50 Shades Of TSA

 

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We’re just shy of fifteen years into the Global War On Terror. While the law of averages says the next fifteen will yield better results, at this juncture simply being allowed to keep our shoes on when boarding a plane seems like a major victory.

No serious person expected this war to be won in less time than it takes to fire TSA serial gropers (i.e., three months). But at least the consolation for participating in this airport kabuki was knowing that the terminal and plane was free of guns, makeshift explosives and excessive concentrations of toothpaste. Now we learn that the head of the TSA has been “reassigned” after covert tests conducted by the agency’s inspector general found that screeners at airports failed to detect prohibited items 95 percent of the time.

As a frequent flyer all adult life, I am still unaccustomed to the overtly sexual overtones of airport security. FAA regulations and TSA shenanigans make the Kama Sutra seem like a primer for air travel. Whether it’s back-of-the-hand pat-downs, genital-revealing body scanners or the ever-present cry of “female assist”, it’s no wonder Americans are increasingly taking family vacations the old-fashioned way: in a car.

As a frequent flyer I can’t help but notice that boarding a plane feels increasingly like being admitted into prison. Having presented your paperwork (boarding pass), you are sternly instructed to remove your shoes, watch and belt (lest you succumb to the understandable temptation to hang yourself).

And there you are, standing between two other poor souls suffering the same plight: holding in one hand a tray with all your earthly possessions and the other hand, your pants.

Meanwhile, those travelers already in the terminal are watching you and chanting “Fresh fish! Fresh fish! Fresh fish!”

Maybe I exaggerate on that last part but you get the idea.

Exit question: How long before the TSA begins delousing entering their pretend-secure area?

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  1. user_1152 Member
    user_1152
    @DonTillman

    I believe that the winningest campaign promise would be to simply dismantle the TSA.  It’s easy to do, saves lots of money, and draws the votes of anybody who has flown recently.  It’s a win-win-win.

    (Nice comedy work; I thought the two best moments were the Angry Birds reference and the mic bit at the end.)

    • #1
  2. user_541971 Member
    user_541971
    @DavidDeeble

    Something even our crazy left-wing Facebook friends might agree on! Thanks for weighing in, Don.

    • #2
  3. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    If you’re a frequent flier, why don’t you have pre-check, such that you don’t have to take off your belt, shoes, etc.?

    There are tests that show the security being poor, but they don’t reflect reality. Actual terrorists get nervous, and it’s the nerves that get them caught. See, for example Baghdad airport, which has stayed safe from smuggled explosives and weapons despite being much targeted. The guys who perform these tests aren’t nervous, and the physical examination is not nearly intrusive enough to protect us alone.

    • #3
  4. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    James Of England:If you’re a frequent flier, why don’t you have pre-check, such that you don’t have to take off your belt, shoes, etc.?

    There are tests that show the security being poor, but they don’t reflect reality. Actual terrorists get nervous, and it’s the nerves that get them caught. See, for example Baghdad airport, which has stayed safe from smuggled explosives and weapons despite being much targeted. The guys who perform these tests aren’t nervous, and the physical examination is not nearly intrusive enough to protect us alone.

    Pre-check takes some time to get, from what I understand – but apparently it’s worth it.

    I’m really having a hard time buying, though, a “nervous” argument, even though that’s probably some kind of factor.  But if 95% of what TSA deems to be weapons are getting through, then the existing techniques are not working.

    And I see plenty of nervous people at the airport.  Why?  They’re afraid of flying.  Yet they get their hair gel and nail clippers through the screening.  The deal is this:  It won’t be TSA stopping the next idiot trying to take down a plane.  It’ll be the passengers.  Just like last time.  There may or may not be a marshal aboard, but it will be passengers.

    You and me.  If we haven’t become entirely infantilized by the state’s apparatus, that is.

    • #4
  5. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    Good comedy has a grain of truth in it, and this post has truth by the pound!  Keep poking them for us little guys, David, they can’t stand to be ridiculed.

    • #5
  6. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Never mind.

    • #6
  7. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    Hey, I teach mentally-handicapped people. They would never be insensitive enough for the TSA.

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    James Of England:If you’re a frequent flier, why don’t you have pre-check, such that you don’t have to take off your belt, shoes, etc.?

    He’s a conservative stand-up comic. That makes him a triply suspicious character.

    • #8
  9. user_3467 Thatcher
    user_3467
    @DavidCarroll

    In so many ways I resent the whole TSA experience.  That said, I have always found my treatment by the TSA personnel to be courteous and even friendly.

    • #9
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Chris Campion:

    James Of England:If you’re a frequent flier, why don’t you have pre-check, such that you don’t have to take off your belt, shoes, etc.?

