Ten Ethics Questions for the Pat-Down Defenders

I, like you, have been reading and listening to my various “My Obama, may he always be right, but my Obama, right or wrong” friends try to argue that having TSA agents sexually assault non-consenting adults is a perfectly reasonable and benign exercise of government power. I, like you, am tired of the posturing and excuse making. Their arguments, in essence, all boil down to: a) they have no choice b) they have our best interests at heart c) it’s no big deal, and 4) trust them, they know what they are doing.

I suggest that you, as I will, pose the following questions to your trusting friends, perhaps beginning with a preliminary query regarding whether they themselves have undergone the humiliating and invasive pat-down procedure that they so willingly approve of for others.

Then ask them these:

1. If, as we are told, the full-hand pat-down was made absolutely essential to our safety by the underwear bomber, why did the TSA wait almost a year after the incident before instituting the new procedure? If it was essential, then wasn’t the government taking a reckless risk with the lives of Americans by not instituting these procedures immediately? Or, if you prefer, “as soon as possible,” in which case one must ask if  it is credible that it required a full year to devise a procedure and train TSA employees to perform it,  when the procedure amounts to “take your hands, and feel everywhere you can”? If the procedure could not be instituted before nearly a year had gone by, wouldn’t a competent and transparent agency alert travelers and the public generally that they were flying in the absence of absolutely necessary travel safety procedures?

2. If the pat-downs were being prepared for almost a year, why wasn’t the public given notice well before they were put in place, so they could plan accordingly?

3. If the pat-downs were intended, as officials now say, only as alternatives to the full-body screening machines, why were they put into effect before the full-body screening machines were available in all airports, and before TSA staff had been trained to operate them?

4. After the underwear bomber was foiled, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the public on national television that “the system worked.” If the system worked, then why are such intrusive measures “necessary” now?

5. If they didn’t work, why is a Secretary of Homeland Security still in office who either has terrible judgment regarding the efficacy of security measures, or who lies to the American people about how well the system works? If this is the quality and reliability of official tolerated by the Obama Administration, why should we assume that the head of the TSA is any better?

6. Why is it a violation of civil rights for Arizona to mandate requiring non-citizens to produce authorization for their presence in the U.S., as required by law, but reasonable to require citizen passengers of commercial airlines to submit to full-hand pat downs of their breasts and genitals when, due to no fault of their own, full body scanning devices are not available?

7. Have illegal immigrants proved to be less of a danger to Americans, since September 11, 2001, than air passengers who have only undergone the previous, un-enhanced pat-downs? Has this been explained  to Chandra Levy’s parents?

8. Why is the Bush Administration’s warrantless eavesdropping on the few Americans who have telephone conversations with suspected terrorists an outrageous incursion on our rights, but the Obama Administration’s warrantless feel-up search of every American with both an airplane ticket and a surgical implant “no big deal?

9. If it is true, as the media has reported, that technology is available that could easily and cheaply address the privacy concerns attached to the full-body scan machines, why didn’t the TSA use it? If the agency really cared about being as sensitive and unobtrusive as possible, wouldn’t identifying such technology be a priority rather than an afterthought?

10. In the wake of the TSA caving in to demands by pilots and air flight attendants that they not be subjected to the body scans or the pat-downs, how can the Homeland Security, the TSA and the Obama Administration continue to argue against reasonable profiling?  Is not the exclusion of airplane crews simply limited profiling, by determining that crews are less likely to bring a bomb on a flight than non-crew members? Is this even necessarily true—for example, should not Steven Slater, nut-job Jet Blue attendant, be regarded as more of a security risk than, say, the 8-year-old boy the TSA strip-searched last week? Assuming crews do deserve the positive profile, how do you justify stopping the use of profiling there? What about U.S. Senators? Spouses of Congress members? Michael Steele? The Joint Chiefs? Catholic Bishops? Jimmy Carter? Bono? An eleven-year old girl? A seven-year old boy? Scanning and feeling up everybody, while idiotic, at least is consistent. If, however, the government will profile airplane crews, why won’t they profile everyone else?

