Thursday, July 07, 2011

Subtlety in security theater?

Per Newser, via Wendy McElroy:

The US government has warned domestic and international airlines that terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into humans, the AP has learned. There is no intelligence pointing to a specific plot, but the US shared its concerns last week with the carriers' executives. People traveling to the US from overseas may experience additional screening at airports because of the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

McElroy comments: "[L]ook for entirely new levels of insanity at airport 'security.'"

I think the opposite is closer to the truth: TSA is looking for a way to ratchet the insanity down ... without admitting guilt or error.

Something like this:

At present, air travelers selected for "additional screening" have the option of going through a full body "porno" scanner, submitting to a "patdown" that clearly fits any reasonable definition of sexual assault, or declining both and putting up with harassment, possible arrest, and being barred from the flight they've purchased tickets for.

I don't think it's going too far to say that the public -- not just those activists who care enough to engage in civil disobedience and protest, but a fairly high percentage of the populace -- is "up in arms" on the subject. TSA depredations (fondling children, making 95-year-old cancer victims remove their adult diapers, etc.) make the news regularly. The Texas legislature came close to cracking down on the federal molesters. It's a reasonably big issue.

But the US government in general, and the TSA in particular, never admit error. They always have to be right, and their critics always have to be either whiners or terrorist sympathizers. Anything less calls their authority, competence, etc. into quesion. So they can't just throw up their hands and say "you know, you're right -- this was stupid and we're going to stop doing it."

So, they've invented a new threat that they can use to do away with the "patdowns" on their own terms.

"Hey, a patdown won't find a bomb that's been surgically implanted in someone's gallbladder. The 'threat' we just made up means that we have to do away with the patdowns -- not because they're tantamount to rape and upset the public -- hey, who gives a damn about the public's opinion, right? -- but because they're no longer effective in light of the new 'intelligence' we've manufactured."

So the "patdown" option will be withdrawn. "Problem" solved, with no egg on TSA's face.

My guess is that random selection for the porno scanner routine will go away too, over time, and that it will eventually be required for every traveler (or maybe even everyone who enters an airport). Perversely, that will probably actually reduce the outrage level, too, because it doesn't single anyone out.

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