TSA to Air Travelers: Drop Dead

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TSA now boasts that it has its controversial full body scanners in every major U.S. airport, which it seems to think is quite the accomplishment.

Unfortunately, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tours the country trying to sell this turd of an idea, she's navigating a PR disaster. But she's not giving ground, insisting that the scanners are safe, necessary and asking for the public to "be patient." That's government speak for "drop dead if you don't like it." If I'm patient while a stranger is fondling my private parts, will I eventually get used to it?

With no effort on my part, my inbox has filled with quite a few messages on this topic and several Web sites have blossomed in support of an organized protest. The general gist of these is that the searches may or may not be violations of the Fourth Amendment, but they are in any case, abusive, intrusive, ineffective and unnecessary. In principle, the courts have supported such searches under administrative search doctrine. But they have not yet reviewed the scanner/aggressive pat down procedures in detail. Moreover, did you know that if you refuse the scanner and the pat down and decide not to fly, you are subject to civil penalties? If that's not government overreach, I don't know what is. There are cases headed for the docket.

Apart from the absurdity of the security argument, Napolitano has claimed two things that I predict will prove her undoing. First, that the radiation exposure from the scanners is too low to be a worry and second that the images are deleted after viewing. Because people in government have a tendency to say things to soothe the masses that bear no resemblance to reality, I'll bet there's a study out there somewhere raising real questions about radiation exposure, TSA will be shown to be aware of it and it will eventually surface. Two airline unions have already advised their pilots to avoid the scanners for this reason.

Although TSA claims the imagery is deleted after viewing, somewhere, somehow a collection of these images is going to make it onto the Web, the result of some fun-loving TSA employees not having gotten the memo. This embarrassment will come at some politically inopportune time. That's just the way things seem to work in the modern world. And just to show how wacky and crazy those TSA guys and gals really are, Gizmodo reported that the image shown here was used as a screen saver on a TSA computer in Indianapolis. Cute.

What do about this? A recent poll by CBS news revealed that 80 percent of respondents support the scanner idea, 15 percent don't. I suspect the 15 percent are the ones actually doing most of the traveling. Some of those 80 percenters may change their minds after getting groped. But if you like the direction TSA is going, you can send a fan letter to TSA here. A number of Web sites have been erected to challenge TSA. This one proposes an on-airport protest movement. The ACLU is organizing court challenges on privacy and Fourth Amendment grounds. (Full disclosure: I sent them a contribution in support of the cause.) Two other organizations, The Association of Airline Passenger Rights and Flyers Rights, are also active in this area. Another group wants a contribution to organize a FedEx-delivered letter campaign to every member of the new Congress. I find this site a little too far out there for my sensibilities, but you can take it for what it's worth. They have the right idea, which is to convince Congress to establish limits on what TSA can do. They could find fertile ground in the Tea Party crowd.

And by the way, what would you do if you were in charge of TSA? The comment section is open. I would yank or limit the scanners and eliminate the wide use of pat downs. I'd keep the current baggage scanners and metal detectors and use them to set a threshold for probable cause that would be a gateway for an interview, as El Al now does with every passenger. It has proven successful. This would allow TSA to stop treating us all as common criminals.

None of this guarantees that an airliner won't be blown up. Nothing will do that. As a civilization, we just have to accept that. But I think the tradeoff is worth not being abused every time you fly, since the abuse isn't effective security anyway.

P.M. addition: Two hours after I posted this blog, this story broke, proving that while not everyone in government is an idiot, there are enough of them out there to make even modest predictions come true.

Comments (88)

Right on, Paul. Napolitano mentioned that travelers who do not agree with these new procedures may find alternate means of transportation. The government does a lot of things to discourage business, but is she really saying that airlines can drop dead as well if passengers don't want to be groped and irradiated? I'm sure the industry loves having somebody in their corner like that.

Why can't checkpoints have dogs to sniff for explosives? That would seem much less invasive than any of these procedures.

I also suspect that the CBS poll mentioned is hardly scientific and representative of the general population. Just as Fox News polls often are heavily biased towards the right, I suspect the opposite could be true for other media.

Posted by: Ryan Lunde | November 16, 2010 9:05 AM    Report this comment

I think the TSA has stepped way over the line on this issue, essentially requiring a strip search to board a plane with absolutely no evidence that it will stop a determined terrorist organization. As usual, the government is always fighting yesterday’s tactics and leaving the door open for so many other avenues of attack. The sad truth is they will not effectively employ profiling for political reasons, so the result is they violate everybody’s 4th Amendment rights and accomplish little in the way of real security. Like every other activity in life, there will always be risks in doing anything, driving a car, crossing the street, and flying in airplanes. We are indeed a foolish people if we think the government can protect us from these risks and repeal the laws of nature.

Posted by: John Salak | November 16, 2010 10:18 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for posting the link, Paul. It does indeed seem to be more scientific than what I had in mind which was an internet-based poll available to anybody reading a particular CBS website. I still have a hard time believing that there are that few people who go along with the security procedures mentioned, especially considering the widespread outrage to the PATRIOT Act and wiretapping. Full body scans and much-too-intimate pat-downs of the general public is much more uncalled for than wiretapping suspected terrorists. I'd really like to see this issue head to court.

Posted by: Ryan Lunde | November 16, 2010 10:46 AM    Report this comment

*that MANY people who would go along...

Posted by: Ryan Lunde | November 16, 2010 10:47 AM    Report this comment

What I'd do is quite simple. I'd hire security expert Bruce Schneier. I't give him carte blanche to throw out anything that he says is security theater, keep anything he says isn't, and add anything he says should be added, always keeping in mind the balance between the actual likelihood of an attack and the costs in terms of damage to our society from the security measures.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | November 16, 2010 11:31 AM    Report this comment

My wife prior to this debacle was unwilling to fly GA with me. The one positive thing that's come of this debacle is that she's now willing to reconsider her position. So please, Napolitano, keep up the draconian tactics! You're actively encouraging travel by alternate means, and I'm happy to oblige.