Finally, if the bureaucrats don’t have any better answers to these questions than your friends so—and they don’t—why should we trust that they know what they’re doing?

Go ahead. Ask.

 

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Ten Ethics Questions for the Pat-Down Defenders

  1. Peter Canaday

    As usual, follow the money. When Michael Chertoff, former head of Homeland Security ordered the implementation of Advanced Imaging Devices, AKA “naked body-scanners”, “porno booths”, “shlong rulers,” while in office during a Republican administration, and then stepped into management of Rapiscan, the maker of the very scanners themselves, and is given the green light in a Democratic administration, it doesn’t take much intellectual horsepower to connect the dots. Particularly poignant when phantom studies by radiation physics experts show that they don’t even detect plastic explosives 5 times the weight of the “underwear” bomber’s contents. [http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/safety/content/article/113619/1730077] Particularly poignant when authorities, this time in UK, promise not to store pictures from the screening, and it turns out that pictures of an Indian film star’s privates are circulated at Heathrow. [http://www.prisonplanet.com/exposed-naked-body-scanner-images-of-film-star-printed-circulated.html] Never mind that all the security measures have not stopped one terrorist would-be bomber, but have succeeded in turning millions of the American public into sheep, willing to take whatever abuse the government hands out for the false assurance of security. As Benjamin Franklin said, “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  2. tgt

    In response to 7, illegal immigrants have been no more a danger than anyone else. Do you want to play mad libs with your comment? I think “black people” and “Nicole Brown Simpson’s parents” or “mothers” and “the father of anyone who’s mother killed their kids” work entertainingly. The comparison “Why does bad group X have more rights than average Joe Y?” only works if bad group X isn’t really average group X.

    In Response to 6, The law is a civil rights issue in part because citizens without papers will also be arrested. This is actually a case of preventing profiling. This is essentially a subset of question 10.

    I like most of your others, particularly 8. I haven’t actually encountered anyone who who has been in favor of the scanners (now being piloted in courthouses!), but Thanksgiving is tomorrow…

    • You misread my point. 7 is just a follow-up to 6: I want to know why those who are so solicitous of a minor and legal inconvenience for potential terrorists ( most of the 9-11 hijackers were here illegally, if I recall) and non citizens are so willing to throw innocent travelers to the wolves. I expect excessive zeal in one area to be at least equaled where legal residents are involved—it has nothing, or little to do with relative risk—though ZERO terrorists have ever been uncovered by the TSA. And no citizens without papers will be arrested…nobody’s been arrested at all under the Arizona law. What civil right violation? There is no civil rights violation involved in reasonable profiling, and to the extent courts have so held, they are dead wrong. Political correctness at its worst and most dangerous.

      Boy, I thought I had caught up to you, or at least beaten you into retreat with the his list. Well played, sir!

      • tgt

        And no citizens without papers will be arrested…nobody’s been arrested at all under the Arizona law.So, handcuffing someone, taking them to the police station, and holding them until they can provide proof of citizenship is not an arrest. It’s just an unfortunate temporary departure from their scheduled agenda.

        Profiling is a great tool for fighting crime. I agree. Some one tiptoeing around a house at night while wearing a ski mask and holding a sack of candlesticks can be reasonably be thought to be a thief. That that someone is black or brown or white should not be included. The Arizona law is essentially made for racial profiling, which has more than a small amount of sordid application. It creates a class of people that the police are supposed to treat differently based on nothing but their heritage.

        • If you can show me documentation that anyone was actually arrested under the Arizona law, please do so. My information is that nobody was or has been so far. Saying that its purpose was racial profiling is, honestly, nonsense. It’s purpose was to let illegal aliens know that they are not welcome, as they should not be, and to let the federal government know that it is past time for it to enforce the immigration laws, as it should. That class of people you refer to is pretty close to a majority of Arizonans—you act like the law was passed in Minnesota.

