I get groped again!

April 28, 2012 • 6:28 am

I have been groped again by the TSAIn January of 2011, I was subjected to a humiliating groping at Logan Airport in Boston, where my rump was palpated by the assiduous minions of the TSA.  Well, now it’s happened again.  This time, before passing through the see-you-naked machine, I removed everything from my pockets except my boarding pass. That included my wallet.

After going through the machine, I was stopped by a uniformed officer, who promptly informed me that he was going to “pat down both legs from my knee to my upper thigh” (he meant “crotch,” of course).  And so he did. Then he asked me to turn around, informing me that he was going to “pat down my buttocks with the back of his hand” (does using the back of the hand make it not a grope?).  As I turned around, I could see my scan on the see-you-naked machine, which had a screen displayed to the officer. There were yellow rectangles on my legs and rump, obviously telling the guy where to pat me down.

Needless to say, they found nothing—I was as clean as my sister’s countertops.  But that wasn’t enough. They then had to swab my hands for explosives, making me wait until the swab was analyzed by the sniffer machine.

Well, there’s nothing I can do about this kind of humiliation. I understand why passengers have to be screened, but how could the see-you-naked machine detect things that aren’t there? They need to either set the tuning lower, or abandon this ridiculous security theater. (They won’t do that, of course.)  I am not reassured to see others having similar experiences; I’m just ticked off that they had to palpate my rump with the back of the hand.

203 thoughts on “I get groped again!

    1. We have institutionalized fear as justification for whatever the most paranoid wants to do at security screening.

    1. I understand screening to a point–i.e. walk through the metal detector, x-ray your carry-on. But I don’t get the backscatter x-ray machines; the limitation on liquids; the groping, etc. It really is security theater, done by a bunch of authoritarian thugs.

      1. And fortunately those thugs do not currently have the government’s blessing to make you disappear from your home in the middle of the night for making such comments.

          1. IANAL but as far as I know the Homeland Security Act allows them to disappear you. You’re lucky you just get groped.

            First they came for the terrorists but I was not a terrorist so I said nothing.
            Then they came for the people they could convince me were terrorists but I was convinced so I said nothing.
            Then they came for the people they said were terrorists but I thought, maybe, so I said nothing.
            Then they came for my friends who I knew weren’t terrorists but by then it was too late. If I said anything then they would say I was a terrorist.

            1. Great adaptation of the old saying & unfortunately Very true, over here (UK) it’s not quite as bad but what i really don’t get is why there’s not many people up in arms about this? Maybe the (relatively) recent history in Europe means we’re more aware of the danger, i don’t know.

    2. Really, Even before the reprehensible hijacking of 4 planes as flying bombs, I had an idea for a good business. Risky Airlines. No screens, no searches, nada. Ya pay your dollar and ya takes a chance. Of course, no lawsuits from grieving family either. Plane blows up? So sorry… next??? It is a tough choice, it is about control. But I had rather have those nearly 3000 people alive than worry about being searched. You do remember the bombs that were delivered by children during Vietnam? “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”. The terrorists want Americans dead dead dead. Yes, I rather be searched than look around the flight at every visitor to the bathroom, wondering if he is going to light up his shorts and cause my family grief.

      1. The problem with that is that you’re assuming that the lack of terrorist hijackings of airplanes is due to the TSA’s security screening and that we must either have super-invasive screening procedures or no security at all.

          1. Why, do they need to stick their hands up my ass in order to make sure that no one is going to hijack their planes? I don’t live in Israel and therefore don’t see how a discussion of an Israeli airline has to do with invasive yet completely ineffective anti-terrorism measures that the TSA implements.

            1. Isn’t it at least somewhat ironic that the security screenings are in place to prevent terrorists from hijacking planes, and that the fact that no planes have been hijacked (what one would consider to be working-as-intended) is seen as an argument to discard the screenings?

              I mean, should we scale back the invasive-ness until we get, say, one or two terrorist hijackings a year? Should we just scale it back until we get one, then notch it up a hair to the sweet spot? Which politician is going to push a reduction in airport security that may, or may not, result in a terrorist getting control of a plane?

              Would you argue differently if your loved ones were guaranteed to be on the plane hijacked, if one were to be taken? Look at it as a thought experiment.

              1. Dude, get a clue.

                First of all, you’re trying to shift the burden of proof onto me when it’s you who’s claiming, in opposition to the evidence, that heightened security measures are needed.

                Second of all, the security measures being discussed wouldn’t have affected the El Al flight bombing because the bomb wasn’t on anyone’s person and therefore no amount of pat-downs, x-ray screenings, or any other kind of searches of the passengers would have ever had the slightest effect on whether or not that bombing happened.

                Third of all, your “what if it was your loved ones” is nothing but a blatantly transparent appeal to emotions, because there’s an astronomical difference in the likelihood of being subjected to an illegal and invasive search by an undertrained government agent the next time I try to get on an airplane and someone I personally know being killed by a shark lightning serial killer terrorist. How about if I turn it around 180 degrees- what if, in the name of security, the government occasionally, in the name of protecting the public, grabbed a person apparently at random and just disappeared them. No trial, no explanation, no release, the person is just gone and everybody knows that said person will never be seen again. But it’s necessary to protect us from the terrorists. Would you be comfortable if you knew with 100% certainty that one of your loved ones would be grabbed?

                See? I can post arguments that are completely BS just as easily.

              2. Hi!

                On 1, what evidence are you citing?

                On 2, it’s not relevant to point to a situation in which the security for one type of threat does not apply to another. It’s a little like arguing to discard highway patrolmen because they don’t stop convenience store robberies.

                On 3, it wasn’t an “appeal to emotion”, it was a thought experiment. I was trying to point out why I don’t think cutting back security at airports is a swell idea. For me, it really does come down to the safety of my loved ones, and everyone who flies carries someone’s love with them.

                “No trial, no explanation, no release, the person is just gone and everybody knows that said person will never be seen again.”

                How is this at all analogous to a security screening? Aren’t you being a tad hysterical with your comparisons?

              3. Oops, slight error. There’s supposed to be a line through “shark lightning serial killer” in the third paragraph.

              4. 1) Several people have already posted links to such evidence that you’ve apparently ignored. Also, you’re the one making the claim that such techniques as enhanced pat-downs and body scanners are effective, therefore, the burden of proof is on you to prove it.

                2) The argument was that these security procedures are needed to stop terrorists but none of the cited cases would have actually been stopped by said procedures but would have been stopped by less intrusive security measures that either were already in place prior to the implementation of the specific security procedures being discussed or are still not in place today. Either way, that’s not an argument in favor of pat-downs and full-body scanners.

                3) Okay, it was a “thought exercise.” Congratulations, you’ve managed to put it on par with having a zombie plan. And I was not comparing “grab you in the middle of the night” Orwellian governments with pat-downs, I was comparing “grab you in the middle of the night” Orwellian governments with 100% certain chances of one of my friends or family members being on a plane that’s hijacked by terrorists because we didn’t do pat-downs before letting people board the plane. Because they’re both highly implausible scenarios that are just not likely enough for me to think that there’s any reason to take someone seriously if that’s the level that they’re going to try to frame their argument on.

                Quite frankly, Lee, you have yet to offer any evidence supporting your premise that these security procedures are reducing the already extremely low risk of terrorist attack in America one bit. And until you do so, I don’t see why anyone should take anything you say on the subject the least bit seriously.

              5. On 1, are you suggesting that body scans and pat-downs are an ineffective method of detecting concealed weapons? I don’t mean to shift the burden, but this appears self-evidently to be effective. This is how police officers search inmates, and they find contraband on a regular basis. What, precisely, do you want from me on this point?