Isn't it nice when everybody's happy?

Posted by: Brad Koehn | November 16, 2010 11:33 AM    Report this comment

El Al hasn't had a successful hijacking or bombing on their planes in more than 40 years, despite many attempts, and the only 1 hijacking attempt was ever successful in its history. Given how large of a target they have painted on them considering their neighborhood that's nothing short of increadible. Seems to me we should emulate their tactics with respect to airline security.

Granted that would most likely lengthen the lines already there, but I'd rather take that extra time than be subject to X-ray strip searches and gropings.

Posted by: Andrew Upson | November 16, 2010 12:09 PM    Report this comment

I was astounded with Sec. Napolitano's solution for those that didn't want to be zapped or fondled. Just don't fly? I sure she's not taking AmTrak or Greyhound around the country, but then I'll bet she doesn't go through the security lines either. It's just another example of how out of touch Washington is with how things work. It's the old "let them eat cake" thing.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | November 16, 2010 2:06 PM    Report this comment

Paul - I question the wording of q32 in the poll: While on the surface the wording seems benign it is important to bear in mind that when you mention an "X-Ray" to the American public people by and large will picture the traditional hospital-style X-Ray film showing bones only. The level of detail produced by backscatter X-Ray is probably not what the respondents had in mind.

I believe that if a picture of the results of the backscatter X-Ray systems was shown to those polled the level of support would be substantially lower.

Just my $3.50.

Posted by: Michael Graziano | November 16, 2010 3:14 PM    Report this comment

Finally the tide might turn. Kudos to Paul for such a well written blog. The el al security model should have been adopted from the beginning. This will not be easy for our mindless bureaucracy to accomplish. El al has rational intelligent leadership empowered to make judgement calls beyond the confines of a procedures manual.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | November 16, 2010 8:14 PM    Report this comment

I don't know how the El Al method would be received in the U.S., although it is undeniably real security that works. I would propose a hybrid that includes basic metal detection, baggage scanning and interviews where probable cause may exist. And yes, that is a kind of profiling.

What we've got to stop is treating all of our citizens like suspected criminals, including frisking old women and having a kid remove his leg braces. These defy common sense, irritate us all and make us look like morons to the rest of the world.

I'm fully aware that the kid with the leg braces or the lily white senior citizen from Palm Beach is perfectly capable of concealing a bomb. I'm also aware that the probability of that is so low that I'm willing to accept the risk. I would argue that most people would agree.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 17, 2010 7:02 AM    Report this comment

These guys are dealing with this the same way I play chess - poorly and reactively. Making matters worth for both myself and the TSA, we know we suck but keep plugging away with the same tactics. The US is the country that bought us the Manhattan project, the Hoover dam, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and if my understanding is correct, is winning a bitter war against space aliens intent on probing us all into submission... Surely we can do better than this?

Posted by: John Hogan | November 17, 2010 8:37 AM    Report this comment

In another quote from her blog the thug admits the true purpose of the enhanced pat down:

“It is a terror tactic by TSA to get you to walk through the more thorough body scanner.”

So the TSA is using terror tactics to protect us from... wait for it... TERRORISM! It’s genius!

This is, of course, NOT what the scumbags who flew planes into the World Trade Center on 9./11 had in mind...

Thankfully, our ex-TSA professional has some helpful advice for you should you have endure a professional grope:

“[You] should write a complaint afterward. You still have to get it though if you want to get on the plane. Throwing a fit will not get you out of it.”

Thank you for that, but I have a better idea: Instead of writing a letter or throwing a fit, everyone should refuse the scope and demand a grope instead. When the TSA professional palpitates your groin you loudly moan, “YES! YES! DON’T STOP!!!,” while quivering and wiggling. I wonder how the TSA “professionals” would handle a day-long shift of fake orgasms?

Posted by: Mark Sletten | November 17, 2010 10:12 AM    Report this comment

A thought: We all joined the mainstream media in making fun of the idiot “underwear bomber” for doing nothing more than blistering his junk. We are now seeing the culmination of his efforts.

Does anyone still think he’s an idiot?

Posted by: Mark Sletten | November 17, 2010 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Does anyone still think he’s an idiot?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 17, 2010 11:58 AM    Report this comment

I think it was a no lose attempt on his part. If he didn't blow up the plane he at least got to see Americans struggling with their own government to retain the remaining shreds of their individual liberties.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | November 17, 2010 12:39 PM    Report this comment

It is about time that the sheep respond to this after the horse is out of the barn approach. It has supported my plane ownership as well. Again, it is about knowing your customers in a data base not in a personal way that is. There are far better ways than spraying one with radiation or gropes from equal opportunity employers for a plane ride...

Posted by: Chuck West | November 17, 2010 1:57 PM    Report this comment

First there was the 9/11 hijackers, and they started screening us for Box cutters.

Then there was the shoe bomber, and they made us take off our shoes.

Next there was the underwear bomber, and we had groping and full body scans.

What will happen when the butt bomber comes along?

Posted by: Michael Pettinger | November 17, 2010 3:18 PM    Report this comment

Michael P., you left out the toner bomb, and then they banned toner cartridges over a certain weight (lol).

This body scan/rubdown fiasco is so all fired important that it has taken them 9 years after 9/11 to figure it out it's what must be done. NINE YEARS!!! Proof that it's utter poppycock.

Posted by: Mike Holshouser | November 17, 2010 4:35 PM    Report this comment

Makes me wish I owned stock in Greyhound. But its a losing battle. If the public started popularizing express rail, the TSA would start screening that.

I just hope this is sorted before Aviation really suffers. This is the LAST thing needed right now.

I notice Paul at least tried to give solutions in his articles. That is more important than we tend to realize. When we use our voices we need to be sure to not merely attack the system, but to articulate better ways.

