Airplanes / Aviation, Holidays and Seasons, Traffic Accidents, Travel / Vacation, War on Terror

Has The TSA Won?

Happy Thanksgiving from the TSA.

I wish I could tell you that Americans fought the good fight, and the TSA let us be. I wish I could tell you that — but holiday travel is no fairy-tale world. We never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile — travel consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Americans would show up with fresh bruises. The TSA kept at us — sometimes we were able to fight ’em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for American travelers — that was our routine.

Today is the biggest travel day of the year, and for another Thanksgiving, Americans will be doing it under the watchful eye of the Orwellian Transportation Security And Molestation Administration. The $8 billion dollar organization is alive, well, and entrenched. And nobody can accuse the freshly reelected Democratic president of doing anything to protect our civil liberties against the TSA. Nor has the supposedly liberty-loving Tea Party made aggressive groping at airports a major issue.

But for the most part, the country seems resigned to the TSA’s continued existence. Ooh, now kids under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes. Progress! We don’t sue them, we don’t legislate against them, we just kind of take it and hope that they decide to take their hands off our junk out of the kindness of their hearts.

We’ve got a couple of stories that, in their own way, highlight how cowed we’ve become….

Story number 1: People are so used to air travel meaning delays and invasions of basic privacy that we’re willing to travel in less convenient, more dangerous ways to avoid the hassle. From Bloomberg Businessweek:

There is lethal collateral damage associated with all this spending on airline security—namely, the inconvenience of air travel is pushing more people onto the roads. Compare the dangers of air travel to those of driving. To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.

You realize that there is very little evidence that the TSA makes air travel safer. You get that, right? The shoes, the liquids, the random bag searches that uncover dildos and G.I. Joe weapons — none of that is actually helping. The TSA is one big rock that promises to prevent tiger attacks; you’re supposed to think it’s working just because a tiger doesn’t show up in your backyard to maul you.

And yet we tend to marginalize the people who are most actively protesting their continued presence. Story number 2 is from Politico:

Syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon recently wrote a piece titled “How Orwellian Are We,” which alleged groping from TSA officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, accused employees of attempting to obscure their names and identification, and called employees “government pension-seeking hamburger clerks.”

That was just about enough for the TSA’s Bob Burns, aka Blogger Bob, who struck back on the agency’s own blog. His tone and conversational writing style is often a departure from the buttoned-up TSA press shop and allows a megaphone for the often-targeted organization. And Burns did not hold back. He wrote that Alkon’s attitude “towards TSA and our employees is offensive to say the least. Name calling, insults, the whole gamut.”

Yeah folks, the TSA has a blog to fight its media battles for it that attacks citizens who are trying to stop the TSA’s systemic invasion of privacy. It’s a blog that Politico has to remind people is a government mouthpiece:

Burns’s blog is a popular one, mixing operational reminders about the right to opt for a pat-down should one wish to avoid an imaging machine and travel carry-on tips along with responses to critical reports or columns about the TSA. His tone is often less jargon-filled than other official statements from the organization, and Burns can sometimes read more like a citizen blogger rather than a TSA employee, which he is.

No, but please, let’s talk about where Petraeus likes to place his pecker a little more.

Maybe it’s the law school in me, but I think the problem is that there is no one particular interest group that TSA is picking on. There’s no “legal defense fund” that represents people who have been violated by the TSA. Hell, we don’t even have a Gloria Allred of TSA claims. We don’t have anybody whose job is to legally protect us from the TSA.

TSA’s greatest strategy has been to violate all of us. Not only Arabs or only poor people or only gun owners or only people who dislike watching their children molested. It turns out, there are no lawyers for “Americans.”

And so the TSA-ists win.

Airport Security Is Killing Us [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Battle of the blogs: TSA vs. syndicated columnist [Politico]

Earlier: Two Minutes of Terrorist Triumph: Alone With the TSA

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