Another attack on individual freedom

November 21, 2010


— Fifty years ago William F. Buckley wrote a memorable complaint about the fact that Americans do not complain enough. His point, like most of the points he made during his well-lived life, is, unfortunately, more pertinent than ever. Were he still with us, he would favor awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received in 1991, to John Tyner, who, when attempting to board a plane in San Diego, was provoked by some Transportation Security Administration personnel.

When Buckley was asked how he came up with topics for three columns a week, he jauntily replied that the world annoyed him that frequently. The fecundity of the world as an irritant was on display one winter evening in 1960 when Buckley found himself in an insufferably hot car on a New Haven Railroad commuter train from Grand Central Station to his Stamford, Conn., home. Everyone was acutely uncomfortable; no one was complaining.

“In a more virile age, I thought, the passengers would have seized the conductor and strapped him down on a seat over the radiator to share the fate of his patrons.” But he had “nonchalantly walked down the gauntlet of eighty sweating American freemen, and not one of them had asked him to explain why the passengers in that car had been consigned to suffer.”

Buckley, who was gifted at discerning the metaphysical significance of the quotidian, thought he saw civilization tottering on its pedestal. He was not mistaken:

“It isn’t just the commuters, whom we have come to visualize as a supine breed who have got onto the trick of suspending their sensory faculties twice a day while they submit to the creeping dissolution of the railroad industry. It isn’t just they who have given up trying to rectify irrational vexations. It is the American people everywhere.”

Happily, not quite everywhere today. Not anywhere where Tyners are.

When TSA personnel began looking for weapons of mass destruction in Tyner’s underpants, he objected to having his groin patted. A TSA functionary, determined to do his duty pitilessly — his duty is to administer the latest (but surely not the last) wrinkle in the government’s ever-intensifying protection of us — said: “If you’re not comfortable with that, we can escort you back out and you don’t have to fly today.”

Tyner: “I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying.”

TSA: “This is not considered a sexual assault.”

Tyner: “It would be if you weren’t the government. ...”

TSA: “Upon buying your ticket you gave up a lot of rights.”

Oh? John Locke, call your office.

The theory — perhaps by now it seems like a quaint anachronism — on which the nation was founded is, or was: Government is instituted to protect pre-existing natural rights essential to the pursuit of happiness. Today, that pursuit often requires flying, which sometimes involves the wanding of 3-year-olds and their equally suspect Teddy bears.

What the TSA is doing is mostly security theater, a pageant to reassure passengers that flying is safe. Reassurance is necessary if commerce is going to flourish, and if we are going to get to grandma’s house on Thursday to give thanks for the Pilgrims and for freedom. If grandma is coming to our house, she may be wanded while barefoot at the airport because democracy — or the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment; anyway, something — requires the amiable nonsense of pretending that no one has the foggiest idea what an actual potential terrorist might look like.

But enough, already. Enough trivializing important values — e.g., air safety — by monomaniacal attempts to maximize them. Disproportion is the common denominator of almost all of life’s absurdities. Automobile safety is important. But attempting to maximize it would begin (but by no means end) with forbidding left turns.

Bureaucracies try to maximize their missions. They can’t help themselves. Adult supervision is required to stand athwart this tendency, yelling “Stop!”

Again, Buckley: “Every year, whether the Republican or the Democratic Party is in office, more and more power drains away from the individual to feed vast reservoirs in far-off places; and we have less and less say about the shape of events which shape our future.”

The average American has regular contact with the federal government at three points — the IRS, the post office and the TSA. Start with that fact if you are formulating a unified field theory to explain the public’s current political mood.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. georgewill@washpost.com


zzgoeb 7 years, 7 months ago

Interesting point George...have you ever read the back of any ticket stub from , oh, your favorite baseball team's game? It ain't just the government wanting you to "waive rights". I'd like to hear your rebuke of the "free market" for a change dude!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

It's really comical reading all these conservative commentators complaining about having achieved what they wished for.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Exactly! And recall how the TSA sprung to life nearly overnight after 9-11. A highly rapid and comprehensive roll out by the administration that did virtually every other effort of governing extremely poorly.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

No, what is really comical is watching boozos defend this stuff. Of course, I realize that some of you have not been touched in so long that you would consider a pat down as cathartic therapy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

This issue isn't really about the abuses of the TSA. It's got much more to do with the $billion spent on security, and the desire of private security firms to tap into those dollars, and they've been making lots of big campaign contributions, mostly to Republicans, to make sure they get them.


Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

But we still hold the power of the purse strings. I've flown 75+ flights on United so far this year. That number will be drastically reduced next year and I've let United know of my intent. Based on my random traveling conversations I am not alone. Once this starts affecting some stockholder's earnings, watch how quickly the airlines will become concerned about their passenger's individual liberties.

Until then, I'm taking a page from the passive resistance movement and feigning ignorance of every TSA requirement. I like to arrive 2-3 hours early just so that I can make my illegal search especially fun. "Oh, I have to take my laptop out?" "What, my belt too?" "Oh, I don't think I want to go through the xray machine, can't I opt out?" Slow walk to the groping arena. Inane befuddlement at instructions. Making a joke about a good looking female groper. Continue the yucks by requesting time to call my local ACLU rep. Ask if the Cialis I took last night might cause me to fail the inspection. Slow walk out of molestation area. Find a supervisor and ask how to file a complaint - tear up as much of this person's time as possible. Is there a form to fill out? Yes, Oh, can I borrow a pen. Etc. Proceed to airline customer service and make sure that they get to pay someone to listen to several minutes of my complaint. Request supervisor. Etc.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Yep, you are probably right. I'll be wearing the "Don't Tread on Me" t-shirt in the mug shot.

Evil must be combated - whether it the lies and propaganda here or the latest right wing totalitarianism action of the government.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

Oh I see Tom! You're all in support of the SS. Oops! I meant the TSA.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Hmmm, so I wonder if DADT the policy at the Teasing Some Americans agency. Shouldn't it be? I mean if a military unit can't function while worrying about the sexual fantasies of their foxhole-mates, what is going to happen when the right wingers start to realize that the TSA agent probing their nether regions might just be thinking about using that big wand of his.

And where does Fred Phelps fit in to all of this? Surely God Hates the TSA for all this government sponsored male on male homo erotic groping. Has Fred finally given up that %$##@ van and signed up for some Rapid Rewards?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Further research reveals those of us who opt out of the porno scanner process can requests the groping be conducted in a private room. And with a witness of your choice.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 7 months ago

try Gotomeeting.com

Unless you're just a world class vacationer..why in the world would you fly every 3-4 days?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

Michael Chertoff, Bush's head of Homeland Security, is the one who has primarily promoted the use of these scanners, and surprise, surprise, surprise, he is the highly paid lobbyist for a (the?) company that makes them.

Godot 7 years, 7 months ago

And Obama was helpless in stopping the indominatable Bush machine. He had no choice but to follow through with the purchase of the equipment, the implementation of the invasive search procedures, and demanding arrest of those who resist.

We would not be going through this had not the Obama admnistration, in December, 2009, allowed a mid-eastern male who had no passport, who was on a terror watchlist, whose father had reported him to the US embassy as being connected to Al Qaeda, and who received a "pass" by a US Consulate to fly, without a return ticket, to the US. Fortunately, he was a boob and was unable to detonate his underpants bomb. Yet HSA claimed "the system worked." It did not, it does not, and the TSA should be disbanded.

We are all being subjugated, humiliated and demeaned to cover up the incompetence (and that is the kindest word I can use) of the Obama Homeland Security Administration.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Or, President Obama is not the socialist, nazi, communist the corporate media keeps telling us he is, but instead, just another corporate apologist.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Another surprise, surprise, surprise - it's actually one of your nutty ilk deeply involved as well. Plus I understand George Soros had quite a few shares until the sunshine last week.

OSI Systems Chief Executive Officer Joins US Presidential Visit to India

HAWTHORNE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- OSI Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: OSIS), a vertically-integrated provider of specialized electronic products for critical applications in the Security and Healthcare industries, today announced that Deepak Chopra, Chairman and CEO, was selected to accompany US President, Barack Obama, to Mumbai and attended the US India Business Entrepreneurship meeting, which was held by the US India Business Council (US IBC). The goal of the meeting was to promote further trade between US and India.

Deepak Chopra, OSI Systems President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "I am honored to be selected to play a role in this very important cause. Currently the trade between US and India is only one tenth of the amount of trade between US and China. There is substantial opportunity to improve the trade relations with India for mutual economic gain." http://investors.osi-systems.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=530184

Naked Scanners paid for by Stimulus; George Soros holds financial interest in company Government gropers at airports a ruse for body scanners coming to schools and malls By Doug Hagmann Monday, November 15, 2010

Perhaps one of the most controversial topics today is the use of “naked” body scanners at airports by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As this investigation found, it is indeed a matter deserving of such controversy and further investigative focus.

