Tagged: TSA

Why People Are Unmoved By TSA Abuses

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Some theories:

1. They associate anti-TSA complaints with politicians who hold views they don't like. "Complaining about the TSA must be glibertarian, because Rand Paul does it," or "Rick Perry pulled that anti-TSA stunt, so this is more of the same."

2. The associate anti-TSA complaints with political movements they don't like. "Oh, that whole 'don't touch my junk' thing is just Koch-funded astroturf aimed at deregulation and lower taxes and union-busting."

3. They accept the government's claims about safety, necessity, and effectiveness. "The government says this is to protect us, so why are you complaining?" "Don't you remember 9/11? Do you want to fly with people who haven't been searched?"

4. They accept the government's claims about proportionality, propriety, and bodily autonomy. "What's the big deal about being patted down? What's wrong with that? Your doctor touches you."

5. They accept the government's venerable message that it's the citizen who needs a justification to resist intrusion, not the government that needs a justification to intrude. "Look, if you don't have anything to hide, why do you care?"

6. They accept stereotypes about people who resist government intrusion. "People who make a big deal about this sort of thing are just looking for attention."

7. They believe that government actors should be viewed sympathetically in their private capacity rather than as state actors in their public capacity. "Look, this is just someone trying to get through the day and do his or her job, not someone trying to violate your rights."

8. They view discussions of individual rights — particularly rights relating to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure — as "liberal," pro-criminal, anti-law-and-order, or otherwise ideologically suspect.

9. They have accepted the Starving Child Fallacy — the proposition that there is a limited amount of ones and zeroes on the internet to be devoted to talking about things we don't like. "Look, you're talking about a momentary search. You could be talking about the economy, or war, or children starving right now in Africa."

10. Congnitive Dissonance. "You want me to believe that our government — which is supposed to be protecting us — is engaged in mostly useless security theater, and that people have to speak up and make trouble and do uncomfortable things if they want to change it? I can't believe that."

Complain About Being Sexually Assaulted By A TSA Thug? THEY'LL SUE!

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On March 31st of this year, Amy Alkon — a writer who blogs at the Advice Goddess Blog — was sexually assaulted in front of dozens of witnesses.

The person who sexually assaulted her was not punished and will not be punished. Why? Because our government sees fit, as part of its policy of security theater and perpetual wartime mentality, to confer a privilege to sexually assault strangers in public upon certain people: employees of the TSA.

Amy — who refused to be scanned — was instead forcibly groped by a TSA employee. Unlike most Americans, she didn't take it quietly. She expressed her feelings of violation and humiliation, in person at the time and in writing later:

Basically, I felt it important to make a spectacle of what they are doing to us, to make it uncomfortable for them to violate us and our rights, so I let the tears come. In fact, I sobbed my guts out. Loudly. Very loudly. The entire time the woman was searching me.

Nearing the end of this violation, I sobbed even louder as the woman, FOUR TIMES, stuck the side of her gloved hand INTO my vagina, through my pants. Between my labia. She really got up there. Four times. Back right and left, and front right and left. In my vagina. Between my labia. I was shocked — utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there. It was government-sanctioned sexual assault.

Amy's public assault is not unusual. Stories of gratuitous and inappropriate touching by TSA employees are legion. The stories range from inhuman indifference to deliberate humiliation. Many of those stories emphasize that showing any resistance — whether by opting out of scanners, or voicing objections to groping — will result in immediate retaliation, and possible official investigation, by TSA employees. The TSA has reached the point that its sense of entitlement is nearly impervious to satire. Yet our government assures us that our concerns are meritless.

Despite the wide audience she enjoys, Amy's story could easily have been lost in the din of routine TSA excess. But because Amy didn't take it quietly — because she called the TSA employee out for her assault, and because she wrote about it — now she's facing a legal threat.

The TSA agent — one Thedala Magee — has demanded that Amy pay her $500,000 for Magdee's distress at being called out.

In your blog of April 26, 2011, you admit to having yelled at my client, "You raped me" on March 31, 2011 for all within earshot and you have continued to compound your torts against my client by repeating this along with a detailed description of what you claim my client did to you, including the statement that my client inserted her fingers into your vagina.

These outbursts in public and writings on the internet have subject my client to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, and have injured her in her reputation and her occupation. Furthermore, as a result of your actions, my client has suffered and continues to suffer damages including but not limited to severe emotional distress, fear, difficulties performing her duties, and other problems as a proximate result of your tortuous actions.

Your statements were outrageous and malicious and made with the intention to cause or made with the reckless disregard of the probability of causing severe emotional distress and suffering, and they were the actual and proximate causation thereof.

See, in our national scheme of security theater, it's Thedala Magee's role to touch the genitals of strangers, and it's Amy Alkon's role — and yours, and mine — to stand there and take it, or the terrorists win. Amy upset that natural order — so it must be a payday for Magee.

You might think that it's ludicrous, freakish, unbelievable that anyone would think it appropriate to threaten suit when someone objects to being touched by a stranger in public. But in America, there is no banner so loathsome that some bottom-feeding thug from my profession won't take it up. Today's bottom-feeder is Vicki Roberts. What kind of lawyer is Vicki Roberts? Well, before you even consider the legal threat she issued in this case, I invite you to consider the following factors:

1. Her web site is called www.restmycase.com.
2. It includes a memorial to her dog. [My position is that dogs are nice and it is sad when they die.]
3. She is very proud of her repeated appearances on the television show "Celebrity Justice."
4. She is very proud of her IMDB entry. Proud enough to tout that she got "Additional Thanks" for a movie, and that she played herself in Weiner Strudel. [My position is that strudel is good.]
5. She is extremely proud of having been a judge pro tem for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. To give you a hint of how rigorously selective that process is, they once tried to make me a judge pro tem of the mental health division.

