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The fundamental problem is that terrorism is innovative while TSA policy is reactive
December 6, 2010 2:48 PM   Subscribe

A Nude Awakening - The TSA and Privacy. An insightful article about the TSA and fundamental freedoms from the Oklahoma Daily Student newspaper. via
posted by blue_beetle (48 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
... it makes the false assumption that these new procedures are actually effective in mitigating the risk of terrorism, which they aren’t; it fallaciously presumes that one’s security risk is higher in an airport than it is anywhere else, which it isn’t...

It also makes makes rendundant points, which have been made before.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:54 PM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


While I have been, for the most part, avidly following this issue, I have found the influx on it on metafilter to be... Well, reptitive. It's informative, but at its heart it contains all the same information and arguments as all of the other articles that have been against the new TSA security policies.
Enjoyed the article, just hope that this is one of the last ones, unless if something interesting or new develops.
posted by lauratheexplorer at 2:55 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Considering the author is apparently a college junior, this is stunningly well said.
posted by bearwife at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


The odds of dying on an airplane as a result of a terrorist hijacking are less than 1 in 25 million — which, for all intents and purposes, is effectively zero — according to Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. By comparison, the odds of dying in a normal airplane crash, according to the OAG Aviation Database, are 1 in 9.2 million. This means that, on average, pilots are responsible for more deaths than terrorists.

Not to nit-pick, but there's no need to always blame the pilots.
posted by Jimbob at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2010


... it makes the false assumption that these new procedures are actually effective in mitigating the risk of terrorism, which they aren’t; it fallaciously presumes that one’s security risk is higher in an airport than it is anywhere else, which it isn’t.

No it doesn't.
The security screenings are not, and never have been, about increasing passenger safety. They are designed to increase the passengers' illusion of safety...to make people keep flying, and thus keep the airline and travel industry from collapsing into bankruptcy.
They do that job very well, and as long as they do, the screenings will stay in place.
posted by rocket88 at 3:02 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


normal airplane crash

Hurm.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:03 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


It doesn't matter how you feel about this or what you do about it.

How your children handle it, once they've reached adulthood, will be the final say on this matter. Will they even care at that point?
posted by nomadicink at 3:08 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know why the body scans are "... The last straw"?

I mean pat downs weren't? Taking off your shoes wasn't demeaning? Preventing liquids from boarding (conveniently as complimentary meals and drinks were replaced by overpriced ones) wasn't ridiculous?Let us not forget the shit my friend Mohammed Mohammed went through just to get back across the Peace Bridge after a night of boozing...not to mention whenever he flies.

No, 'twas the body scans. Why?

Fine, I'll say it: Because half the US population doesnt want anyone to see their flabby physique.

Not to say it isn't an intrusion by some joke of an agency, it totally is, but after four years of watching it get worse only to have bumpkins say it "protects us from osama..." I'm totally ok with the TSA getting snapshots of my nuts.
[I mean the whole package is the only thing I have going for me these days.]

To everyone else: This could have been resolved 9 years ago when they started hassling anyone with a tan and an accent. Cut back on the dairy intake, call the TSA, ask for #r6500-4290-3.39.jpg, and take a gander at the part of my body you can kiss.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:13 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not true, Bathtub. I'm 5'10", 168 lbs of chiseled steel and sex appeal, but the TSA and their pornoscanners still rub me the wrong way.

I think North America's puritanical streak is the reason that this particular straw broke the camel's back. To my mind though, it doesn't so much matter what the catalyst was, just that it makes us move back to a saner way of doing airport security.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:21 PM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Because half the US population doesnt want anyone to see their flabby physique.

The government can fight back against the revolt by saying that only men with small penises fear the scanners.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:25 PM on December 6, 2010


Has it really broken the camel's back? Last I heard, over 80% approved of the pornoscanners.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:29 PM on December 6, 2010


First... HighTechUbderpants, if you read my post, I don't refute the invasiveness of the scanners, I just asserted that it shouldn't have gotten to this point and this is why most of those who suddenly care about the TSA's methods are most likely those who have been sitting in an armchair eating McRibs and listening to Conway Twitty or whatever. Also, Ive watched some Glenn Beck, they're also convinced these will be all over America in a couple years.

Funny, the "slippery slope" thing only applies to privacy when there's a black man and, presumably, a lesbian in charge of the operation.

Secondly, I don't think it has anything to do with "chiseled steel and sex appeal" or what have you... You just don't want them to see the infrastructure of your namesake.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:33 PM on December 6, 2010


Yes, and what percentage of US citizens fly at least once every 5 years?
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:33 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Has it really broken the camel's back? Last I heard, over 80% approved of the pornoscanners.

