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How to beat the terrorists? Revamp the TSA.


I don’t usually side with the right on most issues. I think that the growing wealth gap is poisonous to our democracy, I believe that fossil fuels should be heavily taxed and the resulting resources dedicated to alternative energy (including nuclear) and I believe that we should bend over backwards to keep educated and hard working immigrants coming to our shores. I believe that no matter who your life partner is, you should have the economic benefits and security of marriage.

From time to time, however, I come across an issue where the right is… right. One of those issues is the second amendment right to bear arms. Though I loath handgun deaths as much as the next citizen, they are the price we pay for the right to defend ourselves and our communities. There is a similar cost for our first amendment protections. Exposure to the bigoted posters of the Westboro Baptist church is the price we pay for freedom of speech.

Another item on which the right is coming to agree with me, is airport security. Before we go any further, I have always been a critic of the TSA. I realize that the right was in charge when it was implemented and that now that President Obama is in charge they are reversing their position.

The current method of implementing security procedures in response to each and every publicized terrorist threat plays into the hands of our enemies. It also erodes our 4th amendment rights, making all of us less free and less secure.

If we bring the full resources of the American People to bear against every terrorist tactic, we are going to lose the war on terror. The terrorists spent $4,200 on an attempted package bombing last moth. If we respond by forcing shippers to spend Billions ($1,000,000,000) of dollars screening every package shipped, we give the terrorists what they want.

The correct response to this threat is to acknowledge that our current system worked. Look for places to improve the system at a reasonable cost and move forward with our lives.

The same goes for the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber and the flight 93 hijackers. All of these efforts failed. Why did they fail? Because the tactics of 911 stopped working less than 4 hours after they were first used. Passengers are not going to allow hijackers to take an airliner. The tactics might work for a plane full of children, or if hijackers bought out a majority of the seats, but never again for a plane full of average Americans.

Sometimes our government forgets we are not children. We conquered the western wilderness, defeated the Nazi’s at Normandy and the Japanese at Tarawa. We invented the revolver, the repeating riffle, the machine gun, the airplane and the atomic bomb. We sent a man to the moon, discovered DNA and created the Internet. Americans are tough, scrappy and violent. When called to do so Americans, average everyday Americans, will bring down vengeance on our enemies the likes of which the world has never seen. No one is going to hijack a plane with knives or box cutters. No one is going to be allowed to detonate a bomb. The other passengers are watching and if they try it, they are going to get their faces beat in and end up with a life sentence.

By dedicating enormous resources countering the non-existent threat of a 911 style hijacking, TSA officials are doing exactly what the terrorists want us to do. The TSA theater gives credibility to the terrorist threat, brings the terrorists to the forefront of traveler’s minds and wastes financial and human resources.

We all understand that some TSA theater is necessary. Otherwise much of the public would avoid air travel. Admittedly, you could hijack an airplane with small arms such as pistols, rifles and grenades. Let’s make sure no one has any. Feeling up grandma, however, is not improving security and is outside the realm of the theater production.

Screeners should save their resources to focus on people who might truly be dangerous. Heinlein wrote, “There are no dangerous weapons, there are only dangerous men.” Does this mean racial profiling? No. Does it mean profiling? Yes.

Suicide bombers fit a specific profile. They are overwhelmingly male. They are generally between 19 and 31 years of age. They are also about to kill themselves. This makes them nervous, edgy and slightly paranoid. Screeners should look carefully at these passengers, ask them a few questions, inspect their bags carefully, look for probable cause.

Patdowns and enhanced searches should be reserved for passengers that, for whatever reason, have given officers probably cause. Other passengers should be given a cursory inspection and sent merrily on their way.

The other reason that the TSA should re-vamp its screening is that it erodes our 4th amendment rights without t significantly improving our safety. In his notes for a proposition to the Pennsylvania assembly, Ben Franklin wrote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” I truly wish that our former president had read these words before launching the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

If we change America for the worse to respond to the terrorist threat, we let the terrorists win. If you are here in this country (legally or illegally) you are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. This means that the government can’t just come into your house and go through your papers, computers and personal items.

By forcing citizens to waive these rights simply to use public air travel, the TSA weakens liberty for all citizens. If you can be scanned naked with an X-ray scanner at the airport, why not while walking down the street? How about in your kids schools? Where does this power end?

Is it possible that we might miss something? Is it possible that a some crazy extremist wackjob might get a bomb on a plane and kill a bunch of people? Yep. As a matter of fact, it is guaranteed that at some future date some radical extremist is going to blow up or crash an airplane. That is the price we must pay for having an open society governed by a bill of rights.

Our society will win the war on terror. We will win the war by refusing to be terrorized. The war on terror can be costly or it can be cheap. We can choose to overreact, pour money into expensive technology to fight every boogeyman that the bad guys can cook up, or we can choose to live our lives as we always have while law enforcement focuses suspicious activities and on the men that fit the terrorist profile.

