Anyone who has followed the TSA – whose core mandate appears to be “no Muslims will be offended on OUR watch” – for any length of time will hardly be taken aback by its latest initiative to inflict maximum inconvenience and degradation on the flying public while providing little or no additional security. What is surprising, and to those of us on this side of the aisle encouraging, is that this time around this same flying public is doing something more about it than merely milling about their pens and mooing a lot.
The issue at hand (pardon the terrible pun) is the imposition of “naked” body scans on all passengers and the use of full body pat downs (after a public announcement, and who knows maybe some strobe lights and a Klaxon) for anyone who chooses to opt out. “Full body” apparently includes all sexes, all ages and all body parts. Given the laughable absence of any meaningful background checks in hiring TSA personnel it also means all kinds – as in it takes “all kinds to make a world,” including pedophiles – of people actually doing the patting down.
To the great chagrin of Janet Napolitano (who must never, ever submit to a naked body scan even to prove to the public it’s no big deal) the same travelers who have hitherto meekly acquiesced to removing shoes, hauling laptops out of their bags, parting with cigarette lighters and nail files, segregating travel size liquid toiletries into quart size Glad bags, and every other pointless rule and instruction issued by security staff, have drawn the line at being irradiated and/or felt up for no apparent reason by people who under normal circumstances would be asking them if they wanted to super size their fries.
Accordingly Napolitano now faces a threatened boycott of these procedures by at least five pilots and travel associations and a flight attendants union, and credible reports that a growing segment of the American public is reconsidering flying in all but emergency circumstances.
The backlash has also been characterized by new cases of individuals being abused at the hands of the TSA, stories which continue to pour in on a daily basis.
“We have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from travelers vowing to stop flying,” said Geoff Freeman, an executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, which set up the meeting with the Obama administration officials.
“You can’t talk on the one hand about creating jobs in this country and getting this economy back on track and on the other hand discourage millions of Americans from flying, which is the gateway to commerce,” he said.
There is no word from the White House yet as to how the wholesale destruction of the airline industry will affect their “jobs saved or created” numbers.
In the inevitable meetings to follow Napolitano will doubtless remind the participants of the threats these measures are intended to address and invoke the specter of future acts of terrorism that will occur in their absence. What she won’t mention is virtually all of these breathtakingly stupid and ineffective measures are made necessary because political correctness takes the obvious and effective ones off the table. (My colleague John Hawkins outlines some of the common sense procedures of El Al airlines in his larger piece “An Open Letter To Republicans In Congress: Put An End To Strip And Grope Airport Searches” here.) Since our government refuses to name and target its real enemy it is reduced to reactive, tactical solutions.
Thus, when Muslims (see, it’s not that bad – try it sometime Janet, it gets easier with repetition) try to bring down an airplane with an exploding shoe we ban lighters and make everyone take off their shoes, when Muslims try to bring down an airplane with liquid explosive we ban liquids altogether for a while and then relent with quantity restrictions and Glad bags, when Muslims try to bring down an airplane with exploding underwear we snap on the latex gloves and “examine” anyone churlish enough not to consent to nude photos.
It never seems to occur to our guardians – check that, they don’t permit it to occur to them – that all of the scenarios above, and literally hundreds of others, have one thing in common, and by focusing on that one thing we could perhaps devote our resources in a manner that would actually save a few lives as opposed to just humiliating and inconveniencing a bunch of them.
Otherwise, we are betting our lives on countermeasures that are not only always one step behind, but are frequently obsolete before they are even implemented. Even 7th century cave-dwellers know enough to change tactics once the people you are trying to kill alter their defenses. At best they won’t work going forward, more typically they wouldn’t have worked in the first place. Case in point: Unless ink toner cartridges become fully ambulatory, buy their own plane ticket and have the ill fortune to try to board a flight in the United States with full body scanner equipment and/or frisky TSA personnel, it is difficult to see how the grope and change initiatives in question would’ve prevented the last terrorism attempt.
Where such countermeasures unquestionably succeed is advancing terrorist aims. Make no mistake, the enemy would prefer to kill us but if in the interim he can demoralize us, reduce our faith in our own government and institutions, inconvenience us, impoverish us and diminish our quality of life that’s not a bad day’s work either. Implementing a moronic and manifestly unconstitutional practice such as indiscriminate full body scans and searches achieves precisely that.
So it’s a good thing that people are finally saying “hold, enough.” Such policies are the penultimate price we pay for political correctness. The ultimate price for those of us unfortunate enough to be in the wrong plane or the wrong building or even the wrong city while those charged with our security, by sheer force of will, ignore the obvious will be much more immediate and final.
(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog)