops, or trained monkeys.
"

I flew to and from Paris, non-stop from Seattle, with my daughter, this past July. Neither one of us was touched by anyone, traveling in either direction. My daughter's carry-on was flagged for additional search at the gate in France - because a 6-year-old and her Hello Kitty rolly bag are terrifying - but when we landed in the States and came through ICE, no one touched anything. Not our persons or our bags. At least not our bags where we could see it.

I do agree that I wouldn't go through one of these things while pregnant, which I am right now. I don't want to go through one, ever, and I don't want to put my kids through them, either.

But I'm thinking about how opting out will make traveling with two kids (soon to be three), which I usually do by myself at least twice a year, even MORE of a nightmare. It's sad that my kids already know the security theater drill - they can get their stuff on the conveyor and have their shoes and jackets off and in bins faster than I can - but now they have to be patted down? By strangers? Something they are usually told NOT to allow? And it'll probably be one of those "you may not touch your children or their belongings during the screening" situations like I went through the summer before last when I had to be wanded and patted down because I had too many pins in my hair. So I was supposed to corral a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old and all their stuff with the power of my eyes. This is going to SUCK no matter what.

I'll have to be at the airport three hours before our flight at this point. Three hours in an airport with two or three children. Jesus, I need a drink even thinking of it.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:07 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


jjderooy wrote: "Otherwise, the easiest way to get your weapon on a plane is to get a pilot's uniform, a false id, act like a pilot. Assuming you know that you don't actually know how to get a plane into the air so as to crash it (even assuming you've waylaid the actual pilot from arriving), you can change your clothes once you're through security, get on the plane and get out your weapon."

Pilots are allowed to take guns onto an aircraft they are piloting, so no, screening pilots does no real good if your concern is someone impersonating a pilot.

Blasdelb wrote: "It reduces time spent, reduces bullshit, genuinely enhances security and in doing so provides a meaningful deterrent that no one has established methods for defeating."

The WTMD is faster, and an amply endowed lady can't conceal a metallic weapon under her breast, unlike with the machine, which does not "see" through skin. It's certainly theater, and it may just be make-work for the folks making the machines.

The previous level of security was perfectly sufficient. The objects (box cutters) the hijackers used to take over the plane were allowed to be brought onto planes at that time. The new measures implemented immediately after 9/11 were mostly reasonable. It's all the stuff that's come since that's gone off into crazyville.

IMO, the WTMD in combination with those walk in ETD machines they were trying out for a while was a reasonable combination. When, after Richard Reid's stunt, they decided to make everyone take off their shoes, even when going through the walk-in ETD machine, it was plainly obvious it was all for show. Why on Earth would you entrust the X-Ray operator, who is much more likely to make an error, with bomb detection when you have a perfectly good machine to do the job?
posted by wierdo at 8:23 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


muddgirl, nowhere in my comment did I say it was in anyway unreasonable to have different modesty mores than the average USian. Bashful has always seemed to me to be a perfectly legitimate thing to be.

Suggesting that people should be worried about radiation simply because its source is a machine with blinking lights seems, frankly, ignorant to me. According to the Health Physics Society, a person undergoing a backscatter scan receives approximately 0.005 millirems while the company actually puts that number slightly higher, in the area of .009 mrem. At American latitudes the average commercial passenger is exposed to around 1 millirem every three hours. At this rate (assuming you don't fly north) you will be exposed to that much radiation for every 50 seconds you spend in the air. At the same time, you'll get around 2 millirems from a much more dangerous source (radioactive potassium) by simply sleeping next to someone for eight hours. For some context These differences are orders of magnitude below background, much less acute danger.

However, to be fair, I must admit that I don't think anyone has tested whether or not they cause autism or hairy toes.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:06 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


humanfont: I take it you've seen this?
posted by John Cohen at 9:11 PM on October 20, 2010


Ten years ago flying was a liberating experience. It got you to another place 500 miles away in an hour and a half. Now flyers are treated like a herd of stupid, malevolent children.

We have to take our shoes off because Richard Reid, the ugly shoe bomber, tried to blow up his feet but couldn’t manage to lite the fuse. We can’t take shampoo on board because of the binary liquid explosives plot which, if you were paying attention, was bullshit from day one. I could go on about certified retards implicated by paid criminal FBI informants in plots to do something or other, but I’ll spare you that

FDR said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Now the national motto is, “In fear we trust.”

I would rather let “the terrorists” blow up a bunch of people every now and then than live in a stupid security state... although there are other options... like taking care of business at home as opposed to trying to make the rest of the world kiss USA ass and give us all their stuff so we can keep watching hamburgers and eating TV.
posted by Huplescat at 9:21 PM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


w/r/t this:
"All you have to do is walk through a machine that will let someone, whose seen thousands, see a faceless and featureless mannequin representation of you."

I understand, but at the same time, if everyone had to strip naked but got to put an anonymizing paper bag on their head, would that be okay? I kinda think it's not.

First, EPIC posted this image of what you see as part of their documents. It's a long ways off from the "featureless mannequin".