We will win by continuing our commitment to our constitution and the rule of law. By respecting the rights of every man, woman and child inside our borders. This is the only way.


beatrice 7 years, 5 months ago

Great blog Joshua. Really. I hope others take the time to read your commentary.

I particularly love the note that sometimes left-leaning individuals can sometimes agree with conservative views, and vice versa. In fact, I'll bet that is most often the case. If there was only a way to shut out the extremists, we might be able to return to civil conversations. Peace on Earth? How about a little peace at home first.

I believe this latest TSA fiasco is what happens when we make the argument "why be against a search if you don't have anything to hide?" We heard quite a bit of this when phones were being tapped and library records of individuals investigated without warrants. Now that the searches are corporeal, people are finally upset. Well, it is about time both conservatives and liberals got upset.

I personally wouldn't mind walking through a scanner because I really don't have any body issues to overcome, but I can fully appreciate why others might not care for it. Remember when a computer took up an entire room? Now, the chip in you ipod holds more information. Today we have people walk through room-sized scanners to see through their clothing. Tomorrow, look for the X-Ray Vision Glasses that used to be advertised in the back of comic books to finally become a reality.

The question is, can we get past the political posturing in order to work together as Americans to stop such invasions of our private lives?

Again, great job Joshua.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

DCStorm 7 years, 5 months ago

Joshua -

Excellent points. I am particularly fond of: "That is the price we must pay for having an open society governed by a bill of rights.

Our society will win the war on terror. We will win the war by refusing to be terrorized. "

Despite this insanity, I remain optimistic that this will awaken the public out of their civil obedience coma, and make us take a long, hard look at what we've allowed those in power to get away with, at our expensive, for actions that have no justification whatsoever.

Kudos to you for saying what needed to be said. I'll be quoting you and pointing people to this article from the video-blog I'll be doing for my channel. Keep speaking from your heart.

Namaste -DCS

justsumstuff 7 years, 5 months ago

Great post! I feel like I am guilty until proven innocent per TSA "rules"! This country was not founded on that principle. I agree with you. Thank you for stating our rights as United States of America law-abiding citizens! If the Afghanistan & Iraq people, that our soldiers are fighting, can protest & not be forced to walk through the scanners, why am I? The Afghanistan & Iraq people do not have to submit to the same "pat down" that I must to fly. Thank you for standing tall for our rights.

JorEl 7 years, 5 months ago

Welcome into the light, Joshua. As someone as far to the right as you appear to be to the left - and who would love to have a debate on the other points of view in your first paragraph because I have a world view that sees those items as linked - I fully agree with you on wrongness of the TSA actions. The terrorists have already won, because they have made us spend billions of dollars, and force an average of 1.9 million people PER DAY to half disrobe in order to fly. Political correctness will get us killed and wasting time searching me (believe me, I fit he profile of someone the terrorists are trying to kill, not the other way around) is 60 seconds they could have used to look for the real threats. Since the scanners can only detect hard objects at or above skin level, they miss powders and liquids and any hard items hidden in body cavities, the scanners are again "fighting the last war".

I actually believe there is a more sinister angle here - to get us used to violations of our 4th amendment rights so that we can be better controlled like sheep. And I must point out that while the conservatives started the whole mess, the liberals who have been in control for the past 2+ years have really stepped up the trampling of our civil rights. Expect next this will be implemented on trains and buses - giving the government the abiltiy to track us and our personal business anywhere we go. Time to put the pressure on to get this TSA matter fixed before it spreads. (Oh, and as "Mr. Language", I must correct one word in your second paragraph - "loathe" and not "loath").

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

As someone fairly far to the left on many issues, I would like to point out that this is yet another example of how the Obama administration is not the socialist threat claimed by the right wing media. He has proven far too willing to accede to the worst sorts of police state methods.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sinister angle you've described and would add to it that you cannot go anywhere in most American cities anymore without being under the watchful eye of a government camera. Google Earth watches all activites from above, as well. The totalitarian nightmare described in "1984" is emerging right before our eyes, in my opinion.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 5 months ago

"I realize that the right was in charge when it was implemented and that now that President Obama is in charge they are reversing their position."

Bingo. The right may be right in this case, but so is a broken clock twice a day.

It is clear that the right will flip flop on any position so long as it is embarrassing and politically damaging to Obama.

Bailouts were good before they were bad. Deficit spending was good before it was bad. Invasive airport security was good before it was bad.

The right has no governing philosophy besides trying to undermine Obama. If back in charge, they will continue to spend and behave just as they did four years ago.

Do not be fooled again.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

We, as a nation, already have been. All that is left to do is suffer the predictable results and see if the lesson cannot finally be learned.

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