TSA worker who was injured in today’s LAX shooting.
I hate the TSA. But this man is a certifiable badass.
Go find better employment, sir. The world needs you someplace else.
TSA worker who was injured in today’s LAX shooting.
I hate the TSA. But this man is a certifiable badass.
Go find better employment, sir. The world needs you someplace else.
This is shameful.
(Via The Free Lioness)
LTMC: I feel safer already.
After the pat-down, the TSA agent swabbed his hands with some cotton-like material and put the swab in the machine that supposedly checks for explosive residue. The machine beeped. “We’re going to need to pat you down again, this time in private,” the agent said.
Having been selected before for so-called “random” checks, I assumed that this was another such check.
"What do you mean, ‘in private’? Can’t we just do this out here?"
"No, this is a different kind of pat-down, and we can’t do that in public." When I asked him why this pat-down was different, he wouldn’t tell me. When I asked him specifically why he couldn’t do it in public, he said "Because it would be obscene."
Naturally, I balked at the thought of going somewhere behind closed doors where a person I just met was going to touch me in “obscene” ways. I didn’t know at the time (and the agent never bothered to tell me) that the TSA has a policy that requires two agents to be present during every private pat-down. I’m not sure if that would make me feel more or less comfortable.
Noticing my hesitation, the agent offered to have his supervisor explain the procedure in more detail. He brought over his supervisor, a rather harried man who, instead of explaining the pat-down to me, rather rudely explained to me that I could either submit immediately to a pat-down behind closed-doors, or he could call the police.
At this point, I didn’t mind having to leave the secure area and go back through security again (this time not opting out of the machines), but I didn’t particularly want to get the cops involved. I told him, “Okay, fine, I’ll leave”.
"You can’t leave here."
"Are you detaining me, then?" I’ve been through enough "know your rights" training to know how to handle police searches; however, TSA agents are not law enforcement officials. Technically, they don’t even have the right to detain you against your will.
"We’re not detaining you. You just can’t leave." My jaw dropped.
"Either you’re detaining me, or I’m free to go. Which one is it?" I asked.
He glanced for a moment at my backpack, then snatched it out of the conveyor belt. “Okay,” he said. “You can leave, but I’m keeping your bag.”
I was speechless. My bag had both my work computer and my personal computer in it. The only way for me to get it back from him would be to snatch it back, at which point he could simply claim that I had assaulted him. I was trapped.
While we waited for the police to arrive, I took my phone and quickly tried to call my parents to let them know what was happening. Unfortunately, my mom’s voicemail was full, and my dad had never even set his up.
"Hey, what’s he doing?" One of the TSA agents had noticed I was touching my phone. "It’s probably fine; he’s leaving anyway," another said.
The cops arrived a few minutes later, spoke with the TSA agents for a moment, and then came over and gave me one last chance to submit to the private examination. “Otherwise, we have to escort you out of the building.” I asked him if he could be present while the TSA agent was patting me down.
"No," he explained, "because when we pat people down, it’s to lock them up."
Read the whole thing. Now.
LTMC: If you want your blood to boil for the next 15 minutes, here’s your open flame.
Michelle Dunaj, who is dying of leukemia, was Hawaii-bound for one of the last trips of her life. But the TSA in Seattle made it memorable for a different reason:She called Alaska Airlines ahead of time to request a wheelchair and to ask how her medicines should be separated for the security line.
"I did everything they asked me to do, so I didn’t think it would be an issue," she said.
But Dunaj says nothing went right at the security checkpoint. A machine couldn’t get a reading on her saline bags, so a TSA agent forced one open, contaminating the fluid she needs to survive. She says agents also made her lift up her shirt and pull back the bandages holding feeding tubes in place. Dunaj needs those tubes because of organ failure. With other passengers staring, Dunaj says she asked for privacy and was turned down.
"They just said that it was fine; the location we were at was fine," she said.
As I’ve said in the past, this is what the TSA has to do in order to have any chance at pretending to be effective. There are those who will say that these situations can be avoided by reforming the current TSA regime. But the TSA can’t really afford to take those chances. In a world where terrorists aren’t afraid to use mentally disabled individuals as suicide bombers, it is hardly beyond the pale to think they would send someone feigning a terminal illness to get the “big one” through security and on to a plane.