And second, we don't really know. We're not making an informed trade-off about what's revealed, because the TSA hasn't released the same kind of sample photos at actual resolutions. There's an ongoing back-and-forth about this on the TSA's web site, but the essence of it is that people who are worried want to see actual photos, and the TSA says that the companies won't release actual photos because they're proprietary (and so on).

Which is in itself worrisome, because you'd think the TSA could force this issue. But moreover, the companies have every reason not to let you see them if they think they'll creep you out enough that even a head-smeared one's too revealing, and to find any pretense to avoid raising public ire.
posted by dmz at 9:43 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


More like scare-port, amirite?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:18 PM on October 20, 2010


However, to be fair, I must admit that I don't think anyone has tested whether or not they cause autism or hairy toes.

Please don't give Jenny McCarthey any more ideas...
posted by 1000monkeys at 10:34 PM on October 20, 2010


If they could just have this machine and skip the metal detector, I might think positively of it. As it stands, I think I'm going to start going through security lines in boxers and a t-shirt.
posted by Hactar at 10:36 PM on October 20, 2010


John Cohen: I hadn't seen that. My experience as very different. TSA guy was told by radio voice to look in a specific place. He frisked that area only, etc. Overall guy was freindly and courteous. Though you'd think after a moment like that he'd at least send flowers or give me his number. I regret not being quick witted enough to deliver a line like that at the time. Insead I just put my shoes back on, put all the electronics back in my carryon.
posted by humanfont at 11:11 PM on October 20, 2010


Does zinc oxide reflect x-rays? 'Cuz if it does, I'll write "Not a Terrorist" in Arabic on my chest.

Does Arabic even have a word/phrase for "Not a Terrorist"? *rimshot*

Wow. So very NOT funny or acceptable. This sort of thinking is how we ended up in two endless wars in the Middle East. A very very very - basically immeasurably - small portion of the Arab world have ever committed acts of terror. Don't do this.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:14 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, at least in Canada, they don't store or print the images from the pornotron.
posted by 1000monkeys at 11:24 PM on October 20, 2010


jjderooy wrote: "Otherwise, the easiest way to get your weapon on a plane is to get a pilot's uniform, a false id, act like a pilot. Assuming you know that you don't actually know how to get a plane into the air so as to crash it (even assuming you've waylaid the actual pilot from arriving), you can change your clothes once you're through security, get on the plane and get out your weapon."

Wierdo wrote: Pilots are allowed to take guns onto an aircraft they are piloting, so no, screening pilots does no real good if your concern is someone impersonating a pilot."

Pilots are allowed to take guns onto aircraft? Seriously? What do they need a gun for, apart from giving to a potential troublemaker?

I may be corrected, but I'm pretty sure at least that's not the case with domestic flights within Australia, or international flights travelling between Australia and elsewhere.

If your pilot has a gun you'd better be hoping that your cockpit door is hardened, and more importantly, that the airline is following procedures to keep the cockpit door locked at all times and other staff (typically cabin crew bringing meals to pilots) are following the procedures to ensure nobody can get into the cockpit.

All that said, of course the main deterrance now for hijackers is lack of compliance. Before the attacks of 11 September 2001, generally everyone cooperated with hijackers as the hijacker's goal was to make a fuss and then get away. Every hijacking attempt post that event has seen crew and passengers dogpile on.
posted by jjderooy at 11:56 PM on October 20, 2010


So a few days ago I flew through San Jose and had to stand in one of these machines. Two things bothered me about the experience:
  1. They ask travelers to stand with their hands over their head while in the machine. This pose made me feel like I was getting arrested.
  2. The person who looked at the pornoscan of me, whoever they were, decided that there was the off chance that I had something in my back pocket (I had nothing in my back pocket) and so told the TSA frisker guy to squeeze my ass.
I am not a huge fan of any of the rituals of submission involved in traveling through American airports, but this particular one is so obnoxious that I will in the future go out of my way to avoid airports that use it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:01 AM on October 21, 2010


What would happen if you started moaning suggestively during the patdown? How far could you push it. I'd imagine the agent doing the patting wouldn't enjoy it very much.

Because it's totally okay to sexually harass people as long as they work for the TSA.
posted by NoraReed at 1:06 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Though you'd think after a moment like that he'd at least send flowers or give me his number. I regret not being quick witted enough to deliver a line like that at the time.

Just go for:
moaning suggestively during the patdown

Perhaps with some Hannibal Lecter type tongue clicking.

Because it's totally okay to sexually harass people as long as they work for the TSA.

Yup. Until you put the smackdown on your fellow TSA staffer for the small penis comments.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:28 AM on October 21, 2010


Blasdelb : But everyone else has some kind of point and I'm missing it

One point does it for me - Unlicensed and untested medical imaging equipment.

Gather round, kiddies, and let me tell you a story.

Back in the 1950s in America, people considered this new Atomic stuff just da bomb (pun intended, couldn't resist). So much so, that one particular niche use became quite popular - You could find a very poorly shielded x-ray machine in just about every shoe store in the country.

Time showed these as totally safe, of course. Unless you wanted to have kids or not die of cancer or anything silly like that.

