Peekin’ & Gropin’: That Won’t Keep Us Safe from Their Harms

26 Nov

In the ongoing saga of the TSA v. Common Sense, the latest set of security standards has created the most colorful ruckus so far. I’ve been pondering a post on this for a couple of days, and wouldn’t you know it, someone beat me to it. Mark Morford’s piece is funny, pointed, and brilliant. He makes the main points I was planning to make, at least at first. A few quick points, inspired by reading his words, that I think merit comment or amplification:

  1. The TSA is repeatedly closing the barn door after each horse gets out. Every new security measure is reactive, a strange strategy for safety. Tom the Dancing Bug illustrates this point brilliantly.
  2. We are also imposing increasingly heavy burdens on travelers within the United States in response to threats that have originated outside our country. The liquid-toting bomber, shoe bomber, underwear bomber, and $4200 package bombs all originated from airports that do not follow TSA guidelines.
  3. The TSA is touting a CBS News poll that finds 80% of Americans favor the use of the peek-a-boo scanners. A little closer analysis of the very skimpy poll, however, shows some big flaws:
    • There is no explanation in the questions of what the scanners do in a poll taken before there was widespread public awareness of the issue;
    • The poll was taken of the general populace, not of people who travel frequently or who have been subjected to these measures;
    • The poll sets up a false dichotomy of scanners v. racial profiling; and
    • As any supporter of full marriage equality will tell you, we should never put civil rights up to a popular vote.
  4. This new, excessive set of measures places an increased burden on already vulnerable categories of travelers such as the elderly, handicapped and transgender communities.

At the end of the day, we really need to ask ourselves if we’re on the right track. Should we continue to spend millions on a reactive infrastructure that humiliates and inconveniences millions of Americans or put that investment into more effective intelligence work that might actually intercept a terrorist before (s)he acts? Our color-coded, bomb in the toothpaste, strip for the camera approach serves mostly to increase our national sense of fear. Sounds to me like the terrorists are winning.

(title adapted with all due respect to Burt Bacharach; image ©2010 R. Bolling)

2 Responses to “Peekin’ & Gropin’: That Won’t Keep Us Safe from Their Harms”

  1. Jennifer November 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    You know, I’d be all for increased security standards if I felt like they *actually* did something. In spite of drastically increasing fees and more invasive screening methods, airport security has not really improved. Why not take the millions of dollars being used for body scanners and employ air marshals?

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt November 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

      I wholly agree, Jen. While I was not traveling anywhere this holiday, I did go to the airport for the pat down and after the first 12 times and a few cigarettes, I said: stop that, I feel violated:)

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