    There are tests that show the security being poor, but they don’t reflect reality. Actual terrorists get nervous, and it’s the nerves that get them caught. See, for example Baghdad airport, which has stayed safe from smuggled explosives and weapons despite being much targeted. The guys who perform these tests aren’t nervous, and the physical examination is not nearly intrusive enough to protect us alone.

    Pre-check takes some time to get, from what I understand – but apparently it’s worth it.

    I’m really having a hard time buying, though, a “nervous” argument, even though that’s probably some kind of factor. But if 95% of what TSA deems to be weapons are getting through, then the existing techniques are not working.

    And I see plenty of nervous people at the airport. Why? They’re afraid of flying. Yet they get their hair gel and nail clippers through the screening. The deal is this: It won’t be TSA stopping the next idiot trying to take down a plane. It’ll be the passengers. Just like last time. There may or may not be a marshal aboard, but it will be passengers.

    You and me. If we haven’t become entirely infantilized by the state’s apparatus, that is.

    It’s only one part of the profiling efforts, but, as I understand it, it’s the biggest part.

    Why do you think we haven’t had a Lockerbie style bombing in the West since the TSA was created? Why was BGW the safest part of Baghdad despite being one of the most desirable targets?

    There have been efforts to bomb passenger planes, and they’ve failed because the bombers had to go to effort to disguise the bombs. Whether that was in shoes, underwear, or liquids, in each case the hurdles required to get past the TSA saved the lives of their fellow passengers (in the case of Abdulmutallab and Reid) and of the people who would be their fellow passengers (in the case of the 2006 plots). The Russian bombings of 2004 succeeded because there was not a US (and European, Japanese, etc.) style systematic search of all passengers, so the bombers were able to carry on traditional suitcase bombs of the sort that the TSA is pretty good at stopping. Smaller weapons are easier to get through security, but are also less of a problem.

    • #10
  11. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    James Of England:

    Why do you think we haven’t had a Lockerbie style bombing in the West since the TSA was created?

    Because only a few idiots have tried. Is that an unproveable assumption? Sure. So is yours.

    Even if terrorists still occasionally attempt to bomb or hijack planes, it was rare to begin with. And since 9-11, both airlines and passengers have been watchful even apart from TSA procedures.

    There is no evidence beyond the word of politicians and political appointees — those paragons of honesty — that threats to planes are greater now than they were thirty years ago.

    There is plenty of evidence that a nation can catch would-be murderers at airports with mindful citizens, mindful security guards, and a simple luggage scanner. Israel faces many more threats than we do on a regular basis, yet they don’t mimic the TSA. Go figure.

    • #11
  12. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    David Carroll:In so many ways I resent the whole TSA experience. That said, I have always found my treatment by the TSA personnel to be courteous and even friendly.

    I do believe, based on both my own experience and word-of-mouth, that location has much to do with it, though I’m not sure whether the difference is regional or based on the size of the airport.

    At Newark airport, you can expect to be shouted at and ordered around in a way that goes beyond unpleasant into downright disturbing.  You’re a number, not a human being.  You fear for your belongings as they leave your hands.  You suspect that if something goes wrong you’ll never escape this place.

    But in the small southern airports I’ve hit the past few years, the TSA people are as polite and friendly as the rest of the region.  They treat you with respect (or just call you “dahling”).  They act as though they recognize this whole procedure is unpleasant, and it’s their job to make it less so.  You’re pretty sure that if something goes wrong they’d treat you decently and do their best to sort it out.

    • #12
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Aaron Miller:

    James Of England:

    Why do you think we haven’t had a Lockerbie style bombing in the West since the TSA was created?

    Because only a few idiots have tried. Is that an unproveable assumption? Sure. So is yours.

    I provided some data to support it, though. If you want me to be more specific, why do you think that Abdulmutallab didn’t use a Russian style suitcase bomb? Instead, he put his considerable expertise into making a bomb he could smuggle past TSA style security. He wasn’t an idiot (a friend of mine was a classmate of his, coming behind him in class rankings, and now has a near seven figure income in dollars; the guy was pretty darn smart). 

    I agree that there wouldn’t have been that many bombings.

    Even if terrorists still occasionally attempt to bomb or hijack planes, it was rare to begin with. And since 9-11, both airlines and passengers have been watchful even apart from TSA procedures.

    I don’t know how closely you follow the news, but 9/11 was part of a general and considerable uptick in terrorist activity. There’s not really a lot that passengers can do about a suitcase bomb.

    There is no evidence beyond the word of politicians and political appointees — those paragons of honesty — that threats to planes are greater now than they were thirty years ago.

    Do you think that Reid, Abdulmutallab, Savant, Khan, and Zaman are products of a government conspiracy? 