That's the sort of lawyer who sends a bullying demand letter to a writer who talked about her experience with a rough TSA patdown. Go figure.

Perhaps Ms. Magee — and Ms. Roberts — thought that Amy Alkon could be bullied. If so, they haven't read much of what she's written. Lawyers like Roberts — and litigants like Magee — depend on terrifying people with their frivolous claims. Amy's not terrified. Amy already has a lawyer in her corner who, legally speaking, is going to kick the living shit out of Roberts and Magdee if they are foolish enough to pull the trigger on this vexatious lawsuit. Yes — as narrative and dramatic convention requires — it's First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. He's written back to Roberts already. It's everything you'd expert, legally and rhetorically:

First of all, Ms. Magee did rape my client. Your client aggressively pushed her fingers into my client’s vulva. I am certain that she did not expect to find a bomb there. She did this to humiliate my client, to punish her for exercising her rights, and to send a message to others who might do the same. It was absolutely a sexual assault, perpetrated in order to exercise power over the victim. We agree with Ms. Alkon’s characterization of this crime as “rape,” and so would any reasonable juror.

Roberts, as the sort of lawyer who is proud of appearing on "Celebrity Justice," may be stupid enough to sue anyway. If so, she's going to learn a swift and vivid lesson about California's anti-SLAPP statute. Her client may well wind up paying Amy Alkon's attorney fees. She's also going to learn about the Streisand Effect — her client, once obscure, will become intensely internet-famous as a government employee who tried to shake a writer down for half a million bucks for complaining about having her vagina touched. I wonder — did Vicki Roberts warn her client about the Streisand Effect before sending this threat letter? In short: this will not be pretty for Ms. Roberts or Ms. Magdee. As a result of Roberts' reckless and bumptious threat, many experienced litigators and First Amendment practitioners will offer Amy their aid. I'm one of them. Amy and Marc: if I can do anything, pro bono, to help you with this, including pursuing Magdee after you win your SLAPP motion to enforce an attorney fee judgment against her, or a malicious prosecution suit against Roberts and Magdee, let me know — I'm in. Other lawbloggers, I challenge you to step up.

Nor should this be pretty for Roberts or Magee. This is a loathsome, thuggish demand, uttered in service of a contemptible privilege to assault strangers, all as a result of our lamentable tolerance of degradation of our rights as Americans. Many people criticized Amy's story about this incident on the grounds that Thedala Magdee was "just doing her job" — that she's a low-paid TSA employee doing as she has been instructed, and that it's somehow objectionable to call her out. I submit that this mentality is part of what lets the Thedala Magees of the world grope us with impunity.

The TSA's approach to security theater is unjust. It's ineffective. Groping people without reasonable suspicion, let alone probable cause, ought not be tolerated. We only tolerate it because we have collectively allowed the government to frighten us out of our wits — for the most part, we have yielded to the TSA's demand for unquestioning compliance. We have created a safe space — not for rights, not for travel, but for people to get paid an hourly wage to poke strangers in the genitals, and to poke harder if they object. We shouldn't. We should make a scene, like Amy did. We should call out people who choose to make money following unjust orders to grope strangers. The Thedala Magees of the nation should be subject to "hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy," should have their reputations damaged, and deserve to experience emotional distress. They are doing vile things to their fellow citizens for money. No convention of decency or courtesy requires us to pretend that is acceptable, even if the government tells them that it is.

It's ten years out from 9/11 next week, and our government's grasping quest for more power over our daily lives is not slowing. We're not going to get satisfaction through elections; most politicians either support the security state or are too spineless to challenge it. The only way we're going to get change is through action — through calling out wrong when we see it. Amy was wronged. She called it out. We should support her.

And if Thedala Magee and other TSA employees don't like it, I suggest they go pursue a job that doesn't involve sexual assault.

Other posts on the threat:

Crime and Federalism
Defending People
Advice Goddess
Amy Derby

TSA To Improve Quality of Customer Service To Infant-Americans

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Washington D.C.: Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, held a press conference today to announce the Transportation Security Administration's latest initiative designed to promote the safety and satisfaction of American travelers.

"For too long, infant-Americans have been left out of the TSA's novel and enthusiastic security-enhancing airport greeter process," said Napolitano. "Though we've taken bold steps to include their older siblings — like our popular new "Strangers With Candy" program — the littlest ones have been denied the opportunity to experience both Rapiscan machines and full body examination." Making a sad, frowny face, and using an exaggerated babyish voice, Napolitano added "Ma-ma and Da-da, aren't we Americans too?" Several staffers and the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division pretended to wail like infants to underscore her point.

Napolitano announced that henceforth, infants would experience the same enhanced patdowns and absolutely non-carcinogenic body scans as their parents and siblings. "It's just about fairness," Napolitano explained. "You know how kids are. Have you ever been to an amusement park where only one of your kids was too short to ride the log flume? It's heartbreaking."

But equitable distribution of fun is not the only issue. "Especially in the wake of our successful removal and aquatic disposition of terrorist Osama bin Laden, Americans face a pronounced ongoing terrorist threat. It's entirely possible — even probable — that threat will come in baby form. Some of our most thoughtful analysts have already sounded the alarm about madrassa-taught infants carefully trained as adorable but deadly terrorists. Moreover, our analysts believe that Al-Qaida may prefer infant operatives because they are innocent-seeming, and because they are very small and therefore harder to hit with predator drones."

