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Transportation Silliness Authority

January 24, 2012

Haven’t posted in many moons, but something happened today that triggered my snark.

 Senator Paul detained by the TSA.

 Moira Bagley, the senator’s spokeswoman, told Fox News that Paul (R-Ky.) called her after he went through a “full body screener,” described to her as a body-imaging machine, and was stopped for an anomaly around his leg. The senator lifted his pants leg to show nothing was there and offered to go back through the machine, but the TSA official said no, only a full-body pat down would suffice.

Bagley said Paul refused, resisting on the grounds that it infringes on his rights. Paul maintaintains he was “detained”, and White House Carney Caller was swift to respond: Video here.

Let’s just be clear, the passenger  was not detained. The passenger triggered an airport alarm during routine screening, but refused to complete the screening process in order to resolve the issue. Passengers, as in this case, who refuse to comply with security procedures are denied access to the secure gate area.

As usual with Wonkey-Whitehouse-Whitewash, this prepared piece of partisan poofta prompts parsing:

  • Protocol, respect and courtesy strongly suggest “the Senator” would be more appropriate in addressing the incident than “the passenger”. The reason “Senator” was not used gets to the heart of the problem.
  • He certainly was “detained” meaning he was taken to a cubicle, not allowed to procede and missed his flight. He was not arrested (Senators are immune from arrest) but neither was he permitted to leave.  That is being “detained” by any definition.
  • “…refused to complete the screening process in order to resolve the issue.” The fact that he is indeed a United States Senator should have resolved the issue immediately.  He carries government security clearance, full credentials and travels with an entourage.

After the incident, Paul said:

I think if you’ve been to Yemen three times, and you’re chatting with people in Pakistan they may need to talk to you… Target the approach to people who are a potential risk. By spending an hour with me this morning, there’s a chance someone went by they should have spent more time with.

Ah, therein lies problemo uno. TSA security procedure treats everyone  exactly the same (Old lady, Boy Scout, Senator, Priest, Imam,  Arabic student from Yemen, Undie Bomber)- so no particular group is offended, or…(oh the humanity!)…profiled. These TSA policies infringe on our Constitutional rights to privacy, assumption of innocence and protection from illegal search ironically to prevent discrimination.  Because, of course, it would be preferable to spiral into terra firma in a flaming aircraft than to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Israel is arguably the most preferred terrorist target in the world, yet there have been no security breaches at Ben Gurion International Airport security since 1972 – and this is accomplished without body scanners or intrusive searches. They use two rather obvious and very effective techniques: PROFILING and behavioral analysis. Passengers are thouroughly background checked before even arriving, using very advanced and secret databases, and risk levels assigned to each passenger. All passengers are asked a series of questions by trained agents before getting to the gates.  They are carefully monitored for inconsistant answers, nervousness, voice pitch, eye movement, physiological reactions etc. Combining these two techniques, only about 2% are singled out for further screening.  This system has been 100% effective for forty years.

Janet Nappytime actually traveled to Israel last year to observe first hand how it’s done, and apparently learned nothing. Apparently, in Senator Paul’s case, “the system worked”. It harrassed, embarrassed and delayed a Republican senator from returning to Washingtoon. Mission accomplished!

When we willingly forfeit our rights and fredoms for security – we ultimately have neither.

If in response to 9-11 we accept a state where government may remove fundamental rights at will, then the terrorists have won.

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