Posted by: Jon Devine | November 17, 2010 4:41 PM    Report this comment

Why not make a significant effort to balance the federal deficit by abolishing the TSA and regain some of our personal freedom in the process? It's about time we stopped having all of our air travelers treated as terrorists. Enough is enough.

Posted by: Alan von Ahlefeldt | November 17, 2010 5:57 PM    Report this comment

Terrorists are willing to blow themselves up will certainly be willing to pack their rectums with PETN. Scanning and groping only promotes a false sense of security. If we're serious, only a Israel-type security program will do.

Posted by: loel fenwick | November 17, 2010 6:12 PM    Report this comment

It's over folks, terrorists WIN!!!

Please, at least send your elected officials a love letter on the matter.

About the only worthwhile post 9/11 security development has been strong
Cockpit doors and a public ready to react, the rest is simply eyewash and a colossal waste of resources. Yet, we continue to put up with it.

Posted by: bruce byerly | November 17, 2010 6:21 PM    Report this comment

Extend the process to Air Force One...then let's see how long it lasts!!! Imagine Obama backing this after they feel up Michelle and the girls.

Posted by: RW speer | November 17, 2010 6:21 PM    Report this comment

I would like to see a news- crew follow Napolitano through this groping process.

Posted by: RW speer | November 17, 2010 6:23 PM    Report this comment

I think if you added up all of the lost/wasted hours of travelers, and added in the hours worked/wasted by TSA employees and government types per year, I bet the number would be larger than the total life expectancy hours of all the people killed/murdered on 9/11.

The point being that TSA security actually costs us more life, than the terrorists!

OK, OK, it may take two years of hours…

Posted by: Robert Zylstra | November 17, 2010 7:40 PM    Report this comment

If you want to bring the enhanced screening to a halt, just insist that it be applied to every traveler without exception. The amount of time these things take to do the job is ludicrous. There is not enough hours in a day to screen everyone at a large airport, which would cause saner heads to more quickly overrule the TSA dimbulbs.

Posted by: JON CARLSON | November 17, 2010 7:58 PM    Report this comment

1. I suggest that the pollsters conduct a poll at an airport where the screening is taking place. It is these respondents that will impact the industry with their decision to fly or not in the future. Not the armchair philosopher.
2. Not a single aircraft has been hijacked or downed since 911. Therefore there has been greater loss of life, though sadly, through the normal risks of flying which are still incredibly low. Not a single loss of life through bomb.
3. We all know they would if they could therefore the fact is they can’t. Fact is they are not that sophisticated and if you employ proper profiling there is no need to treat the travelling public like criminals. Forget about offending the rights of those who fit the profile. El Al has been successful for a very long time

Posted by: Paul Sturge | November 17, 2010 8:16 PM    Report this comment

The absolute insanity of TSA decision-making is evidenced by something so simple as asking this question in relation to demanding that airline crew members submit to full body scanning or a grope-lovers rubdown. Why would a person authorized to carry a handgun on the job decide to sneak a crotch-bomb made of C-4 past a security checkpoint? That "package" will undoubtedly be found and the would-be terrorist is busted. Just go to work and wait until 35,000 feet to play Dirty Harry meets Sky King in the cockpit corral. Until that ludicrous scenario becomes a reality, let's send TSA the clear and unequivocal message that we're beyond mad and we're not taking it any more.

Posted by: Tosh McIntosh | November 17, 2010 8:38 PM    Report this comment

I really didn't want to jump into this fray, but my two cents is just itching to get spent. The TSA should be run by someone with common sense and that isn't happening now. IMO the TSA is creating new security measures just to ensure its own existence. Carl Rove, the master of fear mongering must be smiling ear to ear about now. His campaigns of fear and loathing worked better than he had dreamed. What I can't understand is why Obama is putting up with this nonsense from "his" government. I really expected more from him, but I guess he's got bigger fish to fry.

Posted by: John Dent | November 17, 2010 8:44 PM    Report this comment

Years ago... When I was in college studying Aviation Law, I remember that the only reason searches were allowed at airports was because they were voluntary. Now, the TSA is trying to say that once they start, you have to let them finish. Not something I like to hear when a stranger with gloves and my personal (ahem) equipment are involved. By doing to, the TSA has opened itself up to a very valid constitutional legal challenge, with precedent in case law pointing to a constitutional violation in cases where a search is not voluntary. This will be interesting to see... I don't remember the case, but it was in my "Aviation Law" book...

Posted by: Ken Anderson | November 17, 2010 8:50 PM    Report this comment

Meant to say "By doing so, the TSA.." not "By doing to..."

Fingers faster than brain...

Posted by: Ken Anderson | November 17, 2010 8:55 PM    Report this comment

My family and I refuse to submit to Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening and enhanced pat-down procedures.

We are opposed to the AIT screening and enhanced pat-downs on privacy grounds. Those procedures are an outrageous violation of our Fourth Amendment rights and an affront to the dignity of all passengers.

Please do not underestimate our resolve. We vow to NEVER fly commercially in the United States again, as long as AIT screening and enhanced pat-down procedures remain in force.

Posted by: John Leggatt | November 17, 2010 9:20 PM    Report this comment

We are worried about guns and knives. OK! Metal detectors are necessary (and sufficient for that threat). Now we are worried about bombs. How are these new scanners doing anything to alleviate this new threat? And the old threats have been handled. Why in the h-e-double-toothpicks is TSA wasting money on these machines instead of the explosives detectors that puff everyone with air and then run a chemical analysis? Those have been available for years. I remember them talking about those in '02 or '03. Ya, they are expensive. But that would provide some real enhancements to security. These machines are a waste of money, time, and an unnecessary intrusion on our right to privacy.

It reminds me of something said to me years before 9/11 by an international security expert who had worked with El Al, and the Israeli government: "Yet another example of a security system designed by someone with absolutely no understanding of security."