                On 2, I merely pointed out that the cases cited were not relevant to the effectiveness of security screenings a la TSA. For example, the malfunction of a plane wouldn’t be stopped by a TSA screening, and yet it can be the product of terrorism. The point is that terrorists, or anyone else, cannot board a plane with a handgun or explosives on his person, and nothing I’ve seen thus far would indicate that the TSA screenings are ineffective in this regard.

                On 3, your comparison has lost all salience. As a point of fact, you were indeed comparing the “grab you in the night” to the TSA screenings in an attempt to draw a parallel between two cases of abuse of power. It just doesn’t make sense, otherwise.

                The claim that governments grabbing you and terrorists hijacking a plane are both implausible(read: unlikely to occur, in contrast to improbable) scenarios seems ludicrous in context. Both have occurred, and probably will again. The question, then, is are the TSA screenings likely to prevent the latter in the same way that _________ is likely to prevent the former (whatever the blank is supposed to be). That blank is what you would have to fill in order to draw this new parallel.

                On the “extremely low risk” point, that was why I fielded a thought experiment. Even given the low risk, is the minor discomfort of the airport administrative search a price worth paying in order to prevent your loved ones from being on a plane hijacked by terrorists. I submit that it is.

      2. My Girlfriend tells me, i light up my shorts;-))….Sorry, i woke up in one of “Those moods” this morning, I’ll stop now!

  1. I am one of those who jokes around as a defense mechanism. I have to try real hard not to say things like “Anytime, sailor” or “what time do you get off of work?” Humorless thugs.

    At O’Hare, they are really big on telling you exactly where to stand during all phases of the process. Wouldn’t it make it much easier for them to move the rope barriers to guide you, or put tape marks on the floor, instead of threateningly telling you to move two feet to your right because you are violating some imaginary rule?

    1. Yeah, this is the sort of thing I’m talking about. I understand that I need to submit to these searches, but if they’re going to search me anyway, why can’t they treat me like an actual innocent human while they do it?

      1. Nope. You are guilty until proven innocent, and even then you are still under suspicion. To do otherwise would violate the Kabuki Theatre illusion.

      2. I want to attribute this to a top-down problem. These people have been told that it’s their own personal responsibility to make sure the airport doesn’t get blown up. They aren’t trained security experts; for the most part, they’re normal people who get a relatively brief training period before being told that a failure to follow the regulations could result in the termination of either their job or other people’s lives. The rules are absurd, and I have a strong suspicion that many TSA agents feel the same way.

      1. No, it’s about ego. Hadn’t you seen the emails? Can’t get it up? Everyone laughing at you and calling you an idiot? Join the TSA!

    2. You could ask if the agent knows any good strip-search songs.

      I think that if I knew that I had nothing to lose, I’d find and wear the largest “appliance” available and then have someone tape the pat-down.

  2. The last time I travelled to the US my bag was swabbed for drug residue. Even though my bag was clean, I was treated like a criminal throughout the process. Even when they eventually determined that my bag was clean, they weren’t happy about it. They made it perfectly clear that they thought I’d got away with it this time but wouldn’t next time. They emptied everything out of my bag in a heap (after they’d swabbed it) and then told me to hurry up when I was packing my stuff back in.

    There was no good reason for them to suspect my bag might have had drug residue on it (and wait a minute, is it actually a crime to have drug residue on your bag anyway?) They *could* have made the process as pleasant as possible, but they chose to do the exact opposite. They plainly *wanted* to intimidate me regardless of whether I was guilty of anything; they were obviously pissed off that I was innocent; and they very, very obviously took out their frustration at my innocence on me.

    I wouldn’t consider travelling to the US these days if I didn’t have to do so because of work. This is such a shame because it’s such a wonderful place in so many ways. But I’m tired of being treated like a criminal for having the gall to attempt to enter the place.

    1. Flying to Germany out of Denver in 2007, I had seasoning salt I was bringing to my friend swabbed for explosives. I was “lectured” (i.e. yelled at) for bringing in something that could very easily mistaken as an explosive. It was absolutely ridiculous: 1) I looked online to make sure I could bring it in my carry-on, and 2) I asked the agent at the front of the line if it would be a problem. I even told the agents accusing me of attempted terrorism that, and was ignored. Who needs facts when somebody is obviously trying to smuggle dangerous seasoning out of the country?

    2. Hell, I’m a citizen and I just stay on the other side of the planet these days. Idiots have been given free reign throughout the nation. The last time I was in New York I asked one of my buddies “Hey, when did the commies take over? That crap on TV’s not news – that’s worse than Pravda”.

  3. The Israelis use an extensive interview process and if you did that in the US people would be equally up in arms.

    The scanner is an instrumental test, and like any test there will be false positives. I think it’s hard to argue that the system should be scrapped because it produces false positives.

    1. No, but the system should be scrapped if it doesn’t produce enough true positives. How much contraband is actually detected by these processes? How much safer do they actually make us? I don’t expect anybody knows.

      1. You are underestimating the incredible, mind numbing stupidity of a small(?) section of the American public.




        If it wasn’t for this I would agree with you. I don’t want the only person on the flight with a weapon to have the IQ needed to think that checking his gas tank level with a match is a good solution.

        Yes, the TSA is theatre — theatre of the absurd.

        1. I’m not sure I’m underestimating that. I remember travelling through New York shortly after 9/11. There was a sign saying I couldn’t take any liquid on the plane, but if I had a gun that was OK as long as I told the airport staff.

        2. But the thing is, long before the TSA existed the airport security folks were confiscating ammunition, guns, and blades over 18″ all the time. I can’t remember when the metal detectors and “no guns” policy came in, that was so long ago – but there had always been people trying to get dangerous goods onto aircraft.

      2. The only good reason to scrap this system is if it produces too many false negatives. Anything replacing it must produce and equivalent number of false negatives or less.

  4. I rarely fly and haven’t been “groped” but I gather it could happen any time.

    No doubt a certain per centage of TSA employees “enjoy” their jobs, but I can’t imagine that the majority enjoy it. In the U.S. economy of the last few years, one gets a job where one can. I wonder what the TSA retention rate is. As long as people badly enough need and seek jobs with benefits – however nominal – they’ll fill the TSA vacancies of those who leave due to having their fill of abuse and invective directed at them by passengers as a result of the search techniques imposed on them by the “hands-off” management types.

  5. I was travelling with my two sisters once; both of whom were wearing black leather jackets and sunglasses, whilst I was in a suit. Although we were together at all times, they were patted down and tested for explosives, while I got no attention at all. I would hate to believe they single out people according to their clothing, but in this instance it must definitely have been the case!

    I have never been respectfully ‘groped’ with the back of a hand; it’s always full hands (and female security officers).

  6. I recently talked to a physicist working with Terahertz waves, the radio waves (around 1 mm, or a bit more, wavelength) used in the body scanners. He told me that no terrorist carrying explosives has ever been found using terahertz wave imaging. But he said that what is worse in the United States is that body scanners are used, using a narrow, scanning X-ray beam that is very intense locally because the beam is very focussed (X-rax tomograpy). A high intensity of ionising radiation in a small spot is of course not a very good idea. Being a physicist, he said, he immediately realised that the machine used x-rays, but this is not told to the passengers. Is the use of X-ray machines on an ignoring public known in the US?

    1. Sure we know. But the official line is that this is about 1/100 of a dental x-ray, which most people don’t have the expertise to refute. Your only choice is comply or don’t fly.

      1. Yes, a dental x-ray covers several square centimeters in a single flash. If the same energy is focussed in a very narrow beam, and it scans your entire body over a time span of many seconds, you could be getting a lot of radiation, many orders of magnitude more than a dental x-ray. The radiation physicist I talked to thouhgt the use of x-ray machines was outrageous.

        Do thex tell you it is an X-ray machine before stepping in?

        1. They tell you that the machines are routinely calibrated, They do not say calibrated for what – finding contraband (false positives) or human safety.

          It will be an interesting research project in twenty years looking at the cancer rates of today’s frequent fliers.

          I go for the groping rater than chemo.

