I’m traveling over the holiday, so my impending TSA grope is naturally on my mind. But before I share my views on our current state of airport molestation, I need to express my thoughts on each step that led up to this.
In the year immediately following 9/11, airport security understandably tightened considerably. I happened to have been flying a lot in the two years after 9/11. While I understood the need for tightened security, I could not understand the way we went about it. Four security check points were set up from the airport entrance to the gate. This might have made sense if the idea was to stagger the step at which everyone’s bags were screened, but that’s not how it went. I happen to have a middle eastern looking last name (probably because I’m Iranian). I don’t look middle eastern. In fact, I get mistaken for Latino, more often than not. For every single flight that I took for two years, I was “randomly selected” for “extra screening” upon showing my driver’s license. This might not have been completely nonsensical, were it not for the way it was done. I was “selected” at each of the four checkpoints between the entrance and the gate so my bag was checked four times while the other two hundred people boarding my flight carried on bags that were never checked. It was an inane and inefficient system that, in my estimation made us less “safe”.
Let me just say that I’m not opposed to racial profiling. Let me explain what I mean by that, before your head explodes. I am not opposed to scientific methods being used by trained intelligence professionals, in order to determine who merits spending our precious little resources to take a closer look at. When done correctly, racial profiling is an invaluable tool in preventing terrorism. For example, any twenty-something year old male coming in and out of the country from Yemen should be looked at by our intelligence agencies. That person is in the most likely group of people to be radicalized, and their frequent travel to the US merits taking a close look at what they’re up to. At the time of 9/11, there was predominantly one kind of terrorist; middle eastern men in their twenties.
If I’m boarding a plane in 2002 and there’s a twenty-something middle eastern man boarding my flight, I want him checked. Call me an asshole, but that’s whose bag I want checked. I don’t want the old Asian woman “specially screened” because in the history of terrorism, there has never been a seventy year old Chinese woman recruited to bomb shit. Screening her is a waste of time and resources, and the political correctness makes me less secure.
Another thing I don’t want, is to have the same bag checked four fucking times. I don’t care if the person holding that bag is in the “terrorist demographic”. When you check that guys bag four times, you’re telling me and the world that you’re fucking incompetent and you’re making me less secure.
I definitely don’t want a TSA screener profiling anyone. We’re talking about tasking someone that falls into the “unskilled labor” category with keeping our country safe. That’s just batshit crazy. These people make $27,000 a year (I know this because I spent 4 months in 2002 recruiting them), may or may not have high school diplomas, and have a grand total of two days of training for their jobs. These are not intelligence professionals. These are blue collar workers. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against blue collar workers. I’m opposed to giving blue collar workers the type of authority and autonomy that an intelligence professional has earned by investing time in obtaining an education and years training for their job. There’s a reason why we don’t make brilliant recent college grads CEOs right away. Despite their brilliance, they still need years of experience before they’re ready to run a company.
Profiling at the airport would have been understandable for a finite period of time right after 9/11. We were scrambling to improve our national security systems immediately following the biggest terrorism attack in US history. A certain amount of running around like headless chickens would have been understandable. But ten years later? That’s fucking crazy. If your terrorist has made it to the airport, you’ve already failed at keeping the country safe. Terrorism is effectively thwarted by intelligence and policing. Identifying potential terrorists and monitoring their activities before they get to the point of executing their plans is how you stop them.
We had enough credible intelligence on many of the 9/11 hijackers to indicate that they were suspicious. We failed to follow up on that intelligence. We had plenty of red flags go up on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the underwear bomber) that we failed to follow up on. The man’s father warned us about him, for fucks sake! In both of these cases, the terrorist should and could have been stopped before ever getting near an airport.
I’m not saying that securing our airports isn’t a necessary part of the equation. It is. But what we’re doing is idiotic. We need to follow the Israeli model of airport security. Here is a great article describing Israeli airport security. They don’t have the long lines and asinine procedures that we do. They don’t have a humiliating and invasive screening process. And they don’t have terrorists boarding their planes.
So why is the American approach so ass backward? Are we stupid or incompetent? Neither (well, not entirely). It’s about the money, Lebowski. We’re geing groped and humiliated because a few people are making a lot of money doing it to us. Michael Chertoff, our barely adequate former head of homeland security is among those making a tidy little profit on this whole deal. He, like everyone else that leaves government, saw an opportunity to make a shitload of money in the private sector so he started the Chertoff Group ten minutes after leaving his government job. The Chertoff Group is a “security consulting firm”. What does he mean by “security consulting firm”? He means, lobbyist for Rapiscan – you know, the company that got paid twenty-five million dollars to install full body scanners in our airports.
He’s not alone. There are dozens of former government officials vying for the hundreds of millions of dollars that are up for grabs in the airport security money trough. Are any of them interested in securing our country in the most effective possible way? No. They’re interested in the money, Lebowski. And how about the government officials that are awarding the big contracts to keep us “safe”. Are they interested in securing our country in the most effective possible way? No. They’re interested in the high paying lobbying job that’s waiting for them after they “award” a company a giant contract.
Our political system is so fucked up that it’s destroying our standing in the world, our economic stability, our national security, and our crotches.
I’m sorry, but if my being groped has to become a profit center, I should be the one making the profit. I should be able to set my terms and my price. And I should be able to pick my own gropers.
Right now I’m a $5 hand job crack whore with a pimp that takes every cent that I make. What do I get in exchange? His assurances that he’s just looking out for me. I just melt every time he whispers, “I’ll take care of you, baby. You’re my #1 ho” in my ear.