TSA roundup: pilots get exception, Obama response, Clinton "wouldn't submit," Al Qaeda moves on

[Video Link: SNL's phone sex TSA ad, while it lasts on YouTube.]

• On Friday, the TSA announced it would exempt airline pilots from the invasive screening procedures everyone's so upset about. The rest of us are still screwed.

• Barack Obama to everyone pissed about the TSA: Suck it up, buttercup. (msnbc.msn.com)

• Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has moved on to target parcels and freight cargo, in low-cost, low-impact attacks. (aljazeera.net)

• Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" if she would submit to a pat-down: "Not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?" (cbsnews.com)

• What happens when an ex-cop asks the TSA screeners, "Do I have a right to refuse this search?" (hlswatch.com)

• Ralph Nader calls it "Naked Insecurity." And I call that the name of my next band. (usatoday.com)

• TSA fails to separate myth from truth. (elliott.org)


  1. I dunno. I think if Obama wants to truly understand the outrage, he should stand there while his wife and daughters are repeatedly groped in accordance to TSA tactics.

    Have at it, Mr. President.

  2. You know, all this has made me think about how pre-employment drug screening quickly became universal in America. It too was a blatant – you are presumed guilty until you prove yourself innocent scenario. In this case, all you had to do was turn over a body fluid to a stranger. The big difference being that since most people don’t do recreational drugs the whole “I have nothing to hide” mindset was more pronounced. Instead of viewing it as a flagrant violation of privacy and fighting back folks went along quietly. But now that all flyers are being subjected to a more in-your-crotch violation of privacy a larger portion of the population is taking notice. In other words, the trend of eroding American freedoms, particularly by having to sacrifice our rights at the factory gate, has been long in the making. I think this new group of nouveau radicals is a bit late but I welcome them nonetheless.

  3. Drabula, good point about the pre-employment piss testing. I remember back when the idea seemed outrageous, and yet folks submitted quietly. Now it’s commonplace.

    I can understand why Obama won’t back down from airline security. Imagine if a plane blew up during his watch – the repubs would lynch him.

    1. >Imagine if a plane blew up during his watch – the repubs would lynch him.

      Not sure I agree with your logic. I don’t think Obama really cares what the repubs (or the moderates) think about him. I see this as more of a raw display of big government power.

      1. Really? From Obama’s platform of ending partisan divide and all his actions so far, it seems like he cares more about what the Republicans think than the Democrats.

  4. I like the ex-cop one. It’s a good to hear from someone that’s really out there thinking about security.

  5. Don’t let this one go ladies and gents. This is a rare chance for we the people to flex our muscles and stand up to this expensive, intrusive, meaningless security theatre. If you are flying on the 24th, make sure you opt-out of the backscatter machines. Retweet these articles. Talk to your friends. Write your congressmen. Make sure your voice is heard.

  6. On the topic of acclimation to intrusions, and how they modify the “reasonable expectation of privacy,” I’d like to offer up footnote 5 of the famous pen-register case, Smith v. Maryland. I don’t hold great optimism that modern courts will heed seize on its invitation to scrutinize government practices, but it is a good summary of the danger of allowing the government to acclimate the public to intrusive practices.

    SMITH v. MARYLAND, 442 U.S. 735 (1979)


    Situations can be imagined, of course, in which Katz’ two-pronged inquiry would provide an inadequate index of Fourth Amendment protection. For example, if the Government were suddenly to announce on nationwide television that all homes henceforth would be subject to warrantless entry, individuals thereafter might not in fact entertain any actual expectation of privacy regarding their homes, papers, and effects. […] In such circumstances, where an individual’s subjective expectations had been “conditioned” by influences alien to well-recognized Fourth Amendment freedoms, those subjective expectations obviously could play no meaningful role in ascertaining what the scope of Fourth Amendment protection was. In determining whether a “legitimate expectation of privacy” existed in such cases, a normative inquiry would be proper.

