This Week’s Rants and Raves, TSA Edition

1. In the below video, Senator Rand Paul criticizes John Pistole and his TSA for their ham-fisted and invasive pat-downs, especially on children.

Senator Paul makes several good points. What struck me in particular, however, is one part of Mr. Pistole’s response. He said that pat-downs on children and seniors are driven—and, apparently, justified—by bona fide intelligence: he knows of a case in which a child under twelve was used as a suicide bomber, and another in which a 65-year-old couple were suicide bombers as well.

Isn’t this exactly the kind of invidious stereotyping and discrimination that prevents the TSA from targeting Muslim males for enhanced scrutiny? The argument given against targeting Muslim males is that not all Muslim males are terrorists. It does not follow from the fact that some tiny proportion of them is that therefore they are all suspespects, so targeting all of them for enhanced scrutiny is prejudice.

Yet here is a case in which Mr. Pistole apparently thinks that because a single child was allegedly once used as an attempted suicide bomber, therefore all children are equally suspicious and must be subjected to enhanced scrutiny. Moreover, because two seniors allegedly attempted to become suicide bombers, therefore all seniors are equally suspicious and the TSA is justified in patting them down too.

Well, Mr. Pistole, which is it? Is assuming that a trait that belongs to some members of a group therefore belongs to all members of the group morally acceptable, or not?

2. In other TSA news, my nomination for American Hero of the Week: Andrea Fornella Abbott of Clarkesville, Tennessee. According to this report, while traveling through the Memphis airport, Ms. Abbott would not allow the TSA goons to molest—er, enhancedly pat down—her daughter. When she refused, they reminded her that they, not she, will be the ones who will decide what is “inappropriate touching,” thank you very much, and she may now just be quiet and stand over there while they have their way with her daughter.

Apparently Ms. Abbott refused, vociferiously. Upon reconsideration, the TSA agents recognized that she was not under suspicion of any crime, that they had no evidence of criminal behavior on her or her daughter’s part, that in a free society people have a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures that shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized, and that it is just plain sick to grope minors anyway, so they relented and let her go on her way.

Uh, no. They arrested her on the charge of “disorderly conduct” and put her in jail. For defending her fundamental liberty, for defending the bodily integrity of her daughter, even in the face of arrest, and for giving the rest of us passive and docile ennablers a reminder of what is at stake and an example to follow, I salute Ms. Abbott.

5 thoughts on “This Week’s Rants and Raves, TSA Edition

  1. I think I would preferred more questioning and less speech-making from Senator Paul, although this is the only clip forming my impression of what happened.. I also think it is high time to disband the TSA and its parent, the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit.

  2. It’s funny because the TSA can only get bigger and bigger with each attempted attack. It will never get smaller. It’s a losing battle. The way I fight it is by making suggestive faces at TSA agents. Two can play the game of making people feel uncomfortable.

  3. Good points and I think this post really reflects the growing public resentment and cynicism towards the TSA. I wonder sometimes though if there were no TSA whether it would have many any difference in Americans’ safety. Obviously in a couple of cases it did, and granted, it must provide at least some, minimal disincentive for potential schemers.

    The private sector solution suggested in the clip was interesting as well. My question is, if terrorism were to consistently take advantage of air travel without the TSA (or whatever ‘Staatsicherheitministerium’ du nennen willst), then would insurance companies even bother offering airlines their products? The price would either be transferred onto consumers at a rather unpleasant rate or the airlines would simply adopt their own security systems (which in the oh so competitive airplane business might not leave you with many options… get in line for privatized molestation or get off my plane– I find the ‘right’ of mobility argument simply laughable. You may have a right to travel, but surely only by your own means; just because I want to move to another location doesn’t mean I’m somehow entitled to use other people’s property to do it.).

    So unless we assume that there is no ‘real’ threat of terrorism, or that this threat is minimal (and based on the first paragraph’s historic tally I believe this to be slightly naive), then it seems to me we’re back at the beginning of the problem: where do you find equilibrium on the scale of freedom versus security?

    Personally, by the way, I believe the TSA is a hugely dangerous infringement on everybody’s rights. I’m just not sure what the real solution here is. Seems like the alternative to public security is simply a general decrease in mobility, and I’m not sure anyone is actually willing to accept this as a true defence of public freedom.

    1. The problem is finding an equilibrium in a real-world scenario where you have an all-powerful governing body that is motivated to increase it’s own power and responsibilities despite the efficacy of doing so.

  4. Come to think of it, has there been any legislation proposed in Congress to rein in the TSA? That might be a still more useful thing to do.

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