    There is plenty of evidence that a nation can catch would-be murderers at airports with mindful citizens, mindful security guards, and a simple luggage scanner. Israel faces many more threats than we do on a regular basis, yet they don’t mimic the TSA. Go figure.

    Have you been to Israel? Ben Gurion has quite a lot more security than JFK. It’s true that they use profiling a lot more than we do. It’s probably true that we could do this, too, but that seems like a terrible, terrible idea to me. Having the TSA specifically single out Blacks like Abdulmutallab for additional screening, having that being the policy, seems like something that the Federal government could not sustain. If it’s not Federally mandated, you’d have inconsistent enforcement by state (and that inconsistency would be widely reported, and in detail, such that it would be easy for terrorists to identify the insecure airports), and you’d be back to the Russian problem.

    Israel can do it because Israel is small and socially coherent, with a strong drive to value security over racial concerns and a white population with a dynamic that makes spotting the problematic elements relatively easy (when I was there, my long hair at the time meant that I took a good while to go through security, and my bottle of holy water, which was not safe to drink, was a huge problem; in Iraq, the US, and other parts of the world, I have never had even close to so much difficulty with security). America isn’t the same place. Neither are most places. There’s a reason that virtually the entire planet has the same system, and it’s not because the governments in all countries enjoy torturing their citizens.

    • #13
  14. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Leigh:

    David Carroll:In so many ways I resent the whole TSA experience. That said, I have always found my treatment by the TSA personnel to be courteous and even friendly.

    I do believe, based on both my own experience and word-of-mouth, that location has much to do with it, though I’m not sure whether the difference is regional or based on the size of the airport.

    At Newark airport, you can expect to be shouted at and ordered around in a way that goes beyond unpleasant into downright disturbing. You’re a number, not a human being. You fear for your belongings as they leave your hands. You suspect that if something goes wrong you’ll never escape this place.

    But in the small southern airports I’ve hit the past few years, the TSA people are as polite and friendly as the rest of the region. They treat you with respect (or just call you “dahling”). They act as though they recognize this whole procedure is unpleasant, and it’s their job to make it less so. You’re pretty sure that if something goes wrong they’d treat you decently and do their best to sort it out.

    I agree that Newark is less good than other places, but I think that this is more a problem with Newark than with the TSA. To declare my biases, I also get the impression that people who don’t do pre-check get a less friendly response than people who know what they’re doing in the queue.

    • #14
  15. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    James Of England:

    I don’t know how closely you follow the news, but 9/11 was part of a general and considerable uptick in terrorist activity. There’s not really a lot that passengers can do about a suitcase bomb.

    We had luggage checks before the TSA. Ending the TSA would not mean contenting ourselves to look for nervous passengers.

    I don’t question that there has been an uptick in terrorism generally. But threats to planes specifically are limited. There has always been the possibility of a murderer walking into an airport and blowing up a bunch of people. The concern after 9/11 was more specifically that someone would again hijack an airplane and use it as a very effective missile.

    The sort of mass murder than an airport bombing represents could be repeated any number of places by an endless variety of means. We have seen indiscriminate shootings at schools and malls, for example. Yet we don’t generally make people take off their shoes and walk through body scanners at schools and malls.

    The TSA is political theater.

    • #15
  16. user_3467 Thatcher
    user_3467
    @DavidCarroll

    It could be argued that  the presence of TSA and the procedures has a deterrent effect, regardless of the actual effectiveness.  (That said, I am ready to go back to the old days without TSA.)

    • #16
  17. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    The TSA has not caught a single would-be hijacker, bomber or terrorist.

    Not one.

    • #17
  18. user_541971 Member
    user_541971
    @DavidDeeble

    David Carroll:In so many ways I resent the whole TSA experience. That said, I have always found my treatment by the TSA personnel to be courteous and even friendly.

    David – Thanks for weighing in with this. I find that on balance TSA agents have a strong guilty-until-proven-innocent way about them but having said that, most of them I am confident are decent, gainfully-employed people and this should always be pointed out. I appreciate you doing so.

    • #18
  19. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    There was some checked luggage scanning before the TSA, but it wasn’t universal. Carry on checking was even more lax. If you’re comfortable with the luggage treatment, what is your objection?

    • #19
  20. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    The current scanners don’t reveal genitals, if that’s the issue. I haven’t been patted down in America in a very long time, with a single exception. I do regularly get patted down abroad, but that’s not the TSA’s fault.

    • #20
  21. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I expect David travels by plane more than most. I’ll leave it to him and others to say what is and is not normal procedure around the country.

    The last time I flew out of Houston Intercontinental, shoes had to be removed and everyone was patted down. Those are some of the procedures that are mere theater.

