Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thoughts on the TSA Molestation Procedures

From Popular Mechanics:
Since 9/11, cryptology expert and security consultant Bruce Schneier has been one of the most pointed critics of the government's anti-terrorism security programs...

The machines have shown up in the wake of the so-called underwear bomber, who tried to blow up a plane with chemicals stored in his briefs. Would this technology have stopped him?
The guys who make the machines have said, "We wouldn't have caught that"...

Has there been a case since 9/11 of an attempted hijacker being thwarted by airport security?
None that we've heard of. The TSA will say, "Oh, we're not allowed to talk about successes." That's actually bullsh*t. They talk about successes all the time. If they did catch someone, especially during the Bush years, you could be damned sure we'd know about it. And the fact that we didn't means that there weren't any. Because the threat was imaginary. It's not much of a threat. As excess deaths go, it's just way down in the noise. More than 40,000 people die each year in car crashes. It's 9/11 every month. The threat is really overblown.

Do you think there's been an over-reaction, on the part of the government and the press, to the underwear bomber?
That case was really instructive. Nobody was injured, and the plane landed safely. It was a success! And it was pre 9-11 security that made it a success. Because we screen for superficial guns and bombs, he had to resort to a syringe and 90 minutes in the bathroom with a bomb that didn't work. This is what success looks like. Stop bellyaching!

What's the motive behind introducing this new level of security?
It's politics. You have to be seen as doing something, even if nothing is the smart thing to do. You can't be seen as doing nothing.

What does would-be President and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton think of the procedures?
Those measures don't apply to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said security experts "are looking for ways to diminish the impact on the traveling public." She, for one, wouldn't like to submit to a security pat-down.

"Not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?" Clinton told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Even the reliably-liberal LA Times has doubts:
Aviation security has bedeviled us since 2001, in part because we have reacted to past incidents instead of planning strategically for the future. After 9/11 we banned box cutters, scissors and nail clippers; after Richard Reed we started X-raying shoes; after the 2006 London airliner plot we banned liquids over 3 ounces. And now, after a would-be bomber last Christmas hid explosives in his underwear, we are starting to peer beneath passengers' clothes with scanners.

But what is our overall strategy? Such ad hoc reactions demonstrate a lack of strategic thinking. What we are doing is not completely ineffective. But is it effective enough? And are there better methods? We cannot say because we have not yet done a full analysis or adopted a comprehensive strategy.

The new procedures might have the perverse effect of killing more Americans:
As the nation readies for one of the busiest traveling holidays, Steven Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, told The Hill that the probable spike in road travel, caused by adverse feelings towards the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new screening procedures, could also lead to more car-related deaths.

“Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane,” said Horwitz. “The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway.”

The 4th Amendment be damned:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I wish I had saved the link about the El Al security officer who said that these American procedures are useless.

Liberals screamed about certain provisions of the Patriot Act, but I don't hear those same liberals screaming now that American citizens are getting felt up by government agents. Which is worse: warrantless wiretaps of suspected terrorists who call from overseas to the US, or molesting the traveling public?

If this is how we're going to fight the War on Terror, we're doomed.

Update, 11/22/10: I didn't think to link this to the Arizona immigration law, but others have:

Remember how not long ago the President was so upset about the possibility of people being stopped and asked for “their papers” while going to get ice cream? It was the height of living in a police state. Yet we’ve not heard a peep out of him while TSA goons grope the general public (including nuns and little kids) on the way to grandma’s house.

If we are expected to put up with this, asking to see “your papers” suddenly seems a less onerous request.

And another:

Have Arizona pass a law saying that illegal aliens will be subject to these procedures as well! The federal government would immediately ask a judge to ban full-body scans.

And for grins, let's throw a little diversity into the picture:

We pass all passengers through the same, cumbersome screening because we want to pretend that all Americans are equally likely to be security threats. In short, we do it to avoid profiling. The effort does credit to the tolerance of American soceity. On the other hand, tolerance is not the only good. There are limits.

What we are seeing now is, I suspect, a reflection of a frustration Americans have with the worship of what is called diversity run amok.


Anonymous said...

This is what we get for hiring lawyers and/or political science majors to make detailed technical decisions.

Mike Thiac said...

Or hiring a community organizer who have never run a cash register to run major operations of our government and economy...

Eric W. said...

I don't really see this as a big change in policy, merely a continuation of the same sort of thinking that's been the norm since the TSA came into existence. Progress and Change indeed.