THE rage about body scanners and aggressive pat-downs at airport security has reached a feverish pitch — an absurd one. All it would take is one underpants bomber with explosives buried in his clothing to remind travelers how dicey this situation can be.
Um… a dicey situation for the “underpants bomber” no doubt, who, if memory serves me, succeeded in little more than lighting his own dick on fire. But the real absurdity here is the notion that this single, clumsy, failed crotch-bombing attempt is reason enough to spend $2.4 billion of taxpayer money to treat me and my 13-year-old daughter like criminals, every time we choose to fly.
So perhaps the Times’ editors can explain to me why their lede shouldn’t be dismissed as mere alarmist, fear-mongering bullshit… and lazy, alarmist, fear-mongering bullshit at that?
Recent introduction of body scanners at 69 airports throughout the country — and more thorough pat-downs for those who decline being scanned — are a necessary inconvenience.
Oh, I see… it’s a “necessary inconvenience.”
“Inconvenience,” of course, in this context being the soft-fascist way of describing the forced surrender of our Constitutional right against “unreasonable searches” without “probable cause.” And this exception to the Fourth Amendment is apparently “necessary,” the authoritarian apologists at the Times tell us, because… well… I suppose that brings us back to the crotch-bomber again.
See, forget for a moment that what the crotch-bombing attempt really represented was a massive intelligence failure… that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s own father had gone to the US embassy in Nigeria to warn officials of his son’s worrisome activities, that the National Security Agency had picked up intelligence that Al Qaeda in Yemen planned to use a Nigerian in an attack on the US, and that the NSA had actually intercepted communications between Abdulmutallab himself, and a phone used by Yemen-based radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki… and yet Abdulmutallab still wasn’t marked for extra security screening, even after suspiciously buying a ticket with cash, and checking no luggage on an international flight. And while we’re at it, let’s just totally ignore the fact that even if the TSA’s newly invasive pat-down procedures had been in place at the time, they still wouldn’t have caught Abdulmutallab, because his flight originated in Amsterdam, and thus he never even saw a TSA security line.
No, according to the Times, it’s not improved intelligence that’s needed, or TSA officers trained like their Israeli counterparts to discern the real risks from the frivolous (for example, a cash-paying, baggage-less Nigerian with known terrorist connections, vs., you know, some random 13-year-old girl). Rather, the only way to possibly deter another attempted crotch-bombing, we’re told, is $2.4 billion worth of porno scanners and invasive, junk-grabbing pat-down procedures that were they to occur in the classroom, would amount to sexual assault.
As if the risk of, say, lighting your own dick on fire isn’t deterrence enough. I mean, what’s a martyr to do with 72 virgins, and a burnt off dick?
But the Times goes even further. For not only do they urge us to surrender our civil liberties for the sake of security theater, they actually abuse and belittle those of us who dare to complain about it.
Other travelers, for now, should steer clear of ridiculous opt-out protests and endure security procedures currently in place. A shortsighted protest whereby travelers refuse the scanners on Wednesday, one the busiest days of the year? Who invents such nonsense?
A busy holiday weekend is not a reasonable time to express personal exasperation with the only security program in place. Adjustments will come but you have to be a pretty miserable traveler to wish ill of those working to protect passengers.
So… um… when exactly would the Times propose we stage our protest? During the wee hours of an off-peak travel day? At the TSA’s pleasure? Or maybe we should just limit our efforts to indignant tweets and polite, if pointed, letters to the editor… you know… if that’s not too inconvenient? I mean, do the Times’ editors have any fucking idea of how a protest actually works?
Or perhaps we should just be banned from voicing our disagreement altogether, considering how many innocent lives the porno-scanners have already saved…?
TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird says since the scanners began arriving last March, security officials have found 130 prohibited items artfully concealed under clothing. Aren’t you glad that stuff wasn’t on your latest airplane trip?