  3. Buzz Mauro

    Jack, I have lots of respect for you, but there’s just too much disingenuousness here for me to stomach. (Unless your reasoning really is this poor, which I don’t believe.) You use the kind of tactics you would rail against in others. Also, way more than ten questions. I’ll try to answer them as though you ask them sincerely, even though there’s so much evidence against that theory.

    You address your question to “pat-down defenders,” but also to “my Obama, right or wrong” people, apparently equating the two groups. I’m a member of the former group but not of the latter (although a lot of people would assume I am). If you’re really speaking only to people who support certain ideas with no concern whether they’re right or wrong, my answers won’t count. But in that case I think you should aim your sights higher.

    “I suggest that you, as I will, pose the following questions to your trusting friends, perhaps beginning with a preliminary query regarding whether they themselves have undergone the humiliating and invasive pat-down procedure that they so willingly approve of for others.”

    No, I haven’t, and yet I think I could take it. I assume you have, or you wouldn’t feel qualified to call it “humiliating and invasive.” (Some people feel that way and some don’t.) If you haven’t experienced it yourself, nice rhetorical try, but come on. If you have, I’m sorry you hated it so much. For me, it would have to be much worse than I can imagine it to actually be before I would find it so “humiliating and invasive” that I would consider it a hideous attack on my freedoms. What none of your questions admit is that it’s a matter of degree. If we were talking routine cavity searches, I would need much more evidence of the procedure’s importance. If we were talking handshakes, presumably you would be less offended. I don’t think a pat-down is “a big deal.” The point is that some people feel a line has been crossed and other people don’t. I don’t.

    1. “If, as we are told, the full-hand pat-down was made absolutely essential to our safety by the underwear bomber, why did the TSA wait almost a year after the incident before instituting the new procedure?”

    I don’t know. But the point of this question seems to be that the measures are actually not “absolutely essential.” I concede that, because it’s almost impossible to justify any measure as “absolutely essential.” If the implied objection is that authorities should not be calling something “absolutely essential” when it isn’t actually “absolutely essential,” okay, sure, I concede that, too, but I take it as an exaggeration that might help some people accept a measure that might make us somewhat more secure, and I count it a relatively small transgression among all the greater exaggerations and downright lies we are told. Yes, I think there are degrees of these things. And I don’t know why you should think that means I (or other people who disagree with you on this) am uncritically accepting of everything Obama says. It has nothing to do with Obama.

    “If it was essential, then wasn’t the government taking a reckless risk with the lives of Americans by not instituting these procedures immediately?”

    Not a real question. Pretends to believe in the absoluteness of “essential.” Also suggests that—since supposedly there is no good answer to the question—the government must simply be deciding now to get its jollies, or something. I don’t get that. I think they’re instituting something that may not be essential, but does seem to provide somewhat better security, and an amount that to me seems worth the inconvenience.

    “Or, if you prefer, “as soon as possible,” in which case one must ask if it is credible that it required a full year to devise a procedure and train TSA employees to perform it, when the procedure amounts to “take your hands, and feel everywhere you can”? If the procedure could not be instituted before nearly a year had gone by, wouldn’t a competent and transparent agency alert travelers and the public generally that they were flying in the absence of absolutely necessary travel safety procedures?”

    Let’s imagine there’s some other precaution that they feel we really should have, but they can’t for some reason institute it yet. No, I don’t think they should be terrifying people by telling us that. I think they should be working on it.

    2. “If the pat-downs were being prepared for almost a year, why wasn’t the public given notice well before they were put in place, so they could plan accordingly?”

    Because planning would not be called for or, as far as I can tell, possible. This one makes no sense to me.

