Thursday, November 25, 2010

What's Really Up With the TSA?

Obviously, it seems patently silly that travellers should have to undergo a rigorous inspection of their undercarriage before they get on a plane. All of our attempts to secure air travel seem to involve efforts to counteract the very latest attack, no matter how epic its failure. A dumbass puts a bomb in his shoe, and now everyone has to take their shoes off. A dumbass tries to conduct military-grade chemistry in an airport bathroom, and now no one can bring lens solution on board. A dumbass actually puts a bomb in his underwear, and now no one can wear undergarments on a plane. Oh wait, only figuratively! We just need to see everyone naked before they get on a plane. Or have them felt up. And not everyone. It'll be random. For now.

It doesn't matter how far any of these dumbass "plots" were from succeeding, what matters is that they can ruin, or at least make even worse, the magic of air travel. Seriously, at this point, if I was Osama bin Laden, I would just send some dumbass to get on a plane with a bomb in his nostril, just to see what we do next. The amount of damage he can do by hatching a really crappy dumbass scheme is well worth it. All he needs is for some dumbass to get a match, shove it up his nose, and then try and get on a plane. He doesn't even need to get on the plane! Even if we catch him, we'll still destroy every match in the country, bomb the match fields of Denmark, force every country to sign on to the Match Ban.

But seriously, where does it end? To me, the next step is to try putting a bomb in a terrorist's anus. Then what? From what we know, Rapiscans can't see in someone's butt. What do we do, then? Require that everyone undergo a full-cavity search? A colonoscopy? Why is genital fondling a measured response, but not a full-cavity search? The inside/outside line?

I don't blame the TSA, it's not really their fault. Especially the TSA workers we see, the ones given the unpleasant task of inspecting our junk for explosive irregularities. They're the real victims in all of this. A lot of people are directing anger at them, as if the secret dream of every low-salaried government worker is seeing John Q. Public naked, in all his glory. Personally, if worked in the TSA, I would turn into a recluse from having to deal with the thousands of entitled passengers who would see me as an object of scorn, upon whom society has made acceptable the giving of rebuke. The last thing I would want to do is touch their nuts. There are already stories of TSA workers who now go home every day and cry because they are called perverts or pedophiles, as if the vast national security-state was the product of a decades-long scheme to perform random fumblies on our jumblies.

But, again, it's not even their bosses that are to blame, either. For some reason, the American people have condensed the risk of terrorism into two scenarios: nuclear bomb in New York City; and crashing/blowing up an airplane. While we've farmed out nuclear bomb detail to other government agencies, we've told the TSA to worry about the airplanes-out-of-the-sky problem, to the exclusion of all else. Even other airport related danger. The TSA doesn't stop anyone from, say, detonating themselves while waiting in the security line, which thanks to the extended wait times, will now be longer.

It's natural that we, as human beings focus on what hurt us last. That's how animals think. After 9/11, we demanded from the government that an airplane never fall out of the sky again, or heads will roll. Even though the odds of that happening essentially dropped to zero by the late-morning of 9/11, the government quickly went about expending billions of dollars to make those specific protections redundant, because throwing money at a problem is how government goes about ensuring things most important to government; getting votes.

Now, of course, the chattering masses have turned on the TSA for crossing some invisible line of decency which really pisses them off. It's ironic, because it's largely the media's fault. They're the ones who put a gun to the head of government and jump on any failed plot and look for ways to make it appear that the government is clueless and needs to step up its efforts. Now, of course, unbeknownst to it, the government stumbled upon a security measure the media hates. I don't fly that much, figure ten times a year. I can tolerate the chance of randomly being selected for a groping, and polls show 66% of Americans are in favor of random groping (though they prefer it be done to people browner than them). But someone in the media typically flies a gazillion times a year, which means they will get groped a lot. (Ditto politicians, which is why this is now a bipartisan issue in Congress.)

Essentially, the media is putting a gun to the head of the TSA, and then asking, "Hey, why so nervous? It's just a gun. And, yeah, if you let anything through, we'll shoot you. But you guys are awfully paranoid. It's unhealthy."


Conservative apikoris said...

You know, we spend all this effort on people boarding airplanes, and what about the cargo in the hold under the seats? And is TSA doing something about zillions of shipping containers that arrive at our shores every day? For me, I would be more scared that some terrorist puts a nuke in a shipping container that gets unloaded at Port Elizabeth, put on a truck, and gets driven into Manhattan, where it gets detonated.

Sure, getting serious about that sort of thing might make it a bit more expensive and time-consuming to import drek from China, but that might also be a plus, making our local industries more competitive.

As for me, I take the train as much as I can. Occasionally the TSA will be there as you board and randomly select you to have your carry on swabbed and tested for explosives. Otherwise, it;'s a lot less of a hassle. I can carry on all the bottles, pocketknives, etc. that I want.

Vox Populi said...

>As for me, I take the train as much as I can. Occasionally the TSA will be there as you board and randomly select you to have your carry on swabbed and tested for explosives. Otherwise, it;'s a lot less of a hassle. I can carry on all the bottles, pocketknives, etc. that I want.

But what if you try and hijack a train to crash it into the White House?

On a more serious note, we can't roll up into a national fetal position every time this happens. During the 1970s and 1980s planes were getting hijacked every few years. People still flew, and people were even allowed to bring their own nail-clippers.

We can't stop the global economy or free trade for these stupid things, because that will only make us worse off in that area as well. If 19 putzes on three jumbo jets can get America to ramp up insurmountable deficits, invade two countries and stay their forever (possibly more to come), make us undergo colonoscopies before we travel, make us shun the import/export side of commerce that is our life-blood, they will have done more to critically harm America than any other enemy we've faced. And that is ridiculous.

We can't substitute trains for planes. The country is too big, not to mention the world outside of the USA. So, we're going to be flying. I just want some indication of where this ends. As it stands, I see no way around the bomb-in-the-rectum scenario. There is no constitutional principle or conceptual difference that will stop us from fording the TSA to give us colonoscopies every time we fly. The only reason we haven't so far, is because it hasn't happened yet.

Something I should have mentioned in the post is that it's not as if the idea of smuggling an explosive device in one's underpants or one's shoe did not occur to the TSA; they're not stupid. It's just there was no pressure to do something so annoying to every American traveller up until the point that it happened. Similarly, the TSA is just as aware as I am of the anus blindspot, but we haven't forced them to do it yet.