Grandma Got Indefinitely Detained.
Grandma Got Indefinitely Detained.
If you had any question about TSA being completely out-of-control, last week’s event in Florida should be the last time you ever question that. It’s bad enough that babies’ diapers are searched, that kids are patted down but this – this is unconscionable. A 95-year old woman, dying of leukemia and headed to be with her family in her final days was patted down and forced to remove her adult diaper because it was “in the way.”
Are you freaking kidding me? I’d like to know when the last time was that a 95-year old great-grandma was secretly a terrorist. Or when “dirty diapers” became a euphemism for “dirty bomb.” Or when explosives were in bottles of breast milk.
Her daughter, Jean Weber, burst into tears when she was forced to help remove her mother’s diaper. Her tears then triggered a pat-down of her own because of her “suspicious” behavior.
Meanwhile, the Israeli airport has never had a terrorist incident. They use profiling (yes, it actually works!) and bomb-sniffing dogs, saving advanced screening for those individuals who actually warrant it (unlike great-grandmas). Here in the US, though, we are so afraid of offending someone, we don’t actually employ the tools that work. Instead, we suspect everyone, the TSA never backs down and doggedly stands by their “procedures.”
This is one more example of what happens with slavish devotion to “the law.” Trading freedom for (the illusion of) security never works. Congressman Jason Chaffetz has spent a considerable amount of time pointing out the problems with TSA – and now he chairs the committee that oversees them. Sweet. This latest incident will be one more arrow in his quiver as proposes legislation to trim TSA’s wings – and none too soon. This is ridiculous.
There are several possible alternatives.
A recent report from the Pentagon showed that dogs are the BEST at detecting bombs. After spending $19 billion and trying to create mechanical “sniffers”, the bottom line is that dogs detect the presence of explosives far more reliably than machinery. An article in “Wired” starts this way:
Drones, metal detectors, chemical sniffers, and super spycams — forget ‘em. The leader of the Pentagon’s multibillion military task force to stop improvised bombs says there’s nothing in the U.S. arsenal for bomb detection more powerful than a dog’s nose.
Next, we need to use intelligence to screen, well, more intelligently. Let’s get past the political correctness that prevents us from doing the best job possible and actually learn from the people with the safest airline and the safest airport in the world – the Israelis.
A 2006 Boston Globe article outlined some of their security practices:
The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel’s national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked.
The Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don’t hijack planes, terrorists do — and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people. To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition — what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the human factor.
Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers — that’s what they’re called — make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor told CBS, for “anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit.” Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.
Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water
They also put all checked baggage in a pressure chamber that will trigger any possible explosive devices and they pay particular attention to passengers from countries at war with Israel. We should learn from that. Mr. Shoe Bomber and Mr. Panty Bomber both got on flights originating outside of the US, where multiple red flags were ignored.
Last week, Michael J Totten, an independent foreign correspondent, wrote about the TSA and Israeli security:
Terrorists have yet to use the same weapon twice, and the TSA isn’t even looking for whatever they’ll try to use next. I can think of all sorts of things a person could use to wreak havoc on a plane that aren’t banned. Security officials should pay less attention to objects, and more attention to people.
The Israelis do. They are, out of dreadful necessity, the world’s foremost experts in counterterrorism. And they couldn’t care less about what your grandmother brings on a plane. Instead, officials at Ben Gurion International Airport interview everyone in line before they’re even allowed to check in.
And Israeli officials profile. They don’t profile racially, but they profile. Israeli Arabs breeze through rather quickly, but thanks to the dozens of dubious-looking stamps in my passport — almost half are from Lebanon and Iraq — I get pulled off to the side for more questioning every time. And I’m a white, nominally Christian American.
If they pull you aside, you had better tell them the truth. They’ll ask you so many wildly unpredictable questions so quickly, you couldn’t possibly invent a fake story and keep it all straight. Don’t even try. They’re highly trained and experienced, and they catch everyone who tries to pull something over on them….They don’t put anyone into a “porn machine.” There’s no point. Terrorists can’t penetrate that deeply into the airport.
The system has its advantages, though, aside from the fact that no one looks or reaches into anyone’s pants. Israelis don’t use security theater to make passengers feel like they’re safe. They use real security measures to ensure that travelers actually are safe. Even when suicide bombers exploded themselves almost daily in Israeli cities, not a single one managed to get through that airport.