Napolitano warned that Americans who have objections to strangers groping their babies may be wittingly or unwittingly assisting terrorists in destroying America. "We've frequently said that terrorists will ignore social norms to take advantage of us. Are we, as Americans, going to insist on bitterly clinging to norms like 'don't grope strange babies' while terrorists move past those norms? My friends, America cannot afford a social norm gap with the terrorists. For every social norm they are willing to break, we must be ready to break it first, break it better, and break it more conclusively."

Some critics have suggested that Napolitano's announcement of the "And Your Little Child, Too!" program was calculated to head off criticism of a recently highly-publicized photo of agents apparently fondling a baby. Napolitano bristled when a reporter raised those concerns. "There's nothing to react to. Those were local contractors, not TSA agents, so whatever happened was not our fault, and plus they did exactly the right thing, because that baby was suspicious."

Napolitano's enthusiasm returned as she described TSA's preparations to roll out the new infant-focused program. "Many of our employees are very enthusiastic, and have asked to sign up for special infant-probing training," she said. "And we're asking television executives to add some TSA employees to popular infant entertainment. The 'Baby Einstein' people are on board for a video called 'Baby Screener,' where babies are touched by TSA employees to the soothing sound of Debussy. Also, we're in talks to have a character from either Yo Gabba Gabba or Teletubbies killed by an IED to help explain to babies why this is so important."

A planned demonstration protesting the "And Your Little Child, Too" initiative was canceled, apparently because organizers discovered a timing conflict with a crucial episode of American Idol.

Dispatches From The Escape From Freedom

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On the way to and from Korea, my ten-year-old son got randomly (I suppose) selected for secondary inspection twice. It was brief and professional, and involved a metal detector wand, not groping.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Surely a widely-distributed video of a six-year-old being groped by a stranger will inspire people to care, right? We won't allow the government to molest children in exchange for some meaningless security theater, will we? Will we?

Well, at the very least, the TSA will have to defend and explain its policy requiring adults to pat down six-year-old girls, right? Someone — like their official blogger — will have to respond, right? Let's see what TSA Blogger Bob is talking about:

Meet Dolan, TSA's 500th puppy to be born into the TSA Puppy Program. Each of the puppies are named after a 9/11 victim to honor their memory, and this puppy was named after Capt. Robert Edward Dolan Jr., who lost his life in the attack on the Pentagon.

Dolan was born at Lackland Air Force Base and if he meets our high standards will be trained by the TSA's National Explosives Detection Canine Team to become an explosives detection dog.

In case you don't read subtext, I'll translate for you: "Fuck you. We'll do what we want, and you'll take it, because you're afraid not to."

The TSA: Making You Safe From Marines, Dog Trainers, Interfaith Marriage

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Good news!

Your government has recently taken steps to make you safer.

Specifically, they have prevented a dangerous man from flying on the same planes as you and your family.

The man is a member of a famous militant organization, exquisitely trained to kill. He's part of a group riven by sectarian discord. And he's had close communications with an imam watched by the FBI.

Sort of.

The man is Abe Mashal. He's a 31-year-old dog trainer. He's an honorably discharged United States Marine.

And he's on the no-fly list because he wrote an email to an imam asking questions about raising children in an interfaith household. He's Muslim; his wife is Christian. And it turns out the FBI has been watching that imam.

FBI agents questioned him at Midway Airport, then at his home. Finally, he was summoned to a hotel in Schaumburg, where more FBI agents told him he’d been placed on the no-fly list because of an e-mail he had sent to an imam — a Muslim cleric — whom they’d been watching.

Mashal said he had sought the imam’s advice about raising children in a mixed-religion household. Mashal is Muslim; his wife is Christian.

He said the agents offered to get him off the list — if he would become an undercover informant at mosques. He refused and said he feels he was being blackmailed.

He hasn't been able to fly since last April.

I feel safer. Don't you? Sure, this looks like a Marine — someone who served this country — asking questions about raising his children with his Christian wife. But he asked an imam. Booga booga booga! Plus, the FBI is watching the imam. I'm sure they have perfectly good cause. Law enforcement never surveils people for the wrong reasons.

Now that the TSA has taken care of this danger, they can go back to groping kids and demanding unquestioning compliance.

Hat tip to Feral Genius.

The Shooting Of Gabrielle Giffords Was A Tragedy, So I Shouldn't Have To Wait On Line In Airports

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Silly me, I thought that the first shoe to drop in the wake of the lunatic shooting in Arizona would fall on free speech.

But it seems that the greatest threat to the safety of Congress isn't lone nuts at strip malls. It's being treated like ordinary citizens at airports.

A top House Democrat said the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) should change how members of Congress are screened at airports.

“I really believe that that is the place where we feel the most ill at ease, is going through airports,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who serves as assistant minority leader in the House, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Clyburn called for the Transportation Security Administration, which administers airport security checkpoints, to interact “a little better” with the Capitol Hill Police.

“We’ve had some incidents where TSA authorities think that congresspeople should be treated like everybody else,” he said. “Well, the fact of the matter is, we are held to a higher standard in so many other areas, and I think we need to take a hard look at exactly how the TSA interact with members of Congress.”

Of course, Clyburn isn't saying that being treated like everybody else, that is to say, having to wait on line and choose between full-body scanners or a full-body search, is the reason that Gabrielle Giffords was shot.

