Girl-on-Girl Action at the Airport

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A front-page New York Times article details the complaints of women who have been semi-stripped and groped at airport checkpoints since new search procedures were implemented in mid-September. The pat-downs, which are conducted at the discretion of TSA personnel as part of "secondary screenings" that affect about 15 percent of passengers, are a response to the destruction of two Russian planes by Chechen terrorists. Investigators believe two Chechen women carried nonmetallic explosives onto the planes. It's not clear that the explosives were hidden underneath their clothing, but the TSA figures it might as well have a look between Patti LuPone's breasts. I mean, who knows what she's got in there?

The Times notes that screeners are supposed to use the backs of their hands on breasts, buttocks, and crotches; that women can request that a female screener feel them up, assuming one is available (if only men had the same prerogative); and that they can ask to be searched in a "private area," although several travelers report they were groped in full view of gawking fellow passengers.

The TSA says it's no big deal, citing a relatively small and declining number of official complaints. But surely the complaints represent a tiny fraction of the travelers humiliated by these up-close-and-personal searches. Aside from the hassle of voicing one's objections, there is the fear that complaining will only make matters worse. One female executive reports that complaining directly to screeners results in extra-intense searches. As for going over their heads, says another, "There is this thing about putting your name out there….Am I going to end up on some kind of list?"

Are there less mortifying alternatives to these pat-downs? I can think of a couple. Screeners could use background information about travelers to better focus their efforts (in which case Broadway actresses and CEOs would be groped less often), or they could use those nifty scanners that see under clothing. Both techniques avoid the unique discomfort of the hands-on approach, but each is intrusive in its own way.

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  1. I think it’s the duty of every air-traveling American, man or woman, to be searched as publicly as possible. If they want to feel your crotch, make them do it in front of a line of hundreds of other passengers. Give everybody a taste of what’s going on. Maybe it will help people to see just how silly and intrusive these searches are. Taking it into a back room hides the situation and removes potential witnesses to possible impropriety.

  2. Give everybody a taste of what’s going on. Maybe it will help people to see just how silly and intrusive these searches are.

    indeed, mr db, perhaps the thing to do is simply take off all (or almost all) your clothes in the boarding area prior to being asked to do anything.

    when the inevitable police question comes, simply respond that you’re doing your part to fight the terrorists.

  3. “indeed, mr db, perhaps the thing to do is simply take off all (or almost all) your clothes in the boarding area prior to being asked to do anything.”

    Haven’t there been some instances of French tourists (hailing from a culture with a greater respect for personal privacy than our own) doing just that out of protest? I think each of those instances led to an arrest.

  4. i wouldn’t be surprised, mr eric. i would think the french the center of the more cultured parts of western civ which feel more acutely than america the absurdity of mechanized life.

  5. Yeah, strangely enough the security people don’t like it when you go through the metal detector naked. I guess that is explainable, we are a country of prudes. Even at a heightened terror alert we can’t get over our prudishness.

    What is even more strange is that even in the room that they sometimes take you to, they get uncomfortable when you start to completely disrobe upon entering the room. “I am making the search easy on you”, doesn’t put them at ease.

    They have a job to do, and I am comfortable with my body. I don’t know what the fuss is about.

  6. hey c’mon. if you’re innocent, there’s no problem. right? and you don’t have the right to fly. i mean you can take the bus. yeah. since you’re there, you agree to their terms. so there. pork away pal. fuck em blue. since they’re there, we know what they are, it’s just a question of if the goodies might be hiding something.

    balls. may the “law and order types” get doses of their own medicine.

  7. The TSA says it’s no big deal, citing a relatively small and declining number of official complaints.

    …Since complaints haven’t done any good so far.

    I can get to used to the full monty flying requirement. It would indeed do this country some good to lighten up on the nudity issue.

  8. I think Hooters and the TSA should get together and do passenger screening. I get pulled aside for a search about 50% of the time for some reason. I’ve had one too many sweaty middle aged weirdo guys feel me up. I’d prefer a woman’s touch.

  9. I can get to used to the full monty flying requirement. It would indeed do this country some good to lighten up on the nudity issue.

    I think the airlines would tip over into bankruptcy when they had to provide disposable seat covers in that circumstance. Besides, do you really want skin-to-skin contact between you and the 280lb sweaty, halitotic behemoth sitting next to you?