    3. “If the pat-downs were intended, as officials now say, only as alternatives to the full-body screening machines, why were they put into effect before the full-body screening machines were available in all airports, and before TSA staff had been trained to operate them?”

    I don’t know. But I don’t share the implied sense that something nefarious is going on. Again, is the idea that these pat-downs are just lots of fun for those who get to do them, and they’re just pretending that they might improve security? Or maybe the suggestion is simply that they’re not being sensitive enough about people’s discomfort. I think the discomfort is objectively minor, so yes, “not a big deal.” If you want to make the case that it’s potentially psychologically or physically damaging for a significant percentage of people, that would be worth listening to, but nobody seems to be saying that.

    4. “After the underwear bomber was foiled, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the public on national television that “the system worked.” If the system worked, then why are such intrusive measures “necessary” now?”

    Once again, nothing’s “necessary,” and that’s the only reason this question might be hard to answer. (And this is another one that includes “intrusive” in that child-trick way: Any direct answer would implicitly accept the terms of the question, essentially agreeing that the measures are “intrusive.” Gotcha!) If the point of all these questions is that “necessary” is the wrong word, okay, you win your trivial point. If instead of “necessary” you used “important” or “helpful” or something, then the obvious answer would be: The fact that something worked once, or has always worked up until now, is no reason to assume it will always work.

    5. “If they didn’t work, why is a Secretary of Homeland Security still in office who either has terrible judgment regarding the efficacy of security measures, or who lies to the American people about how well the system works? If this is the quality and reliability of official tolerated by the Obama Administration, why should we assume that the head of the TSA is any better?”

    They worked. What terrible reasoners we would be to assume that meant everything was perfect!

    6. “Why is it a violation of civil rights for Arizona to mandate requiring non-citizens to produce authorization for their presence in the U.S., as required by law, but reasonable to require citizen passengers of commercial airlines to submit to full-hand pat downs of their breasts and genitals when, due to no fault of their own, full body scanning devices are not available?”

    I never said Arizona’s mandate is a violation of civil rights. (I also didn’t say it’s not.) Why are you putting words in my mouth about a completely unrelated question?

    7. “Have illegal immigrants proved to be less of a danger to Americans, since September 11, 2001, than air passengers who have only undergone the previous, un-enhanced pat-downs? Has this been explained to Chandra Levy’s parents?”

    I don’t know the answer to either of these. Do you?

    8. “Why is the Bush Administration’s warrantless eavesdropping on the few Americans who have telephone conversations with suspected terrorists an outrageous incursion on our rights, but the Obama Administration’s warrantless feel-up search of every American with both an airplane ticket and a surgical implant “no big deal?””

    See my answer to #6. Also my answer to #4, where my comments about “intrusive” apply equally well to “feel-up.”

    9. “If it is true, as the media has reported, that technology is available that could easily and cheaply address the privacy concerns attached to the full-body scan machines, why didn’t the TSA use it? If the agency really cared about being as sensitive and unobtrusive as possible, wouldn’t identifying such technology be a priority rather than an afterthought?”

    First question: I don’t know. Second question: I don’t think they really care about being as sensitive and unobtrusive as possible, and I don’t think that would be a good goal. If they’ve actually said they are trying to be as sensitive and unobtrusive as possible, they shouldn’t have, but I understand why they might and I would count it a small infraction.

    10. “In the wake of the TSA caving in to demands by pilots and air flight attendants that they not be subjected to the body scans or the pat-downs, how can the Homeland Security, the TSA and the Obama Administration continue to argue against reasonable profiling? Is not the exclusion of airplane crews simply limited profiling, by determining that crews are less likely to bring a bomb on a flight than non-crew members? Is this even necessarily true—for example, should not Steven Slater, nut-job Jet Blue attendant, be regarded as more of a security risk than, say, the 8-year-old boy the TSA strip-searched last week? Assuming crews do deserve the positive profile, how do you justify stopping the use of profiling there? What about U.S. Senators? Spouses of Congress members? Michael Steele? The Joint Chiefs? Catholic Bishops? Jimmy Carter? Bono? An eleven-year old girl? A seven-year old boy? Scanning and feeling up everybody, while idiotic, at least is consistent. If, however, the government will profile airplane crews, why won’t they profile everyone else?”

