Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fight or Flight 2: The Reckoning

Remember that story I told a couple of days ago about the surly, smart-ass comment from a TSA agent as I tried to take Inara through airport security last weekend?

Well if this had happened, I wouldn't even have made it onto the flight. In fact, I'd probably be facing federal charges right now.

CBS News: Six-Year-Old Girl's TSA Pat-Down at Airport Sparks Outrage/4.13.11

My favorite part about this is that, of course, that arrogant tool John Pistole -- the head of the TSA -- says the pat-down was justified and according to procedure. Sorry, asshole, but if groping a six-year-old-girl is something done in adherence with policy, there's something really fucking wrong with the policy -- to say nothing of you and the overreactive, pants-wetting babies who came up with the policy. When little kids are being legally felt up at our nation's airports, that's when that police state we've all been warned about is finally here.

By the way, a couple of people wrote because I didn't bother to put in a link the other day explaining why a sudden ban on printing toner cartridges on planes proves that potential terrorists are still dictating the rules of the game and the idiots charged with protecting us are merely playing catch-up.

Well, for those with short memories, here.

And now, for the hell of it and as a means of elaborating on my argument, let's bring back my last diatribe against the inefficacy of the current TSA model.

"The Unfriendly Skies" (Originally Published, 12.26.09)

Thank you for flying Knee-Jerk Airlines, where the illusion of safety is always our top priority.

Remember back when authorities in Great Britain foiled a plot to detonate liquid explosives on-board ten airliners bound for the U.S. and Canada? Whether you know the specific details of the 2006 arrests or the terrorist plans, you're damn sure familiar with the fallout from that threat: Since then you've been forced by the TSA to adhere to a set of byzantine, seemingly arbitrary restrictions on what liquids you can and can't stow in carry-on luggage -- how many ounces are acceptable and in what kind of clear plastic bag they have to be contained -- each time you fly. While those restrictions have relaxed somewhat over the past couple of years -- often dependent on how generous the particular security juggernaut you face at the airport is feeling on the day you happen to be flying -- they're still very much in place. The last time I flew north to pick up Inara, the humorless TSA employee manning the scanner took a tube of Crest toothpaste from my bag and held it up in front of me as if to signal to me that I should've known better than to try to get it past him. I wanted to grab it out of his hand and squeeze the whole fucking thing into my mouth, but thought the better of it.

Well, if you thought that that reaction was ridiculously overcompensatory and likely did almost nothing to make you safer in the skies other than maybe forcing you to rethink flying altogether, get ready -- shit's about to get a whole lot worse. In response to yesterday's arrest of a Nigerian man who allegedly tried to blow up a Delta/Northwest flight as it landed in Detroit, transportation officials and Homeland Security are announcing new restrictions on passenger behavior while flying within the continental United States. New rules will forbid airline passengers from getting up from their seats, accessing their carry-on luggage or having personal belongings on their laps during the final hour of flight before landing. This kind of thing has been in place at Reagan Airport in D.C. since the 9/11 attacks; now it'll be implemented nationwide.

Will this make anyone safer? Probably not -- but that's not really the point.

What makes these new restrictions so laughably outrageous is this: They're a reaction to a suddenly perceived threat that's technically been there all along. Like the liquid ban, which was a response to an attempted attack that had already taken place, this is a case of America's ostensibly sharpest minds in the realm of national security responding to a situation rather than planning for it in advance and thereby heading it off at the pass. Did we never realize that it was possible for terrorists to bring liquid explosives onto planes? If so, then why the hell were liquids of a certain volume ever allowed onto flights; if not, then for fuck's sake why not? Likewise, did no one ever consider the possibility that someone could blow up a plane as it prepared to land? And isn't a threat while landing completely arbitrary anyway -- and our reaction to it, to restrict the movement of passengers during landing, just as arbitrary and worthless?

The only way to truly keep us truly safe while flying a commercial airliner would be to put us all through body scanners then have us fly in our underwear, forcing every passenger to check his or her bags and carry nothing on. And even then, I'd bet my life -- literally, because there's no other option -- that those who want to kill us would just find some other way to accomplish their goals.

And then the geniuses at the TSA would simply wind up having to impose a knee-jerk crackdown on something else as a response to that "new threat." If and when that happens, the newer, harsher security measures will be exactly what they are now: a floor show, and nothing more.


Thomas B said...

Get this, dude: I've been living in Australia now for the last five months. Sure, security flying international is still pretty intense (though without the feeling-up the TSA is known for), but flying domestic is pretty awesome, considering. You can take liquids. You don't need a boarding pass to go through security. Shit, your friend can go through security with you (even if he's not flying) and have a beer with you whilst you wait for boarding. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but that's pretty cool in my book. #NotMissingAmerica

Mart said...

A male TSA agent left my teenage daughter purple with embarrassment after working her over for about three minutes with various belt un-buckling requirements and inappropriate touches. As I watched in horror, I wish I had a snappy comment like yours. The only thoughts I had I kept to myself, as I did not want to go to the special line for troublemakers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your whole deal, except I hope Inara didn't hear you say her mom was dead! I may have related this before, since it happened a few years ago, but it still freaks me out. I was washing my hands in the ladies room just before security in Orlando. A petite, very blond young TSA agent came in, met my eyes in the mirror, and said, "Jesus loves you.", WTH? I actually reported her, I thought she might have put a bomb on my flight and became totally paranoid. The TSA agent I reported her to didn't care and did nothing. Shouldn't the TSA protect us from religious fanatics of all stripes? Maybe I'm making too much of it, but her high pitched monotone still freaks me out when I think it.

noblogrequired said...

Ah, America ... so glad I don't have to go there anymore.

Deacon Blue said...

Well, at least we know where all the defrocked child-abusing priests can go get work now: as TSA agents

NoxiousNan said...

Deacon, don't give them ideas, but maybe the thought of groping adults would turn them away!

I went to Sydney, mere days before Bush showed up for APEC and tried to ruin my vacation with all his crazy security measures (that amusingly did not work so well keeping their version of Michael Moore out). It was like flying in the 80's. The closest thing I saw to security were ignored signs saying you couldnt use your cell phones in that area.

What really defines the police state to me is how easily the TSA and other rights limiting security measures are accepted by the populace.