  10. Ashcroft, Bush and Co. would love to have you believe background checks and the dossiers that necessarily accompany them are needed to improve security. But such a system may be counterproductive. This article does a good job of explaining why:

  11. Hmmm,
    Using html tag made the url I was posting vanish. It’s http://reclaimdemocracy.org/civil_rights/capps_2_illusion_safety.html

  12. “i wouldn’t be surprised, mr eric. i would think the french the center of the more cultured parts of western civ which feel more acutely than america the absurdity of mechanized life.”

    Have you ever spent time in France? I think that the statement is proven false by spending time there.

  13. Everyone here seems to take it for granted that there’s no merit to this procedure, but I have to wonder if most of you would be so smug if you knew that your loved ones had been blown out of the sky because the TSA was too concerned with the sensibilities of female travelers to do thorough body searches?

    The fact is that even the nifty scanners Sullum links to would likely raise the hackles of more than a few of the beautiful and unique snowflakes already bitching about being searched, and I see no reason to assume that famous people are by definition incapable of terrorism, and therefore deserving of exemption. There is a basic tradeoff between security and convenience, and if people want to fly safe in an age of airborne terrorism, they’d better learn to stop bitching and put up with a little discomfort; alternatively, they can just drive or take a train or ship to their desired destination.

  14. If you do get selected for the extra-special treatment, at least do everything you can to insult them without breaking the law. Don’t issue any threats, just point out how idiotic and pointless this all is, as well as unconstitutional, and suggest that they’re the same sort of people who’d be happy working for Robert Mugabe. When they ask “who’s Robert Mugabe?” belittle them some more.

    If they’re going to harass us, we should harass them right back.

  15. “There is a basic tradeoff between security and convenience, and if people want to fly safe in an age of airborne terrorism, they’d better learn to stop bitching and put up with a little discomfort; alternatively, they can just drive or take a train or ship to their desired destination.”

    First off, it’s not about “inconvenience”, it’s about illegal searches per US Constitution Amend IV, Abiola. Secondly, the tradeoff I see being made is between political correctness and real security (as in actual police work).

    We all know that the comely women in the tank tops being searched (actually my imagination is getting away with me here ;-} are not anything near like the people we are actually worried about. But, we must be politically correct.

    We all know that 9/11 would not have happened if airlines a) were not basically trained monkeys of the FAA and could have been responsible for their own various, sundry, and probably ingenious methods of security b) the pilots and/or pax had been allowed to carry firearms per US Constitution Amend II. We would not even have this post to read and waste time on.

    So, security is indeed a big joke, and I just don’t want to be made part of the joke.

    Also, don’t think you will have no problems boarding a ship (to go across the country?, I guess through the canal or maybe the elusive Northwest passage) or your car in the future without the same bullshit.

  16. I get picked for extra searches every time I fly civilian, because I am always on one way tickets (which in itself is silly because all you need to do is spend 50$ or so more for a return ticket that a bad guy might not intend to take).

    Anyhow, it’s really not that bad.

    But the naked thing is an interesting idea.

    Put like that, I don’t know if my anecdotes are valid, because I wouldn’t really object that much to being strip searched by a chick (as long as I didn’t miss my flight).

  17. Despite the clever title of this posting, did anybody else notice the section in the article where a woman had a MAN looking down her pants, because there were no female screeners available and the alternative was for her to miss her flight?

    I’m amazed by the people who see no logical fallacy in the idea that “We have to submit to having our bodies pawed by strangers if we want to remain a free country.” If Bush is right about Al-Qaeda hating us for our freedom, then they must be growing fonder of us each day.

  18. Have you seen some of those screeners? I’ll take one of the men, thank you very much. At least the odds are for me that the screener will be just as annoyed and disgusted as I am at having to search me. The last thing I need is some screener getting her jollies off of stripping me.

    OTOH if it was the Hooters Air screeners, well I say, bring it on.

  19. If we’re speaking of federal crud:

    From Easterbrook’s NFL.com column

    Paul Light of the Brookings Institution found that while a generation ago the federal government had 17 senior executive titles, today it confers 64 senior titles. Among TMQ’s favorites: “Deputy Assistant Deputy Administrator,” “Deputy Deputy Assistant Secretary,” “Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary” and “Chief of Staff to the Associate Assistant Secretary.” [b]Light also found there are six times as many people holding senior titles in the federal government today than in 1960 — 2,592 people with senior titles now, versus 451 in 1960.[/b] He found that the Department of Agriculture has more people with senior-level titles than the Department of Defense.

