Gah. Remind me how this will make flying safer? Oh, right, it doesn’t. Just makes flying less pleasant.
HAVING been taught by nuns in grade school and later going through military boot camp, I have always disliked uniformed authorities shouting at me. So I was unhappy last week when some security screeners at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago started yelling.
“Opt out! We got an opt out!” one bellowed about me in a tone that people in my desert neighborhood in Tucson usually reserve for declaring, “Rattlesnake!”
Other screeners took up the “Opt out!” shout. I was marched from the metal detector lane to one of those nearby whole-body imagers, ordered to take everything out of my pockets, remove my belt and hold my possessions up high. Then I was required to stand still while I received a rough pat-down by a man whose résumé, I suspected, included experience at a state prison.
“Hold your pants up!” he ordered me.
What did I do to deserve this? Well, as I approached the checkpoints, I had two choices. One was a familiar lane with the metal detector, so I put my bag on that. To my right was a separate lane dominated with what the Transportation Security Administration initially called “whole-body imagers” but has now labeled “advanced imaging technology” units. Critics, of course, call them strip-search machines.
I don’t like these things, and not just because of privacy concerns or because of what some critics have asserted are radiation safety issues with some of the machines that use X-ray technology.
No, I don’t like the fact that I have to remove every item from every pocket, including my wallet and things as trivial as a Kleenex. You then strike a pose inside with your hands submissively held above your head, like some desperado cornered by the sheriff in a Western movie, while the see-through-clothes machine makes an image of your body.
The T.S.A.’s position is that anyone can “opt out” of a body scan for reasons of privacy or whatever, but will then be subjected to a thorough physical pat-down and careful search of belongings.
(click to continue reading Skipping the Body Scanner and Taking Brusque Treatment – NYTimes.com.)
Security theatre, so fun. So useless.
And Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reports:
This past Wednesday, I showed up at Baltimore-Washington International for a flight to Providence, R.I. I had a choice of two TSA screening checkpoints. I picked mine based on the number of people waiting in line, not because I am impatient, but because the coiled, closely packed lines at TSA screening sites are the most dangerous places in airports, completely unprotected from a terrorist attack — a terrorist attack that would serve the same purpose (shutting down air travel) as an attack on board an aircraft.
Agents were funneling every passenger at this particular checkpoint through a newly installed back-scatter body imaging device, which allows the agency’s security officers to, in essence, see under your clothing. The machine captures an image of your naked self, including your genitals, and sends the image to an agent in a separate room. I don’t object to stringent security (as you will soon see), but I do object to meaningless security theater (Bruce Schneier’s phrase), and I believe that we would be better off if the TSA focused its attentions on learning the identity and background of each passenger, rather than on checking whether passengers are carrying contraband (as I suggested in this article, it is possible for a moderately clever person to move contraband through TSA screenings with a fair amount of ease, even with this new technology).
In part because of the back-scatter imager’s invasiveness (a TSA employee in Miami was arrested recently after he physically assaulted a colleague who had mocked his modestly sized penis, which was fully apparent in a captured back-scatter image), the TSA is allowing passengers to opt-out of the back-scatter and choose instead a pat-down. I’ve complained about TSA pat-downs in the past, because they, too, were more security theater than anything else. They are, as I would learn, becoming more serious, as well.
At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”
(click to continue reading For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance – Jeffrey Goldberg – National – The Atlantic.)
No, the policy is feel your crotch area until encountering “resistance”, meaning testicles. If you are a woman, I guess that might be a slightly different experience.
There’s already a slightly organized counter-effort:
Think about it – the pat-down won’t be pleasant for you, but the TSA agent-turned-baggage handler isn’t going to be too thrilled about it either. If enough travelers are willing to play ball, as it were, some agents are bound to quit. Those who remain will be overwhelmed by demand for their services. Given enough defiance, the TSA simply won’t have the time or manpower to cop all the required feels. Their policy will have to change2.
So let’s try to put an end to security theatre. Let’s take back our rights, along with our dignity. Let’s remember what Ben Franklin taught us, that those who sacrifice liberty for security (or worse, the illusion of security) deserve neither. Let’s find our balls, and then make them touch ‘em.
The next time I fly, I’m going to have the TSA “meet the resistance”. Who’s with me?
(click to continue reading One Foot Tsunami: Meet the Resistance.)