Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
Latest posts by Jim Lakely (see all)
Unless you’ve been on an all-news blackout the last few days, you know that the Transportation Security Agency’s new “enhanced airline security” measures to protect us from terrorists who want to blow us up is … well … blowing up. The flash-point seems to be this YouTube video of a 3-year-old girl screaming in terror as a stranger (a TSA guard) gives her an “enhanced” frisk for our safety.
A healthy percentage of air travelers are subject to the new “enhanced” security measures. Once picked out of line, the traveler has two choices. He or she can enter an X-ray machine that (1) allows TSA agents to see your naked body, and/or (2) could subject you to dangerous radiation, especially if you’re a frequent flier or happen to be a pilot or flight attendant. If the traveler refuses to be humiliated or radiated, he or she is then subject to a vigorous frisking that — in the words of one man who filmed and posted his resistance on YouTube — includes having one’s “junk” touched by a stranger. [The “Don’t Touch My Junk” guy, John Tyner, is now being investigated by the TSA and subject to an $11,000 fine for the “crime” of refusing an “enhanced” frisking, and then merely trying to leave the airport.]
The backlash against this senseless TSA policy is coming fast and furious. For example:
- a California DA has promised to prosecute “overly touchy pat downs”;
- a man who went through the body scanner in an Indianapolis airport punched out a TSA guard after he was subject to an additional frisking;
- an angry Boston reporter described her “pat down” as something that would require filing a police report if it happened in a night club;
- and a even a British columnist has called out the TSA as an agency whose “contempt for American citizens has grown so great that they now require we submit to … molestation-style patdowns if we ever want to fly again.”
Meanwhile, some members of Congress are also upset and are demanding accountability and correction. Others are less disturbed by what Sen. Claire McCaskill describes as “love pats.” And, naturally, lawsuits against TSA are beginning to flow.
But this TSA backlash is long overdue. We should all should be resisting this senseless invasion of our privacy, dignity and liberty that does nothing to make us safer. Magician, comedian, libertarian, and “freedom hobbyist” Penn Gillette had it right way back in 2002 — when (by comparison) the worst you’d get is a shoeless shuffle through a metal detector and a harmless once-over by a TSA guard:
Last Thursday I was flying to LA on the Midnight flight. I went through security my usual sour stuff. I beeped, of course, and was shuttled to the “toss-em” line. A security guy came over. I assumed the position. I had a button up shirt on that was untucked. He reached around while he was behind me and grabbed around my front pocket.
I guess he was going for my flashlight, but the area could have loosely been called “crotch.” I said, “You have to ask me before you touch me or it’s assault.”
He said, “Once you cross that line, I can do whatever I want.”
I said that wasn’t true. I say that I have the option of saying no and not flying. He said, “Are you going to let me search you, or do I just throw you out?”
I said, “Finish up, and then call the police please.”
If I had my druthers, I’d abolish the Transportation Security Administration, jail its administrators and exile its agents to North Dakota. But I’d settle for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s resignation and for Congress to simply “zero out” appropriations for these invasive, full-body scanners that have many travelers rightly outraged.
(CBS) — Transportation Safety Administration chief John Pistole and several senators from both parties defended the new, enhanced airport security screening procedures as necessary in the face of a persistent and evolving terrorist threat in a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Pistole, calm and confident in the face of an increasing public outcry against the procedures, talked extensively about the repercussions of last year’s attempted Christmas Day bombing being the impetus for the enhanced screenings before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, TSA’s oversight committee.
“We know the terrorists’ intent is still there,” Pistole testified. “We are using technology and protocols to stay ahead of the threat and keep you safe. (Several near-misses by terrorists on airplane bombings) got through security because we were not being thorough enough in our pat-downs.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said prior to Pistole’s testimony that she believed TSA was in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, because people would be hopping mad at TSA if Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab had succeeded.
Actually, Ms.McCaskill (there she is again!) and Mr. Pistole: People would not have been “hopping mad” at the TSA if Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab had succeeded with his attempt as mass murder. The Christmas Day Bomber did not go through TSA screening before boarding his flight to Detroit — unless, for some reason, American taxpayers have been sending TSA gropers to Amsterdam and other overseas airports. For the head of TSA to be unaware of this basic fact of the Adbulmutallab case is further proof that this bureaucracy’s size and power is in inverse proportion to its competence.
No, the American people would have been mad at the State Department and the CIA, which received warning calls from the terrorist’s own father and did nothing to prevent his near-disastrous entry to the United States — which is plenty infuriating enough.
Besides, the TSA has been nothing if not senselessly reactionary. A terrorist uses tries to set off a shoe bomb? TSA makes us take off our shoes. A terrorist tries to use liquid explosives to take down a plane? Ban all liquids above 3 ounces — even sealed water bottles that common sense would prompt a TSA guard to say: “Drink it in front of me. If you don’t gag and die on the spot, enjoy the Aquafina you spent $3 for on your flight.” Ann Coulter pointed out on “The O’Reilly Factor” Tuesday night that terrorists are either developing (or have already tried to smuggle) explosive devices up their rectums. I shudder to fly once the TSA reacts to that innovation.
But back to Pistole. This is really rich. He has the gall to defend a federal government that botched the Christmas Day Bomber threat (despite being able to prevent it with an administrative competence above the level of a 5-year-old), by saying its policy of molesting nuns, toddlers and Vegas entertainers would have stopped Adbulmutallab (a lie) and will keep us safe (another lie). [NOTE: Late Wednesday night, a TSA spokesman said a “modified pat-down would be used for children 12 years old and under who require extra screening.” Children 12 years old and younger require “extra screening? Still stuck on stupid, TSA!]
The TSA’s fancy new body scanners have cost the federal government $300 million PLUS $340 million in extra staff costs. But they are not some magical tool. The scanners work well on hard objects such as guns and knives– but are highly suspect against liquids and gels. A GAO analysis found the scanners probably would not have snared the Christmas Day bomber.
… the United States government is not so smart. After 9/11, Tom Daschle said “you can’t professionalize if you don’t federalize,” and the Senate voted 100 to 0 for the TSA.
What nonsense. When you’re scared, it’s instinctive to think that the government will step in and do things better, but it NEVER DOES.
Not only does the government not do things better, it invariably makes things worse. Stossel’s solution is the one used in Israel — which has more reason than any country on Earth to fear terrorism. In 1995, Israel handed over its airport security system to private firms, who get fired if planes drop from the sky. Haven’t seen that — or even the hint of that — in Israel, have we?
Instead allowing the free market to establish security policies that would be effective and sensitive to hassles and abuses, America’s government has installed an increasingly humiliating airport “security” system that would be defined as sexual assault if it was being carried out by anyone other than government agents. And for what? So, ostensibly, the federal government isn’t sued for “profiling,” which probably explains the lack of action to stop the Christmas Day bomber.
However, as we see, lawsuits will happily go after government incompetence no matter how it manifests itself.