Posted by: Vic Renaud | November 17, 2010 10:07 PM    Report this comment

I think I'll hum the Air Force song during the next pat down.

Posted by: Steve See | November 17, 2010 10:15 PM    Report this comment

TSA = lunacy.

Posted by: John Phillips | November 17, 2010 10:33 PM    Report this comment

Vote on this issue with your wallet. If enough people refuse to put up with 'enhanced security' and quit flying, the airlines will make sure this crap comes to an end. I'd rather take my chances than see my freedom violated in a security line.

Posted by: STEVE BOWLING | November 17, 2010 11:46 PM    Report this comment

Want this to end. Ground all US Government Agency jets for one year (including TSA) and force all government employees, Congress Members, Senators, Cabinet Members, and others to fly commercial. No more scanners, pat downs, shoe removals, or other outrageous and ineffective security procedures; and planes would also leave and arrive on time and the seats in coach would get wider and farther apart too.

Posted by: Leo Breckenridge | November 18, 2010 6:12 AM    Report this comment

Oh and by the way,Muslims,I understand, in traditional garb are exempt from the Scanners and the pat downs. Yep, the people that have been blowing stuff up are exempt, the ultimate in political correctness. I'm buying a burka for my wife and turban for me.

Posted by: Duane Hallman | November 18, 2010 6:50 AM    Report this comment

Perhaps Janet Napolitano should be screened at any airport she enters. The scanner guys would avoid looking at the monitors for fear they would see her naked and the pat down people would be quitting in droves.

Posted by: Richard Jenkins | November 18, 2010 7:37 AM    Report this comment

It's all so simple, wear speedos and be sure you've eaten beans and onions well before going to the airport. Opt-out of the scanner and let nature have its way.

Posted by: Lloyd Wheeler | November 18, 2010 8:48 AM    Report this comment

Among the confusing and illogical attributes of the TSA approach is the fact that its working hypothesis is that the terrorists are INSIDE the US trying to get on a domestic flight. That was true of 9/11 but has not be the case since. TSA needs to put their efforts to work at foreign airports to catch the terrorists heading here and leave us alone.

Posted by: Bill Castlen | November 18, 2010 9:08 AM    Report this comment

Since we probably won't switch to the far more intelligent profiling and interviewing methodology of El Al, I suggest the following:
Have all the TSA officers be doctors and nurses so they could actually check for medical problems while they're groping you. What do you think?


Posted by: CRAIG MAIMAN | November 18, 2010 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Last week I was subjected to a full TSA pat down because I accidentally left a crumpled up .5"x.5" cough drop wrapper in my back pocket. After stepping out of the backscatter scanner, the TSA agent sneered "What do you have in your pockets?" "Nothing" I replied as I performed the TSA pocket slap dance on myself once again. The TSA agent gave me thorough pat down and said, "Check your left rear trouser pocket again". As instructed, I patted my pocket and felt nothing. I then put my hand in my pocket, swept my index finger around and detected a small lump in the bottom corner of the pocket. I hooked it with my fingernail, dragged it out and was mortified to realize that I had left a very dangerous, highly combustible cough drop wrapper in my pocket! The wrapper was faded, limp and barely recognizable. Obviously it had been through the washing machine in the pocket of the pants several times.
Mouth agape, I turned to the TAS agent and said "You've got to be kidding?" He replied "I told you to remove EVERYTHING from your pockets!" Am I upset about it? Not one bit. I make my living selling and servicing general aviation airplanes. As the indignities of commercial airline travel increase, more and more people are discovering that GA provides many cost effective alternatives to airline travel. BTW, Napolitano doesn't fly commercial. She has her own gov't plane.

Posted by: Tann Chesley | November 18, 2010 9:21 AM    Report this comment

What is going to happen when a terrorist tries to smuggle a bomb inside a body cavity ?
Do we all get a free Colonoscopy ?
Where does this madness ends ?

Posted by: Alon Smolarski | November 18, 2010 9:34 AM    Report this comment

Tann, , it takes a powerful lot of radiation to show that kind of detail. Don't think that it was because of a sophisticated algorithm. Since you probably travel by air a lot and are subject to lots of excess radiation, buy yourself a dosimeter and pin it on your jacket. Of course that will invoke a lot of discussion.

Go to a 49th parallel truck entry port and see how US Customs irradiate (X-ray) an entire 53' trailer with back-scatter. Watch how the smart drivers leave their cab and come inside, where they are afforded derisive comments. I doubt that you would like to be in that trailer. And you shouldn't be happy in the airport scanner either.

Posted by: John Phillips | November 18, 2010 9:45 AM    Report this comment

Although I think a large portion of the procedures used for screening are "security theater", how many people who are screaming loudly about the procedures will scream just as loudly "Why didn't the government do something!" when the next disaster occurs?

Much like the discussion of cutting spending involves "Cut spending on the other guy's entitlements, not mine", I've heard a lot of comments from people that want the "other guy" closely screened.

Posted by: Dave Wewers | November 18, 2010 10:01 AM    Report this comment

I will NEVER fly again if this isn't stopped. I think homeland security should be abolished. We do NOT need gestapo security. This is the way Nazi Germany got started..so nefarious..

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | November 18, 2010 10:03 AM    Report this comment

It’s called “Risk Management”.

We’ve all heard the hackneyed phrase “The most dangerous part of any flight is the drive to and from the airport”.

The USA road toll averages 40,000 deaths per year, that’s one every 12 minutes. On average 3,000,000 people are injured in auto accidents per year, that’s one about every ten seconds. Incidentally about 40% of these are caused by drunk drivers.

Strangely enough these horrifying statistics don’t stop us from travelling on our roads. We accept there is a risk and we get on with life.

Compared with the above, the risks of travelling by commercial airlines are miniscule. I’d like to see a full risk analysis conducted on the real, not perceived, risks associated with terrorist activity. Blind panic and hysteria are poor substitutes for common sense action based on evidence.