    I think airline crews probably should submit to the same security measures as everybody else, but the obvious answer to your questions is that when they “profile” their own employees, they’re profiling them based on much more information than is easily available to them about any passenger, including those who resemble Jimmy Carter, etc. Also including children. I think we would all be grateful if a pat-down of a child saved the life of a planeful of people, including a child, because someone had planted something on that kid. Maybe that’s not very likely and maybe there are other ways to screen that kid. Okay. I’d still be happy, and my happiness would not be mitigated by sadness for the millions of other people who had to get patted down. Oh, and yes, we now know that that crazy flight attendant should be patted down, too. Good point.

    “Finally, if the bureaucrats don’t have any better answers to these questions than your friends so—and they don’t—why should we trust that they know what they’re doing?”

    I don’t think they need better answers than mine.

    • Boy—here I am, all ready for bed, and then encounter this. Good work, good points, thank you, Buzz, for taking the time. Now, damn you, I have to answer before I go to bed, and worse than that, I have to THINK.

      I plead innocent to disingenuousness….though there are more than 10 questions. Call that blogger’s license. I should have been more specific on the Obama issue: what has rankled me is the identity of some of the defenders of the pat-downs, who were the same people claiming that allowing the FBI to check and see if a suspected terrorist was checking out “How to Make a Dirty Bomb” at the library put us one step away from Stalin when the Bush Administration was proposing it, but he Obama TSA regularly slapping my nay-nays as a prerequisite for getting on a plane was necessary and reasonable. One is a classmate, Michael (“Cross-Fire”) Kinsley. Just because someone shows themselves to be biased and a hypocrite for holding an a opinion doesn’t mean everyone holding that opinion is biased and a hypocrite. But I do feel if we can’t count on liberals to take the absolutist view on searches and free speech, who will?

      I’ve gone through the feel-up pat-downs three times. I will continue to, if the body scans aren’t working or staffed when I go through security, as has been the case the last 6 times I have flown. Yes, I resent it. I also resent hearing Administration spokespeople say that it is a “choice” to go through the “enhanced pat-downs” (which is as dishonest a phrase as “enhanced interrogation” was for waterboarding). The TSA has an obligation to have the scanning devices fully staffed and operable. I don’t see why having an artificial hip should condemn me to being molested every time I fly, while I have to listen to lying officials say that I “had a choice.” Clear?

      It is NOT a “pat-down”. I’m a lawyer, and I had cases involving pat-downs. The agents use their full hands and massage, firmly, every inch of your body—there’s no patting about it. That’s why I ask if the people defending the process really have any idea what they are talking about. Evidently not. The old process was a pat-down. This isn’t. This goes waaaaaay beyond any matter of degree. People are not complaining out of excess sensitivity. A woman will have her breasts squeezed, not patted down. My mother, for one, would freak out. The pooh-poohing of the complaints is either disingenuous or, in most cases, just ignorant. I accepted literally hundreds of wandings cum pat-downs in good spirits over the last ten years. I think I know when the line has been crossed. It has.

      Regarding your answers—which are, as you say, as good as anyone is likely to come up with…

      1. Regarding “absolutely essential” : I’m not playing rhetorical games. If I and others are going to be physically assaulted over and over again, then this had better be essential and necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, or there is no justifying it. “Somewhat safer,” in my opinion, cannot justify this, because it is extreme. Indeed, I believe the legality of the procedure will rest on whether the government can show it is essential.
      This is the one question you ducked, Buzz. The government either left us naked to a known danger for a full year (laziness, negligence, incompetence) or the procedure just isn’t that necessary at all. I don’t see how you can avoid that conclusion. The rationalizations that 1) a little exaggeration is a good thing sometimes and 2) this is minor compared to other lies are beneath you. If the measures had gone into effect last January, they would have had some credibility. A year later? Come on.

