I fly a lot. A lot. My heavy air travel began in August, 2001, so I’ve seen the post-911 evolution of airport security from beginning to end. I’ve seen airport security Kabuki theater more times than Cats has been performed on Broadway. In the process, I’ve learned things: like, for instance, that chunky peanut butter is a verbotten gel. I’ve seen the fiendishly clever ploys used to keep terrorists off-guard, such as the shoes go in the tray this week, but on the belt and not in the tray the next. Yeah. That’ll work. Through long exposure I’ve become inured to that combination of incompetence and attitude that puts a majority of TSA screeners in the same league as toll booth attendants and DMV personnel.
But it’s going from bad to worse. That’s because TSA is now giving air travelers the unpalatable choice between (a) taking a dose of radiation and be ogled in the nude, or (b) being subjected to a physical search that would be a felony sexual assault in any jurisdiction in the US. “Air travelers” who, by the way, include small children.
Or sometimes both. My wife was going through security in St. Louis* about a month ago. She was told to go through the new screening device. She said she’d prefer not to. So they said if she didn’t, she would have to be subjected to the intrusive physical search. She decided to go through the screening device. And when she stepped out, they subjected her to the degrading, abusive, humiliating physical search anyways. Surely, just to teach her not to Question Authority. The SOB carrying out this public service (take out the “l” from “public” and you’d have an accurate description of the process) did it, my wife said, with a half-assed grin on his face.
There’s a word for people like that. It starts with “P” and rhymes with “tricks.” But they’re from the government, and they’re there to serve and protect you, so you’d better shut the hell up.
This cannot be justified on any rational basis. The cost of the equipment, the personnel required to perform these loathsome tasks, the time lost by travelers, the health risks from additional radiation, not to mention the very real psychic cost of being groped by some TSA dope cannot possibly exceed the benefit arising from any miniscule decline in the likelihood of a terrorist incident.
What’s more, this initiative is intended to prevent a recurrence of things like last Christmas’s Junk Bomber. That, you’ll recall, was the result of a massive intelligence and procedural fail on the part of the very same yo-yos responsible for mandating the new policy. Since they are incapable, apparently, of denying boarding to an individual who (a) traveled through Yemen, (b) was been identified as a terrorist threat by his own father, and (c) didn’t have the proper identification, they have decided to subject tens of millions of innocent people to abusive invasions of personal space and privacy.
I would much prefer that TSA adopt policies that rely on utilizing information that would permit a more discriminating–yes, discrimination in this, as in taste, is a good thing–targeting of security efforts on individuals that are more likely to pose a terrorist threat, instead of relying on this perverse (in many senses of the word) and indiscriminate game of X-rated Blind Man’s Bluff. The operative principle of which appears to be that it is preferable to violate the persons, privacy, rights and dignity of everybody, rather than a rationally selected few. That it is better to subject tens of millions to degrading assaults, than to identify a few whose behavior or associations make them greater risks, and subject them to some additional questioning (of the type that El Al has used with great effectiveness).
This isn’t insanity. This is the exponential of insanity.
God give me the strength to keep my temper and hold my tongue. I think I’m going to need it.
* Word to the wise. St. Louis Lambert Terminal 2 has, by far, the worst TSA performance of all the airports I’ve been to. And I’ve been to most of them. Slow with a lot of attitude. The TSA people at the Asheville, NC airport were by far the friendliest and most helpful of those at any airport I’ve visited.