Yet again, those in power have misread and underestimated the will of the American people. Last November’s election results shattered the grinning assurances of politicians who supposed voters were unserious in their objections to government over-reach in matters of economics, regulation and health. Now, in the face of mounting protest against the excesses of TSA officers at America’s airports, those responsible for the policy of continued sexual violation of travelers maintain that they are winning the argument. They are wrong, and they will lose.
One hesitates to equate the grassroots and growing opposition to TSA’s practices of perversion with the Tea Party movement that propelled GOP gains in the 2010 elections, since the latter largely represents a right-of-center worldview, while the airport uproar encompasses people of all political and ideological persuasions.
This is fitting, as the current TSA situation is a bi-partisan disgrace — including the lucrative compensation received by Bush-era Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff for selling Rapiscan backscatter x-ray machines to his former department for use at airports, as well as the eagerness of Chertoff’s Democratic successor, Janet Napolitano, to implement and expand this disgusting program.
Indeed, at a recent Washington, DC, conference hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (epic.org), which is suing to halt the use of full-body x-ray scans by the TSA, speakers represented every conceivable background and affiliation — Congressmen and staffers from both parties, lawyers, municipal officials, pilots, students, security experts, libertarians, liberals — even Ralph Nader, for good measure. Assessing the TSA’s enhanced screening techniques from all sides — efficacy, cost, safety, constitutionality and on – this group of people who had probably never found themselves in one room and on the same side (TSA officials declined invitations to attend) demolished any and all rationale for a technology that has been abandoned by other countries for its obscenity and ineffectiveness.
But despite the diversity of its participants, the populist nature of this protest feels familiar. Government officials chug along as though all will be well once folks settle down, even as opposition websites, Facebook groups and online networks boast memberships in the tens of thousands, and rising. Americans of all types are sharing their stories of mistreatment at the hands (and eyes) of TSA officers, and pooling ideas to bring this shameful episode to an end.
In response, government spokespeople continue to proffer the same assurances about privacy and necessity and the “next generation” of security tools, assuming Americans simply need time to adjust to the system. The most egregious such comment comes from Napolitano herself, in reference to the “enhanced pat-down” techniques that permit TSA officers to put their hands in travelers’ most intimate areas: “It’s something new. Most Americans are not used to a real law enforcement pat-down like that.”
This is true, since most Americans do not find themselves arrested or in jail. How could we claim to have a free country if innocent citizens were to become “used to a real law-enforcement pat-down”? Unlike many, I do not consider Napolitano to be a scheming abettor of some sinister New World Order. Rather — and I sincerely do not mean to be glib — I assess her to be so cosmically stupid and barren of understanding as to the nature of this nation or her job that she simply does not recognize the absurdity of such a remark.