      You say, “Let’s imagine there’s some other precaution that they feel we really should have, but they can’t for some reason institute it yet. No, I don’t think they should be terrifying people by telling us that. I think they should be working on it.”

      What reason? I know the answer to my first question: the government knows damn well that these methods won’t protect anyone enough to justify them—that’s why they waited so long. Do you believe that if the TSA believed that there was a dire threat of attacks by many underwear bombers that could be detected by Feel-Up-Pat-Downs, they wouldn’t have put out a directive to “run your hands over every square inch” of each passenger—the next DAY? I sure do—but maybe I’m still too trusting. (Which is the point of a later question…if they aren’t smart enough to do that, why should we trust their judgment about when it is necessary to feel us up?)

      2. “If the pat-downs were being prepared for almost a year, why wasn’t the public given notice well before they were put in place, so they could plan accordingly?”

      You say, “Because planning would not be called for or, as far as I can tell, possible. This one makes no sense to me.”

      Really? I would have taken the train to NYC rather than go through this obnoxious process, if they had let me know this is what was going to be down. We have a right to be told when the rules change, plain and simple. Giving up that right is creeping sheepism. (I like that phrase. I think it’s original!)

      3. “If the pat-downs were intended, as officials now say, only as alternatives to the full-body screening machines, why were they put into effect before the full-body screening machines were available in all airports, and before TSA staff had been trained to operate them?”

      You say, I don’t know. But I don’t share the implied sense that something nefarious is going on. Again, is the idea that these pat-downs are just lots of fun for those who get to do them, and they’re just pretending that they might improve security? Or maybe the suggestion is simply that they’re not being sensitive enough about people’s discomfort. I think the discomfort is objectively minor, so yes, “not a big deal.” If you want to make the case that it’s potentially psychologically or physically damaging for a significant percentage of people, that would be worth listening to, but nobody seems to be saying that.

      Who said it was nefarious? Not me. Incompetent, stupid, inconsiderate, negligent, but not nefarious. I am not one of those claiming a conspiracy here—I’ll leave that to the Right’s crazy talk show hosts. See my earlier comment about “choice.”

      4. “After the underwear bomber was foiled, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the public on national television that “the system worked.” If the system worked, then why are such intrusive measures “necessary” now?”

      You say: Once again, nothing’s “necessary,” and that’s the only reason this question might be hard to answer. (And this is another one that includes “intrusive” in that child-trick way: Any direct answer would implicitly accept the terms of the question, essentially agreeing that the measures are “intrusive.” Gotcha!) If the point of all these questions is that “necessary” is the wrong word, okay, you win your trivial point. If instead of “necessary” you used “important” or “helpful” or something, then the obvious answer would be: The fact that something worked once, or has always worked up until now, is no reason to assume it will always work.

      We have a basic disagreement about human and Constitutional rights—they can be infringed upon—maybe—if there is a good enough reason. I think, and the law usually requires, “necessary.” You seem to be perfectly happy with “helpful.” Would you endorse that light a standard for free speech? I think not. Frankly, I’m amazed you would consent to being treated like a piece of meat because some dubiously qualified bureaucrat thinks it might be “important.” There’s no gotcha. If we agree that the feel-ups aren’t necessary, then the disagreement is over how weak a reason justifies the government ordering us to do what is unpleasant. I think the government had better have exhausted all reasonable alternatives….you say, “Oh well, whatever, if it’s helpful—but then I’M the one getting my balls massaged six times a month

      5. “If they didn’t work, why is a Secretary of Homeland Security still in office who either has terrible judgment regarding the efficacy of security measures, or who lies to the American people about how well the system works? If this is the quality and reliability of official tolerated by the Obama Administration, why should we assume that the head of the TSA is any better?”

