The current bruhaha over TSA’s naked body/grope screening is symptomatic of Federal attitudes towards everyone. In the “mind” of the bureaucracy, we’re all potential criminals and miscreants.
Just take note of the signage at any Federal facility, post office, park, government office building, etc. The first thing you’ll notice is a series of stern warnings not to cheat, steal, befoul or otherwise act unrespectfully or irresponsibly. See an example from one national park below: (Also, a previous article: Signs of Government Arrogance)
Then, in case you needed to have it, rules of conduct:
And of course, a warning to “Use the Toilet:”
And of course, fire safety and motor vehicle restrictions:
So in the context of normal federal government practice of treating all citizens as potential criminals, we have TSA saving us from terrorists. Let’s examine the procedure:
1) If you get through the metal detector without an alarm, you can go on the airplane. No box-cutters, no sir! You’re safe.
2) But if you have an artificial knee or hip, or a pacemaker, then you set off the buzzer. You need a body scan or a pat-down to search for what? For the metallic object that set off the metal detector? No, not that. They’re searching for plastic explosives hidden in your underwear.
3) If you’re a person with metal parts in your body, then you’re a potential terrorist bomber.
4) If you’re a bomber equipped with plastic explosives just be sure not to set off the metal detector.
Let’s see. The logic is that people with artificial joints or pacemakers, or who forget to take off their belt with a metal buckle, are the most likely to be terrorists. No, that would be profiling, so they have to randomly pat-down old ladies, children, and airline crew members. Makes perfect sense if you are a government bureaucrat.
The truth of this logic simply isn’t. Box cutters, double edge razor blades and nail clippers won’t work to take control of an airplane when the cockpit door is reinforced and locked, and the pilot is armed. Guns can’t be concealed in properly x-rayed luggage. My suggestion is to offer free air-fares to any properly credentialed law enforcement officer who is willing to carry his loaded weapon on-board. This would greatly reduce the potential for a terrorist to use hostages as leverage to take over an airplane.
The bombers have to be dealt with long before they get to the airport. For this we need to infiltrate intelligence agents into Muslim society here and abroad. The only proper way to deal with terrorists is to arrest or kill them before they can do harm. If one of them gets to the airport then some careful profiling and screening is definitely in order. The insanity of screening every passenger as if he is a potential terrorist is obvious.
It is shortsighted to believe that terrorists will forever concentrate on passenger air as a target. We’ve already seen air cargo, commuter trains (Spain & Germany), sporting events (Olympics), Hotels (Mumbai) and other targets attacked. The fact is that shopping malls, NASCAR races, political rallies, cruise ships, and other mass participation targets, some of them with huge built-in publicity potential, cannot have escaped the interest of terrorists. To believe that TSA type screening would even be possible to guard against attacks on these kinds of targets is foolish.
Now some might say that giving government agents the power to spy on and arrest or kill terrorists sets a precedent that could be used to suppress any non-government-approved group or activity. But isn’t that what is being done with organized crime? Yes, the killing part isn’t done domestically, but it is done abroad. One could argue that foreign terrorists on American soil should be handled the same way as al-Qaeda terrorists in the cross-hairs of a Predator drone are handled. Tight laws and procedures governing the anti-terrorist effort, combined with zealous oversight of the personnel involved would be vital. And this approach would relieve innocent American citizens from being treated a criminals when we travel, gather for events, and go about our private and public activities.
It’s time to reform government security attitudes and practices, starting with TSA and extending to all other government facilities and activities.