I’ve steered away from politics on this blog. I just don’t have time, and most of the partisan bickering is pretty meaningless right now. And while I don’t think this is a particularly political topic, it does require the immediate attention of our government. The topic in question is that of airport security. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately (as often as once a week), so this issue hits pretty close to home. With a lot of people about to travel for Turkey Day, this is something we need to stand up against right now.
There’s a lot of fantastic public outrage going on right now concerning new “security” procedures being taken by the TSA. For the unaware, there are now full-body scanners being used in many airports around the country. This is of concern for two reasons. A) Some TSA person pretty much gets to see you naked whether you like it or not, and B) some of the technologies being used pose health risks and you get very little if any information on which technology is being used in which scanner.
However, that isn’t what bothers me (and many others) to the point of foaming outrage. What’s outrageous is what happens if you “opt out” of the full body scan, which is your right. If you decline the scan, you are escorted to a private room and sexually assaulted. Yes, you read that correctly. There’s no hyperbole or exaggeration in that statement. Let’s not sugar coat it. You will be aggressively groped. A government employee will put their blue gloved hands on your body, including your genitals and chest. It’s worth noting that were a police officer to do this to you, even while arresting you, he or she would be themselves brought up on charges.
So what can you do? There are a handful of things. You should definitely opt out of the scans. But you can also refuse to be taken to the private room for your groping. Make them do it in full view of the other passengers. But if you’re not flying anytime soon (lucky you), you do have other options and I implore you, on behalf of people everywhere, to at least speak out in support of those who do have to travel. Here are some pretty easy things you can do to make waves:
- Contact your representatives — a LOT — write a letter and copy/paste send it to your reps once a week
- Share information about the TSA on your social networks
- Sign petitions such as FlyWithDignity.org
- Talk to your friends and coworkers on purpose about this, especially with the holidays coming up
- Contact your local airport
- Contact the airlines
- Choose airports that don’t have scanners and tell them (and the old airport) about it
- Bottom line: raise a stink about this
In that vein. I’ve written my own Congressmen, Mr. John Kline of Minnesota, and said the following:
Dear Congressman Kline,
I am writing today to voice my outrage at the latest wave of airport security measures taken by the TSA. Specifically, the use of full-body scanning, which many sources are reporting pose significant health risk, and the enhanced “pat down” procedures people are subjected to should they “opt out” of those scans.
I will leave it up to your and our offices to gather further information on the scanning, but I do want to speak specifically at greater length about the enhanced “pat down” procedures. This is a policy that frankly, defies common sense. Why is it that as an air traveler I have now all but completely lost my constitutional rights. I have fewer civil and human rights as an air traveler than I do as a police suspect. This is unacceptable! What’s more, the TSA sexually assaulting people is not making us safer. I know that, and you know that. Given the many security advances we’ve made in luggage screening technology, in hardening aircraft cockpit doors, and resources like the no-fly list, I firmly believe that our security screening procedures are adequate, yet need an overhaul.
But rather than just complain, I’d like to offer a solution. Let’s learn from Israel — a ally who has faced an even greater security threat than our own, and addressed it much more smartly. Please take the time to read this article from the NYT: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/744199—israelification-high-security-little-bother.
The last thing I’ll say is this: I am not afraid. Every day, someone pulls a gun and robs a convenience store. Yet I still buy gas. I’m not afraid of being robbed. Every day, someone gets drunk, then gets in their car and drives, often killing innocent people. Yet I still drive, because I’m not afraid. Once a year or so, someone brings a gun to their office or their school and murders their peers. I still go to work. I’m not afraid of my coworkers. Yet because nearly ten years ago, a dozen men bent on bad acts took lives using an airplane I am now expected to give up my basic 4th Amendment rights to get on a plane? It’s nonsensical. We both know I’m not actually any safer for it, and in the end, what’s really happened is that the terrorists have succeeded. We are so afraid of them that we are willing to give up one of the indisputable ideals upon which our very nation was founded. I’m not willing to do that. Let’s pursue them to the ends of the earth, but let’s also show them that we’re not afraid of them.
And for the record, I fly almost weekly for business.
Thank you for your time.
If you do have to fly this holiday season, do keep in mind that November 24 is National Opt Out Day. It’s not even civil disobedience. You don’t have to break the law to take a stand. Let’s channel our inner Rosa Parks and show the TSA that we’re even less afraid of them than we are of the terrorists who, ironically, want to disrupt our way of life and cause us to abandon the things we founded this country on — you know, like the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
I concur whole heartedly! How is it that the Israelis with some of the tightest security on the planet don’t have to play with your junk in order to be safe? Relevant training and less dependence on technological fads. There’s been a lot of good articles on this lately. Kudos to you, my friend, for the worthy blog post.
Well the real irony is that we are a terrorist target largely because of our political and military support of Israel. They face a far greater threat than we do (and have for decades), and yet they’re arguably safer than we are using these more sensible techniques.