This is the choice we are faced with: we have a choice between a world in which the government humiliates and molests our most vulnerable citizens on a regular basis in an effort to prevent “the smoking gun” from getting through; or, we can return to a more sane, pre-9/11 security paradigm, where we don’t subject countless thousands to outrageous searches and seizures to prevent a violent attack that is so unlikely that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than die from a terrorist attack.
This is all the more infuriating when you consider that these procedures do not actually make us safer. So another vulnerable person struggles to get through a TSA checkpoint, and can’t make it through without having her health, dignity, and personal belongings compromised. And meanwhile, both of America’s two major presidential candidates are essentially in agreement on this policy. Meaning that there’s little likelihood that these sorts of outrageous incidents will become less likely in the near future. If anything, they will only become more common as Israel’s Prime Minister sabre-rattles for armed conflict with Iran, and there’s little to no official backlash against a national security state that has become so large that no one person in the government knows every piece of it. One in which the TSA plays a vital role.
It is precisely because the consensus on these issues has become so widespread among our nation’s leaders that voting for a candidate from either major party seems unappetizing. The two major parties have enraptured the American electorate by creating a political environment in which every American voter finds themselves faced with a political Prisoner’s Dilemma that leads them to vote out of fear rather than conviction. To wit, I expect that this latest incident with the TSA will not be discussed by the candidates during the foreign policy debate, which promises to be another exercise in making relatively small differences of opinion appear to be massive ideological divisions. And yet many people will still vote for one of the major party candidates, because they don’t want to risk “throwing their vote away.”
The problems that this country faces have become too worrisome to leave to entrenched political institutions and their personal representatives. Unfortunately, until people begin to trust themselves and vote with their convictions rather than their fear of the greater of two marginally dissimilar political evils, we will find ourselves continuing down the same road that got us here, ad infinitum. And real policy shifts in many of our nation’s most pressing political issues will continue to be elusive.
Newsweek reports on the phenomenon of surgically implanted bombs in suicide bombers:
[I]ntelligence is mounting that new terrorist bombs are under development that are meant to be implanted surgically inside a man or a woman (conjuring fears, not least, that someone who looks great with child could in fact be heavy with explosives). Last spring, U.S. intelligence officials began to pick up worrying information that al-Asiri was working with doctors on just such a project. Some dismissed the plan as far-fetched. But by last June, the CIA concluded that al-Asiri was close to being able to pull it off.
Fortunately these devices are easier to describe than to detonate….But as [Former FBI Agent Don] Borelli points out, “Even the threat of these devices causes a reaction by the security apparatus where we wind up spending millions of dollars.”
The body scanners now in many U.S. airports were installed to prevent a more deadly repeat of the Abdulmutallab incident. If SIIEDs could be perfected, however, even full-body scanners would not detect them.
And what will we do then? sub-dermal nanobots with miniature TSA cameras? Anal probes? Or perhaps we’ll just begin exposing everyone to X-rays at TSA check-points on a regular basis, which is, you know, problematic.
Some people try to brush off the TSA’s more outrageous episodes by calling them unreasonable exercises of discretion. Sam Harris recently advocated that racial profiling was preferable to indiscriminate pat-downs that typically define TSA procedures. But look at the bolded text from the selections above. As I’ve said on prior occasions, it is simply not out of the question that otherwise unassuming or vulnerable-looking citizens could in-fact be utilized by terrorists as couriers for a bomb device. The TSA is therefore, ceteris paribus, not acting unreasonablywhen it indiscriminately searches everybody, including strip-searching 84-year old women and patting down physically disabled 7-year olds. The TSA is doing exactly what it was designed to do when it carries out these sort of outrageous, offensive searches of our most vulnerable citizens. That’s not apologia for the TSA; it is an attempt to make people understand a fundamental truth: this isn’t a system that can be “tweaked” to avoid the examples that make us uncomfortable. By making exceptions for the “unlikely” cases, the TSA opens the door for those cases to be exploited. They literally can’t afford not to humiliate people in a world where we assume that something like the TSA is even necessary.
And that’s really the point that me and my ilk (i.e. those who are critical of the TSA’s current anti-terrorism procedures) have been trying to make all-along. If you assume arguendo that we need the TSA, then it becomes necessary for them to carry out their mission in a way that involves inevitable affronts to human dignity. They can’t afford to make exceptions. This, of course, leads us back to our original dilemma: do we tolerate these affronts to human dignity for a nominal increase in safety? Do we accede to the necessity of violating everybody’s privacy, and waste an enormous amount of resources humiliating people, while facilitating various affronts to human dignity? Or are we willing to live with the extremely small risk of succumbing to another terrorist attack?
