TSA Boondoggle Defies Logic, Decency


Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is escalating the nationwide controversy over U.S. airport security – while President Obama, his team and their media apologists tried to quell criticism over the new full-body scanners and hand-searches. Jesse Ventura

Ventura, a Navy SEAL combat veteran of Vietnam, told broadcaster Alex Jones that he’d never fly again on a U.S. commercial airline under the new procedures, which are rolling out across the nation beginning this month. Ventura, elected as an independent in 1998 for one term as governor, said the indignities and what he described as increased cancer risk forced his self-imposed flight-ban even “if it means the end of my career” as a TV show host and commentator.

The crackdown includes potential for many arrests at airports for those who fail to submit to the unprecedented and unwarranted intrusion on privacy and health rights.

Such liability illustrates why our Justice Integrity Project (JIP) announced this month we cannot fully address legal reform without identifying decisive factors in national politics, media coverage and national security.

That’s especially true now that the security-intelligence sector has so greatly expanded beyond the mere “military-industrial complex” that President Eisenhower, the former World War II Allied European commander, denounced as too powerful in his 1961 farewell address.

John PistoleOutraged travelers, several congressmen on the right or left, and Saturday Night Live (SNL) have attacked the new procedures. The new scanners use x-rays from Rapiscan Systems or millimeter waves from the SafeView unit of L-3 Communications. The scanners can create virtually naked images of travelers. Passengers who decline to pass through the new scanners are detained for mandatory pat-downs on their intimate areas by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel.

TSA Administrator John Pistole, right, defends the procedures. So do such mainstream voices as the Washington Post, which editorialized in their favor for scant good reason. Its columnist Ruth Marcus similarly deferred to authority in simple-minded fashion in her column "Don't touch my junk? Grow up, America."

In it, she admitted, "My defense of the new procedures assumes that thee is osme rational basis for the screening machines: that the techniques work and that there is not a less intrusive alternative."

So, JIP has joined the fray with several recent posts, including a front-pager on the Huffington Post Nov. 22,“Terror and TSA.”  Similar ones ran on OpEd News and Connecticut Watchdog.

In this grassroots rebellion, readers are posing tough questions in a manner worthy of the hero in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Gryphon Associates CEO John Picciano, Jr. of Washington, DC, a former high-ranking New York City police officer, wrote me: "The pat frisk is a waste of time on every person passing through and so is the body scan. There is a lack of common sense by the TSA and the current administration. Can you imagine a police officer on patrol having to stop and frisk everyone they come into contact with it?"

Similar arguments include MSNBC’s “TSA Pat-Down Leaves Traveler Covered in Urine,” and C-SPAN’s video of Congressman Ron Paul’s “Enough is enough” speech. For fun, there was NBC’s Saturday Night Live episode, “Lonely During the Holidays?”  Powerful written critiques include Glenn Greenwald's Government yells "Terrorism" to justify TSA procedures at Salon/Unclaimed Territory and Jane Hamsher's TSA Porno Screeners: Giant Boondoggle at FireDogLake.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is not subject to the checks because she is a cabinet member, was asked on CBS Face the Nation whether she would like to submit to a security pat-down at airports. "Not if I could avoid it,” she responded. “No.  I mean who would?"
Beyond concern over loss of privacy rights, the massive spending is shaping up as a huge waste of money. FireDogLake cites a Christian Science Monitor report as revealing:

The TSA received more stimulus funding than any other single agency, company, or organization: $1 billion for aviation security. Most of that money was allocated to screening checked baggage. But $266 million went toward improving checkpoints by acquiring five types of screening equipment: chemical analyzers; explosives detectors; bottled-liquid scanners (which should allow passengers to carry water and shampoo through security checkpoints); enhanced X-ray scanners for carry-on bags; and the AIT scanners.In 2002, the DHS said that the five types of scanners would be operational by the end of 2009.

But as of June 2010, the GAO says that the TSA had not even begun to acquire the first four types. The fifth, the AIT, had 7 machines up and running at the end of March. A $25 million dose of stimulus funds pumped into the program in January rushed more into operation — there are 385 in use now, and 100 more are scheduled to be operational by December.

Authorities are hard-pressed to name a single bomber or suspected bomber who has boarded a domestic U.S. airline in the past decade. This is an insane waste of resources (including passenger time and dignity) given the many other opportunities for terrorism.

Watch Ventura’s powerful seven-minute summation of the case against the machines on the

if you haven’t seen it already: Jesse Ventura Abused by TSA. Will No Longer Fly.

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