Since 9/11, there has always been a little gnome in the back of my mind gnawing at my conscience regarding the formation of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). I’ve always been too busy to devote any brain space to the matter until now. It’s not that I don’t agree with the TSA being formed but it’s feels like they are the Keystone Kops of our era.
Originally, it annoyed me that the Bush administration tried to give the parent branch of the TSA this warm, fuzzy, white-washed persona by calling it “Homeland Security.” The Bush advertising arm made a habit of that. “Operation Enduring Freedom,” for example. What kind of advertising bullshit is that? I guess ‘homeland’ is designed to make you feel like Thanksgiving reunion or something but it really gives TSA carte blanche to do stuff they normally couldn’t get away with.
Secondly, we air travelers were continually being asked to sacrifice stuff. First it was pocket knives, then it was fingernail clippers or anything markedly pointy, then it was toothpaste, followed by bottled liquids. Look, in our daily lives, we use this stuff. I resent having to leave these things behind in order to go to a different destination and have to spend time scrounging up the same stuff just to function knowing I’ll have to leave that stuff behind when I go home (what happens to all that stuff they confiscate at the airport anyway? Do TSA agents have a surplus of nail clippers in their medicine cabinets?).
Next came the ridiculous procedures for boarding the plane. We gave up extra time in our lives to get to the airport two hours in advance to go through this silly process. Then we had to remove our shoes, watches, belts, jewelry, coats, get out your laptops separately. All of these things, in and of themselves, are terribly inconvenient but the sting of 9/11 made us feel as though it was necessary.
Suddenly, some kid who has been brainwashed by al Qaeda shows up with junk in his trunk designed (yet failed) to take down a plane. And the answer to that from TSA? Full body scans showing off everything your Mama gave you for the TSA agents to see. And if you object to that, you get a big invasive feel-up session.
So what happens next when a terrorist shoves a bomb into his/her colon? Are we going to have to submit to body cavity searches? Should we just opt to travel naked?
This has gone way beyond absurd. The feel up, porn machine thing is a violation of our privacy. It’s an insult to us as Americans. It has spawned an internet phenomenon with the ‘Don’t touch my Junk’ guy similar to the ‘Don’t tase me bro’ video.
And just how effective is all this invasive, intrusive security really? Some say that it has avoided another terrorist attack. Well, I would argue that’s a questionable causality conclusion. Both the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were taken down by passengers; not TSA. I would suggest that there are other results in play here. From my perspective, all the rules of the TSA have done is make the land of the free less free. To me; that means the terrorists have won. We have made small sacrifices to the point of demoralizing our self-image. That’s how terrorism works. You break down the self image through threat. It’s bullying. My father taught me that violence is not a viable solution, but he also taught me to stand up to bullies when the solutions become non-viable.
Look, if people want to attack us, they will find a way. If they can’t hijack a plane, they’ll find some other weakness. If terrorists can’t get to planes, they’ll get to some other place particularly since they’ve distracted us from looking with the whole airport screening thing. They will likely look for easer targets. It wouldn’t take much to blow up a bomb in the waiting line to be screened for getting on a plane. Why not a busy street in NYC? Oh, right. that’s been tried and thwarted…by civilians. How about a ferry boat across the harbour? Tom Clancy pretty much wrote the terrorist manual for creating a dirty bomb and detonating it in a football stadium. An underwear bomber could sneak into a football stadium and do some considerable damage. Your neighbor could have a gun and plan to use it against you. Bogeymen lurk in every corner. Be afraid. Because if you’re afraid, I have power over you. I can get you to agree to an invasive anal search if I want to.
In the meantime, we are expending tons of resources on TSA’s ability to inhibit and offend us. We are being defeated economically because of our fears. Remember what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in the middle of another time of terrorism? “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s where we are now.
What the TSA is screening for now is the tools to create chaos. They aren’t screening for the intentions of those who wish to create it. It isn’t my fingernail clippers that will turn an airplane into a weapon, it’s the intent of the terrorist that is the danger. That’s the problem with the TSA. They’re a reactionary group trying to find the means of those who wish to hurt us, not the methodology of those who would seek to scare us into submission.
I’ll have more on this tomorrow.
- TSA: Prohibited Items (tsa.gov)
- Felt up or blown up? The psychology of the TSA, body scans and … (inquisitionnews.wordpress.com)
- How the TSA Brought Us Together for the Holidays (theroot.com)
- America’s New Disease: Aversion To Risk (infosecurity.us)
- John Marshall: Terrorists Find TSA Invasive (huffingtonpost.com)