Friday, December 01, 2006

Two Recent Stories About Airline Security

To the horror of some lefties, the US government has assigned international travelers--even Americans!--a terrorism risk score.

Virtually every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is scored by the Homeland Security Department's Automated Targeting System, or ATS. The scores are based on ATS' analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered...

Government officials could not say whether ATS has apprehended any terrorists. Based on all the information available to them, federal agents turn back about 45 foreign criminals a day at U.S. borders, according to Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection spokesman Bill Anthony. He could not say how many were spotted by ATS.

Of course this is just another one of George Bush's attacks on civil liberties, right? Not quite.

ATS was first used to rate the risk posed by travelers in the late 1990s, using personal information about them voluntarily supplied by air and cruise lines. (emphasis mine--Darren)

A post-9/11 law vastly expanded the program, he said. It required airline and cruise companies to begin in 2002 sending the government electronic data in advance on all passengers and crew bound into or out of the country. All these names are put through ATS analysis, Ahern said. In addition, at land border crossings, agents enter license plates and the names of vehicle drivers and passengers, and Amtrak voluntarily supplies passenger data on its trains to and from Canada, he said.

It apparently didn't work too well pre-9/11, and I'm glad the expanded program's being used now. For all those people who were complaining that the pre-9/11 government didn't "connect the dots"--well, these are some of the dots they need to connect.

Then there's this story, about a backscatter x-ray machine that does what we were all promised in those little ads in the back of the comic books as kids: x-ray vision allowing you to see through clothes!

Yep, they're gonna be checking me out, all right. Some privacy specialists are concerned that this will provide fodder for YouTube for years to come. Here are the key points:

But the TSA said the X-rays will be set up so that the image can be viewed only by a security officer in a remote location. Other passengers, and even the agent at the checkpoint, will not have access to the picture.

I'm not sure that's good, for the YouTube reason mentioned above. And then:

In addition, the system will be configured so that the X-ray will be deleted as soon as the individual steps away from the machine. It will not be stored or available for printing or transmitting, agency spokesman Nico Melendez said.

We'll see what happens.

Update, 2/23/07: The X-Ray machine has arrived.

(AP) -- The Phoenix airport on Friday became the first in the United States to test new X-ray technology that can see through people's clothes and show the body's contours with blush-inducing clarity.

Critics have said the high-resolution images created by the "backscatter" technology are too invasive. But the Transportation Security Administration adjusted the equipment so the pictures can be blurred in certain areas while still detecting concealed weapons.

During the testing, the machine will be used only as a back-up screening measure. Passengers who fail the standard screening with a metal detector will be able to choose between the new device or a pat-down search...

Passengers selected for screening by the device are asked to stand in front of the closet-size X-ray unit with the palms of their hands facing out. Then they must turn around for a second screening from behind. The procedure takes about a minute...

The security officer who works with the passenger going through the screening will never see the images the machine produces. The pictures will be viewed by another officer about 50 feet away who will not see the passenger, the TSA said.

The machine cannot store the images or transmit them.

A full minute? Even if only a half a minute per passenger, that's too much time. They've got to fix that.


Anonymous said...

I have no problem with a “targeting system” or profiling as a liberally oriented person—it is often very logical—but it can turn into a slippery slope. I just want it to be logically and equally applied. For example, we should “target” Christians and keep them from living within a few hundred yards of abortion clinics, planned parenthood, Olympic ceremonies, or, dramatically (and only used to be ridiculous) in the south, from African Americans. Targeting and profiling makes sense—just not logically applied to everything or everyone.

Darren said...

John S., using similar so-called logic, we should keep Democrat politicians away from anyone with a wallet.

Anonymous said...

Or Republicans from children.
See, it is a slippery slope.

Darren said...

I don't understand. I'm a Republican--why would you want to keep children away from me? How am I to teach them?

Now, let's try to get back to logic, not idiocy, John S.

Anonymous said...

Idiocy? I am sure my points can be off target but it is a bit offensive to have them referred to as idiocy. Nevertheless, perhaps I invite it and they truly are idiotic. Sorry to lower the level of disourse.

To help clarify my obviously poor example, the Republican comment referred to Foley and the next statement referred to how ridiculous it was. Yet, so-called logic mandates us to consider targeting certain groups, such as Christians, as well as wacko Animal right’s activists from living near rodeo’s or purchasing tickets to such. Really, because Christians have historically been the most violent group in this country it is not unreasonable to target them. Why is that a problem? It makes good sense to protect people’s lives.

Darren said...

Yes, I know you were referring to Foley--someone against whom there's no evidence he ever touched one of those pages. That contrasts him with (humorously-named) Congressman Studds, D-Massachusetts, who not only screwed pages but turned his back on the Congress when they censured (or whatever one step below censuring is) and went on to retire from Congress a few terms later.

As for Christians' being the most violent group in this country, I'm not convinced. I'd say liberals are--47 million abortions since Roe, and counting. How many clinics/doctors have the Christians harmed? How many blacks were lynched, perhaps by Christians? Was Timothy McVeigh a Christian, and did his religion drive his actions?

You make unsupported, unsupportable statements.

Anonymous said...

A few scholarly sources I know of that point both to religious violence in general and Christian violence in particular:

Suzanne Marshall, Violence in the Black Patch of Kentucky and Tennessee (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1994); Robert Moats Miller “The Protestant Churches and Lynching, 1919-1939,” The Journal of Negro History 42:2 (April 1957): 118-131; W. J. Sheils, Studies in Church History: The Church and War (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983); Robert M. Brown, Religion and Violence (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973); J. G. Davies, Christian, Politics, and Violent Revolution (New York: Orbis, 1976); Jean Lasserre, War and the Gospel (Scottsdale, PA, 1974); Ken Levi, Religious Commitment and Violence (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982); Mark Juergensmeyer, “Christian Violence in America,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 558, Americans and Religions in the Twenty-First Century (July 1998): 88-100; Aho, James, The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990); Michael Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994); Gerald Baumgarten, Paranoia as Patriotism: Far-Right Influences on the Militia Movement (New York: Anti- Defamation League., 1995); Chip Berlet, John Salvi, Abortion Clinic Violence, and Catholic Right Conspiracism (Somerville, MA: Political Research Associates, 1996); Mark Juergensmeyer, The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Gary North, Backward, Christian Soldiers? An Action Manual for Christian Reconstruction (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984).