Really? Last I heard, over 200% opposed them.
posted by indubitable at 3:34 PM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


The government can fight back against the revolt by saying that only men with small penises fear the scanners.

Old news. How else do you think they got Congress to OK it?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:36 PM on December 6, 2010


You know why the body scans are "... The last straw"?

IT'S BECAUSE I'M INSECURE ABOUT MY PENIS OKAY

*SOB*
posted by graventy at 3:43 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The security screenings are not, and never have been, about increasing passenger safety. They are designed to increase the passengers' illusion of safety...to make people keep flying, and thus keep the airline and travel industry from collapsing into bankruptcy.
That's total B.S. The airlines are not happy about this crap at all. Why do you think lobbyists who work for tourist companies are are against the proposals?

People in government think that these techniques are effective in reducing the likelyhood of a terrorist attack. They are worried that if there is just one bombing on a plane, there will be a political fallout or something. Even the undie bomber precipitated political attacks on Janet Napalitano. If there is an attack, they want to be able to say they "did everything they could".

But lets be clear, fewer people fly with these screening methods in place then would without them. The airlines are losing money, for sure. The bulk of fliers are business people who have to do it for their jobs. And they really hate the security theater stuff.

While it's true that a majority of Americans support this, a majority don't fly.
posted by delmoi at 3:45 PM on December 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


I just asserted that it shouldn't have gotten to this point and this is why most of those who suddenly care about the TSA's methods are most likely those who have been sitting in an armchair eating McRibs and listening to Conway Twitty or whatever.
A) Bullshit.
Funny, the "slippery slope" thing only applies to privacy when there's a black man and, presumably, a lesbian in charge of the operation.
B) Total bullshit. Many of the people who were concerned about civil liberties under the bush administration are also concerned about this. It's just a large percentage of democrats apparently don't give a fuck when "their guys" are in charge. All that matters to them is that people who criticize Obama get flamed on the internet (and called racist for no reason whatsoever -- why the hell not?). If Obama and the democrats are doing it, It must be OK. Just look at how many people flipped on Gitmo and indefinite detainment. Same thing with excessive security theater at airports.

Seriously the argument that people are only upset about having TSA agents jam their hands up people's taints because of racism is one of the most absurd things imaginable, and grist for the "Anti-PC" types who try to shout down any real accusations of racism.
posted by delmoi at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


OH NOES, IT'S THE LIGHTENING!
posted by wierdo at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2010


While it's true that a majority of Americans support this, a majority don't fly.

truth
posted by DavidandConquer at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2010


@Roger Dodger "What percentage of US citizens fly at least once every 5 years?"

Is a very good questions. My quick and dirty google-fu turned up nothing solid other than ABC news reports that only 14% of people fly more than once a year on average per year based on CDC data; but I couldn't find any links to the source material, so make of that what you will.

Anybody have a real answer?
posted by digitalprimate at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2010


Taking off your shoes wasn't demeaning?

Not really. A slight annoyance, but not demeaning.

Preventing liquids from boarding (conveniently as complimentary meals and drinks were replaced by overpriced ones) wasn't ridiculous?

That received a lot of criticism too, but it wasn't as bad as the scanners and new pat-downs.

No, 'twas the body scans. Why?

Fine, I'll say it: Because half the US population doesnt want anyone to see their flabby physique.

Not to say it isn't an intrusion by some joke of an agency, it totally is, but after four years of watching it get worse only to have bumpkins say it "protects us from osama..." I'm totally ok with the TSA getting snapshots of my nuts.


You might be fine with that; good for you. But many people aren't, and this includes males as well as females. Remember the pilot John Tyner?

Some scientists and medical experts are also seriously concerned about the consequences of all that radiation (PDF of "Letter of Concern" to President Obama).
posted by John Cohen at 3:59 PM on December 6, 2010


Over Thanksgiving weekend, CNN had few stories other than the TSA, all of which had a "Yeah, it sucks, but it's keeping you safer so you just have to deal with it" kind of feel.

But then they did a story on Dan Savage and the "It Gets Better" campaign and kept saying, "Does this really help prevent suicides?"

I found it interesting that they questioned the effectiveness of an anti-bullying campaign that affects no one who doesn't explicitly seek it out, but never bothered questioning whether the TSA actions -- which affect everyone who flies -- make flying safer.
posted by coolguymichael at 4:02 PM on December 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Because half the US population doesnt want anyone to see their flabby physique.