Posted by: Mick Brannigan | November 18, 2010 10:14 AM    Report this comment

Note to Janet Napolitano and the hospitality industry:
I and my family will not be flying commercially anymore, renting cars at my destination, staying in hotels and eating out. I have already cancelled my winter vacation to Jackson Hole.

Posted by: Dean Billing | November 18, 2010 10:14 AM    Report this comment

Sorry Dave,
I for one do not want the "other guy" to have to deal with it either. I would say cut spending on them too. I will not replace my liberties for security no matter what fear drives that desire for security.

Our country was founded on freedom and liberty. Government invasion of personal privacy is a direct affront to that freedom and liberty. The TSA in all its forms is a prime example of that invasion of privacy. This newest TSA fiasco is totally unacceptable to me.

I have no immediate plans to fly commercial but I think if I do I am likely to embarrass my wife if she is with me. I will opt for the pat-down invasion and proceed to mirror every movement on the TSA person. If he gropes my crotch I will return the favor. I can just imagine how offended they would be if I groped their crotch at the same time they were groping mine. I can just imagine the hypocritical behavior I would see. If it is OK for them to grope me it should be OK for me to grope them back.

Posted by: Steve Ingraham | November 18, 2010 10:20 AM    Report this comment

I work in the information and business security field. I have a pretty good grasp of what constitutes real security and what doesn't, and this ain't it. The machined could maybe be used to get into, and more importantly out of, high security buildings. Outside of that, forget it. It's too invasive and a waste of taxpayer money and time. Regarding the REAL threats that terrorists pose to airliners:
1) A 9/11 style hijacking will not happen anymore. The flying public will not allow an airplane to be hijacked because they know it will be used as a guided missile. The hijackers will be beaten to death by the passengers before they ever make it past the cockpit door. Similarly, both Reid and the BVD Bomber were stopped by passengers, not by law enforcement.
2) Forensic analysis has determined that the amount of explosives contained in Reid's shoe or the BVD Bomber's pants was not enough to destroy the plane. It would have damaged it, for sure, and would have killed and injured people nearby, but may not have even punctured the pressure vessel of the plane. Both airplanes would very likely have been safely landed with most of the passengers still alive and kicking.
3) Even these X-ray machines do not see below the skin. Stuff a bomb up your rear end or have it surgically implanted in your abdomen (it's been done in an attempt to assassinate a Saudi prince) would not show up. However, the dampening effect of the very liquid human body makes them much more messy than destructive.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | November 18, 2010 10:51 AM    Report this comment

The result is that we were already countering the vast majority of the threats before 9/11. Go back to a pre-9/11 level of passenger physical screening with an El Al type of personal profiling and we'll be more safe than ever with a great level of efficiency in our security lines again. What you are seeing here is a group of unaccountable power tripping bureaucrats making decisions they should not be authorized to make and asking otherwise un-employable minions to implement them at the airport terminal. The TSA you see today is exactly what you get when you pin a badge on the shirt of a high school drop out. There's also the little known fact that Congress stripped funding from the TSA to keep them from buying these machines originally. They got them through re-allocating funds internally followed by the biggest chunk in the "stimulus" bill. It's amazing what you find in bills that are too big for anyone to actually read and understand.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | November 18, 2010 10:51 AM    Report this comment

I agree that there would be a tremendous out cry from the very same people who are taking the TSA to task if there were another 911 event. Once the shock of such an event fades we start talking "liberties."

Flying is an event that the user selects and does so with an understanding of security procedures required, therefore, I don't believe any court will find TSA procedures a violation of civil rights.

Working for the DOD during 911 I was subjected to many searches of my person and vehicle yet I never felt my civil liberties were being violated.

As for the health concerns, everything I have read puts the back-scatter x-Rays at a very low dosage so I accept the experts determination that they are safe.

I do believe there should be a program that allows air crews to bypass the screening process, this would require biometric identification which is certainly doable today.

Ray (Retired Air Traffic Controller)

Posted by: Ray Laughinghouse | November 18, 2010 10:55 AM    Report this comment

"I do believe there should be a program that allows air crews to bypass the screening process, this would require biometric identification which is certainly doable today."

There you go Ray - being rational

Posted by: John Phillips | November 18, 2010 11:03 AM    Report this comment

There would be no outcry from this "liberty" screaming citizen. Fear is the enemy not "lack of security"! Once we as a society succumb to our fears we lose the battle of liberty. I most certainly do not take my freedom lightly. I do not succumb to my own personal fears by allowing others to dictate to me what I must do to protect my own security nor will I do so in order to secure you from your fears.

It is my duty as a citizen to protect myself and those around me of threats and I do so openly. I will accept your assistance in helping me in that endeavor but not at the expense of restricting my freedoms in doing so.

You, or anyone else, can label me in anyway one chooses. But when it comes to liberty; I follow the oration of Patrick Henry:

". . .Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" (continued)

Posted by: Steve Ingraham | November 18, 2010 11:30 AM    Report this comment

(continued from previous post)
These are not just words from a great orator. These are beliefs to live one's life by. If I chose liberty then I must be willing to give up my life to defend it. These are very strong words that in today's environment can get me personally profiled by our fear mongering government. I have no control over that if it were to occur. Regardless, I will continue to believe in this concept until the day I die and will steadfastly refuse to yield my liberties for the sake of some false sense of security!

