Monday, November 1, 2010

The TSA and Whole Body Scanners

I won't be surprised if this commentary puts me on a TSA terrorist watch list. But, here it comes:

A while back, a man whom I respect a lot, Dennis Prager, wrote to advocate more use of whole body scanners.

As an airline pilot, I typically spend about 17 days a month traveling by air (yes, we airline employees are subjected to the same degrading screening by Wal-Mart Greeter School dropouts as everyone else). So, I understand where he's coming from, but if he saw as much of airport security as I do, I think he'd change his mind.

I've been subjected to the whole body scanners on multiple occasions. Yes, the scanners might be effective in finding foreign objects carried by by people who are not a determined threat (they once caught me with one of those little Burger King salt packets in my front left pocket -- nothing carried under or in the clothing gets past 'em).

But, they're expensive, incredibly inefficient, and will not stop a determined threat (more on that later)! It takes several minutes to process each passenger in each scanner. It is unreasonable to expect to process even half the passenger throughput using this method. And it doesn't stop evil-doers from shifting contraband from their body to their luggage -- and current technology still lets a lot of contraband get through in the luggage. Likewise, It doesn't catch contraband carried inside the body -- a practice long employed by smugglers. A determined, savvy, and organized adversary will always defeat whatever technology the TSA chooses to deploy.
I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. That's why we haven't put them in our airport. -- Rafi Sela, leading Israeli airport security expert, referring to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world

TSA claims that the whole-body scan is not an intrusion on privacy. If that is the case, why not post everybody's scan on the Internet with names and dates? Start with Janet Napolitano! If these scans are not an egregious intrusion, why are many scanner operators worried about violating child porn laws?

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said, "Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane." Yet, in the name of "security", we are losing against the surveillance state, all because of the "systemic failure" of the federal government (as Obama himself recently called it).

Under current TSA policy, a traveler may request a pat-down search to avoid exposing himself to the body scanner. However, those pat-down searches reportedly will become much more intimate -- not to increase effectiveness -- but to increase compliance with the will of the government.

Scanning people for whom there is no probable cause to suspect wrongdoing represents an unreasonable search that violates the Fourth Amendment. If we continue to allow it -- or even ask for it -- the government will continue stripping away our privacy and liberty, all to foil the last attack, but the terrorists will continue to circumvent any of their silly, yet freedom-crushing "security" measures.

Judge Andrew Napolitano explained, "Airline travel is safer today because pilots have guns, cockpit doors are like bank vaults, and the passengers have become courageous. All this was done by individuals in the private sector, not by the government. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if the feds had not stripped us of our natural rights to keep ourselves safe—by keeping and bearing arms—9/11 would never have happened."

I have experienced the superior airport screening process used by Israel and by El Al. I am always impressed. They know how to identify evil people. Sure, they'll confiscate dangerous things when they find them, but their focus is on identifying dangerous people. You see, it is people, not things that pose a danger to us. There is nobody in TSA who is smart enough or trained enough to do what Israel's screeners do.

Silly ideas like banning bottles of water and the in-flight use of airplane toilets should give one a clue about how far in over their heads the TSA really is. Whole body scanners are an unreasonable and an inadequate solution to a transportation security system that is more eyewash and a government-jobs program than it is security.

The TSA already subjects our carry-on bags to X-ray scanning that penetrates the luggage "skin" to show what's inside. Yet screeners routinely fail to discern the guns, knives, and other contraband their monitors show. Sometimes undercover federal investigators are smuggling those weapons to test screeners; other times, passengers who’ve forgotten the pistol or ammunition in their knapsack turn themselves in when they reach their gate.

One report I read says that TSA screeners fail to identify and stop 25% of the weapons hidden in carry-on luggage by federal investigators! So, their solution is to electronically strip search us! If TSA can't competently use the existing technology, why are we giving up liberty and money to give them more technology that will be only partially effective in their hands?

The goal of terrorism is to cripple a population by instilling fear. Our adversary has succeeded in that goal -- with the full cooperation and support of our central government. By giving up individual freedom and rights in the name of security -- especially when it is a false security -- we have handed victory to our enemies. Our politicians must be replaced because, like the terrorists, they have used fear to gain power over us.

We Americans should be ashamed by our cowardice and unwillingness to fight for liberty. Our willingness to give up our rights to politicians, bureaucrats, and semi-competent government employees.

It's time for airport screeners to stop focusing on things and focus on people instead. Just like gun control and the criminal use of guns, evil people are the problem -- not the inanimate things they use to hurt us.
Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin

The terrorists won on 11 September 2010 -- with the full cooperation of Congress and the Whitehouse. Together, they finally destroyed the Constitution and voided the God-given rights it protects and created the TSA to do some of the dirty work.

Recommended book:
Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen
Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen

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