Likewise, I am unsure of sources now, but the KKK, Salem, Christian Identity, and Slavery are among just some of the most notorious episodes in the nation’s history and rival anything done by any other singular group in this country.

“47 million abortions since Roe, and counting.” First, I do not want to be drawn into a debate on this. The only comment I can make is that liberals do not monopolize abortions. Indeed, my Christian Pastor friend frequently consults me about the many young Christian women who had an abortion he ministers to and how sad it makes him. Likewise, I know a handful of Republicans personally who have had an abortion. Indeed, of the 5 I know, 4 are either Christian or Republican. That is neither here or there. I am sure many people know only liberals who had abortions.

“How many clinics/doctors have the Christians harmed?”

I have no idea—is there an appropriate amount though?

“How many blacks were lynched, perhaps by Christians?”

I do not know. Very sad. In addition, how many slaves did Christians bring to this country? Owned by Christians? Punished by Christians? Killed by Christians? Still, how many were not Christians? If I understand correctly, our founding fathers and early American Republic citizens were Christian—right? Still, I am under no delusion all Slave-owning Americans were Christian.

“If there were a drunken orgy somewhere, I would bet ten to one a church member was not in it. That is long odds, but on the whole I would assume a church member was not in it. But if there were a lynching I would bet ten to one a church member was in it. I don’t find people belonging to churches giving a guarantee of emancipated race attitude or a high type of political morality. We can’t assume that at all. We have it sometimes, but we can ‘t assume it.” –REINHOLD NIEBUHR, Christian Century (April 19, 1923): 502.

“Was Timothy McVeigh a Christian, and did his religion drive his actions?”

As for McViegh, he imbibed and then distribute the Christian Identity inspired The Turner Diaries according to Mark Juergensmeyer. Yet, I have always understood he was not a Christian.

Sir, all this was way off point. I think you may be on the attack for attack’s sake. I hope that is not the case and I really am just being an idiot. I have no delusion that 99% of Christians in this country are wonderful people—including my best friend and mother. Still, when we talk about targeting people, again, given the history of Christians, why is it idiocy or unsupported?

As for Foley, did you read all my comments? Seems to me bad people lurk on both sides of the aisle.

Anonymous said...

Relativism—“You keep using that word; I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Sorry, as I indicated before on another post, I am unsure what in the world you think relativism is. Really, you seem to toss out words with rhetorical flair and grand emotion thinking you have marginalized my thoughts and comments (perhaps you succeeded). Sure, I subscribe to the notion of taking into account circumstances, however, I do not deny the existence of universal truths or laws—I am just wary and uncertain of what most are. Again, relativism would logically reduce into the notion that people could do whatever they please—I do not buy that.

Give fair share to Hindu’s in India and Buddhists and Christians in Thailand who are still enslaving people today. And in Africa, the story is horrible, but not all are Muslim, indeed, the Dinka in Sudan, for example, have their own unique faith.

Undeniably, however, most are Muslim.

“The Christians ended slavery?” Surely, some of the greatest Abolitionists were “Evangelical” Christians spawned by the 2d Great Awakening and the likes of Beecher. The notion of Democracy surely played its role too and Christianity cannot take full credit. Still, Christians, Protestant and Catholic alike, started and participated in the largest trafficking of slaves in human history too. Not to mention Jim Crow. Jefferson Davis evoked God and the Bible to defend the “peculiar institution.” Where is that since of justice you so powerfully demanded?

This is all way off point. I certainly do not believe we need to target Christians because I do not believe we need to target Muslims (though, let the old Grandma at the Airport go through and logically search the Arab male in his 30s). Fundamentalist Muslims are to Islam what the KKK is to Christianity. But if you target Muslims, then I want to target Christians, Wacko Animal Rights and Environmentalist Activists, Idaho citizens, & Brian M (he beat me up in 6th Grade and I need to know where he is at all times), etc. By all this “slippery slope” talk, we need to target and profile all who cause harm. How is this illogical or unsupported or hogwash. I fail to see why we should not target members of dangerous groups. Is anyone really denying the KKK is Christian or that Christian Identity is the most violent domestic terrorist organization in the U.S.? Common sense and public safety demand we target these people for our own good. All I suggest, like my poor example of Grandma at the airport, is let Christians go about their normal business, however, there should be a “targeting” of all who live within 300 yards of an Abortion Clinic or the Atlanta Olympic site because, well, to get back to you, some “strap dynamite on themselves for the sole purpose of murdering civilians.”

A lot of you are punching holes in my call to target Christians—good. Maybe the message escaped some however.

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of the crusades?

Christians weren't too nice then.

But we can just ignore that, right?

Darren said...

John S., you aren't pointing out a slippery slope. Your point makes no sense to me. People aren't screaming "Christ died on the cross for my sins!" as they cut off people's heads and show it on the internet.

Eric, the Crusades were a response to Muslim incursions into what had been a Christian area. Why someone as smart as you are would let the Muslims claim the Crusades when they started it is far beyond me. Don't forget, as recently as the 1700's the Muslims were at the gates of Vienna--and they weren't knocking politely.

Besides, that was a few hundred years ago. We're talking about what's going on today, not then.