A look at OSI Systems, Inc., including its Rapiscan subsidiary identifies Deepak Chopra as the president and CEO. Chopra, individually and through his PAC, has been identified as a significant donor to the Democratic party, including contributions to the campaigns of Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that he accompanied President Obama and his royal entourage by invitation on his recent trip to India to promote further trade between the two countries. The trip was paid for by U.S. tax dollars.

Investigation into the financials of Rapiscan and its parent company becomes even more interesting when it is learned that George Soros also holds a financial stock interest in the company. As of last June, Soros held about 12,000 shares of OSI stock. http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/29959

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

In his financial dealings, George Soros has been a hypocrite. You'll get no argument from me about that. And Democrats have certainly been no stranger to corporate-financed corruption.

But they've been junior partners to the Republicans in that regard, and George Will certainly didn't complain about their role in creating this situation.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

I have the feeling that you were in possession of that info all along but conveniently omitted it in order to smear your perceived enemy. I am certainly not forgiving of Chertoff and find him personally detestable, as I do most politicians.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 7 months ago

"Now" Will is worried about individual freedom. Puh-leeeze!

"Now" individual freedom is at risk? Hardly. The cat has been out of the bag for eight years. The advent of invasive security measures began with formal security checks, metal detectors, baggage scans, liquids in baggies, removing shoes, random pat downs, no non-passengers in the gate areas. Recall that none of these existed before 2002, before the Bush administration instituted these measures and formed the Department of Homeland Security.

And now you Will is upset about pat downs and anonymous body scans? Where was he eight years ago?

I fail to see how these new measures all of a sudden violate individual freedom, whereas the earlier measures, which were much more radical in their transformation of air travel, did not.

Might it have to do with the administration in charge? Hmmmm.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

I didn't see George complaining about terrorists in this column.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Are the radical Islamic terrorists the ones punishing American citizens for refusing to go along with the new Xray porno scanners? Or is it the agency created and implemented overnight by gwb and Michael Chertoff who, just by coincidence, lobbies for the Xray porno scanners manufactures.

Godot 7 years, 7 months ago

Poor widdle Bawack. He is helpless. He is so busy with policy that he does not have time to undo the machinations of the evil Bush regime. That is why today he pronounced that, although he would like to find some other way to keep us safe, this is the best way. We must submit.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 7 months ago

Oh, I see. The terrorists were responsible when Bush instituted the intitial invasive security measures, but these new measures are Obama's fault.

Even for the most numbskull of right wing apologists, this is transparent hypocrisy.

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

Tom, like the teabaggers and right-wing "zealots" just elected, Obama too was elected. He was not Anointed. Why do you truly hate America? Honestly, why do you hate America?

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

"... the fact that Americans do not complain enough."

When the first sentence of an article makes you start chuckling, you know it is going to just continue from there. Americans, for all we have, whine far more than we should be allowed. Just look at the constant whining around here about nonsense like the "liberal" media, illegal aliens, health care reform, etc., etc., etc. ...

Americans do not complain enough - HA!

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 7 months ago

Note to George Will: violations of individual liberty in airport security started in 2002 under Bush.

Reaction to the latest measures is just political populist tea-bagger rage directed against Obama.

Those truly concerned should be trying to reverse the security checkpoints in airports started by Bush.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Actually, Mr. Will once acknowledged exactly that in his 2008 essay, "Problems of the Republican Party."

"The first and perhaps most important problem of the Republican Party is its lack of respect, and often distain, for the rule of law and individual liberty. This was manifested particularly well in the 2003-2006 era, long after the initial fear and uncertainty in the wake of 9/11, with legislation such as the renewal of the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act, numerous electronic privacy infringements, and a number of other unconstitutional activities including the effective elimination of habeas corpus. For a nation founded as the premier beacon of personal liberty, these recent policies are like knives stabbed directly into its heart and soul. Respect for the rule of law, rather than the rule of man, is a point that cannot be overstressed. The Republican Party has not held true to this most-important ideal, even while its candidates make proclamations to uphold it."

He was right.

sissezz 7 years, 7 months ago

Are you really SO worried about someone giving you a pat down? LOL just grab your crap get in line and shut the He** up already. You think security has been waitin ALL day to touch ur FUNKY JUNK?? LMAO!!