  20. “Despite the clever title of this posting, did anybody else notice the section in the article where a woman had a MAN looking down her pants, because there were no female screeners available and the alternative was for her to miss her flight?”

    I’m sure that was the first time a strange man was ever looking in her pants.

  21. “There is a basic tradeoff between security and convenience, and if people want to fly safe in an age of airborne terrorism, they’d better learn to stop bitching and put up with a little discomfort; alternatively, they can just drive or take a train or ship to their desired destination.”

    Ever notice that people who suggest things like “take a train or ship” could simply do that themselves? They could be the ones inconvenienced to save their own lives. Instead, they wish others to be inconvenienced. And they back that up by supporting a government that forces the inconvenience on those that don’t want it.

  22. Hey Jen,
    I don’t know about your point of Al Qaida growing fond of us for female searches.

    The embassy in Baghdad had Marines searching the dudes that came in, and there were local Hajji girls that were interpreters, but they were employed to search the females. There was one girl that really took her job seriously. Unlike the other interpreter/ searchers, she wore the full traditional islamic dress (the other chicks opted for western garb). Anyhow it was a pleasure to watch her search pretty women, because she did a full on feel up.

    I know that doesn’t really have any great significance on the subject at hand. But Jennifer, I think that is not an ideal that Osama had in mind.

  23. Have you ever spent time in France? I think that the statement is proven false by spending time there.

    yep. really, mr goiter? i’m surprised. note that i’m not saying france isn’t mechanized — indeed, paris is all about modernity. but most of the french folks i know, imo, are far more sensitively attuned to the incompatibility (such as it exists) between the age of the assembly line and talking apes from the savannah — and the absurdity of the conflicts between them. pastoral primitivism as a philosophical ideal seemed to me to get a much wider hearing there than here.

  24. “yep. really, mr goiter? i’m surprised. note that i’m not saying france isn’t mechanized — indeed, paris is all about modernity. but most of the french folks i know, imo, are far more sensitively attuned to the incompatibility (such as it exists) between the age of the assembly line and talking apes from the savannah — and the absurdity of the conflicts between them. pastoral primitivism as a philosophical ideal seemed to me to get a much wider hearing there than here”

    I don’t buy that one bit. I think that the average french person is on the same level of awareness as the average american. Maybe in french academia your previous posit would be correct, but a starry-eyed vision of the pastoral french is pretty laughable.

  25. “There is a basic tradeoff between security and convenience, and if people want to fly safe in an age of airborne terrorism, they’d better learn to stop bitching and put up with a little discomfort; alternatively, they can just drive or take a train or ship to their desired destination.”

    Ever notice that people who suggest things like “take a train or ship” could simply do that themselves? They could be the ones inconvenienced to save their own lives.

    indeed, mr jeff. the argument is specious, anyway. the implication is that the inconvenience should be getting groped at airports. one could just as easily imply that the inconvenience should be accepting the deaths of 3000 or so people every few years in airplane/building collisions.

  26. starry-eyed vision of the pastoral french is pretty laughable

    you presume too much, mr goiter. i’ve come to know a number of french folks personally, and — while i can speak only of my own experience — there is a very real and palpable difference and it is not academic but cultural, not superficial but quite deep. it is a profoundly different vision of life and priorities.

    i might ask: do you know any frenchmen? and is your experience vastly different from mine? i’d be interested to know.

  27. Kwais-
    My point was meant as a joke: if Osama hates us ‘for our freedom,’ as Bush said, and we have less and less freedom every day, perhaps he’ll stop hating us now.

    Of course, I always thought he hated our foreign policies rather than our freedoms, myself.

  28. Jennifer, why do you hate America? You disagree with our foreign policies, and you seem upset that somebody from the internal security services might feel you up before you get on an airplane.

    If you hate freedom so much, why don’t you just move to France?

  29. I’d feel better about getting on an airplane if I knew that all of the other people on it had been searched. If that means I get searched too, then that’s ok. All the people sneering at American “prudishness” sure seem awfully uptight about being touched by another human being.