My answer remains the same: we do not need these procedures. They do not actually make us safer. The Newsweek story above demonstrates that the “Evil Doers” will find a way to get a bomb in the country if they really want to. There are also less expensive, less invasive ways of preventing terrorism. Like not dropping bombs on innocent people in the Middle East. That would be a start.
Those who read my blog with a modicum of frequency perhaps know that I’m far more receptive to “New Atheism” than most. I find myself agreeing with the likes of Sam Harris more often than not when I watch him debate with religious apologists. But his political conclusions, frankly, sometimes shock the conscience:
We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it. And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye (after all, what would Adam Gadahn look like if he cleaned himself up?) But there are people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists, and TSA screeners can know this at a glance.
This paragraph is, in part, removed from its context. You should read the whole essay before lighting torches and raising pitchforks. But I think the two biggest problems with Harris’s essay can be summed up as follows:
1. Sam Harris never articulates precisely what it means for TSA to put him “not entirely outside the bullseye.” Is he asking for a less rigorous pat-down? That he should be checked at random with less frequency? He never quantifies this observation. He calls for vigorous profiling of people who “appear” Muslim without quantifying what reduced scrutiny of “non-Muslim appearing” individuals looks like. To be fair, I think Harris is far more concerned about the extreme cases, like 7-year old disabled girls, or the elderly and infirm (mentioned in his essay). Still, even he must be aware of the fact that the terrorists he fears so much have utilized the infirm and disabled to accomplish violent attacks before. So his belief that TSA agents should ignore those who are “obviously not terrorists” is glib at best.
2. Sam Harris has clearly not read (or at least taken seriously) the literature that suggests profiling is not only ineffective, but makes us less safe rather than more. Focusing on physical characteristics rather than behavior makes law enforcement behave like idiots, because they end up using race as a litmus test to trigger suspicion. Also, law enforcement agents are notoriously bad at profiling. To wit, here is a list of characteristics appearing on FBI drug courier profiles, which you can find in David Cole’s No Equal Justice and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow:
In other words,even in the 21st century, law enforcement officials are incapable of crafting a coherent, non-contradictory character profile of suspicious behavior that makes any sense whatsoever. Which leads me back to the point I’ve been trying to make about the TSA since day 1: when it comes to criminal investigation and national security, the undulating and multifarious vicissitudes of the human experience make it difficult to identify a coherent corpus of suspicious behavior that is in any way reliable. Almost without fail, the end-result of profiling is that people either a) end up ignoring behavior by focusing on race, or b) if race isn’t part of the profile, they end up with a profile that includes actions which are on equal and opposite ends of the spectrum of human behavior. As a result, the only limiting principle under any profiling regime will be the inherent biases and limitations of perception that define a given law enforcement official’s mental state at any one time, which of course defeats the very purpose of having a profile in the first place.
So no, we should not “profile Muslims and be honest about it.” If anything, we should accept the fact that law enforcement is only effective in proportion to the degree which it is invasive of our privacy and freedom. Law enforcement has a legitimate role in civilized society, but what defines an effective justice system is one where limiting principles are drawn so as to preserve human dignity. To this end, there are certain situations where the gains in security are not worth the added restraints on our liberty. The TSA’s current Modus Operandi is a perfect example of what happens when that limiting principle gets stretched too far in the name of security. Yet if we accept security as our primary goal, then it is a Modus Operandi that is necessary, because profiling makes law enforcement officials behave foolishly and ignore potential threats based on appearance alone. The only effective way to keep everyone safe, as the TSA well knows, is to “profile” everyone. Which leads to the sort of outrages against human dignity that we have beared witness to over the past few years.
This of course, brings us back to our Faustian bargain: if maximal security is our goal, we can profile everyone and continue to bear witness to outrageous indignities at TSA check-out lines. If preserving human dignity, privacy and freedom is our primary goal, then we can choose to live with the comparatively small risk of dying in another terrorist attack, and rid ourselves of the consistent den of human outrage that has come to define TSA security procedures.
Considering that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than die in a terrorist attack, I believe the answer is to choose dignity over increased security; an increase which is, by in large, fictitious when placed under scrutiny.
