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Terror, TSA and Our Rights as Sheeple

By Andrew Kreig - Posted on 19 November 2010

With any luck, this week's public protests will force our government to limit airport porno scans and genital-area pat-downs to those seriously suspected of being dangerous. Similarly, a Manhattan jury's acquittal Nov. 17 of a terrorism suspect from all but one of 285 federal charges shows progress in the "war on terror," not a setback.

The growing protests against porno-scans and the New York jury acquittal should mark a turning point against our government's phony crusade against "terror," which has gotten way out of proportion. Government policies must have a reasonable cost-benefit basis. And, above all, they must protect the public's historic rights of due process and against improper searches.

The government's ramped-up searches this fall make no sense except as a Big Brother project. Abusive searches waste vast amounts of money and time to enable insiders to funnel tax dollars to such fear-mongers as former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose company makes the new equipment. Beyond that, for us to flaunt such cowardly fears -- in contrast to the confidence exuded by travellers and their governments elsewhere -- brings scorn upon our nation.

In "Scanners: The Prequel" on OpEd News, Michael Collins recently asked and answered the question: "How did we get to the point of full body scans at airports, the massive personal intrusion that represents, and the tens of millions spent for machines that irradiate us as a consequence of merely flying from here to there?" He reminds us the reasons don't make sense. A Government Accounting Office report, for example, this week contradicts testimony of TSA director John Pistole.

Concerning the New York jury's acquittal of former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani on all but conspiracy to bomb embassies in East Africa, Glenn Greenwald at Salon makes the case against the phony and politically inspired uproar against the jury verdicts. Why should we be horrified because a judge and jury made a decision that only gives the suspect between 20 years and life? To overrule this kind of verdict would create a system of show trials.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Leonard Kaplan excluded evidence obtained by torture, just as any military tribunal is supposed to do. "The court has not reached this conclusion lightly," the judge wrote. "It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world we live in. But the constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and dangerous beckon in a different direction."

By contrast, Washington's leadership has proven reckless with our rights, craven in abusing its budget powers for crony capitalism, and politically short-sighted in completely failing to "mis-underestimating" the public. Sure, there's a poll that 81% of the public is OK with the new security procedures. But such polling is pointless when most haven't yet undergone the procesures, or when they appear to violate basic constitutional rights that shouldn't be determined by polls anyway.

A few politicians get the picture, as indicated by "New Jersey Legislature Says 'No' to TSA Porn Scanners and Gropes." And while Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri calls TSA searches "love-pats," Texas Republican congressman Ron Paul introduced legislation against the new equipment and denounced equipment manufacturers for exploiting public fears. "We are not safer, and we also know there are individuals who are making money off this," he said. "Michael Chertoff! I mean here's the guy who was the head of the TSA selling the equipment. And the equipment's questionable. We don't even know if it works, and it may well be dangerous to our health."

Paul also encouraged a so-called "opt out day" over the Thanksgiving holiday and introduced the American Travel Dignity Act. "I see what has happened to the American people is that we have accepted the notion that we should be treated by cattle," he said on the House floor. "We've had it. I think this whole idea of an 'opt out' date is just great. We ought to opt out and make the point -- get somebody to watch it, take a camera -- it's time for the American people to stand up, shrug off the shackles of our government, of TSA at the airport."

To be sure, some complicated questions arise from this. No one wants to see terrorists blow up airplanes. So, we need to ask tough questions about the effectiveness and loss of rights involved in alternative measures, such as profiling passengers in advance.

Also, measuring the long-term health hazards from low-levels of radiation is notoriously complex, and so we need to avoid either fear-mongering or whitewashing dangers.

But the biggest question is this: Why are DC politicians still be so out of touch even after the mid-term elections? We, the Sheeple, must set them straight.


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