    This isn’t a freedom thing; it’s not a rights thing either. You have no right to fly. You may think you do, but hey — tough shit, you’re wrong.

  30. Dan-
    I may not have a right to fly, but according to the Constitution I have a right to not be searched without cause, and a right to be secure in my person, which among other things means the right to not have my breasts and genitalia fondled, publicly or privately, by ANYONE who doesn’t have my uncoerced permission, let alone an agent of the government

    Or are you going to say that the Constitution doesn’t specifically state that the government can’t as a matter of course have a man pull my pants away from my body and look down them, as happened to the woman I referred to earlier? Or a woman, for that matter.

    Equating my opposition to this with some prudish “uptightness” is to a degree like saying that since I oppose rape I must be prudishly uptight about sex.

    So tell me, if you will–since you have no problem with this, exactly what would the government have to mandate, short of murder, incarceration or physical pain, for you to decide they’ve gone too far?

    Thoreau-
    If I ever did hate America, it would be only because it decided that my wanting to go through life secure from unwanted tit-squeezing somehow makes me un-American.

    I wonder what they’ll do when they realize that women could probably get explosive breast implants, if they so desired. Los Angeles will be a fun place then, I bet.

    And I don’t even want to think about what would happen if some woman blows herself and the plane up with explosives tucked inside her reproductive organs.

    Good thing I don’t fly.

  31. My understanding is that people are working on detectors that are specifically sensitive to explosives. If my understanding of the situation is correct, then we could have a technology that would eliminate the need for intrusive pat-downs. The intrusive pat-downs could be reserved for those who are believed to have explosives.

    Of course, there would still be the threat of the person with the sharp plastic toy that doesn’t set off the metal or explosives detectors, but I am confident that no hijacking attempt will ever again succeed. Bombs are the only things we have to worry about as far as aviation threats go.

  32. Of course, on the bright side, the unemployment figures will get better because of all the gynecologists and proctologists hired by the TSA, and to make people feel good about the program there will be all these warm-and-fuzzy feel-good stories about how some man’s life was saved after the TSA discovered his near-fatal rectal polyp, or how Mother and Baby were saved after the TSA discovered that a fetus was set to come out feet-first, and we won’t have to feel imposed upon because folks like Dan will point out that the government is ALLOWED to impose intrusive obligations on a huge hunk of modern business and economic travel.

    You see, by pointing out the lack of a specific ‘right to fly,’ or ride a bus or a train or any form of public or open-to-the-public transportation, we actually lack the right to conduct normal, everyday business and domestic travel without government interference. That’s all! Nothing to worry about. Nothing.

  33. As long as we’re pointing out that there’s no expressly enumerated right to fly, let’s clear up a few fallacies about the first amendment as well.

    The first amendment only says that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of the speech or of the press. Nobody said anything about blog posts. You might think you have the right to say what you want on blogs, but you don’t. You aren’t speaking (speech involves sound, not keyboards) and you aren’t using a printing press. Since nothing in the Constitution protects blog posts, no doubt the people on this forum will refrain from claiming that their Constitutional rights were violated if the gov’t ever censors blog posts.

    Oh, sure, your “natural rights”, which are inherent to being human, might be violated, but where are they enumerated?

    And there will probably be a few liberal sissies claiming that the 9th amendment protects rights that aren’t specifically enumerated. Yeah, next you’ll try to tell me that the 10th says that Congress doesn’t have any powers that aren’t enumerated. Sure.

    Enjoy your cavity search, and be glad that the government is letting you fly at all!

    Oh, and I like Jennifer’s post. Perhaps when there’s a Democrat in the White House (surely no later than 2064) the TSA will be incorporated into the plan for single-payer health care, and fliers will automatically be screened for cancer of the colon, cervix, uterus, ovaries, prostate, testicles, throat, tongue, and skin, as well as eye and ear diseases.

    Hey, maybe the airport x-ray machines could even be used to check the teeth for cavities!

  34. As long as you’re having a stranger run his hands all over your private parts, you might as well lay back and enjoy it. Some people get off on that sort of thing. Some even pay money for it! Maybe you’d enjoy it too if you’d just stop fighting it and learn to relax.

    Man, you people are uptight!