He's just taking advantage of the tragedy, so that he can walk around the hoi polloi before his weekly flight to South Carolina, and enjoy his first-class martini while everybody else is subjected to a humiliating experience ("take off your shoes, take off your belt") that Clyburn fully supports.  Just as long as it's done to everybody else.

It's a shame that Jared Lee Loughner didn't live in the Sixth District of South Carolina.

Update: I apologize for the last sentence, which was a stupid thing to write.  But I won't delete it or edit it.  Let it be a monument to my folly, and intemperate rhetoric.

TSA Rolls Out "Cool Strangers With Candy" Program

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WASHINGTON, D.C. Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, held a press conference today to announce a new program designed to make kids and their parents more comfortable with the TSA's new enhanced pat-down procedures.

"Domestic extremists have been trying to portray TSA agents as ogres," said Napolitano. "Our 'Cool Strangers With Candy' campaign will help our children see TSA workers for what they are: friendly, funny, cool strangers who will give kids great candy in exchange for touching their breasts, buttocks, and genitals."

The TSA's approach to enhanced pat-downs of kids has come under fire recently after TSA Regional Security Director James Marchand described the TSA's method of encouraging children to comply with being touched in their private regions by government officials. "You try to make it as best you can for that child to come through. If you can come up with some kind of a game to play with a child, it makes it a lot easier," said Marchand, who said that the "being touched is a game" program is now part of TSA training.

Stung by criticism that this "game" approach makes children more vulnerable to abuse, Napolitano and other TSA officials vowed to use all of the good judgment and scientific expertise of the the Department of Homeland Security to come up with a new program.

"We used the same scientific know-how we previously employed in the behavior detection program and in employing body scanners," Napolitano said. "'Cool Strangers With Candy' was the result."

The TSA is planning aggressive advertising to promote the "Cool Strangers With Candy" Program, including internet, television, radio, and magazine campaigns, as well as community relations vans.

A TSA Community Relations Van on patrol.

Napolitano also announced that the TSA was accelerating hiring of employees interested in working in the new child-related programs. "We've accepted many applications from people with lots of experience working with children," Napolitano confided. "They've found themselves on the job market because of the economy, or for various reasons that we can't ask about because of federal privacy laws or TSA Policy." The TSA is advertising for new suitable employees at anime conventions, camera stores, and parks.

But the TSA is not relying on the "Cool Strangers With Candy" program alone. Napolitano previewed a number of other programs calculated to make children more comfortable with TSA measures, including "We Can Make You a Star!", a program to encourage children to comply with the TSA's Rapiscan machines. "We're going to show children that it's perfectly natural, healthy and beautiful for awkward, overweight middle-aged men to use high-tech equipment to take naked pictures of them," said Napolitano. The TSA is reportedly negotiating with Miley Cyrus to be the program's spokesperson.

Napolitano is also working with TSA security experts to find ways to prevent parents and children from slowing down the security process with complaints, questions, or hysterical screaming. "If you have kids, you know that most of their complaints are just about getting attention from their parents," said Napolitano. "That's why we're working on a policy requiring kids to be patted down outside the presence of their parents. Then we can hit them with our new kid-friendly slogans 'This is Our Little Secret' and 'Do This Or Scary Men Will Kill Your Parents.'"

Asked whether parents across America might view these programs as intrusions into their relationship with their children, Napolitano smiled broadly. "No, no. Not in America. If there's one thing you can count on about Americans — whether they're liberals or conservatives — it's that they understand that the government knows what's best for their kids. And now TSA agents have a shot at using their few special minutes with kids to teach them what it means to be a good American: unquestioning compliance."

There Is No "T" In Rapiscan

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My wife, whose political concerns are far different from my own, just came across the TSA breast milk story (which surfaced after Ken's litany of TSA abuses, here).  Evidently the outrage is filtering down from the libertarian fringe to feminist blogs.

She remarked on the funny name of the company which produces the TSA's scanners.

And it occurred to me, that just as with proposed slogans for the TSA, there's a lot of comedy potential in the name "Rapiscan".  Even apart from the missing "T," the name sounds like something out of a 1980s science fiction movie starring the governor of California, or a cyberpunk novel where the antagonist is generally referred to simply as "The Company".  Its chief lobbyist is a former DHS Secretary whose name almost sounds like "jerk-off".  A rent-seeking corporation interlocked with the government, profiting from pure, capitalized EVIL.

What other mottos or slogans for Rapiscan can you think of?

I've given you a starter.  Here's another.

"Rapiscan: Look, those two specimens are worth millions to the Bioweapons Division."

The TSA's Junk Gets Fluffed

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Ted Frank is an attorney and prolific writer. He contributes at Overlawyered and PointofLaw.com and runs the Center for Class Action Fairness. Now, thanks to Scott Greenfield, I see that Ted has opened a new blog to document TSA abuses (a topic we've written about quite a bit recently). It's called, appropriately enough, the TSA Abuse Blog. Keep an eye on it if the issue interests you.

I'm glad that Ted Frank, and people like him, are documenting the TSA, because the dead-tree media is doing a rather inconsistent job. Despite evidence of pervasive problems — from humiliations driven by brutal indifference to deliberate misconduct — many members of the chattering classes continue to tell Americans they ought to just shut up and take it. For every account, they have a dismissive response.

So when Mary in Texas, one of the Americans whose stories have been gathered by the ACLU, gives this account:

The TSA agent used her hands to feel under and between my breasts. She then rammed her hand up into my crotch until it jammed into my pubic bone…. I was touched in the pubic region in between my labia…. She then moved her hand across my pubic region and down the inner part of my upper thigh to the floor. She repeated this procedure on the other side. I was shocked and broke into tears.
– Mary in Texas

. . . the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal is there to tell Mary that she is a big crybaby.