      2. “Your only choice is comply or don’t fly.”

        Well, in all fairness: The sign at the machine

        a) tells you that X-rays are used (with indeed that remark about being a fraction of a dental X-ray scan).
        b) informs you you have the right to opt for manual pat-down instead of going through the ‘machine’.

        But it all remains security theater.

  7. If you’d fly outta somewhere a little less conspicuous, like Pittsburgh, you probably wouldn’t have such problems. Either that or you’ve been put onto a list by someone.

    Anyway, I haven’t ever had such problems. Last month, one of the TSA guys here in Pgh was actually smiling, and he was just standing there, nowhere near anyone’s butt. OTOH, in Atlanta in Feb, I left my plastic comb in my pocket, which seemed to trigger them to swab my hands. But other than that I’ve never had any trouble anywhere.

  8. Well, what this clearly demonstrates is that the naked machine and the groping make absolutely no difference, since they still swabbed your hands after all of that.

  9. As a very frequent traveler, I can suggest a few things. First, remove everything means everything – even lint. Shed layers. I find tighter clothes better. That said, you can reduce the chances of a secondary screen. However, I surmise the process is not that simple. They seem to apply second screens randomly. For example, for a random second screen, the display may provide the top hot spots even if those would not trigger on a non selected screen. Also, once selected for additional screening on random selection you usually get the full treatment.

    Anyway, I seem to be selected for secondary screening about 1 in 10-20 times. Which translates to every couple months.

    On the magnetometers, it’s sort of funny as you clear the thing, then with a slight delay it buzzes for this random secondary screen. The full body scanners have delay built in so it is not so obvious.

      1. Uh, I think I’ll prefer to walk or travel on my own bike if I have one. Besides I don’t have a car nor have a driver’s license, therefore I don’t drive. And buses and plane rides are too expensive for me anyway.

    1. The last time I flew, I had to put my belt in a box, with the other stuff. Of course, when I got the box back after the X-ray scanner, I didn’t notice the belt was gone–it was a new, expensive one.

  10. Jerry, you’re such a modest guy … telling us that they found “nothing” …

    Next time wear a burqua or tell them them your name is Mohammed and that your offended. They’ll leave you alone.

  11. Maybe they should add a testicular cancer screening and a prostate exam, as long as they’re down there anyway. They could save a lot of lives…and be even more thorough.

  12. It has nothing to do with security. The war on terror is just an excuse. It’s about control.

    You should use your power of boycott. If even a small percentage of people did, the air industry would soon lobby the politicians to make all this nonsense a thing of the past.

    Just say, “No!”

    1. I don’t fly anymore. Also, I don’t go to the ballpark. They treated me like a terrorist once too often, and lost my patronage.

      And, as you so rightly pointed out, it’s not about security; it’s about control.

  13. I don’t understand this position. First, no longterm damage is sustained. Second, flying is not right, it is a convenience. If the inconvenience of being “groped” outweighs the convenience of traveling X miles in Y time, don’t fly.

    Am I missing something?


    1. Yeah, you’re missing something. Travel is a right. And arbitrary, unnecessary, and potentially hazardous screening, done in the name of protecting us, the travelers, is.. well, unnecessary, arbitrary, and potentially hazardous.

      My question to you is this: is there any level of screening that you would find worth objecting to? How about mandatory strip searches? If the TSA started doing that would you comply? Would you stop flying but not raise an objection?

        1. Lots of people have to travel for work. I guess we could give up working if we disagreed with screening policies. But then we’d be flying fast and loose with the definition of ‘choice’, wouldn’t we?

          1. I take issue with the phrase “have to travel” entailing “have to travel [by plane]”. I can readily agree that you may not have a choice in the matter, given certain economic “wants” that are non-negotiable to you, but I don’t see how that constitutes a necessity.

              1. Hey! I work hard to preserve that fantasy, and I’ll thank you very much not to disabuse me of it any further.

                …frankly, I’m not sure what’d keep me going were it to collapse….


            1. My choice is to submit to arbitrary rules imposed by the countries I visit or to not have this job. I agree it’s my choice, but as I said, it’s a somewhat entertaining definition of ‘choice’.

              1. Lets say your current domicile, and the location of your workplace, along with the time you were required to arrive and the time you were willing to get up, all conspired to put you on a subway car that was thoroughly uncomfortable for whatever reason. Perhaps the other passengers made you nervous, or the bacteria on every surface made you nauseas, or the rotating bar hurt your hip.

                You can either change the preconditions (job, home, time getting up, etc.) or you can suck it up. Same here (or so it seems to me). The choice is in what you are willing to endure to maintain the lifestyle you have chosen.

        2. You didn’t answer the most important question:

          “Is there any level of screening that you would find worth objecting to?”

          1. That’s kind of irrelevant. Supposing some level of screening is objectionable, I would object as stated. What that level is doesn’t really matter, as it’s personal.

            1. Well, then, your original question, “Am I missing something?” was apparently disingenuous.

              You seem to have a problem with other people objecting to the current TSA procedures while saving to yourself the option of objecting when you feel like it.

              So, yeah, there is something that you are missing.

              1. No no, you misunderstand me. You have every right to object to it: “If the inconvenience of being “groped” outweighs the convenience of traveling X miles in Y time, don’t fly.”

                What I’m wondering is why this violates some fundamental right, or constitutes some orwellian overreach, or violates the constitution in some way. Object away, as I will if the conditions required to fly become so onerous that I will spurn the convenience therein. It is a bit hysterical, though, to turn this into an argument about search and siezure.

              2. What I’m wondering is why this violates some fundamental right, or constitutes some orwellian overreach, or violates the constitution in some way.



                The TSA is a uniformed branch of the Executive Branch of the Federal government that reports directly to a member of the Cabinet, and they’re performing massive searches and seizures on the public without even pretending judicial oversight (let alone actual warrants)…and you don’t see how this is a Constitutional problem?

                Damn. You’re either really, really stupid, or your hate for America is so passionate that you’ll say anything to destroy us.


            2. I thought Americans had a “right to privacy”. I would have thought that meant (if it means anything) the right not to be molested at the whim of the government. But I guess not huh? Sounding more and more like Russia every day. Constitutions don’t help if everyone ignores them.

              1. Extreme civil libertarianism or Russian…what? Communism? I take it these are the only two options on the table, then…

        3. Well, feel free to travel by car from the Adirondacks to Singapore. Come to think of it, if you were required to travel from Chicago to Phoenix you wouldn’t keep your job long if you insisted on the right to travel by car.

          1. That’s true. The “human resource” working for the private corporate tyranny would be fired by the tyranny’s CEO who gets to fly in the private corporate jet and not subject to TSA gropings.

        4. Travel is a right, travel by plane is not.

          You do realize that the TSA wants to expand searches to ALL forms of transportation, right?

          Still think “boycott” is the only way to go?

          1. Different levels of security are called for on different methods of transportation. As a point of fact, TSA already handles security on all forms of public transportation. Do I think trains require the same level of security as planes? No. Do I feel confident that the SCOTUS can discern the difference? Absolutely.

    2. Why do you hate America so much and our freedoms?

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      People like you make me sick. If you don’t like the Law of the Land, you damned well better leave for someplace more to your liking. You’d love it amongst the Taliban.


      1. I did spend some time among the Taliban. Four months in 2004, all of it through the iron sights of an m16.

        It’s not clear to me that air travel is a “right”, and so I don’t think it falls under those qualifications. If the TSA procedures put in place to protect other passengers and themselves are not up to your liking, don’t fly. Drive, take a train, take a bus, take a boat.

        This seems to me to be a point of convenience, rather than constitutionality. No one “gropes” you before you climb into your car.

        1. Then, assuming you’re referring to a tour of duty in the US armed forces and not time spent as a member of the Taliban, you are an oath-breaker and a traitor.

          You did, did you not, swear to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, no?