  35. “indeed, mr db, perhaps the thing to do is simply take off all (or almost all) your clothes in the boarding area prior to being asked to do anything.”

    Hmmm… A nice tight fitting pair of bicycle shorts and jersey with accompanying flip-flops does the trick.
    Regular street clothes in the carry on bag and a quick change in the post security bathroom or on the plan and no problema. 😉

  36. Since the clergy is no longer an option for me to indulge in my passions, I think I’ll get a job as a screener for the TSA. In this job, I can fondle as many little boys and girls as I can make a plausible excuse for, and I can do it in front of their parents! You have no idea what a rush that can be!

    If you parents object, I’ll just put your names on the secret No-Fly List. Try to stop me. At the very least, you’l miss your flight, but I won’t be disciplined for being diligent, not in this climate.

    I couldn’t possibly be in the wrong, since I’d be “looking for terrorists”. Bwahahaha! I crack myself up, sometimes. You, by complaining, would be giving aid and confort to the terrorists. Traitor.

  37. I’m waiting for when somebody just sets off a bomb in the waiting line for security screening. It won’t have quite the emotional effect of a bomb on a plane, but if you pick a big airport at a busy hour, I bet you could get a fair number of casualties all the same. I also predict that when this does happen, it will be revealed that people had already suggested this possibility to the FAA and TSA, which chose to just sit on it. The problem is, there isn’t really any way to protect against this kind of threat, short of not allowing people to bring baggage into the airport at all…which will probably be the TSA’s next move.

  38. Jennifer wrote:
    “I’m amazed by the people who see no logical fallacy in the idea that “We have to submit to having our bodies pawed by strangers if we want to remain a free country.” If Bush is right about Al-Qaeda hating us for our freedom, then they must be growing fonder of us each day.”

    If the terrorists are trying to destroy our freedom and our way of life, the worst thing our government could do is to help them do it. Sadly, the federal government is doing just that. It seems that the Bush administration and al Quaeda are on the same side.

    Back in August, when Bush said “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we,” most people thought he misspoke. Rather, it was one of his rare truthful moments.

  39. Dan wrote:
    “All the people sneering at American “prudishness” sure seem awfully uptight about being touched by another human being.”

    Intentional, offensive, unprivileged contact is the common-law definition of battery. I think that having one’s private parts groped by a stranger under duress qualifies.

  40. Assuming there is a need for body searches for security, there should be a market-based solution that turns this annoyance into a “feature.”

    Example: An airline hires attractive, TSA-trained screeners of both sexes and tells you to “be sure to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight. You want to have plenty of time for your soothing, pre-flight full-body massage.”

    Better example: An airline provides you with a virtual-reality helmet that depicts the screener as Pamela Anderson, Pierce Brosnan, your favorite Star Wars character, or whoever you choose from a menu of hundreds. I used to know (with pleasure) a young lady who would love to be “groped in a cavalier manner” by Darth Maul at the airport. She’d probably insist on being handcuffed, too.

    Personally, I’d choose the young Barbara Eden in her “I Dream of Jeannie” costume, wiping me down with a myrhh-scented sponge.

    (Have I shared too much again?)

  41. “one could just as easily imply that the inconvenience should be accepting the deaths of 3000 or so people every few years in airplane/building collisions.”

    Whatever. You obviously lost touch with reality a long time ago if you can say something so utterly idiotic. Under what fucked-up calculus does getting a body search equal in severity the risk of having thousands incinerated in the middle of a flight? And who says it would happen only “every few years” anyway? Do you think Al-Qaeda operates on a quota system or something? “All right, mujahedeen, that’s enough, we’ve met this year’s airplane bombing quota!”

    All I see here is rank stupidity and self-absorbed moaning. Listening to all this prattle about your constitutional “rights” to be spared body searches, a part of me wishes that you got your way and suffered the consequences thereof; unfortunately, I remember that it wouldn’t only be la-la-land libertarians who’d get blown out of the sky if this were to come to pass.

  42. “I think that having one’s private parts groped by a stranger under duress qualifies.”

    What’s this nonsense about “duress?” You don’t like it, turn around and go home! No one is holding you at the airport at gunpoint.

  43. “What’s this nonsense about “duress?” You don’t like it, turn around and go home! No one is holding you at the airport at gunpoint.”

