Dear TSA Team:

I hope that 2013 finds you, like me, fit and optimistic and recommitted to our core mission of protecting Americans.

Our society is increasingly arrogant and uncooperative. We need to assure passenger compliance with our core message. What better way to achieve that goal than with a new TSA theme? I'm excited to announce that the new theme is Think of the Children!

Now, the TSA has long been at the forefront of serving young Americans with innovations like its "Cool Strangers With Candy" and "And Your Little Child, Too!" programs. But we haven't been focused enough on how we can serve adults by serving kids.

Americans love their children. But Americans need to recognize that their children are in grave danger. I'm not just talking about the danger of terrorists attempting to travel by plane, one of which we will, without a shadow of a doubt, catch or detect any day now. I'm talking about a far more insidious danger: terrorist recruitment.

Too often our nation's pre-kindergarteners are adrift, lacking leadership and a firm grounding in core American values like unquestioning compliance and complete absence of critical thinking skills. Their young minds are a playground for terrorist indoctrination and so-called "questioning." If the terrorists believe that we won't screen these children strictly, thoroughly, even ruthlessly, then the terrorists will redouble their recruitment efforts, sparing no expense to sway children with sweets, rhythmic songs and bright colors and/or shapes.

That's why we must redouble our efforts to search young children. It's for their own good. It makes them a less attractive target for terrorist and libertarian recruitment.

I'm pleased to report that Operation Think of the Children! is proceeding successfully. Dedicated TSA agents all across America are reaching out to protect America's children by sending them for special screening, discouraging parental interference, and separating them from potentially hazardous stuffed animals and whatnot. They're protecting children from possible bad influences.

I'm particularly glad so see that our TSA agents have absorbed their training and recognized that disabled children — too often shunned and belittled by our society — are at particular risk for terrorist recruitment and therefore should be given additional scrutiny.

Remember, if passengers are non-compliant with our efforts to secure their children, law enforcement is there to help. Don't take any back-talk! Parents may talk to you about "rights" and cite "rules" at you, but you're the one in charge. Tell them what you think the rules are, and we'll work out the nuances later.

Look, people: I know you have a tough job. I know that you're not paid as well as you should be, and that you've taken this job, stepping up to offer careful hand-screening to dozens of children a day, out of to fulfill a compelling need. Keep doing what you'll do. Meanwhile I'll keep the naysayers off your back.

Now, go screen a kid for me.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Mercury says

    Either you make peace with profiling under certain conditions or you have to put up with this bullshit. You can't have it both ways.

    Handicapped kid + pink wheelchair = low probability of contraband

    is profiling just as

    African-American + Hispanic + bag of money = high probability of drug deal…is profiling.

    It's reasonable under certain conditions to be comfortable with the former and not with the later but you need to explain why since everyone is now expected to equate pretty much all profiling with evil.

    Profiling is a shortcut. It can be the most prudent and effective thing to do when time and/or resources are very limited (which is why the human brain and computer algorithms work this way under such conditions). But when time and resources aren’t much of a limiting factor it’s just a shortcut.

    When profiling is an across the board no-no other things get cut short.

  2. Guns says

    Everytime I read something about the TSA I think "they could not possibly stoop any lower." They insist on proving me wrong time and again.

  3. naught_for_naught says

    Now that's child-appropriate satire — well done and nobody gets called a name. On behalf of all of Swift's bastard descendants, may I express our more-than-modest approval.

  4. Chris F says

    Mercury, people aren't objecting to the fact that the additional screening is done as much as how the children are treated. It's one thing to request that a child be rescreened because they had contact with someone that wasn't. It's another to yell at them, keep them separated from their parents, and expect them to understand what's going on enough to be perfectly okay with that treatment.

  5. Mercury says

    Well I am.

    At some level you can’t effectively “screen” a handicapped three year old without being personally invasive or causing alarm to the child; which is why you shouldn’t do such a thing unless it is absolutely necessary. In this case the only reason this was absolutely necessary is because we insist on maintaining the fiction that a wheelchair bound three year old girl traveling with her biological family to Orlando, with tickets to Disney constitutes the same terrorist threat potential as any and everyone else.

  6. Brian says

    I haven't flown in 5 years now, between the airline seats shrinking to the point that my shoulders are too wide for them and the increasing TSA intrusion. If for some ungodly reason I'm forced to finally by my job, there will be a kilt involved, and it will be worn in true Scottish fashion.

  7. Deadly Laigrek says

    Thank you, TSA, for always remembering to think of the children, and by extension, us. Gosh do I love you guys, what with your continual attempts to seize more power and destroy our power of free speech. Free speech is dumb, anyway.

  8. En Passant says

    Mercury wrote Feb 27, 2013 @10:30 am:

    Handicapped kid + pink wheelchair = low probability of contraband

    is profiling just as

    African-American + Hispanic + bag of money = high probability of drug deal…is profiling.

    I believe the second example refers to the argument made to urge a jury to convict a defendant in a criminal trial by Assistant United States Attorney Sam L. Ponder.

    It is my understanding, though I could be wrong, that "high probability of drug deal" is not yet the standard required for a jury to convict someone of a crime. I recall something about "beyond a reasonable doubt" still being the standard.

    If that is the case, then I fail to see how those two examples of "profiling" are comparable.

  9. Tim! says

    @Mercury –
    "the only reason this was absolutely necessary is because we insist on maintaining the fiction that a wheelchair bound three year old girl traveling with her biological family to Orlando, with tickets to Disney constitutes the same terrorist threat potential as any and everyone else."

