Not so long ago we were looking forward to a new era of sensible airport security. Now everyone is getting their junk touched.
This all started when backscatter naked X-ray machines were introduced in US airports recently. If you don’t like it, you can opt-out, but you get an “enhanced” pat-down. Then John Tyner coined a phrase when he told a TSA officer, “if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested”. He is now a Legendary Internet Hero and everyone is having a go. Since then he’s made a few more posts on the subject. They are sensible and articulate. He makes a point I’ve made myself, which is that people don’t really want maximum safety at all costs. Citing an article in reason, Tyner writes:
if a plane was hijacked and crashed once per week, one’s odds of dying would be 1 in 135,000. One would be almost three times as likely to be killed crossing the street, eight times as likely to be murdered, and over twenty times as likely to be killed in a car crash. Really think about that for a second. If a plane was hijacked and crashed once per week, you would still be more likely to be killed driving to the airport to get on that plane. The takeaway from this should be that terrorism (in the air) just isn’t that common. However, it has certainly achieved its intended end, to terrorize.
He goes on to say that since 4 out of 5 people walk through the metal detector anyway, molesting the remaining 1 out of 5 doesn’t do any good anyway. It’s a lot of cost for no benefit. Oddly enough, the Daily Mail (via Angry Teen) thinks you’re just as likely to die from the radiation from the backscatter machine as to die from a terrorist attack.
Really it’s worth keeping an eye on Tyner’s blog. There are a few other articles so far in which he defends himself from various criticisms, including the old ”flying is a privilege” line, in which post he analyses the situation from the point of view of his contract with the airline.
Since then, blogs have declared open season on the TSA:
- I first became aware of the new security procedures via Samizdata, wherein we learn that Andrew Ian Dodge got his junk, and his scar from surgery, touched.
- Eric Raymond does not want to fly any more. (He thinks the real solution to air terrorism is to arm the passengers.)
- One of his commenters links to a cartoon showing a spoof cover of a book titled “My first cavity search: Helping your child understand why he may pose a threat to National Security”. The cartoon turns up displayed in a TSA office.
- People don’t like their children being patted down by the TSA. Angry Teen links to a video of this happening. The TSA say that the boy’s father removed his shirt to expedite the screening and no complaint was made. However, a video taken in 2008 of a three year old girl who screams ”stop touching me” has resurfaced. Her father *was* complaining.
- TSA agents don’t like being called “molesters” and “perverts”. They also don’t like feeling inside the flab creases of obese people. Imagine what it must be like for the obese people! The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler has no sympathy.
- It’s not just fat people who suffer indgnity: One poor chap was left soaked in urine after a TSA agent broke his urostomy bag. A poor woman was forced to show her prosthetic breast.
- All kinds of people are likely to be *really sensitive* about being groped by strangers. A rape victim reports being traumatised by the TSA.
- Somebody is selling backscatter-machine thwarting underwear.
- NickM at Counting Cats has a good old rant.
- Plane full of soldiers returning from Afghanistan. They’re all carrying rifles. The TSA confiscates one soldier’s nail clippers.
- Heresy Corner points out that since security theatre only works when everyone plays along, a large scale backlash will be a huge problem for the TSA. He also links to a story about a porn star who mocks the TSA, insisting on being examined while wearing see-through underwear. It’s the sexualisation of airport security which is fuelling the backlash, he says.
- In a similar vein, Nate Anderson at Ars Technica suggests wearing a kilt in the traditional manner.
- An organisation called We Won’t Fly wants people to opt-out of backscatter machines en masse.
- Slashdot has a discussion about ways to make backscatter machines less objectionable by using computer vision. One commenter argues that planes can’t be used as missles any more, that blowing them up isn’t cost effective for terrorists, and best of all:
I don’t even think the TSA should be the one scanning the people at all, it should be the individual airlines. That way you can choose to pay for your security if you really want it, and competitive practices can find the optimal solution.
That’s all for now. I have a feeling there is going to be much more.