    Apparantly you aren’t smart enough not to get on an airplane that you consider at risk of being blown up. It’s too much of an inconvenience to take responsiblity for your own life. Instead you want to have other people groped. People that aren’t afraid. People that just want to be left alone in peace. Search them so that you don’t have to be inconvenienced. You want to control everyone else for your benefit. Except of course for the terrorist. He’ll still be running loose with his bomb. He’ll just blow it up somewhere else. Possibly someplace where you’ll be.

  44. Abiola Lapite wrote:
    “…a part of me wishes that you got your way and suffered the consequences thereof; unfortunately, I remember that it wouldn’t only be la-la-land libertarians who’d get blown out of the sky if this were to come to pass.”

    You disagree with us, therefore you hope we die. Way to take the high road, pal.

  45. “Under what fucked-up calculus does getting a body search equal in severity the risk of having thousands incinerated in the middle of a flight?”

    Want to save 40,000 lives a year? It’s easy – just ban the automobile. After all, under what fucked-up calculus does being forced to use horse carriages equal the severity of having tens of thousands die each year in horrific car accidents?

    Want to end all kidnappings and abductions? It’s easy – just implant a GPS chip inside each person. After all, under what fucked-up calculus does having the government track your every move equal the severity of thousands of innocent people being kidnapped, raped, or murdered?

    Anyway, your hysteria notwithstanding, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that the TSA’s intrusive body searches are saving one life, never mind thousands. It’s not as if Al-Qaeda & Co. found it easy to blow up airliners prior to their implementation, and no one still has any evidence that the explosives used in the Russian bombings cited by the TSA were smuggled inside the clothes of the suspected terrorists.

    “a part of me wishes that you got your way and suffered the consequences thereof;”

    And a part of me wishes that those inclined towards supporting mindless police-statism got to live in a country where their “anything for our security” rhetoric was taken to its logical conclusions. Unfortunately, the rest of us would have to live in that country as well, and increasingly are.

    “What’s this nonsense about “duress?” You don’t like it, turn around and go home!”

    Oh, just the little fact that air travel has become a personal and/or business necessity for millions of people in a world as large and interconnected as ours, and that the global economy could never withstand the impact of a large percentage of current air travelers refusing to board a plane. But I’m not surprised that these issues managed to fly over your head (no pun intended).

  46. Abiola Lapite,

    I apologize for using multiple posts to reply to a single post. However, I want to make it clear that, whatever our difference of opinion, no part of me wishes to see any harm come to you. I hope that you are never victimized by the police state toward which our fair republic seems to be slouching.

    Jason Sonenshein

  47. Jimmy Antley: “We all know that the comely women in the tank tops being searched (actually my imagination is getting away with me here ;-} are not anything near like the people we are actually worried about. But, we must be politically correct.”

    You know, a few years ago nobody would have thought that a nice white boy from Marin County would have been recruited by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. A few years ago people never thought of Hispanics (like Jose Padilla) as being likely to have any Al Qaeda ties. A few years ago female suicide bombers were unheard of. How do you know that Al Qaeda cannot find a nice “American” looking woman in very un-Islamic clothes to do their work? It just takes one! (Have you ever seen Syria’s late president Hafez Assad? He looked very “white”, not “swarthy” at all.) To assume that people of any color or nationality could be terrorists is not “political correctness.” It is a common sense precaution.

    The constitution forbids only *unreasonable* searches and seizures. What is unreasonable depends on context. What is “unreasonable” when you are searching a home for stolen goods may be quite reasonable when you are trying to prevent an airplane from being made a weapon of mass destruction…

  48. Well, I’m glad I’m a runner, because I will lickety-split strip right down to my bra and thong — or less — before I let some TSA worker start groping me. Moreover, if I’m feeling huffy enough about it (because this wouldn’t be happening if nobody believed in god), I will not wait until I get behind some curtain to do it. In fact, I might just make people in line wonder what happened to the flashing strobe lights and the greased-up pole. Just stuff your 20-dollar bills in my thong, people!…just as soon as I can yank it out of the TSA guy’s teeth and get it back on.

  49. Ms. Alkon, please let us know the next time you fly, because I would like to see this.

    Respectfully,

  50. I agree with David T. Even though the searches may be unreasonable, the color-blindness, age-blindness, and gender-blindness are not what make them unreasonable.