At what point did Americans turn into a nation of crybabies? Surely it preceded the sudden squall-fest resulting from new security measures at some U.S. airports — although the fuss kicked up over the weekend and continuing into this busiest of travel weeks has been loud enough to get everyone's attention.

When Paula tells this story:

She ran her hands all the way up and into my crotch with force. To get graphic she could have felt if I had a feminine pad on. When she finished with the front she did the same with my back to the point that she, what I would call groped, my butt. She went under, in between, and on my breast. It was more intense than my monthly breast exam.
– Paula M. Hamilton, Corydon, Indiana

. . . the New York Times is there to tell her she is a partisan hack:

Some individual pat-downs have gone too far, and the T.S.A. was ham-handed in answering those concerns. But the Obama administration should weather this storm by realizing these attacks are purely partisan and ideological. Americans know the difference between a big scanner and big government.

When Melissa takes this story:

I was shaking and crying the entire time. I was begging them to hurry up but they kept stopping and telling me to calm down. It is impossible to gain composure when a stranger has her hands in your underwear. A crowd gathered and watched and I never felt so humiliated. After it was over, I ran into the ladies' room where I vomited and cried until my plane was boarding.
– Melissa, Massachusetts

. . . my hometown rag, the L.A. Times, is there to tell her to shut up:

If you can't handle such a minor inconvenience, perhaps you should stay on the ground.

When "B. from Maryland" tells this story:

Simply, I was sexually assaulted. My breasts were caressed in an almost amorous manner. And on the second canvassing of my groin, single-finger pressure was applied to my labia majora – the plane of which was near-broken, during which the agent made a wildly off-color remark.
– B. from Maryland

The Houston Chronicle is there to call her a hysteric:

The hysterical hullabaloo over airport security procedures is a waste of time

The world's in a swivet over airport security.

When Charlotte in California tells this story:

This was a very different and, I maintain, a deliberately abusive experience…. the agent not only felt the inside of my upper thighs but also probed my vagina three separate times. I made it to the end of the search, but then broke down…I cannot and will not allow this to happen to me again…. I continue to have nightmares about this experience.
– Charlotte in California, female, 68

. . . the Baltimore Sun's response is to ask her why she hates America and our troops:

Whatever happened to the notion that we need to stick together to overcome extremists? U.S. soldiers are still dying for that cause in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis.

And when Caitlin in Conecticut tells this story:

I was the only female in a crowd of men. Even though I was not next in line, I was called over to the body scanner. As I got closer to the scanner, I could clearly hear him say "got a cute one, some DD's." … I was appalled and decided at that point to "opt out" of the scanner…. I was then put through the pat down procedure which I only can only describe as sexual assault.
– Caitlin, Connecticut

. . . the Tennessean is there to tell her that being singled out for scans for the sexual titillation and amusement of TSA agents will make us all safer:

The enhanced screenings are necessary to avert a situation in which a would-be terrorist attempts to hide weaponry under his clothing.

Also, Ruth Marcus at the Washington post would like to add that all of these people should just grow up, shut up, and pretend you're at the doctor:

"Don't touch my junk" may be the cri de coeur – cri de crotch? – of the post-9/11 world, but it's an awfully childish one. We let people touch our junk all the time in medical settings.

Remind me, again, why I should give a shit that the newspaper industry is dying and these people will all be unemployed? Sooner or later, the state is going to have to find fluffers someplace else.

Regrettably, it can probably find its fluffers reliably in the blogosphere. It's tempting to try to frame this as a fight between statist mainstream media figures and liberty-defending bloggers. But the truth is that bloggers — small and large — are just as likely to be government-apologist, dissent-belittling assholes as mainstream journalists are — that's a point clear from a wide array of bloggers from the Koch-sniffers at The Nation to Marc Thiessen at The Corner willing to minimize, marginalize, and dismiss dissent and parrot the government message.

That's why blogs like Ted Frank's new one are important. Check it out.

(Hat tip to Reason's Hit & Run Blog for the excellent job it has done collecting the sneers of the newspapers — they gathered all of the newspaper quotes above.)

The Truth Is Out There

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THE SCENE: A dank sub-basement at The Nation's headquarters. The faded lettering on the door, which is oddly hand-lettered, reads "FORENSIC BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: K-FILES."

The sub-basement room is cluttered with file cabinets and great drifts of paper. On the left wall is a poster bearing a blurry long-distance photo of two men in expensive suits meeting with what might be a misshapen, sinister alien, or perhaps a blogger. The poster bears the caption I WANT TO BELIEVE. On the right wall is a poster bearing the caption FIGHT THE FUTURE, depicting a series of notorious historical tyrants, including Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ron Paul, Christine O'Donnell, Radley Balko, and Khan Noonian Singh. The other walls are covered in grainy photos, documents, and blog posts, all connected by a bewildering web of string and angry slashes of red magic marker.

MARK "SPOOKY" AMES is sitting behind a desk, paging through a file and muttering to himself.

AMES: "In 2008, the David H. Koch Foundation donated $100 million for the preservation and renovation of the State Theater of New York.  The theater was renamed the David H. Koch Theater.  The New York Ballet performs at the Koch Theater. Vladimir Putin is a patron of the Bolshoi Ballet.  The Bolshoi performed at the Koch Theater in 2009.  DAMMIT SCULLY! What am I missing?"

