Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Patriotic Embarrassment

Is anyone else as obsessed as I am with following stories on the insane new TSA procedures for airport security, which involve either taking naked pictures, or doing an "enhanced" feel-up, of every single passenger to pass through American airports?

Some of the bloggers over at theatlantic.com are writing about it almost daily, and this post in particular, in which James Fallows compares airport security here to airport security in China, really gets at the embarrassment (I would call it a patriotic embarrassment) I feel as an American, thinking about how incredibly scared and stupid we must look to anyone from any other country in the world who is unfortunate enough to have to pass through one of the airports in which these new radioactive naked-picture machines are located.

I was especially disturbed by this footage of the new head of Homeland Security. The relevant portion begins around the 1:00 mark.


Eric said...

I wrote my main paper in law school on the Fourth Amendment implications of the bag searches on the subways (started in 2005 after the London subway bombings, and continued to this day!), but I always reserve my real rage for airport security procedures, which were already asinine and pointless (taking shoes off, the stupid fucking small bottles of liquid rule). These new procedures are just over the top, and will hopefully produce enough of a popular backlash that we can actually roll back some of this nonsense. (The problem with security procedures is that once they are in place, they're very difficult to get rid of, because people will feel like they NEED them in order to feel safe). The Atlantic bloggers have definitely been on fire about this. I liked Jeff Goldberg's passing reference yesterday to "the federal manhandling of America's testicles as part of the War on Terror."

drischord said...

I tend to trust the reasoning behind these procedures more than you guys. (Probably has something to do with my dad being in the industry.) My bigger concern is that I think this enhanced security is misdirected. I feel like post- 9/11 airplanes are among the safer places to be these days. What bugs me is that there's so much security at airplanes, but what about stadiums, subways and major office buildings? There's essentially NO security at those places and yet they still offer massive concentrations of innocent civilian targets in one place. That's where my concern lies.

As for airports, I tend to side more with the inimitable James Carville, who declared on Tony Kornheiser's radio show: "Go measure my penis and let me get on the airplane."


Quinapalus said...

Are you saying you wish there airport security style lines to get into the subway? As others have pointed out before me, one of the least safe places in the world surely has to be the slow-moving, packed airport security lines themselves. I don't think I need more unsecured, time consuming, waiting areas in my life.

And nothing that James Carville can say is going to convince me that the government is in desperate need of strip searching every man woman and child that gets on an airplane. What happens the first time a terrorist gets through security by putting explosives up their ass? Is that going to mean full cavity searches for everyone wishing to fly?

I would actually think that at a certain point the industry would be worried about retaining passengers. The idea of being treated so much like a criminal just to board a plane is already making me think twice about flying anytime soon. Isn't all this (in my opinion misguided) security theater eventually going to affect the airlines' bottom line?

Or otherwise, if airplanes really are inherently so dangerous, and such threats to national security that anyone boarding one needs to be stripped searched, should they be allowed to operate at all? If total security is what we're looking for, why not ban air travel entirely? The bus will take longer, but nobody will be able to fly one into a skyscraper.

drischord said...

My point is more about comparing the extreme measures of security on airplanes to the utter lack of security on public transit, in stadiums, etc. The lack of balance is as extreme as the distribution of wealth in this country. (I suppose that comment further alienates the South Park point of view. haha)

What I'm really saying is I'd take the money spent buying those full-body scan machines and re-appropriate it for metal detectors at every arena and stadium in the country. (And maybe some screeners to randomly check people at subway entrances-- sort of like what New York purports to do, but rarely does in practice.)

drischord said...

I'll just add this: Regardless of what anyone thinks about these machines, I'll have no patience for agitators at the airport. I'm flying tomorrow and if the Tea Party stages a sit-in at the body scan machines, I'm going to personally give them hell.

Quinapalus said...

It's not just Tea Partiers. Scanner-backlash has created some strange bedfellows of all political stripes, who believe that the scanners are probably useless, and a huge invasion of privacy. I personally don't think it's going to make a big difference in anyone's travel time: I think if massive numbers of people refuse the scans, it might even hurry things up as airport officials decide to just send them through the metal detectors instead (which apparently is routinely happening in lots of places). But even if it does back things up, civil disobedience is looking like the only viable way to lodge a complaint against these procedures.