The problem here involves the burden of proof. We don't need to prove these can cause harm - The TSA needs to convince us they can't. And don't think these use well-tested technology and only the crackpots care - Not until 2008 did we know of a convenient way to produce terahertz radiation (other sources have existed for decades, but remained in the realm of fairly exotic lab toys). We also have almost no natural exposure to these wavelengths, as the atmosphere very effectively blocks them.

So when a hundred million people have volunteered as guinea-pigs for these things, and don't suffer adverse effects for two generations, I'll consider going through. Until then... Pat me down, please (or better, piss off and quit wasting my tax dollars on this charade).
posted by pla at 3:37 AM on October 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


I flew to and from Paris, non-stop from Seattle, with my daughter, this past July. Neither one of us was touched by anyone, traveling in either direction.

Yeah, as I say, they were still doing it in June and may well have stopped since then. I know I got the whole frisking/unpacking business when flying from Portugal (via the Azores) in late June. I hope that they have indeed stopped completely and that I wasn't just unlucky because that is some seriously annoying crap to deal with.

Were you allowed items in the last hour of your flight, by any chance?
posted by sonika at 5:45 AM on October 21, 2010


Oh god, I agree with pla! That has got to mean something when it comes to bipartisanship in this country...
posted by muddgirl at 5:45 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


jjderooy wrote: "Pilots are allowed to take guns onto aircraft? Seriously? What do they need a gun for, apart from giving to a potential troublemaker?"

Yes, they are allowed to take guns into the cockpit. The idea is that they can defend the cockpit from attack. And yes, all airline (except perhaps small regional jets and turboprops) are required to have hardened cockpit doors. Which is why I think the security theater is utterly stupid.
posted by wierdo at 6:29 AM on October 21, 2010


Do they even give you some sort of warning? 'Cause I don't know about you, but if I feel surprise fingers sneaking under there my first instinct is to smack away - and now I'm imagining myself slapping a TSA agent's hands away from my boobs and yelling "BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!" in the middle of the airport lineup.

Please, I had an agent in the pre-TSA days go under my underwire in the Chicago airport so THOROUGHLY that I wondered when she'd pull out the six-pack of wine coolers. There will always be nasty old pervs working in the airports, it's just now they've got the force of law behind them.

My solution? Stop wearing bras when you fly. Then at least they can't pretend they're just checking out that metal object on you...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:34 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


NoraReed wrote: "Because it's totally okay to sexually harass people as long as they work for the TSA."

No, it's not sexual harrassment when they get all grabby, so how could anyone think it's OK to moan?

</sarcasm>

I don't know how I missed this earlier..I blame waking up "early"
posted by wierdo at 7:02 AM on October 21, 2010


sonika: " Were you allowed items in the last hour of your flight, by any chance?"

Yup. I think we were even still finishing up the meal or drink service in the last hour. I know my daughter kept her blanket on until we landed, because she was cold, and both of us were reading even after the plane landed (because we were in the very last row). There wasn't anything unusual about the last hour, really. This was on Air France, btw, though if it was supposed to apply to every inbound international flight, I guess that wouldn't matter.

I'm trying to remember if my husband flew internationally in the first half of the year ... I'll ask him and see if he had a similar experience.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:17 AM on October 21, 2010


I'm taking bets on when it will be discovered that TSA employees are keeping a secret archive of scans and photos of hot celebrities passing through the machine.

Tell me a scan of (say) Angelina Jolie wouldn't be worth at least a few million on the black market.

I give it a year.
posted by miyabo at 10:07 AM on October 21, 2010


So when terrorists start to become licensed pilots....the pilots have already won?
posted by samsara at 10:07 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


pla: "Not until 2008 did we know of a convenient way to produce terahertz radiation (other sources have existed for decades, but remained in the realm of fairly exotic lab toys)."

That's mostly because we've gotten more creative about looking for it. (PDF)

I totally started playing with tape when I first read that article
posted by Blasdelb at 11:25 AM on October 21, 2010


Airport security is all about preparing the next generation for complete subservience to authority. The number of airline terrorist incidents out of the USA amounts to sweet-fuck-all and now that passengers know to beat the living shut out of anyone trying to pull a hijack, the threat is nil.

And because people are complacent, the powers that be will entirely succeed. Kiss freedom goodbye: it was an aberration.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:53 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Airport security is all about preparing the next generation for complete subservience to authority.

So is the U.S. educational system.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:46 PM on October 21, 2010


Airport security is all about preparing the next generation for complete subservience to authority.

So is the U.S. educational system.


Huh. And here I thought subservience and contempt meant two totally different things.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:24 PM on October 21, 2010


You're saying you don't bend over and take it from the TSA?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:24 PM on October 21, 2010


You're saying you smoked what?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:21 PM on October 21, 2010


Eh?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:05 AM on October 22, 2010


I thought subservience and contempt meant two totally different things.

Not totally different. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. See the TARP bailout.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:31 PM on October 22, 2010


UK should not put up with US airport security – BA chairman
posted by homunculus at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2010


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