Posted by: Steve Ingraham | November 18, 2010 11:31 AM    Report this comment

Israel’s approach to airport security is not readily exportable to the U.S. They have about 5 airports with scheduled commercial service. We have 522, any one of which can be the only point of screening and entry to any domestic or international flight. Israeli style questioning of passengers requires significant skill and training to make it work. Otherwise it just becomes the mindless asking of questions like the stupid ones we used to be asked at check-in – “Has anyone asked you to carry anything on board/Has your luggage been out of your sight?” I doubt we’d be willing to spend the money to train and employ the number of skilled interviewers we’d need. And as Paul Bertorelli has mentioned in a previous blog, I doubt many of us would tolerate the delays and invasion of privacy inherent in the Israeli approach of extended interviews of every passenger, even though I would prefer it to full body screens and pat downs. His suggested combination of using baggage scanners and metal detectors to set a threshold for an interview would be an improvement over the way we’re headed, but it still takes a lot of skilled interviewers and passenger data and behavior are better thresholds than scanners and detectors for deciding when to get more invasive.

Posted by: Robert Davison | November 18, 2010 11:33 AM    Report this comment

"Israel’s approach to airport security is not readily exportable to the U.S. They have about 5 airports with scheduled commercial service. We have 522, any one of which can be the only"

The Israeli methods will never come to the USA if you use arguments like that. Its a journey, and every journey starts with a single step. And the lawmakers have not taken that single first step. Is it because its not 'Made in the USA' ?

Posted by: John Phillips | November 18, 2010 11:50 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: George Horn | November 18, 2010 12:06 PM    Report this comment

The TSA is engaging in theater, so I suggest we all do our Oscar-best to play our parts.

Refuse the scanner and opt for the pat-down.

As the screener begins at your shoulders,utter a satisfied "mmmm"
At the arms "o-o-o-o-o"
Under the armpits "A-h-h-h, yes"
Your chest "OH GOD YES! DO My Nipples!"
If they continue to your waist, "I CAN'T WAIT! HURRY, HURRY, DAMN-IT!"
If they haven't stopped by now and are about to grope your mother-lode(load?), start yelling "OH YEAH! C'MON TIGER..GRAB IT! SQUEEZE IT! YANK IT, DADDY! THAT'S IT! OH, YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE!"

After a few weeks of our security theater, TSA employees will be quitting in droves saying they signed on to work in airports, not junk-yards.

Women, you may want to modify this script to suit your anatomy.

Posted by: John Burnaby | November 18, 2010 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Here's a thought! How about making all the TSA "workers" have to go through the scan or pat-down every time they report for work or enter/exit a secure area. Do you thing their Union would stand for that?

Posted by: James Knudsen | November 18, 2010 12:59 PM    Report this comment

Here's part of what I wrote to my local paper:
"The sad fact is that it is all primarily eye-wash, very aptly termed "Security Theater", administered by a marvelous new government empire that answers to no one and can be expanded ad infinitum simply by invoking the god of “security”. The public accepts all this blindly because it has been conditioned to expect, and demand, that government can and should protect us from every possible bad thing that could happen. I doubt this can be changed, but there is a better way to go about it.

Posted by: John Wilson | November 18, 2010 2:27 PM    Report this comment

For a position as Airport screener ----------

• Have reached his/her 18th birthday at the time of application submission;

• Be proficient in English (e.g., reading, writing, speaking, and listening);

• Have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent; OR

• Have at least one year of full-time work experience in security work, aviation screener work, or X-ray technician work.

Does one year as a nightclub bouncer meet the requirements of “Have at least one year of full time work experience in security work”? If so, this could explain in part the public relations disaster that airport screening has become.

Posted by: Mick Brannigan | November 18, 2010 2:52 PM    Report this comment

I agree with John Wilson but would add my own view is not quite so harsh toward people who are doing the judging. Kids, moms, grandpas of all types come across my states' southern border all the time with drugs, weapons and illegal human traffic. We have in the US so many ethnic peoples and groups and differences that profiling might be too limited. Maybe we give terrorists too much credit that they would use/convince an athlete, businessman or retired cop even to do their dirty work for money or a cause, I don't know. I know what I see at our border and to me, a terrorism potential could take any number of forms, making good judgment a real challenge.

Concerning the blog overall, if it can be proven that the TSA agent is fondling or assaulting, that the searches are 'unreasonable' and illegal to the Fourth Amendment, and the scanners are a bad idea due to health concerns, then Paul is the pied piper for liberty loving people.

If not, then all the descriptions offered like groped, abused, assaulted, among the other more colorful offerings by some posters are moot and subject to individual bias and sensitivities. Then it becomes the torch-bearing crowd after the Frankenstein of our fears, instead of acceptance of our limitations.

Posted by: David Miller | November 18, 2010 3:12 PM    Report this comment

How can the self-styled Leader of the Free World possibly have come to this? Does any of you have any idea how it all looks from a distance?

Posted by: JOHN KING | November 18, 2010 4:09 PM    Report this comment

For those that read the post blog from the former TSA Agent, did anyone else notice that "Flying" has devolved somehow from a "Right" into a "Privilege!

Here's my skewed logic on this:
1. Certain activities such as "breathing", "movement", and "living" are generally considered to be inalienable human "Rights";
2. "Traveling" is a form of "movement" (i.e, from place to place) and therefore is an inalienable "Right";
3. "Flying" is a form of "Traveling" and therefore, as with all forms of traveling, is an inalienable "Right", NOT a "Privilege!

Posted by: Rick Bazzo | November 18, 2010 4:13 PM    Report this comment

Further to my previous comment:

Now, I acknowledge fully that sometimes subtle differences exist between concepts such as "privilege" and "right". For Example; in order to legally "fly an airplane", or by analogy, to "drive an automobile", we have come to a reasonable consensus that requirements must be met and maintained in order to retain such "privileges". I also acknowledge the not-so-subtle difference between "flying an airplane" and "flying in an airplane". However, when the infrastructure (such as our highways and flyways) is designed, built, operated, and maintained, using public dollars, the USE of this infrastructure can hardly be considered a "privilege". It must be considered a "right". And in this regard, I voice my strong dissent with the opinions, policies and tactics of the TSA and their former Agents.

Ironically, regardless of whether we choose to differentiate and label these concepts as "rights" or "privileges", our basic "inalienable rights" are guaranteed and protected under the auspices of The Constitution.

