A few thoughts to the TSA and the current Hullaballoo

An image of a TSA screener inspecting a servic...
Monkeys. That's who we should be frisking. Dangerous little buggers!

I’m going to keep this one short, I was going to write about this yesterday when I first heard about it, but I honestly thought it would blow over by today and that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  But, my Facebook/Twitter pages are still covered in people talking about this, or rather ranting about talking about this, so I thought I’d share a few of my (hopefully reasonable) thoughts.

You know what I’m talking about.  The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has recently been stripping people naked and practically having sex with them inside our airports, if the stories are to be believed.  There’s talk about groping and violation and touching tantamount to sexual assault and rape.  This makes for very good news stories, and email forwards, and Facebook statuses all about how the “Government” is trying to screw over its ordinary citizens, people are all up in arms about this, and I’m not really sure why.

From the news stories that I have read, even the blog posts from individuals who have been assaulted, I don’t see a big problem.  There is just a little more security at airports now, which now involves a pat-down.  Well, to be honest, pat-downs have long been used to do a quick feel-search and see if someone is trying to smuggle or conceal something.  Police use similar physical touching when they pull someone over or suspect they may have a weapon on them, where’s the furor about that?  “Oh, well, those are criminals”, you say.  Okay, you may think that, but they really aren’t. They are suspected criminals, we do have a principle of “innocent until proven guilty“, but if Police suspect, or believe an individual may be concealing a weapon or other illicit materials, they are allowed to frisk and pat-down a suspect.

This same situation is all that is happening at airports.  TSA officials are frisking and patting-down individuals they suspect, or believe may have concealed weapons or other dangerous materials.  And then, just for safety’s sake, they do random pat-downs of other individuals to prevent criminals from planting weapons on others, or from using others to smuggle weapons or explosives for them.  That can happen, has happened, so the TSA seeks to make everyone flying a little safer by doing these random checks.  Again, these people aren’t criminals, no one believes they are criminals, they are just doing their job of protecting citizens in the best way they know how.  If you have any real, viable alternatives (and no, just letting everyone do what they want, is not a viable alternative) I’m sure they’d love to hear them, but in the appropriate settings, using the proper procedure for implementing changes like that.  Standing in line and yelling at the TSA official is not that setting nor procedure.

Point Two – No one is forcing you to fly.  There are alternatives.  If you do not want to subject yourself to the TSA inspection, then you can get to your destination in another way.  Your choice.  This is not being ‘forced’ upon you, you agree to this by agreeing to fly.  The same situation applies in other locations.  My wife and I went to visit Washington, D.C. last summer.  We wanted to visit some government buildings while we were there.  In order to get in we had to pass through a metal detector, and there were occasionally people who were pulled aside and patted-down.  Bags and backpacks were searched, as well.  No one complained about a violation of privacy or anything because they all knew if they did not want to subject themselves to this all they had to do was turn around and walk away.  They did not have to visit that building.  But if they did want to visit that building then they would have to agree to and permit a search.  That’s just the way it is.  If you want something, sometimes you have to pay for it.

Point Three- This is the one that really bugs me.  I have seen this quote, statistic, sentiment, whatever you want to call it, spread around quite a bit.  “Since 9/11, every single attempted terrorist attack on an aircraft has been thwarted by private citizens, not by the TSA.”  That is simply not true.  It cannot be true.  That is the problem with prevention, when it’s successful you don’t know about it.  If a terrorist attack doesn’t happen, do we applaud and congratulate our military, homeland security forces, CIA, FBI, Police, etc.?  No, we continue life as normal.  But when a terrorist attack does occur, we immediately blame these people for not keeping us safe.  I am firmly of the opinion that there are many attacks that are prevented – we just don’t hear about them.  But, hey.  You’re still alive, so’s the President, all those landmarks you love, still standing, doing fine!

People assume because we haven’t heard about any terrorist attacks that these attacks aren’t happening.  I highly doubt that.  They are being planned, almost carried out, but because of the marvelous work by our security forces, including spies, we are able to prevent many tragedies.  But, we cannot prevent them all.  That is too bad, but it’s true.  We hear about the attacks that happen on airplanes, being thwarted by normal citizens doing courageous and heroic things, and we assume our government is sitting around twiddling its collective thumbs.  But do you know how many attacks get thwarted, stopped before they board the airplane?  No.  That’s how successful we are.