      You say, “They worked. What terrible reasoners we would be to assume that meant everything was perfect!”

      This is just wrong. A guy with a bomb, who was on watch lists, still got on a plane. The fact that passengers stopped him doesn’t have anything to do with the system working—it failed miserably. You may be the first person that I’ve heard defend Napolitano on this. The President specifically said that the system obviously DIDN’T work the next day,

      6. “Why is it a violation of civil rights for Arizona to mandate requiring non-citizens to produce authorization for their presence in the U.S., as required by law, but reasonable to require citizen passengers of commercial airlines to submit to full-hand pat downs of their breasts and genitals when, due to no fault of their own, full body scanning devices are not available?”

      You say: I never said Arizona’s mandate is a violation of civil rights. (I also didn’t say it’s not.) Why are you putting words in my mouth about a completely unrelated question?

      Who said you did? Obviously not everyone has to answer all ten questions, if they don’t apply. Good for you.

      7. “Have illegal immigrants proved to be less of a danger to Americans, since September 11, 2001, than air passengers who have only undergone the previous, un-enhanced pat-downs? Has this been explained to Chandra Levy’s parents?”

      You say: I don’t know the answer to either of these. Do you?

      Sure: illegal immigrants have committed many crimes, and quite a few murders, since 9-11. Chandra was one. No air traveler under the un-enhanced pat-down system has hurt a fly.

      8. “Why is the Bush Administration’s warrantless eavesdropping on the few Americans who have telephone conversations with suspected terrorists an outrageous incursion on our rights, but the Obama Administration’s warrantless feel-up search of every American with both an airplane ticket and a surgical implant “no big deal?””

      You say: See my answer to #6. Also my answer to #4, where my comments about “intrusive” apply equally well to “feel-up.”
      I say: See my answers to same. Again–Good.

      9. “If it is true, as the media has reported, that technology is available that could easily and cheaply address the privacy concerns attached to the full-body scan machines, why didn’t the TSA use it? If the agency really cared about being as sensitive and unobtrusive as possible, wouldn’t identifying such technology be a priority rather than an afterthought?”

      First question: I don’t know. Second question: I don’t think they really care about being as sensitive and unobtrusive as possible, and I don’t think that would be a good goal. If they’ve actually said they are trying to be as sensitive and unobtrusive as possible, they shouldn’t have, but I understand why they might and I would count it a small infraction.

      You’ll have to explain this one to me. They have to care. The government works for us; they can’t push us around jsut because they feel like it. Are you saying they want to cripple the air industry? Because the more intrusive the procedures are, the less people will fly.

      10. “In the wake of the TSA caving in to demands by pilots and air flight attendants that they not be subjected to the body scans or the pat-downs, how can the Homeland Security, the TSA and the Obama Administration continue to argue against reasonable profiling? Is not the exclusion of airplane crews simply limited profiling, by determining that crews are less likely to bring a bomb on a flight than non-crew members? Is this even necessarily true—for example, should not Steven Slater, nut-job Jet Blue attendant, be regarded as more of a security risk than, say, the 8-year-old boy the TSA strip-searched last week? Assuming crews do deserve the positive profile, how do you justify stopping the use of profiling there? What about U.S. Senators? Spouses of Congress members? Michael Steele? The Joint Chiefs? Catholic Bishops? Jimmy Carter? Bono? An eleven-year old girl? A seven-year old boy? Scanning and feeling up everybody, while idiotic, at least is consistent. If, however, the government will profile airplane crews, why won’t they profile everyone else?”