Based on the mugshots of those arrested for exposing themselves in public, may I suggest that the intersection of "good body" and "exhibitionist" is not quite as high as you think?
posted by rokusan at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did find a couple of interesting Gallup polls from 2009 and earlier, before any of the new search procedures were really unveiled. The actual number of people who fly is larger then I originally thought it would be. The security questions in the airline poll are from 2006, but seems people in general strongly supported measures taken up through then. The Fear of Terrorism poll is just about a year old now. It would be interesting to see these same questions asked again this year.

U.S. Fear of Terrorism Steady After Foiled Christmas Attack


Airlines - How Many Air Trips Have You Taken on a Commercial Airliner in the Past 12 Months?

In U.S., Air Travelers Take Body Scans in Stride

posted by Roger Dodger at 4:58 PM on December 6, 2010


I don't fly often, and I will fly less often in the future.

The reason this is a big deal is because airline safety is now more invasive than the average intake to go into jail.

It also shows how three things I hate are working together.

1 .Lobbyist insider government manipulation for profit

2. Terrorists successfully manipulating our policies

3. And the general stupidity in our nations that doesn't even comprehend the problems with the above.

I hope the outrage continues until something changes. It doesn't even have to start with the government, there are already smaller airlines advertising as TSA free flying
posted by psycho-alchemy at 4:58 PM on December 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


John Cohen, here are some definitions from oxforddictionaries.com
Demeaning: causing someone to lose their dignity and the respect of others
Dignity: a composed or serious manner or style
Respect: due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights , or traditions of others


It is indeed demeaning in today's society to be forced to remove your shoes in public. The TSA has been pulling demeaning bullshit in U.S. airports for a long time.

I'll agree with you that it has gotten worse, though. And thanks for that .pdf link on the medical hazards of being subjected to the backscatter X-rays.
posted by aniola at 5:07 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Air travelers take scans in stride. See also: Milgram experiments and boiling frogs.

TSA-free flying? That's awesome! I dig it. If I ever fly in the U.S. again, I'll try to stick to these companies. Speaking of TSA-free, I'm off for an evening bike ride.
posted by aniola at 5:19 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought this was remarkably well said:

The inconsistency of our outrage is instructive — it shows that our perceptions of safety and security are not reflective of reality but are instead dictated to us externally by demagogic politicians who have a vested interest in our fear. We are a passive audience trapped in a theatre of the absurd — apparently too absorbed in brilliantly orchestrated drama to realize it’s all just a play.

I fly fairly regularly (and to places where no, I can't drive or take a train - not until they start building roads or rails under the Atlantic) and don't object to the nudity aspect of the pornoscanners, but to the reactionary-ism of it. I would like to have some words with the underpants gentleman, mostly regarding the measures put in place on international flights that literally involved taking toys out of the hands of small children for the past hour - man, was that a loud, boring, and cold hour. In which my bladder became uncomfortably full. But the real pain in the ass about that hour (and the patdowns, and the pornoscanners) is that they couldn't prevent underpants man because he had already happened.

The security measures bug me for the same reason the author of this article mentions: they think backwards, not forwards. And as they get more and more invasive, they get more and more expensive and for... what? Exactly? Underpants man wasn't stopped by a pornoscanner, he was stopped by his fellow passengers realizing he was up to No Good. And really, that awareness is what's made us "safer" since 9/11 - knowing that it's not going to do any good to just comply with the nice man with the weapon. The excessive scanning? Ok, maybe that's foiled a few attempts at mayhem, but any organized plot would just find a way around it. Or pick a different target. Or blow up the pornoscanner.

Dude's right in that the millions of dollars spent on the backscatter machines would have been better invested, oh, anywhere else.
posted by sonika at 6:05 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


The security screenings are not, and never have been, about increasing passenger safety. They are designed to increase the passengers' illusion of safety...to make people keep flying, and thus keep the airline and travel industry from collapsing into bankruptcy.
They do that job very well, and as long as they do, the screenings will stay in place.


Got a cite for that?

pornoscanners

"Pornography is the depiction of sexual behavior that is intended to arouse sexual excitement in its audience"
posted by gjc at 7:53 PM on December 6, 2010


In my experience with debate I have found that any position whose primary justification is “it could be worse” is almost certainly wrong.

Should have stopped there.
posted by yesster at 7:54 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason this is a big deal is because airline safety is now more invasive than the average intake to go into jail.

Hyperbole doesn't really help most causes.
posted by inigo2 at 8:17 PM on December 6, 2010


They should completely privatize airport security. If you want to fly Southwest, you go through Southwest's security check, and they have their own policies. Maybe American Airlines uses pornoscanners, so you fly Delta, which allows you to carry as much liquid and food on the plane as you want. Continental has an "early bird" special, which allows you to avoid pat-downs if you get there at least 3 hours early.