So, while I do understand that security is a very touchy subject (pardon the pun), please, can we all be a little more polite, a little more civil?  If you have problems or concerns with the current state of security screening, by all means, let them know! (Here is a comment and complaint form from their website.  Use them.)  But yelling at the guard doing his job in the airport, causing a scene is not the proper method for changing things.  Neither is Facebook, or Twitter.  If you want to change things, get involved.  Vote.  Run for office.  Write letters.  Send emails.  CONVERSE and DISCUSS.  But please don’t shout, don’t scream, don’t be stupid.  It just gives the rest of us honest citizens a bad name.  Please, I beg you, my fellow Americans, let’s show the world that we can be reasonable and smart.  Can we do that? Please?

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6 thoughts on “A few thoughts to the TSA and the current Hullaballoo

  1. Beth

    Point one: People have the right to control who can touch their bodies and who can see them naked.

    point two: Yes, it is a choice to fly: a hobson’s choice. Meaning there is no choice at all.

    Part three: shoe bomber: thwarted by passengers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Reid_%28shoe_bomber%29#Bombing_attempt_on_American_Airlines_Flight_63

    Underwear bomber: thwarted by passengers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar_Farouk_Abdulmutallab

    Why, if the TSA catches so many other guys, do new security measures get enforced for THESE specific incidents, and not the ones we don’t hear about?

    Next time you disagree with me, you can tell me to my face (or at least directly) instead of passively writing a blog about it. The fact is, I HAVE gotten involved. I’ve written my senators and congressmen. I have complained to the government and the TSA. It’s insulting that you would think otherwise, that you apparently don’t think that I am reasonable or smart.

    1. dteeps

      First Beth, I want to apologize. I did not mean to offend anyone, and I certainly wasn’t talking to you specifically. I have heard about this from a lot of my friends in the last couple of days. I did quote you, and for that I apologize, but I have heard the same sentiment from several place. Sorry.

      And I never said that passengers didn’t thwart potential terrorists, just that they aren’t the only ones to do so. And we don’t know about security measures that have been implemented because of the incidents we don’t hear about, because we don’t hear about those incidents. How often has the TSA changed their policies and procedures, seemingly randomly. These changes are in response to new information, some of which learned by those we have stopped.

      I don’t want this to turn into a huge argument over the internet. I apologize if I’ve offended you, I’ve shared my opinion as you have yours. My post was not directly aimed at you, but at a lot of people with whom I have spoken.

      1. Beth

        I don’t mind if people disagree with me, as long as it’s respectful. I do not feel that your original post was at all respectful, but I am glad you apologized.

        I don’t know if more Arabic-speaking TSA agents would be helpful. A few months ago TSA officials found a college student with a bunch of Arabic vocabulary cards in his backpack. They detained him for five hours because it looked “Suspicious.” https://illinois.edu/db/view/25/22101

  2. Ted

    I would agree that the choice “not” to fly is very much a Hobson’s choice. For example, outside of flying, there are not many options for me to travel to Korea, for example.

    There’s something that is very personal to people when this issue is brought up. My friends get very passionate about all of the issues involving these new security measures. A friend brought up the good point that anti-terrorism probably starts waaay before the guy gets on the plane with a weapon. According to many of the news sources I’ve read, the real anti-terrorism is involved with tapping into networks and working to prevent the plot from even happening. This involves out-smarting the terrorists before they can reach the plane itself. By the time they get there, they’ve usually outmaneuvered intelligence (hence the underwear and shoe bombers, for example – they slipped through TSA checks, and it’s arguable whether the new measures would have even caught them had they tried today) and it’s up to citizens to stop them.

    I think the argument should be made as far as effectiveness goes. We are setting up a massive opportunity for abuse in all kinds of areas. Is it really keeping us that much safer? Wouldn’t we be better off hiring more intelligence operatives that can speak Arabic instead?

  3. While I agree that the highly vocal media is playing the whole idea out of proportion, my biggest issue is not with pat-downs or other methods. It’s with the paranoia that fuels the reasons behind said methods and the policies that result in seemingly fruitless effects.

    The measures are nowhere near as severe as in some countries: in Poland, I remember going through at least three lines of detectors. In China, we were isolated to a completely different section of the airport.

    But for any escalation of security, there is both an increase of sophistication and an increase in individual convenience. Security profiling (behaviour, appearance, etc.) is the most important method of detecting a threat. Random additional screening doesn’t really seem to be effective with conjured scenarios; how then is it to deter real threats? As Ted above mentioned, the majority of the terrorism feeds off of the weaknesses in security policy, which will never be perfect. More than anything, some of the policies intimidate and/or disorient those flying. Terrorist mission accomplished.

    I’ve felt no more OR less secure with recent measures. But is there truly any advantage in the end? I don’t know, but I have yet to see evidence in its favour.

  4. Pingback: 2010 in review « Catchy Title Goes Here

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