          When was the last time the uniformed Federal government agents operating the security checkpoints obtained a properly-operated warrant prior to executing any of their searches?

          Or are you unaware of the words so plainly printed in one of the most famous passages of the Constitution you were supposed to be defending?


          1. You give consent to be screened by choosing to fly. If you do not give that consent, you cannot fly. That leaves every other form of transportation. Flap your arms, patriot, Dallas isn’t that far…

            1. You really do hate America that much.

              You do know that the TSA doesn’t just operate at airports any more? Thanks to VIPR (linked to at the TSA’s Web site above), they’re now groping train and bus and even subway passengers, and may well start groping drivers at “security” checkpoints and shoppers at mall entrances in the near future. Will I have to choose to stay shut in my own home and live off what vegetables I can grow? How much longer after the TSA comes to the mall do you think it’ll be before they come to the bedroom?

              By your logic, Jews in Nazi Germany gave consent to being mass murdered by choosing to be Jewish; Torquemada’s victims gave consent to being tortured by not repenting; and Blacks in the South gave consent to being hanged by choosing to be born with lots of melanin in their skin.


              1. By your logic, we should disband all public safety measures because they make someone, somewhere, uncomfortable.

                There is a balance to be struck, certainly, between public safety and personal privacy, I just don’t think the scales tip wildly at the airport screening, and I don’t detect an argument in your comments for supposing they do.

              2. By your logic, we should disband all public safety measures because they make someone, somewhere, uncomfortable.

                Keep on tellin’ that big lie.

                The question is not one of personal comfort.

                The question is one of Constitutional rights.

                We should absolutely unreservedly disband all public assault measures that involve unwarranted searches and theft of personal property. Which is exactly what the TSA’s charter says it’s supposed to do — search passengers, take away their toothpaste, all without a warrant.


              3. The issue is not as cut and dry as you make it out to be, I’m afraid. You are required to submit to screening prior to entering most courthouses, and yet you may be required by law to do so. No warrant exists for such search, and they may take your possessions if they have reason to do so (gun, knife, explosives, etc.).

                The issue is the balance between public safety and private property. You are ignoring public safety, even though the government has been instituted as much to preserve public safety as private property. I find your responses to be crass and utterly devoid of a nuanced understanding of civil society, and further, representative of the unsophisticated ignoramus who would prefer the right to carry a grenade on board a plane rather than the responsible foresight to view grenades on planes as probably not a right worth protecting. The fact that you think this is about your right to retain “toothpaste” only bolsters my point.

                Forgive me if I decline to reply to your subsequent comments.

              4. Look. I don’t give a damn if you get your jollies by having uniformed men grope your balls while telling you you’e safe from hand grenades. That’s your private business.

                But don’t you dare tell me that the rest of the world should live out your fantasies, especially when that means having federal agents shit on the Constitution and wipe our noses with it.

                If you want to start an airline that caters to the grope-and-tell-pleasant-lies crowd, go for it. Knock yourself out. But the Feds are explicitly prohibited from getting in on that act. The fact that that hasn’t stopped them, including in the courts, is a bug, not a feature.


            2. Oh, Lee, you so funny. You wrote: “There is a balance to be struck, certainly, between public safety and personal privacy, I just don’t think the scales tip wildly at the airport screening, and I don’t detect an argument in your comments for supposing they do.”

              Your failure to *detect* an argument is because you seem to work under terribly misguided notion that an argument is required as to why the constitution’s don’t apply here, there, or somewhere else. You utterly fail to understand what it means to say that in the US law, all warrantless searches are PRESUMPTIVELY ILLEGAL unless and until the government can DEMONSTRATE there existed a legally recognized exception. In the same way, you know, that a defendant is PRESUMPTIVELY NOT guilty unless and until the government can demonstrate otherwise. The bar for a criminal conviction is somewhat higher than for a search, but that doesn’t mean the latter’s requirements still do not have teeth.

              Also note that a law which is enacted does not obviate the legal calculus which attends so trivial (to you anyway) a matter as what is and isn’t written into the constitution.

              Moreover, your failure to notice that the method of travel, or the location one is are not legally sufficient reasons for the government to avoid constitutional requirements. Speaking of which, the constitution itself is a document meant to secure to the people their freedoms, and constrain the government’s power over those. Note that the freedom to travel and be left alone belong the people, not to the mode of travel they elect. Furthermore, your understanding of how this operates was specifically rejected better than 150 years ago when it was that people like yourself presumed that the rights belonged to the documents (and what not) that the people had instead of the people themselves.

              I’ll return your charge to you since the legal calculus you imagine is inapposite: I fail to detect an argument as to why one’s individual rights to the 4th amendment are rendered moot on a lark.

              Also, why in 2004 was your unit issuing you an M16?

              1. RE: wall’o’text; The courts disagree (see page 16):


                RE: M16: The standard issue rifle remains the M16, even today. The variants, such as M16A4 (which we received for operations in 2005) retains the body shape. The newest M4 still retains many of the features of it’s common ancestor with the M16A1: the AR-15. As to why I never received an M4, and received the A4 late in my contract, I was in the Marines. That, in itself, should explain why not only was I using a vietnam-era rifle(one of the last 13 rifles remaining in the armory when I left stateside to join my unit, along with about 3/4 of the gear we should have had but which the Corps did not have enough of), but a vietnam-era amphibious assault vehicle for desert operations, and why we conducted field exercises in Albania (wet, wet, wet) for operations in Afghanistan.

              2. Sorry, that’s page 16 of the pdf opinion rendered, a link which can be found in the article I linked.

                Again, sorry for the confusion.

              3. Actually, saying, “I was a Marine” would be the entire explanation for an M16 at all. Let alone whether it’s the A1, or A2, or one of the other variants. The M16 is *not* standard in the Army, and hasn’t been for a while – though there are still a couple of reserve units and a handful of Guard units that haven’t gotten the swap out. The army started this phasing out in the 1990s . . .

                Wall of text? Yes, when the margins are constrained like the replies this deep are constrained, it appears that way.

                It’s worth noting that the Forbes article to which you link, which is on an appellate court’s (the DC Circuit) decision on a lower court’s ruling is itself not a legal ruling. That requires reading the DC Circuit’s opinion and, of course, knowing what was being appealed. That decision, contra-your telling of it, is on administrative law with respect to how an agency goes about modifying rules, and the extent to which an agency is required by law to submit such decisions to public discussion beforehand. It is not an appeal that seeks to determine whether the actual acts are, or are not constitutional.

                How do I know? Well, I have this nasty little habit of actually reading what the circuit judges wrote, and what is and isn’t being deciding.

                To the extent that the act of screening itself is a matter for review in that case is to the extent that the appellant’s are discussing the retention of the images captured, and how those images are displayed to the TSA staff and how this could violate someone’s religious beliefs.

                These are handwaved away because 1.) the data are destroyed after the person leaves; 2.) the images aren’t displayed fully to the TSA (there’s software that prevents it apparently) and 3.) no one has actually argued his or her religious beliefs have been impinged. Well, by no one I mean, of course, no one who was a party to that lawsuit, and thus cannot be considered as relevant.

                Silly me – all reading the case and everything.

              4. The points you made are re: the first part of the opinion. The plaintiffs wanted a ruling on it’s constitutionality with regards the 4th amendment; they got one. Read pg. 16-17, and remember: these decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Follow the sources, read the relevant supporting citations, etc.. I have sufficiently carried the burden imparted upon me, that doesn’t mean you have to agree with me or the opinion I cited.

                As far as the army “standard issue”, I’ll defer to your expertise. I didn’t see much of the army until mail call.


              5. Oh, on the 4th amendment issue, I should mention that this decision concludes that there is no violation on the grounds stated in the appeal – that is to say that the appeal stated it violated the 4th amendment *because* other less intrusive means are available.

