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.