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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.