                That is not an appropriate legal standard for attacking a law. Something is either constitutional or not; this doesn’t turn on so trivial a matter as whether the same violation can be perpetrated with less severe measures. It’s either simply a violation of the constitution or not. And that issue was not before the court, and thus is one that the court wouldn’t have addressed.

                Courts handle the issues raised by the parties and decide on those.

              6. Lee, I did read the opinion. Also, you fail to note that the grounds on which the decision was made are collateral issues. For instance, suppose that the government decides only male officers are allowed to search female subjects, and only female officers are allowed to search male suspects. This policy would not fail if someone argued that this violates the 4th amendment because the government could use a different policy that is less problematic, and thus because it elects not to it’s an unreasonable search. But the policy could be struck down all the same for a different legal theory on the same set of facts. It does no good to say that because on a given legal argument the policy is upheld that a court therefore has said that policy is constitutional. All it has said is the argument presented is no grounds on which the policy fails.

                The DC Circuit’s opinion says pretty much only that on the legal position that was in fact argued the policy is on those grounds not unconstitutional. This leaves open every other legal argument that can be made on 4th amendment grounds.

              7. “This leaves open every other legal argument that can be made on 4th amendment grounds.”

                Annnnnd GO:

              8. Well, I don’t know that I can come up with a great argument absent any facts that would give a person standing to file the suit in the first case. But it seems fairly reasonable that a Bivens action could be maintained, and any relief that issues will a forteriori reach at least that some particular set of facts attending the TSA’s actions are not constitutional.

                And after a few minutes of legal footwork, it seems that there is at least one current lawsuit against the US which cites Bivens as a relevant authority. Had I not found this particular case, I’d probably not have found an 11th circuit case, US Vs Oswald G. Blake, arising out of a (consented to) search taking place at Ft. Lauderdale airport: “The issue in this case involves whether police officers exceeded the scope of the defendants’ consent to a search of their “person,” when, upon receiving the consent, the officers immediately reached into the defendants’ crotch area and felt their genitals. Upon review, we find that the trial court’s factual findings are not clearly erroneous, and consequently we affirm the district court.”

                In short, even though Eason and Blake consented to being searched in an airport, the government was held to have violated the defendants’ constitutional rights by feeling up their genitals.

              9. “Well, I don’t know that I can come up with a great argument absent any facts that would give a person standing to file the suit in the first case.”

                My point, for the last time, is that if the average joe going through TSA security at the airport doesn’t have standing, there’s no constitutional violation. So, “absent any facts” corroborating a case for these practices being unconstitutional, I think I’ll just take my victory smoke and bid you all adieu 🙂

              10. Take all the smoking you’d like, for there is no victory in noting that for one to file a lawsuit one requires standing. Since, say, I don’t fly, I don’t have standing for I can point to no particular violation of my rights. Everyone who has flown and been subjected to this process has standing. And, as I said, barring a specific example I don’t have an argument in the abstract beyond saying ‘they’d have to assert some particular set of facts that give them standing and then embed that into some legal theory’.

                And, one notes, the Bivens example I gave you is a particular case with a particular set of facts that identifies a particular way in which a particular person’s rights were trespassed. So, you’re free to ignore the case law that in fact exists and claim victory all you’d like, but the fact remains that there is at least one case which had appellate review that says the genital check was a trespass of the constitution *even* when done incident to a general consent to the search.

                So, sure. You’ve ‘won’ if by ‘won’ one wants to say ‘ignores case law that exists’; in particular, you asked me for at one possible avenue of attack on the policy. And I’ve provided you with something that is more than merely possible: I gave you a case in which that possibility became realized in a verdict on the merits. It is thus not simply a possible line of argumentation; it is an actual line of argumentation that has, in point of fact, worked already.

              11. Bivens is not a case of an administrative search. Further, if “genital search” is deemed unconstitutional, I’m not flying anymore. Indeed, I’ll spend the lion’s share of my time smuggling coke through customs wearing luggage underwear. See you in Bali.

                Next case.

    3. Yes, you’re missing something. “A Society That Will Trade A Little Liberty For A Little Order Will Lose Both, And Deserve Neither.”

      Would you object to telescreens in your house?

        1. Airplanes are the private property of the airlines. Air travel is a private contract between me and the carrier.

          If air carriers choose to offer high-security flights as an option for passenger who don’t mind being groped, I have no problem with that. But if I’m willing to fly on a low-security flight, and I can find a carrier willing to offer one, what right does the government have to tell us we can’t do that?

          1. I assume that the right derives from the fact that the plane would shadow areas populated by people who explicitly endow the government with the duty to protect them. The twin towers occupants, for example.

            This can all be amended if we simply agree to abrogate the government of it’s duties in regards public safety in all matters that contrast with private property and civil liberties.

            1. Duties of the government. So, your argument is that the government is not able to carry out its duties without violating the restraint on its powers mandated in our founding charter? No amending is required to bring about what you mention here; all that’s required is to adhere to has been for better than 2 centuries the law of the land.

              A government is about power. Our constitution is about telling the government what powers it does not have.

              1. “So, your argument is that the government is not able to carry out its duties without violating the restraint on its powers mandated in our founding charter?”

                Yes, viz;

                “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

                Opening line. The two mandates which inevitably conflict are right there in black and white. Civil liberties and the common good conflict, often. Indeed, the whole purpose of the SCOTUS is to determine where the line is to be drawn, here and elsewhere. They have done so on this issue. If you disagree with their findings, lets hear why.

            2. I live in a downtown apartment where my airspace is crossed several times a day by medical and news helicopters. I’m in much greater danger from them than from any hypothetical terrorist hijacker.

              Similarly, the risk of dying in a freeway collision is much greater than the risk of dying in a terrorist attack (even counting all the people in the twin towers). So by making air travel more onerous and incenting people to travel by car instead, the TSA is actually working against public safety.

              Even the minute dose of X-rays emitted by the nudoscopes arguably poses a greater health risk than that of a terrorist hijacking.

              Terrorists bent on sowing fear and disrupting air travel could do so just as effectively by attacking the security checkpoints, where throngs of unscreened passengers are confined in a small space with few exits. The fact that no such attacks have occurred suggests to me that the threat of attack has been wildly exaggerated.

              So this defense of TSA screening as necessary for public safety simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. As other have repeatedly pointed out, it’s not about making us safer; it’s about giving the appearance of being in control.

              1. All true, minus the last bit. I find the present state of airport security to be sufficiently explained in terms of an intent to ensure public safety. That the government is often inefficient is a point I won’t spend much work refuting, to be sure. However, whether the TSA is working to ensure public safety whilst balancing privacy and private property is a point that the courts, from the top down, have concluded is within the purview of the constitutional mandates to protect both.

                We can disagree on where that balance may be struck, but to simply say that the government has no call for the actions of the TSA is an oversimplification of an important issue.

              2. So just to be clear, you grant that TSA policies are at best ineffective and at worst downright harmful to public safety. But you continue to assert that the invasion of privacy is justified so long as the TSA means well, regardless of actual results. Have I summarized your position accurately?

                Frankly I think you’re being extremely naive if you think that “an intent to ensure public safety” is the only motive in play here. Politicians, TSA bureaucrats, and nudoscope manufacturers all have other incentives driving their decisions that have nothing to do with public safety.

                But even if you’re right and they have only our best interests at heart, their massive incompetence at doing so in a cost-effective and minimally invasive fashion ought to be reason enough to scrap the system and replace it with something evidence-based that addresses real, measurable problems of public safety rather than hypothetical bogeymen.

              3. “Politicians, TSA bureaucrats, and nudoscope manufacturers all have other incentives driving their decisions that have nothing to do with public safety”

                Evidence-free invective, but you are entitled to your own opinion. I’m as naive as you are paranoid, for precisely the same reasons.

                “replace it with something evidence-based that addresses real, measurable problems of public safety rather than hypothetical bogeymen.”