Apparently the TSA Can’t Decide:
A 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was targeted by the TSA this week when her crutches and leg braces set off the airport screeners at JFK. Dina Frank’s parents claim the screening agents were particularly aggressive during an initial patdown of their daughter. They say the TSA then caused the family to miss their flight by requiring Dina to return to the screening area for additional inspection after they’d already been released to their gate.
“They’re harassing people,” said Dina’s father, Dr. Johsua Frank. “This is totally misguided policy. Yes, I understand that TSA is in charge of national security and there’s all these threats. For her to be singled out, it’s crazy.”
TSA Cares, a program specifically designed to assist airline passengers with disabilities, was launched in December.
To be serious for a moment: this is the problem with the TSA. The mission of the TSA is such that they have to treat even the most unlikely, sympathetic passengers as potential threats. So-called terrorists in Iraq have gone so far as to plant remote-controlled explosives on mentally disabled suicide bombers. Is it really such a stretch to believe that they would do the same with a physically disabled individual, adult or child, to accomplish the same task? When TSA performs these kinds of searches, it is doing exactly what it is designed to do.
This is the choice that America is faced with: we can either to choose to live free of these invasive procedures, and live with the risk of a terrorist attack succeeding, or live prostrate and humiliated by our own government everyday so that we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re safe. And make no mistake: we are fooling ourselves if we think this form of security theater makes us safe.
So one must ask themselves: do you want to live in an America where strangers feel up disabled 7-year old girls to check them for bombs? Or are you willing to live with the relatively low probability threat of another terrorist attack occurring? I’ll take my chances with the lightning, thank you.
Grand larceny alone is enough to warrant a much longer prison sentence than just six months. And when you add the other two charges into the mix, sentencing could easily top 15 or 20 years. But because these agents worked for the government, they apparently are not subject to the same treatment as the rest of the general public.
1. In an ideal world, no one would be sent to jail for 15-20 years for any crime except for the most heinous of transgressions. Recall that Anders Brevik will only serve 21 years for killing and/or injuring over 200 Norwegians. Stealing $40,000 could ruin someone’s life financially, but if punishments reflect the seriousness of the crime, then there is no realm of moral calculus in which stealing $40,000 flirts near the seriousness of mass murder. Grand Larceny is also a felony, meaning that these employees would be condemned to a lifetime of punishment even if they served no time in prison at all, including legal discrimination in the workplace, applications for public assistance, voting rights, gun ownership, not to mention virtually guaranteed increased penalties for future criminal proceedings.
2. With all this being said, the fact remains that we do have an intolerably draconian criminal justice system, and within that context, stories like this are the reason why a resilient narrative of corruption and incompetence exists about public servants. Just like police officers and prosecutors who are given a pass for criminal conduct committed in the execution of their official duties, this type of selective enforcement reduces respect for public sector employees by giving the public the impression that public sector employees are not held accountable when they act incompetently or unlawfully. The end result is that competent, ethical public sector employees suffer for the indiscretions of their incompetent or criminal peers, because they are made to bear the disapprobation of the public every time a story like this breathes new life into the narrative of public sector corruption and incompetence. That’s why holding public employees accountable for wrong-doing (particularly those who have lawful power to affect your personal liberty via intimate contact or physical intervention), is so important to a functional, professional public sector. If you believe in civic institutions, and deign to have pride in them, you can’t tolerate this sort of behavior, even for a moment.
A Sullivan Reader writes:
Why haven’t terrorists been hitting public transportation, museums, shopping malls, movie theatres, etc? Either because there aren’t nearly as many terrorists as the security state apparatus and its apologists want us to think there are, or terrorists really do just want to hit airplanes. My money is on the former. I’ve long argued with friends that Al Qaeda has already shot its wad.
All you need to do to shut down the USA is five guys. Five suicide bombers who will detonate themselves roughly simultaneously one Monday morning or Friday afternoon on Boston’s MTA, New York’s subway, DC’s subway, Chicago’s CTA and the BART in San Francisco. Or five guys to leave exploding backpacks in five upscale stores in the same five cities. Or five baseball parks in the same five cities. Or five museums in the same cities, or five …
Bingo, America will react just like it did after 9/11 - total shutdown, panic, madness, new laws restricting civil liberties, billions of dollars spent on security theater. And that hasn’t happened, and not due to “If you see something, say something” PSAs on the trains. It hasn’t happened because they don’t have the guys. So when security experts say it’s just a matter of time till terrorists strike again, I shake my head: what are they waiting for? For the security experts’ paychecks to clear?
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