Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The truth about TSA scanning

Russell Longcore, writer of DumpDC, recently took a flight from his home city of Atlanta. After noting the efficiency of the TSA scanners there (they added only five minutes to his waiting time), he makes this observation:

[I]f you think that the TSA is doing passenger screening in America for national security reasons, you are crazy. This entire Homeland Security/TSA effort is about controlling the American populace and showing them who is boss. Common sense has been abandoned in favor of political correctness. Passenger “profiling”…is verboten. Yet Israelis do profiling at their airports, and they have not had an incident since 1968.

Failure to profile not only inconveniences and humiliates ordinary Americans, it is a very heavy price to pay for "political correctness." Mr. Longcore continues:

Here is an excerpt from an article at Renful Premier Technologies, a London-based company specializing in airport security training.• "If the operator is unsure about the contents of a bag, pausing the machine to apply image enhancement and/or selecting to hold it, adds seconds or minutes to processing just one passenger out of many hundreds queuing to be checked in. And what if a passenger, intent on martyrdom, is carrying half the weapon on their body? Surely, the only method currently available to prevent that passenger from boarding would be to apply profiling. When Israeli screeners use Profiling to flag a passenger for further scrutiny, a ‘smart call’ is made. This is a well established and consistently applied procedure. A judgment is made on a passenger, based on a variety of factors including: intelligence that may already be known, the passengers body language, ticket details, answers to initial brief questions and other signs which make that passenger stand out. Do the ‘other factors’ include their race, gender, age and ethnic appearance? Yes. Are these screeners trained to apply judgments that are politically sensitive? Absolutely. From the results can one claim this method is necessary? Definitely. Profiling can be used to tighten security for the greater volume of passengers whilst not drastically increasing the cost to airlines and airports. This can only be achieved by focusing resources where they will be of most use; on the select few passengers that may pose a risk." [Emphasis added here and below]

Meanwhile, beginning his return home, he finds the TSA personnel detaining a frail 90-year-old woman in a wheelchair with a full body search! (Mr. Longcore learned the age of the woman from her daughter). He continues:
As I said previously, common sense has been abandoned entirely. When TSA employees accost wheelchair-bound old women and young children, it’s not really about passenger safety. They cannot truly believe that people like these described constitute a potential threat to the aircraft in which they will be flying. This is entirely about the appearance of concern, and the absolute intention to control the American populace.

The only scientific poll I have seen on this subject is that of CBS News (Nov. 15), which asserts that 81% of the American people support the scanning procedures. Only 37% believe that ethnic profiling is justified. While I have seen some vaguely question the way its questions were posed, the poll does meet known standards for scientific polling; and while I would have liked to have seen a larger sample, the one cited is large enough for the ±3% margin of error.

I hope that poll is wrong; because if 81% are really willing to endure that kind of humiliation just to take a plane, we will find ourselves at the end of Hayek's road to serfdom. The way back will be painful and will take generations.

"He who would exchange essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety." (Benjamin Franklin). And be assured, we will soon have neither.


Erin said...

That's exactly why I refuse to fly anywhere until this ridiculousness is cleared up. I will not permit the TSAs to fondle myself or my daughters "for security purposes". Sadly, because of this we'll likely be missing out on the wedding of very dear Canadian friends in the spring (it's too far to drive), but I'd much rather protect my children the best way I know how.

Harold Thomas said...

Have you considered the railroad? That option is not for everyone, because of its cost structure and the sometimes inconvenient location of passenger rail stations -- but it will work for some. Further information is available at Amtrak.com.

There are security precautions on Amtrak, but they are much more sensible, and there is no TSA security check.

Erin said...

I wish we could, I haven't been on a train in ages, but we no longer have a train station anywhere near our area (Columbus). I love trains, though, and there's still to me something so old-fashioned and romantic about them.