Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Doin' it wrong

So, the Intert00bz are full of Sound and Fury over the TSA and their latest and "greatest" "New and Improved!" "Hopey-Changey" security measures. 

In a display of the ever-growing American faith in technology to do the dirty work, the TSA has begun fielding "backscatter X-Ray" machines at checkpoints.  Despite early demonstrations, which, while seeming to add 50 or so pounds to a person's image, did not seem too explicit, the devices being fielded now seem to be pretty, well, graphic.  Plus, while the TSA swears on a stack of the-religious-text-of-your-choice that they will not be saving any images, it seems that, in fact, the US Marshal's service has been using the same (or similar) devices for security purposes and has been saving images.  I'm sure what's-his-name in charge of the TSA would like to meet whoever is in charge of the US Marshal's Service in the private screening area...

Seems to me that part of the problem is that the TSA has not articulated what threat this new and "improved" process is supposed to prevent, especially since, as soon as it was fielded, the Blogosphere was full of people pointing out that it would not detect any threats implanted or imbedded in a Supermodel's body, let alone an even slightly overweight (or heavily muscled) person's body.  (Some of these people might have even known what they were talking about...)

Plus the possible health and safety hazards.  Denied by the TSA and other government agencies, of course. (Look, TSA... No.  Look, Uncle Sam in generalpeople simply don't trust the government, get it?  We went through this a couple of weeks ago, remember?)

Not to mention the fact that the new devices are accompanied by a "new and improved" pat down procedure that sounds suspiciously like what a cop does to a suspect. 
  • Except that we're not talking about "suspects" here, we're talking about Americans going about their lawful business. 
  • And telling them that they have a choice between having some stranger see them nude, or being frisked like an accused criminal, is a false choice.  
  • Let alone the possibility that children will be subject to these searches!

Some of the rantings in opposition are, well, more like ravings.

Unhinged, in some cases.

Those who wish to return to the halcyon days of checkpoints staffed by minimum wage English-As-A-Second-Language non-citizens who think it's just dandy to let the nice Wahabist have his box cutter...  Are you serious?  Don't you remember what got us into this mess?

Look, I've explained before that terrorism has long been something of an interest of mine, not to say an obsession, along with counter- and anti-terrorism operations.  And I've done some security work.  One thing I've learned is that, once you've identified a threat or a weakness, and have devised a procedure or measure to deal with it, you can't simply drop that procedure without having a replacement in place*.  So, the rumors that the 3 ounce liquid ban was going to be dropped?  Not unless they have a way to prevent that particular threat from, well, threatening, again. 

Now, I don't know if the new procedures were devised with a particular threat in mind, or not.  I kinda suspect that the new frisking procedure is intended to entice, if that's the word, people into doing the nudie show backscatter radar/X-Ray instead.

 As for those who don't want to simply go back to private screening agencies, but to do away with airport security altogether...  You think the terrorists have won now? Are you prepared for it to rain airliners?

I've said it before, even if you allow passengers to fly armed, how are you going to keep bombs off of planes?  (Aside from the question of what happens to me and my guns when I fly into Noo Yawk City?)
One argument often heard is "The TSA hasn't apprehended a single terrorist since it existed!" People who say this often use it as proof that the TSA is a total waste and should be disbanded.

IMHO, this is offset by the obvious response by the TSA, "There hasn't been a single terrorist attempt on US aviation since the TSA was formed!"  Those who say this are attempting to use a negative to prove a positive.

Reminds me of the old joke that "There are no lions within 100 miles!" "See? The lion repellent works!"  In this case, I'd have to say that the burden of proof is actually on the "That trick never works!" side.

And now it seems that there are two protest actions planned for next week, the day before Thanksgiving supposedly being the busiest air travle day in the USA. 

One, the "National Opt-Out Day", calls for any and all travellers who are directed to go through the backscatter X-Ray devices to opt out, and get the full body frisk experience.  Be prepared to show up several hours before your flight...

The other, "National No Fly Day", calls for folks to buy airline tickets and not fly.  Because nothing shows government bureaucrats what you think of them like giving them nothing to do...
Seems to me we're missing  a bet here, folks.

Write.  Write, email, fax, comment on web pages.  

Write your congresscritters, write the White House, write various executive branch personages--TSA, DHS, FAA, Commerce--write the airlines and the chambers of commerce and the states' visitors bureaus...  If you're not a US citizen write your embassy.  If you might otherwise plan an overseas trip, write the embassy of the nation you would have been visiting. 
On the plus side, this whole brouhaha shows that the fears some have expressed about Americans turning into a bunch of sheep may have been exaggerated...
*Or are damned sure the threat no longer exists.  Good luck.


Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused.

First, you freely admit that the methods in place simply do not and cannot work to make us safe;

Then, OTOH, you claim that without these ineffective measures in place, planes will rain from the sky.

I'm thinking you need to make up your mind.

If the measures don't work, how, specifically, are they preventing planes from raining down?

And how, specifically, do you explain the countries that don't embrace these draconian measures but don't experience planes raining from the sky? Specifically, Israel, who arguably faces a much greater threat than we ever have?

D.W. Drang said...

I didn't say these measures don't and can't work, I said they haven't made it clear what threat these new measures are supposed to stop, besides pissing everybody off. I also pointed out that, while the lack of attacks originating within the US does not prove that the TSA's efforts have been successful, such claims are at least as credible as claims that said lack proves that airport security measures are a wasted effort.

I mean, banning all carry-on bags, and requiring everyone to change into airline-provided scrubs, would eliminate many threats. It would work, but can it be implemented? Of course, not, highly impractical, as well as wildly unpopular.

The USA is a big, juicy target, probably the biggest in the world; the Great Satan.

And Israel actually uses much more intensive security measures--against non-Israeli citizens, especially muslims. Commercial air traffic to and from Israel is much lower in volume, and easier for the Israeli government, which has been maintaining a siege mentality (with good reason) for decades, to control.

Also, the Israelis are free to use ethnic (and other) profiling, which would be political suicide here. Here, if you point out that, whether all or most Muslims are terrorists or not, most terrorists are Muslims, you get branded a redneck Neanderthal tea-partying gun- and religion-clinger...

DirtCrashr said...

Islam is not a race, it's a religion.
Profiling is completely understandable and logical if you recognize that.

D.W. Drang said...

Yeah, but we're talkin' government here...

And how do you profile for that, anyway? The Lockerbee bomb was carried on board by the Irish girlfriend of a Libyan, who recently experienced miraculous recovery from thought-to-be fatal cancer...