Mike Ford 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm a Democrat, a long haired Choctaw Indian, and I repeat the Fourth Amendment verbatim anytime I've been pulled over for reasons not apparent at first glance. My favorite moment amongst many was being a passenger in a vehicle in Leeton, MO, and having the driver and I put in separate vehicles over a speeding infraction and being told I was a smarta$$ because I knew the laws. The Bush Administration was caught sans pants putting neo-cons and agenda into office and effect when 9-11 happened. I remember this. They overreacted and tried to silence any vocal opposition and say that speaking out was unpatriotic, They tried to protect Dumya the Dumblican. Now the hypocrites encourage speaking against Obama encouraging hypocracy you all are known for. I ride Amtrak whenever possible or I drive having done so to Quebec and Ontario in the past. The dumblicans wanted a police state eight years ago and now you have one. Don't complain about outcomes you asked for.

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

He was elected, not anointed. Why do you hate American voters?

MrRighty 7 years, 7 months ago

Bea, why do these "pot-shot" inflammatory retorts make up the bulk of your posts?

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

They don't. Why does Tom hate American voters?

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

When traveling by air gets to the point where it's just too impossible because of the TSA, people will start taking the train, bus or driving. The airlines will start losing money and start whining at Congress. It all comes down to the dollar. People honestly don't have a choice if they choose to fly. Bottom line, is your discomfort worth the time savings or not? You can always vote with your dollar and let the Republicans/Libertarians know how you feel in the free market. It's your choice; be a sheeple and let them molest you or tell them to get lost and take an alternate form of transport.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

Let someone grab your crotch in full view of others. I dunno. If it looks like a duck...

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

Grab? Really? The side or back of a hand pushed upward doesn't equal "grab." No need to exaggerate the situation.

sissezz 7 years, 7 months ago

How about ... get on... or get off ... or just GET OUT OF THE WAY?

Steve Jacob 7 years, 7 months ago

1) Air travel is a luxury, and 2) Did we forget about 9/11 already?

Godot 7 years, 7 months ago

Now we can stop trying to put lipstick on this pig. The Obamatrons and Sorosites are now actually labelling the enemy as Islamic terrorists in an effort to justify Obama's systemic violation of the 4th amendment rights of US citzens who choose to use airlines for travel.

Victory! The enemy, according to Obama and George Soros, is Islamic Jihad against the Western world.

Dang, that was hard for them to admit, but, there it is!

7texdude 7 years, 7 months ago

I flew for the first time in a long while last weekend and had no trouble with anything during security. Do you want to know why? The planes I were on did not blow nor did anyone try to hijack the plane in midair. You say this security search is not necessary, fine. I've got no problem with it as long as my plane lands safely at its destination.

When the next terrorist attack happens on a plane, all of you will scream about how lax the security is now. Hypocrites.

Joshua Montgomery 7 years, 7 months ago

The TSA's technological security apparatus doesn't make us any safer.

To truly make us safer, they should simply question each traveler, identify travelers who meet their risk profile, and focus exclusively on them. El Al has been doing this for 40 years with enormous success.

The billions of dollars in resources the TSA saves could be allocated to imagining the next attack and working out methods of securing our transportation system against these new and emerging threats.

911 was a failure of imagination. The techniques used in 911 were only successful for a few hours. The hijackers couldn't even control the 4th plane once passengers knew what was up. Unless hijackers buy out a majority of the seats on the plane, this method of hijacking with small weapons attack will never be successful again.

Your chances of getting killed by a terrorist are significantly less than your chances of choking to death on your dinner. It is time that our security "experts" start allocating resources based on risk profile and not on the emotional needs of wary travelers.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

That's an interesting point about Israel's systems.

I'm not sure they'd be as effective here though - we have a somewhat more diverse group of travelers, and it may not be as easy to correctly identify "high-risk" individuals.

But I agree that we should focus on the most effective and cost-effective plans.

independant1 7 years, 7 months ago

Don't worry, 55k folks who may or may not have HS diploma/GED and who haven't been convicted of crime for at least the last 10 years, equipped with xray machines or power/authority to pat down will keep us safe.