[Yasha "SCULLY" Levine, a young intern at the NATION, has just entered the room.  SCULLY  is stylishly dressed, wearing a lady's Prada suit and Dolce and Gabbana shoes.  She carries a stack of files to AMES's already overloaded desk, depositing them on its one empty corner.]

SCULLY: "AMES, I just ran into Katrina.  She's asking about that piece on Boehner's connections to the John Birch Society."

AMES: "The Birch Society will have to wait!"

SCULLY: "But AMES, you promised to have it ready the week before elections. We can only put her off so long. Can't you write a blog post, something to tide her over before inauguration?"

AMES: "SCULLY, if I'm right, the story we're about to break will be worth ten Republican speakers.  It won't just sweep Pelosi back into power.  It will reveal the truth about the whole rotten gang, and how they've manipulated not just politics, but HISTORY for twenty years to destabilize democracy in this country."

SCULLY: "What story is that, AMES?"

AMES: "I know where you're going with this, SCULLY."

[SCULLY sits in the chair opposite AMES, and lights a cigarette. SCULLY repeats the question, softly.]

SCULLY: "What's the story AMES?  Why have we been down here for the past two weeks?  Why this sudden interest in a pair of billionaires no one outside the CATO Institute had ever heard of until last week?"

AMES: "Because the American people have the right to know that their Transportation Security Administration works tirelessly for their benefit, to protect the citizens of this great country from the Aryan Nation, the Ohio Militia, the Israeli Mossad, the Austrian Economists, and all of the other right-wing bombers who seek to blow American planes out of the sky, just as they did on September 11, 2001."

[AMES reaches for SCULLY's cigarette, and takes a drag.]

AMES: "Because a sinister cabal of Israeli agents, Texans, and thirty-third degree freemasons, led by the brothers Charles and David Koch, has hijacked the spirit that was unleashed on Election Day, 2008, and derailed it.  That spirit of change has been perverted. The people no longer trust their government. They claim to be outraged by trifling inconveniences like, having to pass through a simple security scan or … a simple frisk and pat-down at the airport. …"

SCULLY: "I don't know that I'd call what happened to me on my flight to Wichita, the one when you sent me to look up the Koch Brothers' original birth certificates, a simple frisk. …"

AMES: "A simple frisk, that's all it was. A small price to pay for safety from the Mossad agents waiting to hijack that plane and fly it into some great symbol of American freedom, like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.  But the American people need to be told.  Consider …"

[AMES takes another drag on SCULLY's cigarette, then coughs softly into his hand.  After wiping the expectorate onto his pants leg, AMES continues.]

AMES: "The man who supposedly made this video, this "Don't Touch My Junk" story, who is he?  I'll tell you who he is. So far, all we know about "ordinary guy" John Tyner III, the alleged "freedom fighter" who took on TSA agents at the San Diego airport, is that, according to a friendly hometown profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, he leans strongly libertarian and doesn't believe in voting. TSA security policy, he asserts 'isn't Republican and it isn't Democratic.'   That's what he says.  But Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast."

SCULLY: "SPOOKY, I'm not sure …"

AMES: [shouting] "At least one local TSA administrator wondered if Tyner hadn't come to the airport prepared to create a scandal. Tyner switched on his recording device before even entering the checkpoint—and recorded himself as he refused to go through the body scanner. Most importantly, Tyner recorded himself saying, 'If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested!'—which quickly morphed on blogs into the more media-savvy tagline, 'Don't touch my junk!'"

[AMES begins tapping into his computer, as though looking for information. His computer beeps, and AMES reads, as SCULLY comes around the desk to read over AMES's shoulder.]

AMES: "Then there's Brian Sodergren, founder of the 'National Opt-Out Day,' when 'ordinary citizens standup for their rights.' But Sodergren is no 'ordinary citizen.' Cached and scrubbed online LinkedIn records show that Brian Sodergren is a Washington lobbyist specializing in “grassroots education” for the American Dental Association and ADPAC, the American Dental Association Political Action Committee. No wonder that Sodergren has gone out of his way to scrub his employment record!"

[AMES pauses to wipe a bead of spittle, or phegma, from the corner of his mouth.]

AMES: "Isn't it beginning to make sense?"

SCULLY: "AMES, you're venturing into dangerous territory."

AMES: "I'm not afraid for my safety.  The Truth Is Out There.  It's up to us to find it."

SCULLY: "I don't mean your physical safety.  I don't want to see what happened to Conason happen to you."

[AMES pulls back in his chair, stands up, and points a finger at SCULLY.]

AMES: "DON'T talk to ME about CONASON!  If it weren't for Conason, we'd never have known about Halliburton's plot to DRILL FOR OIL ON MARS! Conason saved this planet!"

SCULLY: "But even Glenn Greenwald …"

AMES: "Don't … mention … that … name … ever … again.  Glenn Greenwald is dead to me.  Glenn Greenwald is one of THEM."

[AMES pauses, and takes a deep breath.]

SCULLY: "AMES, I . . I just don't know. How do you really know that the people out there who are outraged by the TSA's new tactics are just astroturf?"

AMES: "It's the content of their comments, SCULLY. Look at it. It's just silly to get that upset over a minor security measure that the government thinks is necessary. Our government is honest."

SCULLY: "But wait a minute. Is the government's explanation to be trusted? Should we accept their assessment that the scans and patdowns are necessary, or effective?"

AMES: "Why not?"

SCULLY: "But I thought you've said that the Koch brothers have vast influence over the government."

AMES: [suspiciously] "What do you mean?"