What sort of prohibited items? Guns? Knives? Explosives? Live tigers? Or are we just talking about nail clippers, pocket knives, (gasp) bottled water and the other prohibited items that travelers sometimes not so much “artfully conceal,” as forget they’re carrying? Weren’t items like these routinely carried onto plans without incident before the scanners were installed, and dontcha think if the scanners had foiled 130 terrorist attacks since March—as the Times’ wording artfully implies—we might’ve heard something about it before now?
So no, I couldn’t really give a shit whether a fellow passenger managed to sneak aboard one of those notoriously dangerous souvenir snow globes. And no, these new procedures don’t make me feel any safer.
TSA is constantly evaluating and updating screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats.
Yeah, like the way they secured cockpit doors after 9/11. And the way they started inspecting shoes after the attempted shoe bombing. And the way they banned liquids and gels after the alleged liquid bombing plot. And the way they started feeling up 13-year-olds after the attempted crotch bombing.
Hey… great job of staying ahead of evolving threats, TSA!
The goal is to employ state-of-the-art procedures to protect the flying public. Passengers who cannot handle these methods are not forced by anyone to travel. They should opt out, all right … of flying.
You know, in the same way that African Americans have the option of not driving through white neighborhoods if they “cannot handle” being stopped for a DWB, or Latino Americans have the option of not driving through Arizona, if they “cannot handle” being arrested for failing to carry their papers.
Don’t like it? Don’t fly, the Times arrogantly suggests. And whatever you do, don’t you dare inconvenience us. To which, the only reasonable, measured response is: fuck you.
And you know what? Nobody’s forcing the Times’ editors to travel either, so if they “cannot handle” people like me exercising our right to protest yet one more post-9/11 indignity, then perhaps it is they who should shut the fuck up and opt out of flying? Yeah, I know, if too many of us refuse the scanners and choose the pat-down, it will only slow down the security lines for everyone else… but for those of us who truly love the Constitution, well, I guess that’s what we might call a necessary inconvenience.
Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the greater threat to our nation and our way of life is not Abdulmutallab or al-Awlaki or even Osama bin Laden, but rather the quaggy, condescending cowards like those at the Seattle Times who would eagerly surrender the very rights that define America in the name of defending it. And for what? An infinitesimal reduction in our already infinitesimally small chance of being victims of a terrorist attack?
To put this issue in perspective, even if a 9/11 sized attack were to occur on American soil every year, one’s risk of being a victim would still be about 15 times less than being killed in a motor vehicle accident. But of course, history tells us that these—or any—sort of terrorist attacks haven’t occurred every year, or every decade, or even every half-century, suggesting that our actual lifetime risk of being killed by terrorists—less than one in 60,000—lies somewhere between being stung to death by bees, and being struck by lightning.
So tell me, how exactly do these slim odds, combined with a single, failed crotch-bombing attempt, make a virtual strip search or invasive pat-down of my daughter necessary? How much liberty and dignity should we be compelled to yield in order to calm the hyperbolic fears of the caterwauling old cranks at the Times?
I mean, where does it stop?
One would-be terrorist clumsily manages to light his dick on fire on board an international flight, and America responds by suspending the Fourth Amendment and spending $2.4 billion on unproven scanners with unknown health effects. So with this precedent, what happens when, say, the next terrorist succeeds in smuggling explosives onboard by shoving them up his ass? Is the Times ready to run the headline: “Anal cavity searches a necessary inconvenience,” while smugly dissing those of us who object? Are we really prepared to become a nation that denies tens of millions of its citizens access to X-ray scans and colonoscopies at the doctors office, while spending billions of dollars to enforce these same procedures at the airport?
Al Qaeda may yet bring down another airplane or two, and nobody is arguing that we shouldn’t remain vigilant. The threat of terrorist attack does indeed present a real risk to air travelers—as real, if statistically less likely a risk, as pilot error, act of nature or mechanical failure. But no amount of vigilance can eliminate this risk entirely.
So the question is, where do we draw the line? At what point, we must ask ourselves, does the cost in blood, treasure, dignity and personal freedom exceed the marginal return in increased security? And while reasonable people might disagree on the answer, it is far from “absurd,” “ridiculous” or “shortsighted” to suggest that this line has already been crossed.