Have I missed anything here? Is my logic really skewed or even flawed? I'd be interested to hear other opinions in this regard. Perhaps Ken Anderson with his previous exposure to "Aviation Law" might care to comment?

PS: Ask me sometime about my opinion of the "Amnesty Bin" that appeared at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) one morning. I have a rant for that one too!

Posted by: Rick Bazzo | November 18, 2010 4:14 PM    Report this comment

"Right" or "Privilege"? I wonder how the almost 3,000 people lost on 911 would feel about this argument or for that manner the potential people who would be killed or injured by the next use of an aircraft to destroy a building or sports venue.

This same argument is used to fault the FBI for joining various groups covertly to ascertain if there are any evil intentions by the group. The only harm done is a additional membership fee
collected if there is no questionable activities.

Sad to say we always give up something in the name of security it is just a matter of what is appropriate.

It would probably surprise all of us if we knew how many bad events have been stopped by "security."


Posted by: Ray Laughinghouse | November 18, 2010 5:02 PM    Report this comment

Interesting that the link at TSA has three headings: "Thank you", "Courteous, professional treatment", and "Suggestions". My response follows:

Congratulations. You have just completed Al Qaida's conquest of North America. And kept a bunch of total loosers off of welfare, including the former governor of Arizona.

This idiocy has gone on long enough. I personally give a rip if some idiot wants to swallow enough RDX to bring down a big silver cattle car. That's one of the risks of traveling, and, quite frankly, it scares me a hell of a lot less than dealing with the queers in security at DIA.

I couldn't care less if someone wants to post pictures of me more/less naked on Utube, as long as I can travel that way, or at least don't get my laptop stolen while I'm trying to separate my clothes from the woman behind me. And getting no help from the "security" that let it happen in the first place. Or watch security cleared airline workers, in full length chadors and masks, complete with identity badges showing their face masks, saunter by the line while I'm waiting to get cleared off the frickin plane back into the airport.

Speaking from personal experience as a commercial pilot, its pretty damned hard to hold a gun to my own head while I aim a plane at the White House. You really need both hands for that sort of thing.

Enough all ready!

Posted by: Merl Raisbeck | November 18, 2010 7:23 PM    Report this comment

I saw the saved images, and really, if TSA employees are getting their rocks off looking at those, maybe they need to get out more often. Kinda reminded me of those Google Earth pictures of people sunbathing on building rooftops in the nude--it's just not detailed enough to concern me. I might feel differently if I were young, female, and good looking, but sadly that's a small percentage of the population. You wanna check me out in a body scanner, well enjoy the show. (I'm 55, male, and can't afford the avgas for my 182 these days.)

As for the health issue, that's another matter. If there are particles involved, or electromagnetic fields, then there are biological effects, probably harmful over time. Of course, once you're in the plane you're subjecting yourself to higher levels of radiation at high altitudes, and that swamps anything the TSA is doing to passengers and crew.

So it's as safe as the rest of the flight, and I don't care if you do post TSA images of me on the Internet. Don't get me wrong, it's still a really stupid idea, and won't prevent anything. If we wanted to prevent attacks, we'd hire El Al to do the security for us. But we prefer to reinvent the wheel--ours violates passengers rights with body scans, El Al profiles, also considered a violation of basic rights. Of course, theirs works, and ours doesn't--but it's a really stupid idea whose time has come, and those are usually impossible to resist.

Posted by: DAVID CHULJIAN | November 18, 2010 7:57 PM    Report this comment

Do not fly unless it is absolutely necessary. When you must, opt out. When the airline's bottom lines are affected changes will be made. Hopefully to a system similar to El Al's. Subjecting flight crews to this insanity is absurd. When are the people of this country going to demand real leadership in Washington?

Posted by: ROBERT TERBET JR. | November 19, 2010 9:37 AM    Report this comment

I reiterate, show me the risk analysis. When it indicates that the risk is at or less than my chances of being killed on the road (clearly a risk we all accept as part of life) then all other arguments become redundant and we can put a stop to this absurd over the top security. I am not advocating an end to all security, just the recently introduced over the top nonsense.

Posted by: Mick Brannigan | November 19, 2010 10:35 AM    Report this comment

Terrorists have attacked airplanes, buses, subways, trains, bridges, buildings. Nothing they can do at any airport will prevent any type of terrorism, especially aimed at all those other things. We only need to worry about terrorists, not 3 year old girls or grandmothers in wheelchairs.

The government response to the toner cartridge bomb is to ban toner cartridges. Terrorists may be crazy but they're not stupid. If they can't bomb airplanes they will bomb buses, trains or buildings, which they have already done. If they can't put a bomb in a toner cartridge they will put it in a movie camera. Or a toaster. Or pay a baggage handler to put it in the plane.

I don't intend to give up my rights without a fight. I don't want to live in a world where stormtroopers accost you on the street demanding "Where are you going?".

It's a known fact that if you want low performance get the government to do it. We have it now. Groping 3 year old girls to stop terrorist bombs. That little girl didn't weigh enough to be carrying a bomb. By groping people who don't fit the terrorist profile and ignoring the actual terrorists the government and the TSA are proving how liberal they are. Liberalism at work.

The solution? Let people with concealed carry permits take a certification class as a auxiliary air Marshall and give them a 40% airfare discount. How could a terrorist do anything on a plane with 30 or 40 armed trained civilians on board? I'd take the class and get a CCW immediately.

Posted by: Steve Waechter | November 19, 2010 11:06 AM    Report this comment

Amen Steve.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | November 19, 2010 11:09 AM    Report this comment

"It's a government not a partisan issue."