SCULLY: "I mean, you're operating from the premise that there's this vast conspiracy driven by billionaires to advance the interests of conservatives and big corporations. We already know that the ramp-up in TSA security efforts started under a conservative Republican administration, that there's big money in security programs, and that big money has connections even in this administration. So how can we trust the government on this more than people criticizing the government?"

AMES: "Because there are wheels within wheels here, SCULLY."

SCULLY: "I don't think that actually means anything."

AMES: "Do the math."

SCULLY: "This isn't a mathematical problem, AMES. This is …"

AMES: "Here, the wheels are driven by the Koch conspiracy. It's driving people to object to the government doing things they'd normally put up with, without complaint."

SCULLY: "Is that even a bad thing? I mean, shouldn't people demand that the government provide real evidence to support a need to grope their genitals and breasts and take naked pictures of them?"

AMES: "No. All of that is standard. All of that is normal."

SCULLY: "Having your genitals and breasts felt up by strangers is normal?"

AMES: "Look, SCULLY, you don't judge my weekend, and I won't judge yours."

SCULLY: "AMES, you really think that ordinary people enjoy having the government taking naked scans of them, or want to have their genitals or breasts groped by government employees?"

AMES: [softly] "Erm."

SCULLY: "AMES, I know your heart is in the right place. But I think this time you've gone too far. I don't want to see them close the K-files down because you've breached The Nation's editorial standards."

AMES: "SCULLY, you're the skeptical, rational one in this relationship, right?"

SCULLY: "I hope so."

AMES: "What evidence do you have that The Nation has editorial standards?"

SCULLY: "The Nation is home to important voices … Katha Pollitt … um … fair point."

[AMES smiles, and crushes his cigarette in the ashtray.]

AMES: "Precisely.  So, you'll be flying to Moscow to interview Medvedev about Putin's connections to the Koch brothers.  I've already reserved your flight."

SCULLY: "I'm not sure I want to go through what I went through the last time I flew for you. In Wichita."

AMES: "Why you! … You won't kill this story! It'll bring me a Pulitzer. I can almost taste it. It tastes . . . like a bowl of warm, creamy horse semen. Wait a minute. Are those new shoes?"

SCULLY: "Uh . . . yes. They are."

AMES: "Those are Dolce and Gabbana. I'd know them anywhere."

SCULLY: ". . . yes. Yes, they are."

AMES: [Leaning forward, steepling his fingers, looking over his glasses] "So tell me, Scully. Tell me now. Where did you get the money for Dolce and Gabbana Shoes?"

SCULLY: ". . .I . . ."

AMES: [Really quite agitated now, with fleck of spittle flying from his mouth]: "You got it from THEM, didn't you? THEY gave it to you! THEY gave it to you as your thirty pieces of silver to betray ME!"

SCULLY: "Look, Spooky …"


SCULLY: "Jesus Christ. You're a complete nutcase."

[Scully storms out.]

[AMES paces around the room, slamming his fist into his hand, wagging his finger in defiant fashion at the faces in his various posters, and mumbling to himself. Slowly, gradually, he calms. Eventually, he picks up a phone.]

AMES: "Uh, Katrina? Yeah, hi, it's Mark. No, Mark. Mark Ames. Look, I'm . . . I'm going to need another intern."


Fine, I'm a Sheep

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Yes, all of the security theater bothers me. No, I do not think it useful and I am thankful that I don't have any plans to fly in the near future. That said, I don't think I'd do what Matt from No Blasters! did to avoid the indignities of the backscatter machine or the enhanced rubdown to reenter the United States when returning from an international flight.

By asserting his constitutional rights (whatever those may be, and I doubt that the courts will agree that he has the rights he thinks he has) and calmly asking for supervisor after supervisor like he was complaining at a Waldbaum's that refused to accept a coupon, he was eventually escorted out of the airport without any more than a trip through the metal detector. The story is worth reading in its entirety to see what you have to endure to convince the TSA to give up on you but here is the conclusion:

In order to enter the USA, I was never touched, I was never “Backscatted,” and I was never metal detected. In the end, it took 2.5 hours, but I proved that it is possible. I’m looking forward to my next flight on Wednesday.

Two and a half hours? I'd let a government worker cup my balls without gloves to save that much time at the DMV.

Things Are Going To Start Happening To Us Now!

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Well, sure, the whole gape-and-grope thing at the airports is ugly. Sure, more and more ugly stories keep coming out as the populace gets more upset, like making breast cancer survivors remove their prosthetic breasts and breaking the urostomy bags of bladder cancer survivors, dousing them with their own urine, and such-and-such. (Query: could the TSA be confused about what "war on cancer" means?)

But things are going to get better any time now, right? People are paying attention. People are angry. And because people are talking about new TSA abuses, more people are also talking about old abuses, like detaining people for criticizing the TSA, or pretending to be money laundering investigators and harassing people for asserting their rights, and detaining people studying scary languages and interrogating them bumptiously about 9/11.

But . . . the American people aren't going to put up with this shit, right? And the government is going to hear us, and change as a result? Government officials will recognize that they operate only with the consent of the governed, and will re-evaluate whether there is actually any scientific or logical basis for their Security Theater, and re-weigh human dignity, privacy, and freedom, right?

TSA Says No Changes To Security Procedure.

“Do I understand the sensitivities of people? Yes,” Pistole said to CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.” “If you’re asking, am I going to change the policies? No.”

