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by James Corbett
February 21, 2012
Of all of the myriad agencies, bureaucracies, laws and legislation that have sprung up to oppress the American citizenry in this age of the unending war against an abstract noun, perhaps none have garnered as much ire and opprobrium as the innocuously named Transportation Security Administration.
Created in the wake of 9/11 under the pretext of “fixing” the system that had “somehow” allowed 19 men with box cutters to supposedly commit the most egregious violation of American airspace in history (aided in no small part by the simultaneous “failure” of the entire American intelligence establishment and the most sophisticated air defense in the world), the TSA was originally placed under the Department of Transportation and tasked with securing the nation’s transportation system from future attacks. It was just a matter of months, however, before the TSA was transitioned into the newly-created Department of Fatherland Security and began turning the relatively benign process of clearing airport security into an ordeal that traumatizes and humiliates virtually everyone who has to endure it.
Taking advantage of the general public’s ignorance of their rights in the legally ambiguous airport screening areas and the 21st century American citizenry’s newfound penchant for prostrating themselves before anyone with a badge and a uniform, the TSA quickly began positioning itself as the most totalitarian agency in the entire complex of the American security establishment. And that is no small feat. [see this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this]
Supposedly set up to “fix” the holes in airport security, the TSA has in fact failed miserably in their task. Not only that, but the agency has consistently lied about its aims, intentions and operations.
Reports of TSA failures to find knives, massive shipments of narcotics, loaded guns, and even the very types of box cutters used on 9/11have been so numerous over the years that it would be impossible to enumerate them all. Sadly, even the government’s own testing of the TSA procedures has confirmed time and again that the agency fails in providing even the most basic level of security for airline passengers.
In 2006, government investigators found that they were able to slip 75 percent of their fake bombs through checkpoints at LAX, one of the busiest airports in America, and 60% through Chicago O’Hare, one of the busiest airports in the world.
The TSA attempted to defend itself by pointing out that the tests in question had been conducted in 2004 and 2005, citing changes in regulations that they assured the public meant that they were better prepared to protect the public. But that didn’t stop TSA testers in 2008 from successfully smuggling a mock bomb past yet more TSA agents. And a 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office blasted the agency for failing to follow up on why its agents had failed to spot the guns, knives and bombs identified in previous tests.
In February 2011 it was revealed that the invasive naked body scanners that had been installed to ostensibly ensure that guns and other weapons could not be snuck through security had failed repeatedly to detect handguns during testing. In April 2011 the GAO blasted the TSA yet again, this time pointing out 23 occasions since 9/11 when the agency had failed to detect terror suspects who boarded planes in the US. In November of that year Congressional investigators issued their own blistering report on the agency, calling it an “enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” and pointing out that Americans “are no safer today than they were before 9/11” despite the 60 billion dollars that had been wasted on the TSA.
Even John Mica, the Congressman who authored the legislation establishing the agency itself, came out in September of last year to call the agency “a complete fiasco” and calling on it to be dismantled.
And then there are the lies.
They lied in November of 2010, when they responded to public fury over pat-downs of children at airports by saying that they would stop subjecting children under 12 to such treatment, only to be found consistently breaking their word, patting down young children and even one 8-month-old infant.
They lied in December 2010 when TSA spokesman Nico Melendez told AOL News that the naked body scanners were not equipped to record images of travelers naked bodies. A FOIA document obtained by The Electronic Privacy Information Center showed that the TSA specifically required that the machines have the ability to record, retain and export images.
In 2011, it lied about the US constitution itself, stating in an official blog post that the Texas House of Representatives couldn’t ban the TSA pat-down procedure because the constitution’s “Supremacy Clause” “prevents states from relating the federal government.” Constitutional scholars were quick to call the TSA out on its blatant misrepresentation.
Given this track record of abysmal and utter failure, it is flabbergasting that the public has not demanded the immediate dismantling of this governmental monstrosity. In fact, the public did plan one overwhelming, undeniable protest that would surely have caused changes to the system, but the TSA artfully dodged the public’s ire with a simple sleight of hand.
Outraged by the invasive new full-body pat-downs the TSA was delivering to those who decided to “opt out” of the agency’s naked body scanner screening, Americans appointed November 24, 2011 as National Opt-Out Day. Despite (or perhaps because of) pleas by the likes of TSA chief John Pistole to urge Americans not to opt out of the naked body scanners and thus cause delays during the nation’s busiest air travel day, the Thanksgiving holiday, millions of Americans mobilized online and prepared for their stand-off with TSA security.
Rather than face a humiliating PR defeat, however, the agency merely turned off the naked scanners at airports across the country for the day, thus depriving the people of their chance to make a dramatic and visible protest.
Given the gross abuses of human dignity that the agency engages in every day, the reprehensible nature of its history of lies to the American people, and its utter failure to perform any of the tasks that it has been assigned, it is no wonder that the TSA is one of the most universally derided agencies amongst a government that is increasingly aiming the apparatus of its oppressive power at its own citizenry. In numerous ways, people have been continuing to mount protest against this agency and to draw attention to the flagrant violation of basic constitutional rights that it represents. (see this and this and this and this and this and this)
Still, for all of the protest and backlash that the TSA has garnered through its atrocious and reprehensible conduct, it still enjoys the tacit support of a significant percentage of the public, who — sickened as they may be by the entire security theatre ordeal they are forced to endure at airports, train and bus stations, and even on the highways — have mentally resigned themselves to the process. In effect, they have allowed the system to win by failing to exert their rights, hoping that the system will allow them to get by with “just” a naked body scan or “just” an invasive full body pat down. After all, they have places to get to, and how can just one person make a difference?
It is only by combating this mentality, by standing up for our rights and refusing to allow any government-appointed goon with a badge to tell us that he has the right to take them away, can we ever hope to effect a change in the police state that America and so many other countries have lamentably become.
The alternative is to continue allowing the TSA to grab ever more power after every staged, concocted, manipulated or provocateured “failure” in that security that they have so signally failed to provide. Because it must be remembered that the security that Americans and others need most be concerned with is not the security from terrorists, or from random insane people who are bent on killing themselves and others. No amount of scanners or goons with badges will ever provide security from that. The security that we need is the security from government abuse of authority, an abuse which has long since become the norm, not the exception.
If the founding fathers of the United States knew that the greatest threat to liberty comes from government, the question must be where did that knowledge disappear to, and how can the public regain it?
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