Monday, November 22, 2010

Thinking Outside the Crotch

The Don’t Touch My Junk Guy is catching up with the Take My Job and Shove it Guy and the Fake it Till You Still Don’t Make it Guy for 2010’s YouTube Gold.

We’re going to reach up your thigh to your groin from the front and the back …

(Yes, you’re still reading an aviation blog).

National Opt-Out Day, whose promoters state they have no desire to disrupt air travel, is on for the busiest air travel day of the year.   Airline passengers are invited to opt-out of airport body scanning on Wednesday in favor of getting a feel-up by a TSA official in full view of other passengers.  It’s not disruptive to airline travel.  It’s like, making a statement, man.

Our forum discussion on the subject covers the polemics.

One Side: If you don’t maintain surveillance over everyone and everything placed on airliners you will never prevent explosives from being placed on airliners.

The Other Side: Hands off my junk, man.

An argument like this tends to get lots of people focused on crotches to the point where no one is seeing the forest for the … oh, never mind.  

Explosive devices can be hidden in baggage, shoes, clothing, “junk,” feminine hygiene products, surgically implanted, etc. They can be carried by a guy with a towel wrapped around his head or your unwitting Aunt Martha or some hard-up ex-Lehman Brothers exec who wants his family to keep the estate on Long Island.

People who have direct access to airplanes can be bought or infiltrated.  Baggage, galley supplies, that new cockpit panel installation -- watch everything.  And let’s not forget about missiles, airspace control hijacking, and mind control implants in Captain Oveur.

Yet on September 11, 2001 terrorists killed 3,000 people with nothing but box cutters and a plan.  

The sheer simplicity of 9/11 and subsequent fizzled shoe and underwear bombing attempts makes bomb detection efforts look misplaced, yet the threat of the successful bombing of an airliner remains … especially since we are this week drawing a torso line between just enough and too much airline security.

Be sure that once we emphatically define that line it will be crossed with impunity by the bad guys.  

In this case we’re defining the line on a very large stage.  

The Don’t Look at or Touch My Junk crowd is essentially shouting to the world that they would rather take the chance on someone blowing up their flight with a jockstrap bomb than submit to government invasion of their personal spaces.

Or are they?  Maybe we need to look at the route that got us here.

The goal of law enforcement and security is public safety, yet tact is more often than not buried under layers of procedure in the mindset of these professions.  Whether airport security, crowd control, or routine traffic stops, the you will comply mentality often steers the narrative.  

Let’s say a full body scan is the best way to screen for body-borne explosives.  Do we really need to get in everyone’s face about what these machines can see, who’s going to see the images, and what the consequences are for not walking through?   Why aren’t we using modern technology to interpret body scan results, calling humans to the in-person screen only when something unusual walks by?  

This is a “tweak” TSA Chief John Pistole might look into.

The question of whether airliner travel is safer since 9/11 or we have simply become Elmer Fudd shooting our house to dust as we draw ghost beads on a too-wascally wabbit remains open.  A lack of a successful attack argues for the former, but count this blog firmly in the corner of Mr. Pistole for not backing down on full body scans in the face of popular outcry and congressional hearings.

Be sure that terrorists will always exploit weak links in the system, and that only relentless surveillance and tough, consistent follow-through can hope to thwart these attacks.

Be sure that smart, flexible thinking still counts for everything, whether it’s smart, flexible thinking on behalf of security authorities who opt-out of paying some $15-an-hour guy to look at nads all day or smart, flexible thinking on the part of airline passengers who choose to opt out of too-invasive airline security by taking the train rather than causing a screening jam at the airport. 

To “The Terrorists have Won” crowd: Terrorists can’t lose at this game whether they kill people or compel the free world to slow to a crawl searching every cave and crevice for their evil.  
The balance of the free world can’t win at this game until we stop producing terrorists.

It bears repeating that terrorists can be well-funded and well-organized Middle Easterners or some fellow who was just-yesterday an All-American boy draped in undoubting Thank You for Your Service to Your Country patriotic feel-good hoo-hah.

Be sure that the day an airliner is brought down by a body-borne bomb because we decided that body scanning was too invasive, this week’s congressional grandstanders will claim to have been for body-borne explosive scanning before they were against it and will resume holding conversations out both sides of their mouths over bean soup and coffee.

Be sure that the “Don’t Touch My Junk” guy will have a brand new You Tube mash-up.


From the Smart, Flexible Thinking Dept:

An Israeli security expert says gimme a dog any day … (thanks to one of our members for the link).  

… Maybe travelers will wear this thing through security … Big Bro Consequences/Law of Unintended Consequences unknown at post time.

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