                I’m listening. Prevent airplane terrorism without body-scans and pat-downs, and I’ll write my congressman a letter a day until it changes. I share your concerns about cost, and invasion of privacy, but I’m not nearly as dismissive of the threat of airplane terrorism. Lest we forget, they are achieving all of this without collecting a single digital bit of information on any of us.

              4. “Evidence-free invective”

                Huh? Politicians need to get reelected, TSA officials need to keep their jobs, and scanner manufacturers need to sell their products. These are plain facts. Do you dispute them?

                “they are achieving all of this without collecting a single digital bit of information on any of us.”

                You really are being naive. Airlines routinely turn over their flight manifests and frequent-flier databases to the TSA. That’s how the TSA determines, for instance, who to invite into their new rapid-screening program, which could not work without the collection of such information.

              5. I dispute that those facts are sufficient to carry the weight of your conspiracy theory.

                Flight manifests and FF databases are not personal information being collected by the TSA at screening. That’s not even protected information. Moreover, the invite to rapid-screening is followed by a price-tag and a voluntary background check.

              6. What conspiracy theory? Lobbyists exist because lobbying works. That fact is sufficient to establish that public policy is not always motivated purely by public interest. Private interests can and do influence policy for their own gain. If you think TSA policy is exempt from such influence, you’re wrong; google “body scanner lobbyists” for evidence.

                Now I really must go pack; early flight tomorrow.

            3. Yea, verily, perhaps we should absolve the government of its security responsibilities and turn them over to private corporate tyrannies, which surely have the best interests of us “human resources” – er, uh, Ah mean – human beings at heart.

    4. Lee, I’ve read all of your comments in this thread, and I largely agree with your arguments. Ben and Justicar are free to interpret the Constitution as they wish, but the interpretation of the federal judiciary is the only one that is pertinent.

      However, your original comment seemed to be saying that in the case that one feels that the current system of screening is excessive and/or ineffective is to boycott the system by refusing to fly. Why insist that one not complain on a blog about it? Why is it inappropriate or useless to try to turn public opinion against the unacceptable elements of this system in the hope that sufficient outrage would cause a change in the system?

      You don’t think gropings are excessive, and that’s fine, but why are you attempting to shut up those who disagree? Am I missing something?

      1. Allienne Goddard: would now be a bad time to point out the legal standard I mentioned is the one espoused by the SCOTUS? I’d hate to screw up the narrative.

        One other small point: the interpretation of the judiciary is not the only pertinent one. You seem to have avoided for the whole of your life taking the step of actually reading the constitution.

        1. Exactly.

          The Supremes could affirm a decision that the Government can force people to recite the Nicene Creed on pain of torture. That would make it legal, but not Constitutional (barring, of course another Amendment).


          1. Cough Dred Scott cough.

            The decision made it entirely impossible for the government to enforce any laws which deprived a good old white southerner of means from parading his property (black people) around the streets like circus animals – even in free territories.

            And yet it still violated the constitution.

            Justice Jackson had some words about such a thing: we are not final because we are infallible; we are infallible because our word is final. It’s a quip that admits of exceptions, but it’s also a reasonably true statement.

        2. Justicar, I have replied to your challenge in lieu of a reply to mine. What, precisely, is unconstitutional about the security measures of the TSA? It’s all well and good to just point to the constitution, but that’s not much of an argument.

        3. Again, you and Ben are welcome to your interpretations, but they are irrelevant. The federal judiciary does in fact decide what is and isn’t constitutional. They do not care what you or I might think about it, unless you are actually filing a suit they must respond to. If you’re trying to bring about a challenge to TSA policies based on the 4th Amendment, that’s fantastic. I’d be thrilled, though I wouldn’t expect it to succeed since I doubt that your interpretation would be accepted.

          You appear to think that the Dred Scott case is a good example of the judiciary violating the Constitution, but I think you’re mistaken. Slavery had, of course, existed before the adoption of the Constitution, so clearly the slave states, at least, did not interpret it to outlaw slavery. The Supreme Court agreed seven to two that slavery was constitutional. In fact, it was necessary to add three amendments to the Constitution to make slavery unconstitutional. You must know this, so I don’t understand why you would use it as a supporting example.

          As for the casual insult that I am ignorant of the Constitution, blow it out your ass.

      2. “You don’t think gropings are excessive, and that’s fine, but why are you attempting to shut up those who disagree? Am I missing something?”

        No, of course I’m not trying to shut anyone up. I started out with saying I “don’t understand” the idea that there’s something really wrong with the security protocols at airports. I agree that they are invasive, I can even agree that they are so invasive to some people that they may wish to avoid air travel altogether. What I don’t understand is why this is anything more than the inconvenience of “I haz been violated” outweighing the convenience of air travel. I got this not from the original article, but mostly from the comments.

        Other readers brought up the “constitutionality” and “search and seizure” points, to which I have dutifully replied to the best of my ability.

    5. Consider also that most people accept a patdown and metal detector pass-thru in order to get in to a bar/club. And that’s with longer lines too. I am sure if terahertz detectors were installed in lots of clubs, attendance would not go down.

  14. http://www.jockstrapcentral.com/

    “If you need true protection from impact sports then you’ll need a hard cup supporter from Bike and Flarico, companies you can trust with the protection of your boys. Both Bike and Flarico have been providing support and protection since the 1890s.”

    “Protection”. ‘Nuff said?

  15. “You can either change the preconditions (job, home, time getting up, etc.) or you can suck it up. Same here (or so it seems to me). The choice is in what you are willing to endure to maintain the lifestyle you have chosen.”

    Ah, but those aren’t the only choices, are they? Perhaps if we complain enough we can change the idiotic arbitrary rules.

    1. Sure. We can boycott the airlines, raise a fuss, get it changed. What we cannot do is paint this into an issue of constitutionality. Even if we do boycott, raise a fuss, petition the government, etc., the TSA isn’t violating any fundamental rights by ignoring those requests.

      You get searched prior to entering a courtroom, even though you may be required by law to do so (possibly even “groped”). If that does not constitute a violation of your rights, I fail to see how it applies to airline security.

      But again, perhaps I’m missing something.

          1. I think we all agree that there should be border controls and that those controls should protect us from things like terrorism.

            Looking at and feeling our genitals seems to be a poor way of preventing bombs, so why continue to do it?

            1. But aren’t you forgetting the very real possibility that these measures are effective, in part, for their prevention of genital smuggling as they (may be) ineffectual for actual, documented discoveries of such events? Could it not be the case that few people attempt to bring guns and knives on board planes because these measures are in place to detect and prevent doing so?

              1. No I’m not forgetting any such thing. What an odd accusation. Don’t you think that the people who want to impose dreadful crap like this ought to be able to justify it? You know, the extraordinary evidence thing?

              2. I’m sorry if that came across as accusatory, I did not intend it to that way. I was merely trying to point out that, just as the presence of patrol cars on highways goes a long way towards keeping us from speeding, perhaps the persistence of airline security keeps the bad elements among us from causing harm to the rest of us. You could pose the question thusly: if we were to remove all highway patrolmen, is it reasonable to suppose that more people would exceed the speed limit? It seems to me that the mere fact that there aren’t a large number of people being caught doing X doesn’t disqualify Y as a meaningful preventative measure.

                Whether it is effective in actually discerning dangerous items, well, that’s up for debate. In the interest of full disclosure, I have recently smuggled a 3in knife through three separate security checkpoints, so I can certainly agree that the current measures are fallible. However, does that entail that they are wholly ineffectual?

                Further, to the original point, none of this is even relevant to whether a constitutional right is being violated. Even if it finds no contraband, prevents no violence, and could be superseded by something more effective, the intent as I see it is justified by the constitution, and the practice is not itself a violation of same. I would love to hear what that “something more effective” is, and would campaign along side you to replace the current system with “it”.

