“They hate us for our freedoms,” said former President George W. Bush by way of explaining the 9-11 attacks. Well, thanks to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), we no longer have one of our freedoms, namely freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. This month, the TSA escalated its screening procedures to require airline travelers to submit to either nude imaging scanners or “enhanced” pat-downs of their genital areas.
So, now that we’re considerably less free, maybe “they” won’t hate us anymore, or, at least, not so much. And if that’s the case, maybe we can dispense with the porn scans and groping.
Of course, we know that’s not going to happen. Whenever governments or police agencies are criticized for exceeding their authority, their response is to circle the wagons and dig in.
And that’s what they’re doing in response to the backlash that erupted last week after John Tyner, a software engineer on his way to South Dakota to hunt pheasant, posted on the internet an accidental video of his own experience with TSA gropers. “You touch my junk and I’m going to have you arrested,” Tyner told the TSA agents, who then escorted him from the airport. After his video went viral, Michael J. Aguilar, head of the TSA’s San Diego office, said Tyner could be facing $11,000 in fines for — get this — leaving the airport.
The $11,000 fine, the TSA made clear, would apply to anybody who enters an airport checkpoint, refuses to be scanned or groped, and then tries to leave. They must first submit to questioning by TSA agents. This threat was made in response to a website’s call for people to opt out of the nude scan (if they can) and force TSA agents to pat them down.
On Sunday TSA chief John Pistole insisted the new screening policy would not change, even though this policy allows TSA agents to place their hands under women’s brassieres and inside people’s underpants — and even paw the genital areas of small children. If anybody else did this they’d be sent to prison.
This is modern, liberal, politically correct government run amok. The terrorist threat to the flying public comes exclusively from radical Muslim jihadists, all of whom have been young men. Yet TSA insists on treating everyone who flies as a potential terrorist — everyone from three-year-old children to 90-year-old great grandmothers to airline pilots.
The pilots, it appears, will no longer be subject to the fondling. But everyone else will be.
It seems the Obama administration, no less than the Bush administration before it, cannot bring itself to admit that the terrorists who threaten us are Muslims and set airline security policies accordingly. No, that would be profiling, and profiling, as we’ve all been told, is racist.
Now I’m well aware that profiling is no magic bullet. If the TSA decides to scan and fondle only those who look a certain way — say, swarthy Middle Eastern-looking males in their early 20’s (as Ann Coulter has sort of suggested) — the jihadists will just recruit people who don’t look like that. A Yemeni terrorist over here as an exchange student could just persuade his ditzy blond-haired, blue-eyed liberal girlfriend to stuff explosives in her in her bra or carry-on luggage. This is not just a hypothetical scenario; it has actually happened, though not here — yet.
I think profiling is necessary but, to be effective, it must be part of a comprehensive screening process that includes intelligence gathering, the use of no-fly lists, and interrogations at departure gates.
By refusing to name the actual enemy, the government has turned the “war on terror” into a war against the American people. The TSA has been searching for things that could be used as weapons, not for terrorists, with the result that travelers are increasingly inconvenienced. And it is not a very intelligent search, either. Like generals fighting the last war, they look for whatever was used in the last terrorist attack.
After the 9-11 attacks, in which Muslim terrorists armed with box-cutters killed the pilots and took over four airliners, all sharp objects, including knitting needles and nail files, were banned from flights. They still are, even though pilots are now armed and cockpits are locked down tighter than bank vaults. The result is absurdities like this one.
After Richard Reid attempted to set off explosives in his shoe on a U. S.-bound flight, passengers were required to go barefoot through airport security while their shoes are scanned for explosives. Since the scanners cannot detect the type of explosive that was in Reid’s shoe, the only thing this policy accomplishes is the harassment of passengers.
Then liquids and gels, including shampoo and toothpaste, were banned after an attempted 2006 attack, and printer ink cartridges were banned from all commercial flights, including cargo flights, after terrorists filled some with explosives and attempted to use them to blow up an airplane.
The groping policy is itself a response to last December’s underwear bomber incident. That it took almost a year for the TSA to respond shows that the agency can’t even be efficient in implementing its inefficient policies.
It’s only a matter of time before someone stuffs explosives up his rectum and tries to blow up an airplane. What will be the response to that? Body cavity searches?
The absurdity of the government’s security obsession hit me last year when I had to report for jury duty. To get into the courthouse, we had to empty our pockets and walk through a metal detector. We also had to hand over our cell phones — apparently someone had used his cell phone to take a picture of an undercover police officer testifying in a trial and then posted it on the internet. What made it all so absurd is that the government trusts us as citizen jurors to make life-or-death decisions, but does not trust us not to shoot up the courtroom or out undercover cops.
A government that is afraid of its own citizens is a government that is on the verge of forfeiting its legitimacy. If all citizens are treated like the enemy, then it is only a matter of time before the people start to see the government as the enemy.