    As David pointed out, the world has seen female suicide bombers. We have seen hispanic and white guys join Islamist groups. The shoe-bomber was of mixed British and Caribbean descent. There are Middle-Eastern men who look European and even African. There are even Islamic fundamentalists of Southeast Asian ethnicity. Whether or not we should conduct random searches can be debated on many different grounds, and I’m certainly not a fan of most of the random searches being done in airports. But if, hypothetically, random searches are justified in some circumstance, it makes sense to search men and women regardless of their appearance.

    OK, searching women in tight and revealing outfits might not make sense if there’s no way for them to hide anything in the outfit, but that’s a different issue.

    The only question is whether it makes sense to search children and old people. My answer is yes. Here’s why: In the case of children it’s obvious that an adult could be using the child as a “mule” to smuggle something. Criminals around the world have done it for ages. Drug smugglers do it. There are stories of the Viet Cong planting explosives on infants.

    What about old people? The irony is that the ones to pay the most attention to are actually the senile ones. Senile elderly people are frequently targeted by criminals. Imagine a sweet and senile old lady living alone with no relatives around. And there’s some nice young boys down the hall. They’re studying to be pilots, and they’re always praying. They are so polite to her, and they walk her dog. Around Christmas, when she’s flying to visit her family, those nice young boys drive her to the airport and tell her that they’re also flying to visit their families. They just ask if she’ll put something in her purse for them for a little while…

    This may sound unlikely at first, but senile elderly people are considered prime targets by thieves and scam artists.

    Anyway, let me be clear: I am not defending random searches. I am, however, suggesting that if, hypothetically, a random search is justified, then racial, age, and gender profiling are bad ideas.

    I would, however, support smarter profiling based on behavior, if it was conducted by experienced people who are good at spotting criminals by their behavior (veteran cops, emergency room personnel, and experienced homeless shelter staff are all good at this task, and I suspect that there are other professions with similar skills).

    Amy-

    I would love to see that! Don’t get me wrong, I’m happily married to a beautiful and sexy woman already, and I don’t need to see you strip at the airport if I want a thrill. But the response of the TSA would be priceless. Sadly, I suspect that the TSA would ban you from flying. On the bright side, Hooters Air would probably offer you a job ;->

  51. I’m still hoping Dan will tell me what the TSA would have to do, short of murder, incarceration or the infliction of pain, before he decides they’re going too far. Or is the answer “Those are the ONLY things that would be Too Far?”

  52. Right on Amy.

    But what does being a runner have to do with it? Are you alluding to the fact that you have a statuesque tight body because of the running? That we all might want to see the occasion?

  53. All I see here is rank stupidity and self-absorbed moaning. Listening to all this prattle about your constitutional “rights” to be spared body searches, a part of me wishes that you got your way and suffered the consequences thereof; unfortunately, I remember that it wouldn’t only be la-la-land libertarians who’d get blown out of the sky if this were to come to pass.

    of such idiocy is borne tyranny.

    i would also note that i don’t qualify as a libertarian, mr lapite.

    You don’t like it, turn around and go home! No one is holding you at the airport at gunpoint.

    indeed. we should all sit at home 24/7, hiding under the covers. 🙂 more terrorists are on the way, after all.

    honestly, mr lapite, no one is holding you at the airport either. if you fear terrorists, don’t fly. as for the rest of us, leave us in peace and unassailed by the nascent american “anti-terrorist” police state.

  54. Abiola-
    Perhaps you can answer the question that Dan wont: how far is Too Far, do you think? Would internal examinations be all right?

  55. Jennifer,
    If I can answer for Dan or Abiola; Too far would be if the TSA stepped in to prevent Amy from doing her routine.

    Seriously though, I have mixed feelings on this one. I think that maybe if the airlines became like the DMV, or the IRS, that would definately be too far. So far I have found them far from that. Maybe even though always selected for a search my experience has been a good one because I assume that they immediately profile me as a fighter on the right side of the GWOT.

    Or maybe not. But thus far, I have been more inconvinienced by overbearing by the book types before 9/11 than after. Or maybe I have not noticed it as much because somehow I expect it more. And maybe it is just that I am not a chick that the security dudes and girls would want to molest. (That would be very sexist of them, as I am a very good looking human being myself).

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