Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TSA and you

For those of you who check out my links to the left, you may have noticed a trend lately - the TSA. I am not a fan of the direction the TSA has taken since its inception in 2001. In fact, that's an interesting tidbit for those who have forgotten. The TSA has been around for less than 10 years. It was created as a division of Homeland Security after 9/11. What about before then? Private security companies were contracted for each airport, and I think that's how it needs to be once again.

First, let's take a look at what TSA has become: an overreaching, privacy-invading security theater for airports. Now, that's of course just my opinion, but I have yet to be convinced otherwise. I think every additional security step they have introduced has been simply reactionary, and they have little imagination and foresight to prevent future attacks. In fact, its creation was reactionary. We had the tragic 9/11 attacks, so we created the TSA because we thought it would help. We had the shoe bomber, so we started taking off our shoes. We had some liquid scare, so now we can't have more than 3oz of any liquid. Now we have this underwear bomber guy, so they escalated their roll-outs of the full-body scanners. At one point, however, have they actually prevented a major incident? None that I can recall, although I could be mistaken. All of those potential attacks went completely by the TSA. Imagine that.

Before 2001, I am fairly certain that we were targets of terrorists. In fact, to my recollection there have been extremists out there who have hated us since the mid-1900's when we screwed up that whole Israel-Palestine thing. Yet, we still somehow got by. Since 9/11, we (the U.S. Government) have been infused with fear, and that fear has driven us to points that I deem unacceptable.

The sad truth is that if a terrorist wants to wreak havoc, they will find a way to do it. Not to instill fear in anyone, but we could all be sitting at our jobs and a suicide bomber could just come in and blow us all up. There are some harsh realities out there, and one of them is that we could die at any moment. But it doesn't even have to be from a terrorist attack. It could be from a car accident, natural causes, or anything really. Think about the New York subways for a moment. There are thousands of people who ride the subways every day, and yet we don't have crazy security restrictions involved there. Metro buses? Trains? Ferries? What makes an airport and an airplane any different?

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't have any security, nor should we just abolish the screening process altogether. However, I just don't think TSA helps and it's been pretty evident so far. Now they are starting to cross lines. Not only are they inefficient and ineffectual, but they continue to impose stricter security on us simply to appear as if they are actually doing something. At some point, we as a people have to push back. "Pushing back" is one of the foundations of this country (think the American Revolution), lest we forget. At what point do you draw the line for a "security theater"?

So what is the TSA doing these days? Full-body scans and invasive pat-downs. Those are your two options in most airports if you don't get the trusty metal detector. You have two choices for the body scan: x-ray and radio-wave/millimeter-wave. The former has some people questioning the legitimacy of their safety claims. These type of x-ray full-body scanners are still in their infancies as far as I'm concerned, and we really have no way of knowing long-term effects and potential cancer risks. The radio-wave or millimeter-wave scanners are apparently safer, according to the previously linked article. Is it actually dangerous? Hell if I know, but to me, it's not worth the risk. It might be worth the risk if I thought that we as a society actually valued the full body scanner. When we get radiation at a hospital via x-rays or treatment, we are doing it because the benefits outweigh the risks. I want to see if my bone is broken. I don't get shit from being scanned at the airport.

If you've read this far into my blog, then you have the patience to read this very interesting piece on how they handle security at the Israel airport. They profile people, have behavioral specialists everywhere, and only scan belongings as a backup. They don't look for weapons, they look for people. It's a method that actually makes sense, but I admit that at this point, setting up a system like that in the U.S. would be very costly. Then again, I wonder how much money we're draining into this piece of shit we call the TSA.

Also, did you guys know that airports can opt-out of the TSA and go back to privatized companies now? They only had to use the TSA for 2 years after its formation, apparently. A representative has already started contacting airports to let them know about this clause in the original bill.

Here are a few more views on the TSA:
-Full Frontal Nudity Doesn’t Make Us Safer: Abolish the TSA
-Has Airport Security Gone Too Far?
-TSA screenings: Government stupidity at work

I'm not one to really take up causes, but I think we're at a crucial point in our society. I know some people simply don't care and will do whatever, but that doesn't make what they're doing right. Apathy does not breed anything good. The TSA has no qualms to continue to violate our privacies for the sake of "security" and eventually it'll be on us to tell them we've had enough. They have no concept otherwise. In fact, they seem to have no problem harassing 3-year-olds.

I'm curious if you guys have an opinion on this. Am I just going overboard here? In the mean time, you can count on me to opt-out of the scanners. Yes, I'll have to deal with getting violated with a pair of hands, but at least I know for certain that there won't be any adverse side-effects.