  16. Wow, unwanted groping used to be illegal, but is now something one gets paid for. I’m disturbed. Do they grope kids like that?

      1. Stupid thugs!

        Love their response “TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child,” said an official statement.

        Well that is reassuring and every four year old can relax and rest assure that Procedures were properly followed.

      1. They might not know they are pregnant. However, all this talk of an x-ray seems to forget the dosage that you get when flying anyway. Flying “100 hours a year would receive an additional annual dose of approximately 0.4 mSv.” By comparison, living in Cornwall will give you 0.4 mSv in a month because of thegranite & radon gas.

  17. There’s some sort of frequent flying pass that one can apply for – something that makes you sort of certifiably safe. They mentioned it when I was coming thru customs in Detroit last month but I forgot to get an application. Has anyone here applied for one of those yet?

  18. “but how could the see-you-naked machine detect things that aren’t there?”

    Did I just actually hear a scientist say that? Come on.

    – 100% detection (Pd) is easy if you don’t want any false alarms
    – 0% false alarm (Pfa) rate is easy if you don’t want any rate of detection.
    – Pd == Pfa is trivially easy (just alarm on every n-th scan)

    The hard part of automated detection is to separate Pd and Pfa. The problem with this technology is that it is not separated enough to not annoy the passengers and the consequence of a false alarm is to intrusive.

    1. Well, as a point of pedantry, a machine that has a false positive is quite literally not detecting something – that’s why it’s called a ‘false’ positive. It’s not an actual detection.

  19. I have a problem with what Ben Goren said here:

    “Look. I don’t give a damn if you get your jollies by having uniformed men grope your balls while telling you you’e safe from hand grenades. That’s your private business.”

    Such attitudes are quite common but very offensive.
    As a gay person it is really weird to see this failure of common sense.

    You do realize that to gay people only a tiny tiny percentage of men are even remotely attractive, or more precisely not attractive in the slightest.

    And then you count in the context which eliminates even that miniscule potentiality which makes the whole thing even more ridiculous.

    Please knock it off.

    1. I don’t imagine homosexuals get any more pleasure out of being violated any more than heterosexuals do. That’s a fetish, not an orientation.

      Not to put words in Ben’s comment box, but it seems he was implying he’s a masochist, not a homosexual. After all, that’s the only group that actually WOULD get their jollys off by being violated by a stranger.

      1. What did the sadist say to the masochist when the masochist said, “Hurt me! Hurt me!”

        He said, “No!!”

    2. Sorry to offend — please believe me that the gay angle wasn’t even on my radar when I wrote that. I was simply summarizing back to Lee in plain language the essence of his position.

      I don’t care what kind of preferences or kinks he has; nor do I care about anybody else, too, unless I’m in (or wish to be in) a romantic relationship with said person.

      My problem is with his desire to have the federal government force his own desires and kinks on the traveling public. His right to enjoy public sexual assault at the hands of strangers does not engender him the right to demand that everybody should be publicly sexually assaulted by the government at the hands of strangers.


      1. “I was simply summarizing back to Lee in plain language the essence of his position.”

        Hilarious. Right, the plain language summarization of the precarious balance between public safety and private property is…I get my jollys being groped?

        Are you serious right now?

    3. Arnie, as a gay man myself (and to include all of the men I’ve slept with being themselves gay), I am somewhat comfortable for saying that whether one enjoys having uniformed men grope one’s balls or not is, in fact, a private affair.

      Oh, wait, that didn’t require my being gay – just literate and mildly aware of the world around me.

  20. I think that the risks of even a major terrorist attack and the loss of life are small in comparison with other death risks. I certainly thing wise precautions should be taken to avoid such attacks, but I am prepared to take the risk that I may get attacked by a loony if it means I can go about my lawful business without interference from a bunch of mindless politicians and/or police or pseudo-police, who are likely to miss the real ‘next’ threat anyway, because the terrorists are not all idiots and would change their methods. I agree that flying is a privilege not a right…

    If they were to stop anyone getting behind the wheel of a car who had taken alcohol, that would certainly save lives.

    1. “but I am prepared to take the risk that I may get attacked”

      Come on. This is ridiculous. A terror attack is worth it if it means i don’t have to get an occasional pat down, or wait on a longer line? Seriously? I’ll agree that the risk of attack is stunningly small, but so what? The risk of something like 911 was stunningly small too, that hardly means we shouldn’t have /some/ security apparatus at transportation hubs.

      Also, does anyone have any doubt that these terhertz cameras won’t eventually be able to scan-and-pan large crowds, out in public? This kind of tech will eventually be everywhere, just like the ‘ring of steel’ of London.

  21. The TSA are like the fabled Tiger Ward. Apparently they’re preventing terrorism – and it must work because you don’t see any terrorists around, do you? In the meantime quite a few terrorists had been captured – no thanks to the TSA.

    1. Precisely: the TSA is claiming credit for preventing terrorism but hasn’t actually shown that any of its increasingly invasive procedures are actually doing so. It’s a placebo effect to make Americans feel like they’re safer from terrorist attacks despite the lack of any actual increases in safety that we can identify.

  22. A TSA agent is NEVER going to find a terrorist. I mean, what are they capable of even if they DID find one, call security? Weapons of mass distraction get by them all the time … knives, box cutters, etc. Two of them were busted the other day for being involved in a drug smuggling ring. They’re a bunch of twits just like everybody else. The terrorists are doing other things. If they want to blow up a plane, the smart ones will put it in cargo or some other part of the plane and they’ll do it through an un-thought of channel. The dumbasses, like the “underwear bomber” and his ilk, are just little Muslim attention whores who want to put on their big-boy britches, but just can’t quite figure it out. Not that one might not get lucky some day and blow one out of the sky. I’m all for security, but I just don’t know if TSA IS security.

  23. I have two metal knees, which means I get the complete procedure. As a result, I have changed from a fairly regular flier to a very seldom flier.

    I think a little training of the TSA agents would make things a bit better. Suppose, on finishing, the agent said to you, “Thank you for your cooperation. Have a safe flight.”

  24. Welcome to the real world. The TSA officers are trained to respond to the signals they see. This is no surprise. I have learned, with a lot less traveling than Jerry has to do, to leave my watch, belt, and wallet in a carry-on bag and hold my boarding pass in my hand. I wear loafers to fly so I do not have to bother unlacing shoes, etc.

    Yeah I have heard how nobody has been caught trying to hijack a plane since all this security started. But there have been attempts to blow planes up in flight. And there was a suicide crash, too. The last one could not have been prevented by the current security procedures since it was the plane’s pilot who crashed it.

    There is no point in getting mad at the security. The real culprits are the Islamic terrorists. The real problem is religion.

    1. There’s no point in getting mad at security that won’t do what it’s supposed to do but instead makes things more difficult for people who aren’t causing problems? Seriously?

    2. TSA agents are not “trained” in any reasonable sense.

      And the stupid must go very high in the DHS for anyone to think that the TSA stupidity is in anyway effective, except as a babyish exercise in PR.

      Bluntly put, the antics of the TSA probably increase the chance of a terrorist attack rather than diminish it.

  25. You don’t like the policies that your political representatives have instituted into law so you inflict your displeasure on a bunch of screeners. It’s amazing what unpleasant things a person will do to feed his family. If you have a problem with these policies confront your representative not these unfortunate screeners.

  26. They should ‘pat’ with aluminium baseball bat. If there was metal bomb or gun hidden in the crotch it would give metallic sound clearly indicating that the suspect has something insidious to hide.

  27. Fortunately, I have neither the need nor the desire to travel to the US, so the matter at hand does not concern me in the least. If that sounds callous, I’m sorry, but since Americans believe their country is a democracy, and they choose to legitimize that fictitious status by casting their vote in a well-staged comedy, then they must also accept the consequences of their willingness to follow the script.