    • #21
  22. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Aaron Miller:I expect David travels by plane more than most. I’ll leave it to him and others to say what is and is not normal procedure around the country.

    The last time I flew out of Houston Intercontinental, shoes had to be removed and everyone was patted down. Those are some of the procedures that are mere theater.

    If David gets patted down, it’s either by choice or because something has singled him out as a risk. It’s true that PreCheck may not have been a thing when you travelled last (I recall that this was  a few years back), but it is now. Likewise, the genital scanners were once a thing. The TSA has been working pretty hard to improve the user experience.

    If David does get patted down, in other words, he should be very grateful indeed that we don’t have an Israeli system, because under that suspicious people aren’t merely patted down, but are advised to turn up to the airport three hours before they depart.

    • #22
  23. user_3467 Thatcher
    user_3467
    @DavidCarroll

    James Of England:

    If David does get patted down, in other words, he should be very grateful indeed that we don’t have an Israeli system, because under that suspicious people aren’t merely patted down, but are advised to turn up to the airport three hours before they depart.

    How are they supposed to know that they are suspicious, so the can show up three hours early?

    I am now TSA pre-check (it took a 15 minute interview and a two weeks wait as well as 80 bucks).  I still get patted down from time to time.  But it has always been a bit apologetically.  I haven’t flown through Newark airport in years, though.

    • #23
  24. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    As ever, you get to the heart of it; thinking people who laugh, learn, thanks!

    • #24
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    David Carroll:

    James Of England:

    If David does get patted down, in other words, he should be very grateful indeed that we don’t have an Israeli system, because under that suspicious people aren’t merely patted down, but are advised to turn up to the airport three hours before they depart.

    How are they supposed to know that they are suspicious, so the can show up three hours early?

    I am now TSA pre-check (it took a 15 minute interview and a two weeks wait as well as 80 bucks). I still get patted down from time to time. But it has always been a bit apologetically. I haven’t flown through Newark airport in years, though.

    The recommendation is that everyone turns up three hours early, but if you travel through Ben Gurion often and normally have no problems, you can probably afford to relax.

    Do you get patted down in lines with the modern scanners, or in more rural airports? I find that taking off my jacket is helpful in avoiding scanner issues, so even though I don’t have to take it off, I generally do. My understanding is that scanner use is expanding, so with luck you’ll be patted down less in the future.

    • #25
  26. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Aaron Miller:

    James Of England:

    The sort of mass murder than an airport bombing represents could be repeated any number of places by an endless variety of means. We have seen indiscriminate shootings at schools and malls, for example. Yet we don’t generally make people take off their shoes and walk through body scanners at schools and malls.

    There are schools that ask you to walk through metal detectors. I’d be surprised if the body scanners didn’t spread (I’d be surprised if they didn’t already exist in some). Both schools and malls are less vulnerable to explosions; there’s a reason that airlines have been so much more popular as bombing targets.

    We do have similar security at courtrooms and other places that have been particularly targeted by violent people.

    • #26
  27. user_541971 Member
    user_541971
    @DavidDeeble

    TSA practices almost certainly provide a strong disincentive for terrorists to target airplanes. After all, who needs the humiliation?

    • #27
  28. user_541971 Member
    user_541971
    @DavidDeeble

    Don’t know I missed this but apparently Canada uses exclusively private security firms at all their airports – under contract. If they fail to deliver they are replaced with another firm. Apparently the same is true of most Western European countries. This may account for their observably higher morale and friendlier demeanors.

    • #28
  29. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    David Deeble:Don’t know I missed this but apparently Canada uses exclusively private security firms at all their airports – under contract. If they fail to deliver they are replaced with another firm. Apparently the same is true of most Western European countries. This may account for their observably higher morale and friendlier demeanors.

    Nothing like the threat of firing to boost the mood!

    From another thread (and from I’m All Right Jack):

    Fred Kite: We do not and cannot accept the principle that incompetence justifies dismissal. That is victimisation.

    • #29
  30. user_129539 Member
    user_129539
    @BrianClendinen

    If one Large filled passenger plane was bombed by Terrorist every year (world wide) flying would still be safer than dieing from Road Rage. Over 300 people each year die or are seriously injured form Road Rage in America. Expand that to the first world nations and flying is still safer with one successful terrorist attack per year.

    So if having an airport security system were only bags were scanned and this only resulted in 2 or 3 plane losses every decade from terrorist attacks on American planes. I would find that a complete acceptable trade off. It would still mean flying was a lot safer dieing from hitting an animal and about as dangerous as getting killed from road rage. I don’t see people terrified every time they see an animal while driving even though they are way more dangerous than terrorist. The only reason people are as scared of terrorist attacks and of flying is you have American terrorist using non-violent means to advance their agenda and make money and they are called journalist.

    • #30

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