We Had to Spend the Money Because of the Threat. Which The Thing We Spent the Money On Won't Prevent.


Interesting followup on Jacob Sullum's post below, on the ExpressJet pilot who refused a full body scan. From an interview with RAND Corporation terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, in the November issue of Los Angeles magazine, alas not online:

In the wake of the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab episode–the guy who had a bomb concealed in his underpants–even though the bomb didn't work, there was a great deal of alarm, and in response we decided to deploy full-body scanners. Hundreds of millions of dollars. One guy, one small device in his underpants, and we've just spent hundreds of millions of dollars.

Then, a page later in the story, so maybe you wouldn't notice the connection:

And, you know, I'm not entirely certain that a body scanner would have detected Abdulmutallab's bombs.

Maybe it's not even likely?

I don't want to get into technical details, but it's not certain…

Security theater: if only it provided entertainment commensurate with its expense.

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  1. I’ve had the “pleasure” of being subjected to this machine recently.

    The most uncomfortable part is when they make you hand your wallet to the unaccountable government employee while they scan you. This only slightly beats out the assume-the-position stance you are required to be in for the scan.

    Next time, I’ll opt for the good ol’ fashioned poke-n-grope.

    1. Been through the poke-n-grope in DXB on the way to Atlanta. Not a ton of fun as performed by the local contractors they paid for the task. However, they were pretty thorough, so they weren’t just mailing it in.

      Every single person on a 777 getting manhandled makes for a tense and slow boarding process.

      1. However, they were pretty thorough, so they weren’t just mailing it in.

        Gov’t employees giving you everything you paid for? I’m nut buying it.

  2. Next time I fly (to Panama, in December), I plan to decline the full body scan, on general principles.

    My wife will be with me, so I doubt I’ll point to the cutest TSA goon and say “I’d like her to pat me down, good and hard”.

    1. Cutest? I hope your standards are low.

      Very low.

      1. Yeah, for some reason I always seem to get somebody who looks like a Filipino WWII veteran.

  3. When I look at this from a cui bono angle, I can’t help but wonder if Abdulmutallab isn’t a paid employee of either the federal government or the contractor that makes those gizmos.

    1. I mean, am I the only person who’s bothered by the fact that all of these alledgely fearsome deadly terrorists are morons who were thrown out of the shallow end of the gene pool? That none of them are competent enough to rob a dimestore?

      1. They’re called dollar stores now, EES. You can thank Jimme Carter for that.

        1. Sorry, I’m a grumpy old man who remembers dimestores.

  4. The TSAr is counting on the docility of the public. Refuse the scan. Increase the cost/hassle factor for the TSAr. It wouldn’t take a large percentage of the flying public to throw a monkeywrench into their calculations.

    1. Just stop flying for a while. How many airlines would have to go out of busine…oh wait, bailouts. Never mind.

  5. It is better to feel safe than be told the truth: Gubmint can’t stop all threats.

  6. Pauly Krugnuts takes a break from bitching about teabaggers to bitch about the chinamen. Will Tom Friedman throw a hissy fit? Stay tuned.

  7. Of course the most basic idiocy of this particular case is scanning the pilot: he’s the pilot, for Heaven’s sake. If he wants to crash the plane he doesn’t need to smuggle anything aboard. Duh.

    1. How do you know he’s the pilot? How do the screeners know he’s the pilot? Cause he’s got a shiny hat? Think!
      Not that I don’t think these machines are a horrendous waste of money and maul our 4th amendment rights as well..
      But exempting some folks from screening (if we have to have it) is inviting trouble.

      1. I assume the TSA employees are scanned when they show up for work?

        1. Yes, and they are scanned again if they leave for lunch. I’ve seen it frequently during my travels. They also scan all of the little worker bees who man the magazine stand and the donut shop, each and every time they arrive at work.

          I gotta believe this pilot is on to something. It is pretty intrusive to be stripped naked (electronically) every time you go to work. Plus, working at the airport every day, you undoubtedly know the person who is the naked-people-scanner-monitoring-guy. The waitress at the Chili’s Express has to be at least a little uncomfortable serving him his lunch knowing that he was looking at her naked bits just a few minutes before her shift started.

          1. Ok, in reality I was assuming they weren’t being scanned. Can you tell I haven’t been near an airport since 1998?

      2. You do understand that he’s got the ID that lets him fly the fucking plane?

        1. What if someone stole his ID and pulled a Face Off? Huh?! WHAT THEN SMART GUY?!!1111

          1. God damn, why would you remind of that movie. It’s all coming back now. Shit.

  8. Security theater: if only it provided entertainment commensurate with its expense.

    What, you don’t find all this bullshit endlessly hilarious?

    1. “Are you not entertained!? Are you not entertained!!?”


  9. That none of them are competent enough to rob a dimestore?

    There must be something wrong with me. This immediately brought into my head an image of Judge Reinhold thwarting the seven-eleven bandit at the end of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

  10. “Get your laptop out. Take off your jacket, take off your shoes, take off your underpants….”

    1. How long before they make us pee in a cup too?

    2. sing that to the tune of “the hokey pokey”

  11. No full body scan at Ben Gurion, they don’t need it. They do, however, ask you tailored questions and read your body language and physiological signs.

    1. read your body language

      I feel..so…naked!

    2. Yep, been through Ben Gurion many times. Fastest airport in the world.

  12. If you’re in line behind someone who wants to play Founding Father at the airport, then yes, security theatre can be damned entertaining. Not a spiritually or emotionally positive show, but an entertaining one nonetheless.

  13. The pilot, Michael Roberts, had an awesome letter to the editor published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Sept. 22, 2010. This is him putting his money where his mouth is, and I commend him for that.

    Here is his letter to the editor: http://www.commercialappeal.co…..2/letter6/

    Here is why he is my personal hero of the day: http://solutionproblem.wordpre…..f-the-day/

    1. He also sent it to Lew Rockwell.

    2. The comments on that commercial appeal site are amazing. “But I can conceive of a situation where someone somewhere might do something to hurt somebody. We definitely need to give up our freedom or the terrorists win!”

      I don’t know why I torture myself with comments on sites like that.

  14. We here at the DSAL have long understood the limitations of full-body scan technology. That is why I implemented staff-wide, deep-muscle-tissue-biopsy DNA testing. A bit cumbersome, perhaps, but a few hundred billion dollars should have it ready at every major international hub in five years.

  15. Searching the pilot is the dumbest thing I’ve heard all week. So he can’t carry on any small weapon or small amount of explosives…. he’s going to be flying a very large potential weapon, loaded with thousands of gallons of jet fuel. Trust him, or don’t let him fly.

    1. It gets dumber. He CAN carry on a small weapon–all he has to do is go through a simple certification process, and as a pilot, he can carry a pistol onto the plane.

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