      I think airline crews probably should submit to the same security measures as everybody else, but the obvious answer to your questions is that when they “profile” their own employees, they’re profiling them based on much more information than is easily available to them about any passenger, including those who resemble Jimmy Carter, etc. Also including children. I think we would all be grateful if a pat-down of a child saved the life of a planeful of people, including a child, because someone had planted something on that kid. Maybe that’s not very likely and maybe there are other ways to screen that kid. Okay. I’d still be happy, and my happiness would not be mitigated by sadness for the millions of other people who had to get patted down. Oh, and yes, we now know that that crazy flight attendant should be patted down, too. Good point.

      “Finally, if the bureaucrats don’t have any better answers to these questions than your friends so—and they don’t—why should we trust that they know what they’re doing?”

      I don’t think they need better answers than mine.

      Your answers are well-reasoned and fair, Buzz, but they mostly support my objections. In fact, given your slam bang opening, I expected a lot more rebuttal. Do we really disagree that much? I don’t think so.

      Which makes sense, since the questions were not really intended for someone who thinks like you. I apologize for seeming to imply otherwise, but I’m grateful for such a direct and substantive response.

  4. penn

    And there I was getting ready for sleep, having a last look at the recent blogs to see if any new interesting comments have come up (my version of bedtime story) when you two had to get into it.

    Which gave me all the ammunition I had been looking for to refute the arguments of two friends, one of whom was decrying bloggers who didn’t allow — much less encourage — detailed debate, and the other, a lazy reader who without hard evidence or example tends to take stands based on headlines or anecdote. So now I have to get out of bed on a cold November night to see that both of them wake up to righteous email in the morning.

    Thanks a bunch, guys.

  5. Buzz Mauro

    I haven’t responded until now because I hate to argue. Really. It took a lot out of me to write something as contentious as my first response, and I didn’t want to get into it again. I’m basically just not well enough informed to keep up. Totally forgot what happened with the underwear bomber, as you so rightly point out.

    I didn’t “duck” any of your questions – just didn’t feel it incumbent on me to respond to every single thing you asked, as though the blogger gets to determine all the rules of engagement. Seems like maybe you did duck my response to #10, but that’s fine.

    Maybe you’ll think I’m just creepy-sheepy or something, but I have to point out that your main error still stands. It was so obvious to me that I didn’t even respond to it in detail, thinking that throwing a rhetorical question or two back at you would make you see the error of your ways – but it didn’t. You say: “illegal immigrants have committed many crimes, and quite a few murders, since 9-11. Chandra was one. No air traveler under the un-enhanced pat-down system has hurt a fly.” I thought it simply came from over-eagerness to defend your position (hence my accusation of disingenuousness). I know you don’t really believe that none of the American citizens who have committed violent crimes since 9-11 ever traveled anywhere by plane. Illegal immigrants tend to be identified as such when arrested, and air travelers do not. It’s an absurd comparison to try to make, and I would call it an example of unethical rhetoric. I think you mean to point out that current immigration policies have demonstrably resulted in the loss of American lives, and un-enhanced airline security policies did not demonstrably result in the loss of American lives. This is true. (Although you don’t seem to consider here that it would take only one incident—an underwear bomber not stopped by passengers, say—to completely invalidate the second part.) Of course, illegal immigrants have also presumably done a lot of good in the lives of their families and communities, but those positive aspects of illegal immigration tend to go as unreported as the good deeds of airline travelers. Apparently you have friends who think these unrelated facts are part of the same issue. You shouldn’t accept those friends’ assumptions as a way of trying to make points of your own. You seem to be saying (and I think it’s fair to hold you responsible for what you seem to be saying) that illegal immigrants as a group have murdered more people than air travelers as a group. You have no evidence of that. If you want to support tougher immigration laws, compare the number of murders perpetrated by illegal immigrants with the number of murders perpetrated by citizens, and you’ll have a potentially useful statistic. All your statement about airline security says is that what we had before seemed to be working well enough for you. I think what you really mean is that no air traveler qua air traveler has hurt a fly, but the implication of that is that the illegal immigrant murderers you refer to did commit their murders qua illegal immigrant, and that’s not something you should go around implying without citing your evidence.

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