A follow-up to last Wednesday’s post.
For about a decade now we’ve all been participants in Kabuki Theatre every time we fly a commercial flight in the U.S. Security experts overwhelming agree that most of what the TSA does at their checkpoints has nothing to do with actual security. It just makes the flying public feel better.
Going through TSA has become increasingly irritating. Wait for someone to check my ID, wait at the x-ray belt, grab 3 bins, take out my laptop and put it in one, put my jacket, liquids, and other stuff in a bin, take off my shoes, put my shoes in a bin, wait in socks to go through the metal detector, keep an eye on my stuff so nobody grabs any of it, put everything back together after being cleared through. It’s a pain. It’s irritating. But whatever.
My wife has an artificial hip thanks to a running accident several years ago so she gets to go through a pat-down – every flight. Royal PITA! Some months ago she was in a foot cast so they said they had to take her back to the back for a special x-ray. Thirty-eight minutes and six x-rays later she finally emerged. I can certainly understand their wanting to take every precaution with her, she’s a cute blonde Swede.
Until very recently we put up with it, mostly with good humor. It’s a pain. It’s irritating. It takes a bit more time. Whatever. Putting up with all of it for a bit of theatre wasn’t really a big deal (though I did my fair share of complaining).
What Obama, Janet Napolitano, and TSA are doing now, with Nude-o-Scopes and enhanced groin grope pat-downs, for nothing more than theatre, is a big deal.
Let’s weigh the two sides, increased security vs. invasion of privacy and danger to health, and see what we come up with.
Increased Security ?
The Nude-o-Scope (NoS) will be able to detect some things that the walk-thru metal detectors (WTMD) are not able to. On the other hand, they cannot detect other things. Of nine probable risks, a WTMD can detect five, leaving us vulnerable to four while a NoS can detect, well, five, leaving us vulnerable to four. Two of the five a NoS can detect are at least different than what a WTMD can detect.
For example, the Nude-o-Scope cannot detect many powders such as the PETN used by the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber last year. This coming Christmas one of his friends can go to Detroit airport and have a very good chance of waltzing right through Janet’s latest and greatest security with the exact same powder in the exact same place as Abdulmultallib.
Box-cutters will now be easier to get onboard. A NoS sees through to your skin, but not through it. Wrap your favorite weapon in some leather, apply KY liberally, insert in rectum. Barack and Janet’s Nude-o-Scope won’t see a thing, nor would a pervert groping your (or John Tyner’s) junk. With a bit of will-power I’d bet you could get a gun through easier today than any time in the past few years. Or, like Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Asiri, just stick a bomb up there and make life easier.
And this is just the front door. What about the back door, side door, and windows? There are a number of other ways a determined terrorist can get stuff past security.
Do you feel safer now that the TSA are groping people’s genitals, looking at us nude, and performing a radiation experiment on us?
Invasion of Privacy and Danger to Health ?
So what will all of this so improved security cost us?
The Nude-o-Scopes cost about $200k each to purchase and $40k each to install. They require more TSA personnel to operate and will incur an estimated $11k per year in maintenance. Your tax dollars at work. And this is the least of the issues with Barack and Janet’s Kabuki Theatre.
Radiation may be a greater threat than Islamic terrorists. Even TSA’s own experts have stated “we could see maybe 10 extra cases of cancer per year.” Other experts have put the potential risk much higher. We simply don’t know the risks. They may be as minimal as the TSA states, they may be much greater. Supporters of NoS’s say that the radiation from a NoS is the equivalent of about 2 minutes of solar radiation at flight altitude. One problem with this comparison is that we’re talking about very different wavelengths, which makes a huge difference. Also, if that were true, why is the TSA working to exempt pilots and flight attendants from NoS scans due to radiation concerns? Further, in a hospital you have a very highly educated radiologist and other knowledgeable folks overseeing x-ray machines, who’s doing this for the backscatter machine you go through at the airport?
Our privacy of modesty is gone. What is the guy in the back room seeing when you step into the NoS? (And yes, it is likely to be a guy, as TSA have stated that this will not be gender specific and the vast majority of TSA employees are male.) The TSA has refused to release any image from the new backscatter NoS (the only images they have released are from a millimeter-wave machine which produces a much different image). The only known image, by artist John Wild, is much lower resolution than the machines are advertised to be capable of. Suffice it to say, the guy looking at the image of your wife is seeing a pretty detailed image of her – nude.
Virtual Shave. Doing a Google search on backscatter I ran across a comment on a sex board that said “the best feature [of the body scanners] is that they virtually shave her bush.” Not a clue who this person is, if it’s pure speculation, or he’s a TSA employee who actually knows. But I wouldn’t want my 16-year-old daughter getting a virtual shave, down there, for some minimum wage guy in a back room. Perhaps we’d all feel better if they had Catholic Priests doing the viewing.
What’s Next? Not long after walk-thru metal detectors were deployed in airports we saw them popping up in courthouses, stadiums, high schools, malls, and elsewhere. Will this happen with Nude-o-Scopes? Who will be looking at those images? Given the amount of stuff shoplifted every year I’d be amazed if we don’t see them turning up in the exits from some stores within a couple of years. More radiation? More people seeing us nude?
What do you think? Are the costs of Barack and Janet’s new show worth it for all of the extra security? You know what, if these new measures provided a big increase in security, I’d probably roll with them. But they provide no extra security. Personally I’m not a big fan of incurring a bunch of costs for nothing. Even if there are no better alternatives, why make these changes if they’re not going to do anything?
However, is there a better alternative? Something that very likely would have stopped the shoe bomber, Christmas day bomber, and even 9/11? Who is the one nation that is a bigger target for terrorists than the U.S.?
Israel’s El Al airline has not even had a close call since September of 1970. Not that there haven’t been attempts. They’ve had far more attempts than have U.S. airlines.