Isn’t it time that we started working smarter and stop treating everyone as suspects?
Congressman Jason Chaffetz proves once again to be ahead of the curve. More than a year and a half ago, he introduced an amendment to a TSA authorization bill that would ban whole-body imaging machines as first-screening devices at airports. Calling the machines “TSA porn“, he said: “Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane.”
A couple of months later, the amendment passed easily, with bipartisan support on a 310-118 vote. It was then sent to the Senate where it languishes in some back room, not likely to see the light of day before the 111th Congress adjourns.
The Deseret News ran an editorial this week calling for the lame-duck Congress to pass this bill. They point out that:
It is more than a little disconcerting that the full anatomy of passengers can be displayed in high-resolution to perfect strangers employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And despite the TSA’s protestation that images are not saved, the fact that the Internet is now awash in images that were supposed to have been erased provides us little comfort as this high-resolution technology becomes even more pervasive. Passengers also might justifiably harbor the same kind of doubts that respected radiologists at the University of California and Columbia still have about the safety of this radioactive procedure.
This procrastinating Congress has left a slough of critically important legislation undone. The long-forgotten Whole Body Imaging Limitations Act might seem a lower priority than providing a budget for the federal government, clarifying tax rates and ratifying treaties. Nevertheless, it seems to us that even a fractured lame-duck Senate could agree on striking this sensible balance between safety and decency before families travel this holiday season.
Chaffetz bill not only did not get support from Utah’s Senators, one – outgoing Senator Bob Bennett – actively fought the Chaffetz legislation. In fact, he introduced legislation with Democrat Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that would REQUIRE digital strip-searching machines to be the first line of screening at every US commercial airport. One more reason to “call him home.” Oh wait ……
The current situation with the TSA is a perfect example of what happens when we trade liberty for supposed security. Toss in some bizarre notion of political correctness that prevents us from targeting suspicious passengers and we end up with a government agency that supervises taking (and storing) naked pictures and groping would-be fliers.
Perhaps we’ve been losing individual liberties since the adoption of the US Constitution 200-plus years ago. James Madison proclaimed in 1788: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Bit by bit, we have lost our freedoms because we we are complacent, apathetic – or – shudder – we actually give up our liberties voluntarily.
A bit over 9 years ago, some people bent on the destruction of America, flew some planes into some buildings. We were shocked! Horrified! Outraged! And the majority of us rushed to give away our liberties for a chance at what we thought was more safety, more security under the guise of the Patriot Act. We have lost oh-so-much under that act. We can be spied on in our own homes. We can have tracking devices placed on our cars without warrants. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that the FBI has illegally collected thousands of U.S. telephone call records. We’ve also lost the right to “habeus corpus” – the right to be protected from unlawful search and seizure, as guaranteed in our 4th amendment.
Today, the TSA takes the violation of the 4th amendment to a whole new level. In fact, a former assistant TSA administrator admits “Nobody likes having their 4th Amendment violated going through a security line, but the truth of the matter is, we’re gonna have to.”
John Tyner headed to the airport earlier this month. He opted out of the TSA porn machine and was led to the “pat down” area. He describes his experience:
After setting my things on a table, he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a “standard” pat down. (I thought to myself, “great, not one of those gropings like I’ve been reading about”.) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”
Charles Krauthammer wrote recently in the Washington Post about Tyner’s quip:
Not quite the 18th-century elegance of “Don’t Tread on Me,” but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.
Don’t touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter.
Tyner’s not the only one whose junk is getting touched. We have 8 year-olds being strip-searched in line, a 5 year-old disabled child forced to remove his leg braces, a breast cancer survivor forced to remove her prosthetic, and a bladder cancer patient who had his urostomy bag knocked off during the TSA groping, soaking him in urine. We have a pilot traveling with his 18 year-old daughter who overheard a TSA agent on his headset saying “heads up, got a cutie for you,” and 2 other pilots suing Homeland Security for wanting to “touch their junk.” In fact, one of those pilots, Michael Roberts, has described the scanners as machines who can “see whether a man is circumcised or a woman is menstruating. They can see everything.” Oh, and TSA workers know it. Just ask Rolando Negrin. He’s the TSA worker who went ballistic after his co-workers started mocking him for – well – the size of his junk.