Anyone who has followed the TSA – whose core mandate appears to be “no Muslims will be offended on OUR watch” – for any length of time will hardly be taken aback by its latest initiative to inflict maximum inconvenience and degradation on the flying public while providing little or no additional security. What is surprising, and to those of us on this side of the aisle encouraging, is that this time around this same flying public is doing something more about it than merely milling about their pens and mooing a lot.
The issue at hand (pardon the terrible pun) is the imposition of “naked” body scans on all passengers and the use of full body pat downs (after a public announcement, and who knows maybe some strobe lights and a Klaxon) for anyone who chooses to opt out. “Full body” apparently includes all sexes, all ages and all body parts. Given the laughable absence of any meaningful background checks in hiring TSA personnel it also means all kinds – as in it takes “all kinds to make a world,” including pedophiles – of people actually doing the patting down.
To the great chagrin of Janet Napolitano (who must never, ever submit to a naked body scan even to prove to the public it’s no big deal) the same travelers who have hitherto meekly acquiesced to removing shoes, hauling laptops out of their bags, parting with cigarette lighters and nail files, segregating travel size liquid toiletries into quart size Glad bags, and every other pointless rule and instruction issued by security staff, have drawn the line at being irradiated and/or felt up for no apparent reason by people who under normal circumstances would be asking them if they wanted to super size their fries.
Accordingly Napolitano now faces a threatened boycott of these procedures by at least five pilots and travel associations and a flight attendants union, and credible reports that a growing segment of the American public is reconsidering flying in all but emergency circumstances.
The backlash has also been characterized by new cases of individuals being abused at the hands of the TSA, stories which continue to pour in on a daily basis.
“We have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from travelers vowing to stop flying,” said Geoff Freeman, an executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, which set up the meeting with the Obama administration officials.
“You can’t talk on the one hand about creating jobs in this country and getting this economy back on track and on the other hand discourage millions of Americans from flying, which is the gateway to commerce,” he said.
There is no word from the White House yet as to how the wholesale destruction of the airline industry will affect their “jobs saved or created” numbers.
In the inevitable meetings to follow Napolitano will doubtless remind the participants of the threats these measures are intended to address and invoke the specter of future acts of terrorism that will occur in their absence. What she won’t mention is virtually all of these breathtakingly stupid and ineffective measures are made necessary because political correctness takes the obvious and effective ones off the table. (My colleague John Hawkins outlines some of the common sense procedures of El Al airlines in his larger piece “An Open Letter To Republicans In Congress: Put An End To Strip And Grope Airport Searches” here.) Since our government refuses to name and target its real enemy it is reduced to reactive, tactical solutions.