Thursday, February 23, 2006

Screeners

Another winner of a piece by Peggy Noonan on airport 'security':
This week I flew to Florida and back to give a speech and got another up-close look at how well the Transportation Security Administration is running the show. And it's clear that no one jokes about TSA screeners frisking grandma anymore, not because it isn't still happening, but rather because it's not even darkly funny anymore.
It is a bit of a joke, though a sick one at that.

I think most (all?) people are convinced that airport security is much like 'school security' is a cruel farce that's put on to give the appearance of doing something, but not actually doing anything at all. Peggy relates some ill experiences with the TSA agents, but I'll tell you now that those people have one of the worst jobs in the world and they know it, and the people they 'serve' know it as well. It's hard to come up against an armed, bored, undereducated bureaucrat whose existence brings more harm than good to society with the expectation that they'll have a good attitude. More...
I am almost always picked for extra screening. I must be on a list of middle aged Irish-American women terrorists. I know a message is being sent: We don't do ethnic profiling in America. But that is not, I suspect, the message anyone receives. The message people receive is: This is all nonsense. What they think is: This is all kabuki. We're being harassed and delayed so politicians can feel good. The security personnel themselves seem to know it's nonsense: they're always bored and distracted as they go through my clothing, my stockings, my computer, my earrings. They don't treat me like a terror possibility, they treat me like a sad hunk of meat.
I don't think most of us get extra screening because they think we are terrorists. I think we get it because they know we're not. They screen people who are not terrorists because it helps them pretend they are protecting us, in the same way doctors in the middle ages used to wear tall hats: because they couldn't cure you. It's all show.
In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board as well as 11 on the ground (source). The bomb was unwittingly brought onto the plain by the pregnant girlfriend of an Arab terrorist (who was more than likely in the pay of Libya). The bomb was concealed inside a radio, which for all we know could have been operational. It's nice to think that all the harassment at the airports would stop such a thing, but I think we know in our hearts, it wouldn't; but like a lot of things governments in general do in the name of their people, it's more comforting to believe the lie.

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