I don't know. After the whole "don't scan my breast milk/but we have to scan your breast milk/oh no don't scan it it will destroy it with super crazy x-rays i have no sciences to really support that tho/then let us scan it/better safe than sorry amirite/then you stay in that small chamber for hours and miss ur flight/i have a right to refuse/ok but you'll still do whatever we tell you/that's right i will but i don't know why" thread, I don't know what I think about this situation anymore.
posted by King Bee at 8:29 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can't privatize airport security because the minute that security has to actually do something with a misbehaving customer (drunk, carrying a weapon, small penis, whatever) the airline exposes itself to lawsuits.
posted by spicynuts at 11:53 PM on December 6, 2010


I'm pretty sure opting out of the TSA contract is permitted. It's an airport, not airline basis, though
posted by klarck at 1:26 AM on December 7, 2010


You can't privatize airport security because the minute that security has to actually do something with a misbehaving customer (drunk, carrying a weapon, small penis, whatever) the airline exposes itself to lawsuits.

No, that's why airlines don't want to privatize the security, not a reason they can't.
posted by King Bee at 5:45 AM on December 7, 2010


klarck wrote: "I'm pretty sure opting out of the TSA contract is permitted. It's an airport, not airline basis, though"

They still have to use the TSA-prescribed security procedures. I don't think it's any better to be virtually strip searched and/or fondled by Xe or whoever.
posted by wierdo at 6:23 AM on December 7, 2010


Would it be appropriate for the TSA to populate public parks, restaurants, casinos, zoos and public transit, all in the name of security? After all, in 2006 the Dpartment of Homeland Security listed those places as “top terrorist targets.” And if we were to use the same logic forwarded by TSA-proponents, we would say that because people aren’t required to go to these places, it’s okay to coerce them into abridging their rights. It’s their choice, after all. Yet, we obviously wouldn’t accept such a system if it were implemented, so why do we accept the same humiliating system at airports?
TSA operations are indeed expanding into areas beyond airports, areas that make no sense from a terrorism prevention standpoint, and we seem to be accepting it just fine.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:47 AM on December 7, 2010


The reason this is a big deal is because airline safety is now more invasive than the average intake to go into jail.

I went to a courthouse yesterday for jury duty. I went through a metal detector and my bags went through an X-ray, and when my underwire and the metal in my boots set off the metal detector, I was wanded. This was less security than I went through the last time I flew, which was well before the pornoscanners and the new pat-downs were put into place; at the airport I had to take off my shoes.
posted by immlass at 7:04 AM on December 7, 2010


Get rid of all security. Put a big sign in the terminal saying: "The person beside you might be armed. You fly at your own risk. Be suspicious." That is all.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:56 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think North America's puritanical streak is the reason that this particular straw broke the camel's back.

It certainly could be; we just need to very, very vocally sexually gratified by being scanned. A couple of thousand people having screaming orgasms in airports all across the country would make the news, and certainly piss off somebody.
posted by quin at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2010


I may be one of the few people who finds the shoe and liquid restrictions more odious than the body-scanners, at least on a practical level. Not all shoes come off and on all that easily, and it's a pain to have to plan my wardrobe around that requirement, and have to waste luggage space on the shoes I would otherwise have worn. (Plus I'm more self conscious about possible stinky feet embarrassment than a scanner image I don't see.) The liquid restriction effectively prevents me from bringing my own meal along with me, instead leaving me with the meager (often nonexistent and rarely nutritionally appropriate) offerings of the airlines. The body scanner doesn't slow me down any more than needing to be wanded every time I walk through security anyway. (I won't wear a sports bra anywhere but to a gym, and every other bra I own has a metal underwire.)

Ideally, I'd prefer to dispose of all three. Each is a PITA in its own way and accomplishes nothing but to make the process of flying even more stressful.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:15 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


that's NOT my conscience.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:53 AM on December 7, 2010


An excellent interview by Goldberg and Fallows with the head of the TSA, John Pistole.
posted by proj at 8:12 AM on December 8, 2010


#SLOE. we should have an evergreen thread for TSA/Security. it all been said many times in the past few months.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:52 AM on December 8, 2010


Cover of the Day

Nude Breach: Why privacy always loses.
posted by homunculus at 9:25 AM on December 15, 2010


Cover of the Day

Damn. I predicted a while ago that we'd see nipples on U.S. magazine covers by 2010, but I didn't think it would be on The New Republic. Lady Liberty's got a nice ass.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:25 AM on December 15, 2010


This is my school! Woot!
posted by the_royal_we at 8:15 AM on December 22, 2010


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