‘Enough is Enough’ Ron Paul Calls for End of Federal Government Criminal Activity
This TSA legislation will curtail abusive violations of Airport security and Freedom to Move and Travel without Fear and Terror of Government molestation.
The Simple one paragraph piece of Legislation, looks to do this by removing the current immunity of any agent or officer of the federal government from doing anything that you or I couldn’t do. Namely removing Immunity that the Federal Government Agents enjoy in committing what would normally be Crimes.
Terrorism is scary and must be prevented. But it isn’t as great of a danger as many think. We are giving up the right to our own bodies, we might give up anything to fight against terrorism. When you don’t have the right to your body, when you don’t have the right to privacy, what do you have?
I am more scared of TSA than terrorists. I have not flown in ten years because airports make me so nervous, though I am a harmless person. I am modest (and just very modest–what if I were intersexed, or had an embarrassing medical device and encountered an unprofessional security employee?). I will have to wait even longer to fly to the places I have been waiting to fly to–that I cannot drive to. It’s sad. I must forget my feelings just to travel? Easier said than done. And people who don’t understand shrug this off. It’s upsetting.
I am so happy this is getting attention. Fight! Fight TSA directly.
It’s a slippery slope this security, personal and national, thing. I personally think whatever they need to do to protect us is fine, as long as it’s non lethal to my health, or my personal freedoms. Driving a car nor air travel is not a personal right. In some ways they don’t do enough.
To say… “I fear the TSA more than the terrorists” leaves me scratching my head?
Do I think patting down a 80 year old lady, as i saw once, is needed, no.
Do some TSA folk need to be fired, yes.
Is the agency a dark evil force, no.
Nathaniel you make a lot of good points. Here’s where I stand… There must be better ways to protect us without some of the things you highlighted… but I’m for whatever it takes on to keep me from plummeting to earth in some blown out airliner because I might loose a little dignity during a scan or physical search, I’m not validating their techniques.
Answering the brutal pandemic forces that want to bring us down to their level is not an easy nor envious position they have put upon us and our governments in.
As far as the comments about the Israelis less invasive tactics, talk to a Palestinian about that.
My thoughts, I hope they didn’t step on anyone.
NATHANIEL… Here’s a solution to the scanner queasiness some have… I like it, well her anyway…
I can’t testify as to the totality of their security policies in every area of their civil defense, but they do seem to have the airport thing figured out better than we do.
As for dignity, that’s their word, not mine. I’m more concerned with the Constitutionality of these procedures and I’m skeptical that they’re really preventing anything in the first place. For me it’s akin to the people who advocate for torturing people in the name of security, even when our veteran law enforcement and security professionals are telling us it doesn’t give us good information. It’s a lose-lose arrangement.
The terrorists must be laughing themselves silly with this inane TSA innovation.
I’m sure terrorists are out there, and I’m sure they are planning more attacks. I expect the next to be worse than 9/11, probably a multiple of 9/11. It won’t involve commercial aircraft.
And it will, yet again, take America and our feckless intelligence bureaucracy, completely by surprise.
Don’t agree with “water-boarding” either.
Flying… It’s not a constitutional right. I’m more than willing to suffer some indignities to be safe. Agreed it’s been a bit over the top, or at least as far urban legend has it, it’s your right to make our representatives hear your concerns, that’s why our country is so great. But…I’ll bet you if we have another attack we’ll get more comments like this…
“And it will, yet again, take America and our feckless intelligence bureaucracy, completely by surprise.”
You tell me when it’s too much and when it’s not enuff when dealing with insane people.
Back in my hippie daze we complained about the pigs, I surely did, and their tactics that was until someone needs them to stop a robber, a mugger, a rapist, take their LSD’d ass to the hospital and so on.
NATHANIEL… I’m glad folks get pissed and call these agencies and their practices into the spotlight, it’s what keeps us free for being in lock step is never good. Have at it. RB
What I reject is the either/or: either we forego civil and human rights, or terrorists will blow up airplanes. I don’t believe that what the TSA is doing is making us safer. Period. It’s reactionary, nonsensical, and unconstitutional. That’s why it bothers me. It’s both awful and ineffectual.
The reason I bring up the torture parallel is because we were torturing people and it wasn’t giving us better information than methods that don’t violate the Geneva Convention. I wouldn’t advocate that we put an end to our clandestine operations, but I reject the notion that we can’t “win” without being inhuman.
A friend of mine on Facebook brought up the perfect point, I think. What happens after some crazy guy crams three lbs of C4 up his ass? Will everyone have to submit to a colonoscapy in order to board an airplane? There are better ways to approach this. It’s not as though we don’t have allies like Israel who can teach us how. But nothing will change unless people stand up to it.
Nathaniel — I agree with you. I think that probably most Americans do.