MrRighty 7 years, 7 months ago

You can all whine about the bulk of the article...playing your political games volleying shots against one side of it or the other and otherwise craftily trying to insert your pet issues that are consistently irrelevant to the subject. The true meat of the whole article was two paragraphs.....The one about disproportion with the driving safety allegory and the quote-worthy comment about bureaucracies and adult supervision. Re-read these two paragraphs and ignore the rest. He's absolutely spot on here: There is a reasonable amount of precaution that can and should be taken in any endeavor; but the law of diminishing returns warns of "the tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved." Is maximum protection necessary; even in flight safety? Point number two, we desperately need mature grown-up folks to oversee and vet the process, then say, "OK, that's enough." No one has the guts to do that because one's political career, too often, depends on not making calls like that. The fact is, regardless of who the President is (and I wish people would start to realize how little that matters over the long run), the people that administer TSA, just like all other bureaucratic machines, do try to maximize their mission. They get paid to sit around all day and think about "how we can do something more and justify a larger budget next year?" The process will never end. That's why government spends more and more; getting bigger and bigger; providing more and more services that are of less and less value. I don't fly that often but, over the course of several years, I've been through every procedure out there....bag inspections, confiscated articles, scanners, the sniffer. None of it is a big deal. Like I said in my post about this topic last week, we have many more important "grown-up" issues to worry about besides this. Get scanned and get on the damn plane.

Kirk Larson 7 years, 7 months ago

These people freak out because they're afraid they may become aroused if someone touches them there. Same reason they don't want to bunk with gays in the military or have them looking at them in the locker room. Homophobia abounds.

kcaj 7 years, 7 months ago

Cappy You frighten me at how quick you give up your rights. & all because the government deems it is in your best interests. You should not live in this country. You don't deserve it.

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

So you are okay with wire tapping of innocent citizens, but not for asking people to walk through a scanner to get on an airplane. Got it.

Democrats are not lining up in support of this new ruling (which isn't actually "groping") -- you just made that up. Most Americans are against this, regardless of party. Democrats also did not say "it" was Lewinski's fault. We did, however, recognize that Lewinski was a 25 year old adult, but Bill was ultimately in the wrong. He absolutely should have known better. Anyone saying it was Lewinski's "fault" is a fool.

The worst Democrats did was perhaps say it was Linda Tripp's fault.

concernedeudoravoter 7 years, 7 months ago

I find it somewhat comical when the tables are turned. The right is usually complaining that the left is complaining about individual freedoms, rights. Now it is the other way around. In this case specifically, what right or freedom is being jeopardized by either the full body scan or by a full body pat down. None of us have a right or a freedom to be a passenger on a plane. It is a choice. If you don't like the new security measures, don't fly. Simple as that. For myself, when I choose to fly, I like to know that all that can be done is done to ensure my own safety as well as the safety of those on my flight and even in the airport. I don't care if they xray, poke, probe, pat down as long as I am safe. Perhaps we should start the safety measures that El-Al has had for years. Let's see who starts complaining then.

kcaj 7 years, 7 months ago

Your flippant attitude about your country shows your depth of thought. People have fought & died for this country to be free. Think about that. Probably won't take you long.

IndusRiver 7 years, 7 months ago

I never, never, never, do not ever, have any difficulty complaining whatsoever. It's just not a problem for me.

IndusRiver 7 years, 7 months ago

It did not go unnoticed that, after the CIA's 9/11, the blanket name "al-Qaeda" meant everybody - everybody is a terrorist and a threat.

kcaj 7 years, 7 months ago

wow- to see so many of you put up with this indignity because the government has deemed it to be in your best interests. There is no end to this line of thinking...& the power that you give over so freely. So many people have fought & died for this country. & now look at the weak that have taken over. The lazy, the "enlightened." Bulletin: your country is being sold & leveraged out from under you on purpose while you set idly by & have your privates touched by lowlifes. Free Advice: Look the other way, every day we lose more rights, more money & more morals. Don't look at the hand behind their back, look at what they want you to.

independant1 7 years, 7 months ago

The new bureaucracy/TSA is sampling the general population, not weeding out potential terrorists.

TSA/55k folks who may or may not have HS diploma/GED and who haven't been convicted of crime for at least the last 10 years, equipped with xray machines or power/authority to pat down

we are to trust them and trust their judgement?


independant1 7 years, 7 months ago

Quick cost/benefit analysis of airport TSA screening since 09/11/01.

Terrorists arrested = 0 Terror plots thwarted = 0 Fingernail clipper manufacturers production output = up 3,000%

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