    What I found interesting, however, is the difference between the back of the hand and the palm. If I had to be subjected to a frisking, I’d surely prefer to be groped with the back of the hand rather than with the palm. You heterosexual males, or homosexual women, have you ever tried to squeeze your partner’s breasts with the back of your hand? I have never tried it, but it must surely be rather frustrating. You heterosexual women, or homosexual men, have you ever tried to grab you partner’s penis with the back of your hand? I’m quite sure you haven’t.

    Obviously, one of the most important reasons must be that we cannot wrap the back of our hands around objects as we can when we use the palm. It is also quite obvious that our fingertips are far more sensitive than our nails. But what really puzzles me is why touching something with the back of our hand is so unsatisfactory. For me (a heterosexual male), touching a woman’s breasts with the back of my hand is pointless: it surely won’t amount to a pleasurable or exciting experience. I suspect that beyond the physical explanation there lurks a psychological one: closing your hand into a fist is a sign of power; opening your hand like an inside-out sweater is a sign of defeat, or a gesture equivalent to “stay away”, “keep off”, etc.

    I’d like to see comments on this matter by psychologists and physiologists. My ignorance of biology is quite abysmal, so even knowing the numbre of nervous receptors per square inch in different parts of our bodies would constitue valuable information.

  28. This is why, if I fly from New Zealand to England, I will never, ever, fly via the USA. I’ll go via relatively civilised places like Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dubai or Argentina.

    What’s that? Some of those places have fairly nasty authoritarian governments? Yes, but their airport security is generally no more than moderately obnoxious, unlike the TSA in the Land of the Free. How ironic.

    And I have another reason, now – do you suppose the NSA has intercepted this email, tracked down my identity, and I’m on the TSA’s “subject to maximum humiliation” list, along with everyone else who’s posted here (except, possibly, Lee). After all, we’re calling them morons, how would one expect a moron to react when he’s just been called one? And I really, really do not wish to subject myself to the humiliation of NOT telling these goons what I think of their idiotic pantomime. It’s an agonising dilemma – keeping quiet would be humiliating and moral cowardice. Telling them is just buying trouble. I’d probably keep quiet and hate myself for it. Luckily for me (unlike most of you) I can avoid it by several thousand miles.

    1. I got searched three times in the same airport coming back from an international flight, by the same august team of TSA officers, while moving through the same ‘sterilized area’. This came shortly after the underwear bomber, and given the thorough nature of their repeated investigations, I decided to forego my upcoming physical. If they didn’t find anything, neither will the doc.

      So yeah, I’m not the guy breezing through security and laughing at the poor sods getting a little unwanted foreplay. I get the sentiment, I just don’t see how it’s unconstitutional.

  29. I am not a frequent flyer but have flown enough times that I can sympathize with the ‘humiliation’ aspect of the original post. Having said that, I am reminded that throughout history instances of abuse of authority have typically involved detailed procedures and processes (making it all the easier to rationalize). The inquisitions had it, the NAZIs had it and the Japanese internment had it to name but a few. So for me, debating the procedure is missing the point (with the possible exception that causing humiliation is a typical warning sign of abuse of authority). For me the point is the willingness to treat a identifyable group as guilty or under suspicion and thus subject to a suspension of their rights based solely on their ‘identity’. In this case of course the identifyable group are flight travellers.
    Would those who accept the argument that the rights of an entire group can be suspended for the perceived greater good or national security then defend the internment of Japanese citizens? For me there is obviously a difference of degree here but not of kind.

  30. They need to either set the tuning lower, or abandon this ridiculous security theater. (They won’t do that, of course.)

    I don’t know if anyone has commented on this, but this isn’t a very scientific understanding of the process. (I’ve helped construct explosives & drug sniffers btw.)

    Instruments have a false positive rate, as well as other problematic behavior. (Say, false negatives.) So whatever setting is used, in a heavily used instrument at an air port there will be innocents singled out for more thorough screening.

    What you really want is better instruments, but even then you have the usual balance between sensitivity and detection time.

    Maybe if they picked samples and keep tabs on everyone as you cycle through the air port, in which case they can grab positives before they exit. But then you have some serious privacy issues to handle. You’ll need cameras on the loo’s, for one.

      1. They have removed the “nude” screens and replaced them with a stock rendering of a male and female absent the naughty bits(for those who are camera shy). Check out TSA’s website. Oh, and they did this without a court order.

        I would strongly object to cameras in “the loo” as wholly unnecessary given the precautions already in place.

  31. Sam Harris is now advocating a “if it talks like a Muslim, looks like a Muslim, it is a terrorist” strategy of profiling for TSA searches. I won’t be surprised if the post 9/11 zeitgeist deems such profiling “reasonable”. I think these procedures are here to last forever. No politician will ever vote to reduce them because (s)he will be portrayed as sacrificing public safety.

    I see that there are many who are defending the constitutionality of the TSA pat down procedures. I am not familiar with the legal arguments but my question to them is, what sort of government actions WILL be unconstitutional? E.g. will the warrant-less surveillance of citizens to “provide for our common defence” against sleeper Al Qaeda agents be considered constitutional? If I read your argument correctly, I think you are saying “travel” is a right but “air travel” is not so the government can impose restrictions which are troublesome but necessary in order for the government to do its job. Similarly one may say “communication” is a right but “modern digital communication” is not. If you don’t want your emails and phone calls to be secretly tapped, you can choose to send letters by carrier pigeons. At what point do restrictions on civil liberties, imposed in the name of providing for our common defence, become so onerous that they can be deemed unconstitutional? Or does no such limit exist and only the fear of not getting elected impose the necessary check on unrestrained government power?

    1. Wouldn’t be the first time I disagreed with Harris.

      As to the constitution question, as I’ve said before, the line can become rather thin rather quickly. The difficult part is finding a balance that is consistent, fair, and reasonable given the situation. This isn’t about bandying words about until we find a sentence construction that looks like Orwell wrote it.

      “At what point do restrictions on civil liberties, imposed in the name of providing for our common defence, become so onerous that they can be deemed unconstitutional?”

      When they can no longer be justified by an intention to protect both, or are no longer reasonable given the threat. Where that balance lies is up to the courts to decide. That is what it means to live in a constitutional republic; we elect, they appoint, and it all runs according to the best interpretation of the founding documents as can be determined in changing times and conditions. Not a job I envy.

      The limit, as I understand it, is defined by the same body that the government derives it’s authority: the people. It is only by the express permission of the governed, and from among the governed, that the governing body is consisted and empowered. If the governed no longer feel the governing body is operating in keeping with their wishes, it is incumbent upon the governed to overthrow the failed system and reinstate a new one.

      That’s all in the constitution, obviously not verbatim though!

  32. “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin, 1759.

    We have surrendered our Liberty out of cowardliness.

          1. Commenting on a blog is for people who don’t think there’s a serious issue. Like me. It’s not a political outlet for serious grievances like the loss of liberty you keep yammering on about.

            If you’re serious, do something. Hire a lawyer, go through security, make a case. Fix it. Commenting here, no offense to Jerry, is the functional equivalent of liking a facebook status.

            1. Arrogant much? You have no idea what I or anyone else here does when not commenting on blogs. Get off your high horse.

  33. Having just got off a flight from AMS, I find the whole thing “pat”ently ridiculous (sorry, couldn’t resist). I also went through the see-everything machine and also got patted down after. Nothing quite as personal as your experience though.

  34. Hey, I said I wanted to know why touching with the palm of the hand does not give the same feeling as touching with the back of the hand.

    I’ll stand here in a huff until I get an answer.




  35. How is that any more strange than the suggestion (which I take to be your position) that there are no reasonable limits to how invasive screenings should be? A day or so ago I asked you the question of whether you thought there were any such limits. You didn’t answer that question except to say that if limits were crossed you wouldn’t fly.

    So, what do you think are reasonable limits to the invasiveness of security screening?

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