Tag Archives: airport security

Air Travel: A Touching Experience

Dave Barry writes about his first encounter with the TSA’s strictly enforced new policy of touching passengers’ genitalia.

I will experience this for myself this holiday season. If the choice is between some bureaucrat either touching my ding-dong or taking a picture of it, I suppose I’ll take the groping. Full-body scans are a more permanent indignity.The TSA claims that it destroys its nude pictures. But that claim is inaccurate. The machines automatically save the images.

Or maybe I’ll drive, even though it’s statistically more dangerous.

I hate the holidays.

When TSA Agents Attack

For most people, the TSA is merely an annoyance. We grudgingly play our part in security theater so we can get where we’re going. But for Kathy Parker, the TSA is something far more serious (via Steve Horwitz):

“Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. A TSA officer said, ‘Hey, I’ve always been curious about these. Do they work?’

“I was just so taken aback, I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

What happened next, she says, was more than embarrassing. It was infuriating.

That same screener started emptying her wallet. “He was taking out the receipts and looking at them,” she said.

“I understand that TSA is tasked with strengthening national security but [it] surely does not need to know what I purchased at Kohl’s or Wal-Mart,” she wrote in her complaint, which she sent me last week.

She says she asked what he was looking for and he replied, “Razor blades.” She wondered, “Wouldn’t that have shown up on the metal detector?”

In a side pocket she had tucked a deposit slip and seven checks made out to her and her husband, worth about $8,000.

Her thought: “Oh, my God, this is none of his business.”

Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.

“It’s an indication you’ve embezzled these checks,” she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn’t before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. “That’s my money,” she remembers saying. The officer’s reply? “It’s not your money.”

Read the whole thing. If the Fourth Amendment had any force anymore, the TSA would have been abolished years ago. It is well past time for President Obama and Congress to consider that step. It would certainly do wonders for them in the polls.

Al Qaeda: Clowns or Killers?

As he often does, Gene Healy hits a home run in his Washington Examiner column. More and more hilarious stories of bumbling, incompetent terrorists are coming out. Gene shares some of the better ones and asks, “You ever get the feeling that some of these guys aren’t the sharpest scimitars in the shed?”

This leads to a conclusion reached by far too few:

We’ve given al Qaeda power over us they don’t deserve. When we recognize that they’re often inept and clownish, we weaken their ability to sow terror. For the sake of our liberty and security, it’s prudent and patriotic to allow an occasional smirk to cross your stiff upper lip.

He’s right. Terrorists win when we overreact. And overreact we have. From airport security theater to the 854,000-employee post-9/11 homeland security aparatus, Americans have willingly handed al Qaeda a bigger, longer-lasting victory than they could ever have hoped for.

Regulation of the Day 124: Kissing Your Girlfriend Good-Bye

How do we know the terrorists are winning? When a man kissing his girlfriend good-bye at Newark Liberty International Airport results in the evacuation of an entire terminal, 200 delayed or canceled flights, and re-screening for thousands of passengers.

There is a word for this: overreaction. If this how the government reacts to a threat that is 20 times scarcer than being struck by lightning, we are doing something wrong.

Yes, the criminal kisser was wrong to sneak under a security rope to get one last peck from his girlfriend. But closing down an entire terminal at a major airport for six hours is overdoing it. Just take a look at the offender.

His name is Haisong Jiang. He is 28 years old and very much in love. He emigrated to the U.S. from China in 2004, and met his girlfriend at Rutgers University. She recently moved to California, though they remain together. Mr. Jiang is still in the New York area, pursuing a biology Ph.D. When he receives his degree later this year, he plans to move to California to be with her. He is clearly not a terrorist.

Mr. Jiang’s forbidden kiss was recorded by surveillance cameras. It was clear that he was sneaking a kiss, not a bomb. Even so, a five-day manhunt ensued. Mr. Jiang was arrested and tried. Fortunately, his sentence is a light one: “a $500 fine and $158 in costs and fees,” plus 100 hours of community service.

I was a bit worried that he would have been shipped to Guantanamo Bay, frankly. Hopefully retired Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, the new head of the TSA, will take steps to make airport security more rational and less driven by fear.

New Reason Video on the TSA

Regulation of the Day 97: Full Body Scans and Child Protection Laws

Sometimes, when two regulations love each other very much, they get together and have little baby regulations. This is happening right now in Britain.

Full body scans are coming into use at many UK airport security checkpoints. Since screeners essentially see all passengers naked, the scans run afoul of child protection laws for passengers under 18.

The thought of pedophiles using the body scan images for their own sick ends is decidedly creepy. So the British government is taking steps to keep that from happening. Those steps include:

-Exempting everyone under 18 from being scanned. This defeats the security purpose of the scanners.

-Moving the scanner operators out of sight of passengers. That keeps the scanner images anonymous. But it doesn’t prevent perverts from seeing things they shouldn’t.

There is an easier way: don’t do full body scans. They do more to make people feel safe than to actually make them safe.

Reinforced cockpit doors, proactive passengers, and checked baggage screening are much more effective. And they’re already in place. Besides, terrorist attacks are rare. Full-body scans are an over-reaction. The resources spent on them have other, better uses.

Regulation of the Day 73: Snow Globes as Terrorist Threat

snow-globe

Some of the TSA’s critics say the agency its own reductio ad absurdum. TSA’s latest action does nothing to improve security, but much to prove its critics correct. Snow globes are now banned from carry-on luggage (hat tip: Radley Balko).

This means one of two things: either grandmothers with snow globes in their carry-ons are the biggest terrorist threat facing the country, or the TSA is doing something wrong.

The way to prevent terrorism is to make terrorism difficult. Banning snow globes doesn’t make terrorism any more difficult.

Yes, larger snow globes probably violate the TSA’s three-ounce limit for liquids. But they are not bombs. They are, in fact, snow globes.