Well . . . that's disappointing. But we'll just go up the food chain. Look, President Obama's civil liberties stances have turned out to be dissappointing, particularly when compared to his campaign promises. But he'll draw the line here, right? He'll say "this far and no further!" I mean, I know he's cozy with the manufacturers of the nudie scanners in question, but he'll stand up and do what's right. Right? Right?

“At this point, the Transportation Security Administration, in consultation with our counterterrorism experts, have indicated to me that the procedures that they’ve been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing,” said Obama.

I . . . I was promised hope. And change. I WAS PROMISED HOPE AND CHANGE. HOPE. AND. CHANGE. Not "grope my change."

Well . . . okay. Let's regroup. We still have a free press, right? A vigorous free press is a bulwark against stupid and abusive government programs. Plus, everyone knows the press is liberal, and liberals have to be against getting groped for pointless theater, right? Yes, I know that some people suggest that the media is not so much liberal as it is mindlessly statist, but that can't be right, can it? The media that broke Watergate and Iran-Contra and stuff will hold the government's claims about security and necessity up to real and substantive scrutiny, right?

L.A. Times Editorial Page: Shut Up And Be Scanned.

If you can't handle such a minor inconvenience, perhaps you should stay on the ground.

That's . . . that's . . .


The Airline Industry Is Not The First To Recognize That Hipsterism Is A Threat To National Security

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At the risk of moving us ever-closer to an all-TSA, all-the-time blog, I just wanted to point out that Security Theater is not limited to the inanane antics of the TSA.

We — the passengers of America — have also been driven by irrational fear into paroxysms of moron-level behavior, and the airline industry is indulging us in them. Many of us are bit players on the stage of Security Theater.

Just ask Adam C. Parsons, a "food stylist", who got yanked from a Delta flight by the captain and flight crew because a passenger reported him for "suspicious behavior." His "suspicious behavior"? He has the words "atom bomb" tattooed on his fingers.

Pearson was temporarily asked to step off the plane and learned that another passenger had reported him for suspicious behavior, and noted that he had the words "Atom Bomb" tattooed across his fingers. Questioned by the captain and the flight attendant, Pearson explained that the tattoos referred to a childhood nickname. After answering a few more questions, Pearson — who is a frequent Delta passenger and has flown over 142,000 miles with the airline this year alone — was allowed to return to his seat.

America's scientists are second to none, despite the best efforts of our educational system. However, I am reliably informed that even they are not able to make the printed word "bomb" explode. Maybe if we gave them more funding. Also, to the extent that atom bombs are available in food-stylist-carry-on-luggage sizes, it strikes me as unlikely that terrorists will come with warning labels, tattooed or otherwise. Also, wouldn't an atom bomb be sort of overkill to take down a Delta flight? Have you seen their safety record? You could probably take one down with an allen wrench and a brusque tone of voice.

What probably happened here is that the sort of person who lives a sheltered life in, say, San Marino or La Canada encountered for the first time a person of the sort you encounter in Los Feliz or Echo Park, which are far more hipster-intensive. Nobody bothered to ease this person into her first exposure to pronounced hipsterism, perhaps by driving past a record shop or watching a shift change at Starbucks. So she saw someone who looked different, freaked out, and started stabbing at the attendant button like Casca knifing Caesar.

Given that even "trained security professionals" have difficulty distinguishing between a dangerous thing and a picture of a dangerous thing, even when the dangerous thing is imaginary, it's hard to expect the public to do much better. But the alarming thing here is not that a random citizen was an idiot. The alarming thing was that the random citizen gave in to the noisy and insipid "if you see something, say something" mindset, part of the ignorance-and-irrationality-as-a-virture Gift of Fear culture. TSA agents and their ilk are not personal liberty's greatest enemy. No, we've met the enemy, and he is us. Governments like us to inform on each other, and we're conditioned from childhood to do it. With the help of a government all too happy to increase its own power, we've convinced ourselves that we're duty-bound to voice our most irrational suspicions — for the children. We don't think about what sort of world that creates for those children.

Edit: Greetings, guests. You can read our other recent TSA coverage here.

New Jersey Speaks Out Against TSA's Scans, Groping, Velour Sweatsuit Ban

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Politicians posture. It's the nature of the beast.

The trick is to leverage their inclination to posture to produce the sort of action that you want. This month's challenge: let's move politicians off of their knee-jerk posturing about the need for security, and move them to posturing about rights and liberty and unwarranted encroachment thereof by the TSA.

And some are doing so. New Jersey state politicians are swimming against the anything-portrayed-as-a-security-measure-is-fine current of American politics, and demanding that Congress rein in the TSA:

TRENTON — Two New Jersey lawmakers are calling for an end to full body scans and pat down requirements for airline passengers.

State senators Michael J. Doherty (R- Hunterdon) and James Beach (D- Camden) announced today that they will present resolutions to the Senate and Assembly calling on the U.S. Congress to end the controversialTSA screening procedures at U.S. airports. Their action comes in response to widespread concerns over privacy and radiation, as well as reports of inappropriate conduct by TSA agents during the screening process.

“The pursuit of security should not force Americans to surrender their civil liberties or basic human dignity at a TSA checkpoint,” said Doherty. “Subjecting law-abiding American citizens to naked body scans and full body pat downs is intolerable, humiliating, vulnerable to abuse, and is fast becoming a disincentive to travel. Particularly concerning to us is the fact that physical searches result in children being touched in private areas of the body. Terrorists hate America because of the freedoms upon which this great nation was built. By implementing these screening measures, the TSA has already handed a victory to those who seek to destroy our freedoms.”

In a sentence I didn't expect to type any time soon, good for these New Jersey politicians.

Hat tip.