It's not only not a partisan issue, it also is an issue on which you can find broad agreement among conservatives and liberals. My brother-in-law and I agree on almost nothing politically, but we agree completely on this. Nevertheless, a Republican Congress and President created TSA and our whole approach post 9/11, and a Democratic Congress and President have continued the approach and made it even worse. This tells me that both parties know voters will punish any administration at the ballot box once the media, talk show hosts and opposition party hammer away 24-7 for having "allowed" another attack by failing to have done everything possible to prevent it, regardless of how much any new measure invades our rights to privacy or threatens our health. The past 10 years have pretty clearly demonstrated that most people in this country will not punish, and will even reward, elected officials for trampling on our civil rights in supposed pursuit of the "war on terror."

Posted by: Robert Davison | November 19, 2010 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Sec. Janet Napolitano should 'ante up' by going to any of the airports with one of these scanners, and go through it, with the image visible to the public on site, and then - in full view of that public - submit to a 'pat-down'
And, she hould do this every day. If she were willingto show that level of commitment to this policy, then fine.
But, I'll bet she wouldn't consider it for a nanosecond.

Posted by: MICHAEL WERNER | November 19, 2010 11:27 AM    Report this comment

El Al isn't the only airline to interview boarding passengers. I travel regularly to the Netherlands. Prior to boarding every flight since 9/11, my family and I have been interviewed by security personnel at the gate in Schipol. The process has always gone smoothly and has never been objectionable.

Posted by: lars pedersen | November 19, 2010 11:49 AM    Report this comment

I should add that those were always flights bound for the US, and the airline has always been United. Presumably passengers are interviewed when boarding other carriers' flights heading this way from Schipol, but I don't have firsthand experience.

Posted by: lars pedersen | November 19, 2010 11:52 AM    Report this comment

I was interviewed flying Delta from AMS-MSP a few months back.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | November 19, 2010 1:44 PM    Report this comment

It's just amazing to read how many valid arguments there are against what's now sadly becoming SOP. In addition, add to this, the volume of questions as to the integrity, as well as the potential for abuse by TSA personnel. After all, we all know that each and every TSA screener has been investigated to the highest level of moral character, and that they continue to maintain those high ethical standards.
In regards to Israels approach, and that its system may not be wholly exportable, partial aspects can be taylored to the US industry. Moreover, it's incredibly myopic for the TSA to think that setting up these stringent screening processes at 68 of 500+ commercial airports will make the airline industry safe. As if nobody would ever think to try and board an aircraft at an airport with out the X ray/security grope procedure to by pass the new restrictions. Lastly, since its inception, how many terrorist have the TSA screeners caught? By my count it's ZERO! Yes, there have been security violations for prohibited items with both carry on and in luggage. All of which were uncovered by conventional means. But there has not been one instance on a domestic flight that justifies the new procedures of going beyond whats been used and proven effective to date. In closing, it seems to me that this is "mission creep" to the extreme in the "us vs them" metality of a federal government agency that has run amok!
Thank you Paul and the AVwebinsider/blog.

Posted by: DAVID PRICE | November 20, 2010 3:10 PM    Report this comment

Keith Olberman spent a few minutes explaining how the Israeli system works, and it seems to me we should implement it here yesterday.

Sad to say, common sense does not drive government decisions. Special interests do, especially in the fraudulent Global War On Terror.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 20, 2010 5:15 PM    Report this comment

Problem with the Israeli system, as effective as it is, is that the first time a swarthy arab male was denied a flight due to the screening process, CAIR and the ACLU would sue the TSA and the airline in federal court, probably out on the left coast, and would drag the whole system through the court for 5 years until it made it to the Supreme Court which might or might not rule in favor of common sense.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | November 20, 2010 5:33 PM    Report this comment

They should just get rid of those creepy machines and bring in some bomb-detecting dogs. Dogs are not a health hazard, they work for a pat on the head, they can detect explosives in, ahem, places the machines can't, and best of all, when they stick their noses in your crotch it's cute, unlike the GeTSAapo agent.

Until that happens, I'll be flying my own plane, dammit, Janet.

Posted by: Michele Davis | November 20, 2010 7:55 PM    Report this comment

TSA regularly quotes polls that indicate that 80 to 90 percent of respondents are in favour of the new airport security measures and only 10 to 20 percent against.
I’d like to know where TSA gets those figures from. Every poll (admittedly unscientific) that I’ve seen indicate that about 70% are against and 30% for as is indicated in a current poll by the Denver Post newspaper which posed the questions:
1/ Would you agree to undergo a full body scan as a regular part of airport security?
Answer: a/ Yes, for better or worse it is part of modern travel. 31.35%
b/ No, new airport security measures go too far. 68.64%
Amongst my friends and acquaintances it’s running about 10% for and 90% against.
The opposite to TSA’s contention.

Posted by: Mick Brannigan | November 21, 2010 5:41 PM    Report this comment


Yes, it's quite depressing to know that there is an organization like the AOPA that actually stands up for Constitutional rights against government encroachment. Bummer!

My guess is that the ACLU would NOT bring such a lawsuit as you suggest. I happen to have a friend since childhood that is indeed a "swarthy arab male", but I know full well that he is not a terrorist

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 22, 2010 9:30 AM    Report this comment

A positive report....

With all the negative reports I thought I would add a positive. I recently returned from Fort Lauderdale, FL, airport and when I went through the security the empty bottle of Listerine caused me to be pulled aside for a closer inspection of my carry on bag. The TSA agent was quite professional and even apologized for the delay. Knowing a little about x-rays I should have known that it would be difficult to determine that the bottle was empty or full.

I don't fly that often anymore but all my experiences with TSA have been positive.


Posted by: Ray Laughinghouse | November 22, 2010 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Hey Steve, Not that ridiculous, as I tried to say the x ray showed the bottle but not what type of bottle (contents) and it is very difficult to tell if a bottle is empty or completely full on the x ray monitor.
The point is the agent was very professional and polite.... Ray

Posted by: Ray Laughinghouse | December 11, 2010 3:55 PM    Report this comment

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