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November 26, 2010

TSA Extra Safety Measures: Symbolism Over Substance

The Opt Out movement during the Thanksgiving Day travel was a bust, proving that people will give up a little personal freedom to get through a line quicker. There were no long lines because of people being maliciously compliant with the new TSA security measures, although TSA did flinch a little and shut down many scanners in large airports.
This looks staged to me but even if it is legit, I guarantee you the father of these two young girls will change his sign when he sees them getting felt up in front of everyone else in line with their shirts up and panties showing. But hey, he feels good now and that's all that matters. 

Personally, I think this whole TSA pat-down policy is a charade, a ruse to perpetuate the perception that the government cares about us when we travel and that these TSA Agents are protecting us from terrorist attacks. I do not discount that having agents and takin goff our shoes and jackets is a good deterrent, but patting down travelers is nonsense. This is where the scaredy cats (and good old fashioned fear mongers) will scream "But 9/11!! 9/11!!" in hopes that Jedi Mind Trick will continue to work on the weak minded. 

I have an issue with the TSA procedures because they just don't make sense regardless of the arguments by TSA or anyone else. 

Premise: Traditional metal detectors are necessary because they will find weapons and bombs made out of metal.
TSA Argument: The terrorists might try to sneak a weapon or bomb not made of metal. Traditional machines will not find these bombs or weapons.
Rebuttal: Use the chemical detection machines to find the bombs.
TSA "Yeah, but" response: Those traditional machines will not find a weapon shoved up someone's ass.
Logical retort: Will the new TSA X-Ray machines find a weapon or bomb shoved up someone's ass?
TSA Answer: No, they only X-Ray the surface of the skin.
Logical conclusion: It would be more effective for a terrorist to buy a bottle of Jack Daniel's at a Duty Free shop and bust it over an airline attendant's head and then set it on fire than to try to smuggle a bomb or a box cutter onto an airplane. It would also make sense for a terrorist to smuggle weapons/bombs in their asses because body cavity searches are not part of the screening and the machines won't pick them up. Prisoners smuggle stuff in their asses all the time, why wouldn't a terrorist.

Unsettling reality #1: Not one terrorist attempt been foiled at a TSA security checkpoint line.

CIA, FBI, Customs, Air Marshalls and NSA get the terrorists. Not TSA.

Even if you get to the checkpoint and call bullshit on all this TSA tomfoolery you cannot leave and take a train to Grandma's house. Evidently, when you purchase your ticket you give up your right to alternative transportation at must succumb to TSA procedures- or pay an $11,000 fine. 

According to a WorkTrends survey I fall into the Heavy Traveler category with 40-60% travel throughout the year. These new X-Ray machines are not tested to the same standard that medical x-ray equipment is tested. What is my risk? Celebrity pilot Chelsea Sullenburger has made the same complaint and is requesting that airline pilots be exempt from not only additional screening but screening altogether. But if pilots can bypass the extra measures then why not flight attendants since they fly just as much as the pilots? 

Here is a picture of the new x-ray technology (that has not been fully tested) at the Phoenix International Airport. Doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it? 

Unsettling reality #2: What is preventing a terrorist from becoming a pilot?

All the terrorist pilot has to do is get to the cockpit, get the gun that is inside, shoot the other pilot and thank Allah for the United States' crippling politically correctness and purely reactive response to terrorism.

I also don't fully buy the argument that this is making us safer. These illusionary checks only make people feel safer, and it is only the people who aren't getting the extra screening/groping who feel safer. How safe do you think the father of the boy who was forced to have a partial strip search in front of everyone felt?

Here is an interesting read by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller comedy act. He went through the additional groping by a TSA agent and made a stink about. He even had a local policeman show up. Penn's argument was not an extreme request- he didn't argue the unconstitutionality of the search- he wanted to be asked permission before being groped. He might pursue legal action against the TSA agent for assault. I guess if you have a lot of disposable income you can afford to take up that fight. Most of us do not and cannot.

So far, the best practice TSA and Homeland Security has adopted that actually does something is the locked cockpit doors and the handgun present in the cockpit. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. In fact, the United States should adopt airline security checkpoint procedures from a country that has been dealing with it for more than 50 years- Israel
"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."
It doesn't take hours to get through security in Israel, only 30-40 minutes. Tops. IN fact, the first layer of security occurs at the entrnce to the airport itself- from the street! Yes, cars are stopped and the driver and passengers are asked only 2 questions- How are you and why are you here? Based on the reaction to these 2 seemingly innocent questions the procedure may go one of two ways: You are allowed to pass to the 2nd and 3rd levels of security or, you are pulled over and given the third degree, much like the secondary search in Tijuana. Oh, I forgot to mention, all security agents are trained  to look at the behaviors of the people.

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.
"The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security," he said. "To us, it doesn't matter if he's black, white, young or old. It's just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I'm doing this?"

 Good question, however a huge storm of protesting will occur the second you try to initiate profiling in the United States. That's why the terrorists love to try and sneak through our airports- terrorists, little old ladies, children and the handicapped are all treated the same. Actually, people who fit th e profile of a terrorist- 18to30 year old male of Middle Eastern decent- are not profiled because they can scream human rights violations. So, TSA continues to screen grandma because it will be less of a hassle.

I know what comes next: "Yeah, but the underwear bomber didn't' fit that profile so profiling wouldn't have caught him. Ha!" True, friend of terrorists and hater of America, but neither would the new x-ray  or chemical detection machines. Properly trained agents, information sharing between CIA, FBI, HLS, Customs, NSA et al and profiling would have probably caught him, especially with a name like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Yeah, yeah, I know what comes next, "Racist! You're a racist!!"

No, it isn't racism any more than giving blacks an extra thorough medical examination since they seem to be more susceptible to sickle cell anemia than other races. White skinned people are more likely to get skin cancer than other races. Is it wrong for a black doctor to give a more thorough exam to their white patients? Of course not, just as it is not sexist for doctors to recommend women over 40 to get routine breast exams and not their male patients. I would even take it one step further and suggest that if a KKK revolution started that the police and Feds concentrate of fat white guys and not Asians. Again, this is not racism- it is risk assessment.

But I stress that this profiling can only be successful with properly trained agents, like the agents used in Israeli airports and not like the sloppy TSA agents who caused a man's urostomy bag to leak all over the man's clothes- and then fly on an airplane smelling like Kevin Federline. There is no humility or respect in that. The sadder part of this story is that TSA agents do not have the training to spot a real terrorist.

Until they do, get to the airports early and expect to see grandma and little Johnny continue to receive pat downs while the Abdulmutallab's continue to skate around our security. 

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