    1. Muslim isn’t a race, and it’s not like every terror threat the West has ever faced has been from another race. They’d have to be free to racially profile everyone from Morocco to Malyasia to get the races with significant portions of Muslims to have a chilling effect on the current threat, and then they’d just recruit white converts. And then a couple of decades from now there could be a new, white terror threat and our methods are useless. We need behavioural screening, reinforced cabin doors and respect for civil rights if we’re going to stay safe long term.

      1. Alternatively, pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan and canceling those billion dollar checks sent to the Israeli government every year would probably do the trick.

    2. Except people from profiled minorities, of course, and people who aren’t so incredibly short-sighted and selfish that they don’t care about them. So, you’re right, probably not many.

  7. Would it be illegal to create a map similar to National Sex Offender Registry where gropy TSA agents (and especially the people that created the rules) are listed with photos. It seems that what they are doing is having the same impact on the victim regardless of the intent of the action.

  8. Okay. It’s 2010. Who do you want on the Democratic ballot in 2012? If we get someone charged up and ready now, s/he can unseat Obama. Otherwise, we’re screwed.

    1. The likelihood of a successful Democratic primary challenge in 2012 is so remote that you should just prepare yourself for the screw. It seems more likely that NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg will make an independent run for the presidency. In the unlikely event that he wins, you should also prepare yourself for the screw.

  9. Anyone ever fly into Salt Lake City? All the TSA people are young, tall, clean shaven white dudes. Very nazi-esque. Mormons must take their security pret-ty seriously.

  10. solution to getting groped by TSA: leave clothing in car, walk thru airport buck naked a la bluefly.com commercial from a few years ago.

    oh wait, then you get arrested for exposing yourself and have to register as a sex offender. nice.

  11. Listen, B.O., Hussein, Homey, it’s past the point of “frustrations” at this point. You say you’re trying to prevent terrorist attacks that could take human lives, but your actions say that you have a total disregard for human life in this country and abroad. Either you care about people, or you don’t. I think the U.S. people agree: we’d rather have a few people maybe die on airplanes that have everyone’s bodies violated. Is it not obvious by this point?

    Did we seriously elect this asshole?

  12. In case anyone cares, here is the full text of President Obama’s comments on the TSA screening situation:

    With respect to the TSA, let me first of all make a confession. I don’t go through security checks to get on planes these days. So I haven’t personally experienced some of the procedures that have been put in place by TSA. I will also say that in the aftermath of the Christmas day bombing, our TSA personnel are properly under enormous pressure to make sure that you don’t have somebody slipping on a plane with some sort of explosive device on their persons. And since the explosive device that was on Mr. Abdulmutallab was not detected by ordinary metal detectors, it has meant that TSA has had to try to adapt to make sure that passengers on planes are safe. Now that’s a tough situation. One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience, for all of us. And I understand people’s frustrations. And what I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through, “Are there ways of doing it that are less intrusive?” But, at this point, TSA in consultation with our counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they’ve been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat we saw in the Christmas day bombing. But I’m gonna — every week I meet with my counterterrorism team and I’m constantly asking them whether is what we’re doing absolutely necessary? Have we thought it through? Are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?

    (Link to the video)

  13. “Are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?”

    Yeah, Mr President: having a strong word with the Saudis and fixing the Israel/Palestine apartheid thing.

    Otherwise you’re just protecting your head by burying it deeper in the sand.

  14. The purpose of the extremely personal and intrusive pat-down is to encourage passengers to submit to an x-ray; it is not to provide security for the airlines. No wonder folks are upset.

    The solution to incrased passenger safety is to adopt an intellegent selection method of detecting threats. As it is now, everyone is presumed to be a threat and that is not fair and has no support by the public nor the legal system.

    The searches relies solely upon an authoritarian set of rules prepared by TSA to protect them of critisism in the event of another terrorest attack. The rules now followed have no scientific basis whatsoever.

  15. A great way to protest while complying would be to sing the National Anthem while being groped.

    Opt-out of scanner, comply with grope, after the grope has started in public, start singing!

    I think this would be great way to draw the attention of other waiting passengers and force them to think of what is happening in our “free” country. What news this would be if passengers are arrested/detained singing the National Anthem!

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