    As well as the fiction that TSA screening checkpoints have any effect on terrorist threats and airplane security. Or the fiction that flights remain a viable or effective terrorist attack vector since we've reinforced cockpit doors and raised passenger awareness. Or the fiction that terrorist attacks are more risky or harmful than – take your pick – drunk drivers, heart disease, lightning, floods, earthquakes, cyber attacks, pony strikes, governmental erosion of constitutional rights. TSA is a exemplar of poor risk and cost-benefit analyses favoring emotion over realism and appearance over effectiveness.

  10. Joe Pullen says

    Few things get -me as angry as the TSA. Most likely as it seems to be an experiment in how far the evelope to the 4th, 5th, and 1st can be pushed.

    As someone with family members in law enforcement and who carries a level of security clearance that most others do not, I can state this – yes there are very real threats to security that the average person is unaware of. However, as others have already proven TSA scanners and TSA screening techniques are not only ineffective, they are a gross and stunningly inappropriate violation of our rights. There ARE other methods of ensuring security. They have not been pursued because someone has not appropriately lined the pockets of the right government official. The scanners were purchased BEFORE the underwear bomber not AFTER. The scanners are in the airport for one reason only – someone circling the “Federal Star of Funding” found a way to make money. This is and has always been about how to monetize we the public and to provide a means by which the TSA can say it has done “something” for security in order to avoid blame. It has NEVER been about real security. The TSA focuses overly much on searching people versus bags or otherwise properly securing access to restricted areas of the airport. The result is the handicapped, elderly, children, and menstrating women, bear the brunt of their insane rules. And yet, the TSA continues to fail a stunning 70% of GAO security tests.

    I am embarrassed to say I had not seen the video posted on Amy Alkons site before. The police officers "in your face" finger shaking intimidating approach to dealing with a citizen they are supposed to be “serving and protecting” is out of line. I’m not sure if I’m more disturbed by the police officer who was clearly not able to control himself, or the fact the jury took 4 hours to come to a decision, or that a jury of my “supposed peers” actually convicted this woman.

  11. John David Galt says

    The funniest part is the assertion that searching a child makes him/her "a less attractive target for libertarian recruitment." It will certainly make libertarianism a MORE attractive position for that child to want to take up — thus doing our recruiting for us. Funny how that works.

  12. C. S. P. Schofield says

    I have only one objection to the above satire; what on Earth makes you think any of the biffledinks associated with the TSA can write? From what I've read, I remain unconvinced they even have opposable thumbs.

    I think the TSA is a prime example of the problem with the sentiment "Something's gotta be done". 19 terrorists waltzed through airport security with box-cutters, and in the aftermath it was headless chicken time. The Feds didn't (at least I HOPE they didn't) create the TSA expecting it to accomplish anything other than satisfy the public's "do something" demand. Nobody with an active brain joined the new agency because nobody with an active brain thought it was anything but a dead-end … outside of maybe a handful of petty empire-builders with small ambitions, and they probably had room temperature I.Q.s too.

    But I can't honestly say that NOT creating something like the TSA was a political possibility.

    This is exactly what gets missed every time somebody analyzes the New Deal and concludes that it was useless or worse. FDR couldn't NOT "do something". I don't have a high opinion of the sonofabitch, but I can't honestly say that anyone in his position would have been able to do better without REALLY having to swim upstream … and possibly getting impeached.

    I think – I HOPE – that Bush threw together the TSA with whatever was standing around, well aware that it would be a waste of resources, but also knowing that the energy he'd have to expend to NOT do it was a energy he needed elsewhere.

  13. wgering says

    From what I've read, I remain unconvinced they even have opposable thumbs.

    No, they definitely have those. They need them for groping and sampling travelers' delicious Kahuna Burgers and tasty beverages.

  14. Mercury says

    @ En Passant –

    I'm not sure of the exact context here either but yes, a "high probability of drug deal" is not yet the standard required for a jury to convict someone of a crime – nor should it be.

    I specifically mentioned that profiling can be a useful tool when time and or resources are very limited which is often the case "in the field". But a courtroom with a jury and all the bells and whistles of due process is just the opposite of that scenario so there is no justification for such a shortcut.

    I would further argue that the government's (often very successful) use of "disparate impact" arguments amounts to using a shortcut as a standard in a context where it is completely unnecessary for the sole purpose of avoiding more data, details and information that tell a different story.

  15. Jeremy says

    Didn't Bill Maher put it best?

    "Sensitivity is more important than truth.
    Feelings more important than facts.
    Commitment is more important than individuality.
    Children are more important than people.
    Safety is more important than fun."

    8min long, he says a lot more:

  16. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Yes, BUT. This is not new. The number of people who vote with their emotions rather than their reason has always been a HUGE factor. It is pretty much the achilles heal of representative government. Which is not to say that it ISN'T a problem for other forms of government; aristocrats, oligarchs, kings, etc. also tend to emote rather than think.

    The issue is, and always will be, WHO's irrational emotional responses are driving policy, and to what extent is this actually a problem.

  17. Joe Pullen says

    I am reminded of a poem I wrote about the TSA about a year ago.

    I do not like these naked scans or TSA dirty hands.

    I do not like these stupid twits, or how they ogle my naughty bits.

    I do not like it when they steal, I do not like their kickback deals.

    I do not like this big sis Jan, I do not like this 'YES WE CAN'.

    I do not like this spending spree, I'm smart, I know that nothing's free.

    I do not like their smug replies, when I complain about their lies.

    I do not like this scope and grope. I do not like it, nope, nope, nope!