Update: Here’s my appearance regarding this article on America’s Morning News radio, 11/17/2010.
The combination of arrogance, malevolence, and incompetence that has come to define the Obama administration seems to have found a permanent poster girl atop the Department of Homeland Security. DHS and its big government spawn, the Transportation Security Administration, have come under fire lately for insane policies that are literally jokes outside the U.S. If you don’t believe me, take off your shoes as you await security scanning in, say, Japan, and watch the normally stoic Japanese security guards double over laughing at you.
These policies of photographically scanning us down to our skins and touching us in ways that trigger our Stranger Danger reflex really do nothing to make us more secure. They haven’t stopped any known attempts to blow up any airplane anywhere. They don’t put true terrorists off balance. The last couple of would-be bombers, like the Ft. Hood jihadist mass murderer, had all the data points that made them worthy of a global terror watch list, but because we don’t do that sort of thing effectively, they still get to get on their planes or get ahold of weapons and even get promoted in the U.S. military. And meanwhile, we’re having TSA agents grope nuns. Seriously.
While Sister Mary Elizabeth either digitally kicks the habit or feels the fickle hand of Uncle Sam or Aunt Samantha up close and personal, Johnny Jihad with the Yemeni passport stamped with Pakistani, Afghan, and Syrian stops on his journey of self-discovery puts on his shoes and chuckles merrily and unmolested toward gate C-4.
Americans are rightly offended at all this. This not only violates our physical space, it insults our intelligence. Common sense says, if you have folks who are up to no good and they tend to fit a certain make and model, then you use those specifications to detect them and stop them. But because the “p” word — “profile” — has become a political four-letter word, we can’t go there.
Pretty soon we won’t be going anywhere. Travelers are starting to revolt against the DHS’ offensive and malignant stupidity. The latest rebel is John Tyner, the mild-mannered man who told TSA agents that violating his personal space would bring about legal repercussions.
Well, that’s not quite how he said it. He said it a little more pithily: “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” Time was, such a thing was so obvious that one seldom if ever needed to say it in public. Those times are gone and now we’re showing the digital peep shows and public gropes on CNN, in what may be the most twisted version of Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame yet.
One wonders what would have happened if the nun pictured above would have issued the warning about touching the chaste junk. Or the three-year-old girl whose body search was captured on video. “Now Sally, I’m a government agent so it’s ok. Mommy and Daddy’s tax dollars pay me to touch your junk.”
Trying to defend the indefensible, Homeland Secretary chief Janet Napolitano, last seen laughing at the governor of Texas for wanting his state’s border with drug war-torn Mexico secured, took to the pages of USA Today. Napolitano insists that the body scan machines are “safe,” and that the pat-downs are “discreet.”
Neither is an argument that they’re either “necessary” or “effective.” And neither is an argument that they’re the best tools we have available.
The best tools we have available will remain in the drawer while the tools of TSA grope granny. We should be 1) arming the pilots to fend off attack; 2) profiling to detect and stop terrorists without hassling the 99.9999999% of travelers who are just trying to get from somewhere to elsewhere; 3) ramping up more public use of air marshals; and 4) helping other countries beef up their own security to match our own, so that fellows like the panty bomber and the shoe bomber can’t get on a plane in the first place.
There are signs that the airlines themselves are aware that the strip and grope is a threat to their bottom lines. One pilots’ union is criticizing the TSA’s rules, slamming the increased scrutiny of pilots and air crew personnel as unnecessary and unacceptable. They’re right but that only covers the airline crews, not the passengers who ultimately pay the bills. And in any case, the pilots’ unions wasn’t there at the beginning of the workers’ struggle alongside Chicago ACORN, the Midwest Academy and the SEIU, so there’s little reason to hope that they’ll ever get the Obama administration’s ear. Perhaps if they’d been funding the Chicago Annenberg Challenge back in Bill Ayers’ day, they would have a seat at the table now.
Eventually this will cause Americans to abandon airline travel except when it’s absolutely necessary for their economic survival. Napolitano seems entirely unconcerned with that, to the point that it’s tempting to put on the conspiracy theory hat and wonder in whispers whether that’s part of the game plan: Make air travel so onerous and unacceptable that the airlines need another bailout, which they’ll get, along with a total federal takeover. The failing and consumed airlines get at least a temporary competitive advantage over thriving, non-unionized airlines like Southwest that won’t need or want the bailout, but might continue objecting to the bodily invasions by the DHS because it annoys passengers and costs them money. With an administration that’s already treating the country like its own personal Monopoly board, to the point of making play money out of King Dollar through the QE2, and headed by folks who’ve never been ones to let a good crisis go to waste, it’s not as if there’s no precedent or reason for suspicion. I mean, it’s not like they lied about whether those body scanners can save and store images of you in your radiated birthday suit.
But in the end, Napolitano’s stance probably is mostly due to incompetence. Janet Napolitano has no real experience in security. Her rise to power within the Democratic Party came about during the Democrats’ high-tech lynching of Clarence Thomas. For that, she ended up failing upwards into a governorship and Obama tapped her to fail upwards again to head up DHS. That’s the Obama way: reward party hacks and left-wing allies without any regard whatsoever for whether they can actually do the job assigned. That’s how we end up where we are, with folks like Napolitano making a laughing stock of America abroad while abusing American citizens here at home — and then telling us it’s for our own good.