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April 29, 2010

Why do we do this to ourselves?

tsa_profiling As we ponder how one governmental agency -- which couldn't uncover Bernie Madoff or Stanford Financial's sketchy affairs despite being told about them -- is going to make a fraud case against Goldman Sachs on a transaction between sophisticated investors who knew what was going on, let's check out another government agency's bumbling decision-making:

More than thirty organizations across the political spectrum have filed a formal petition with the Department of Homeland Security, urging the federal agency to suspend the airport body scanner program.

Leading security expert Bruce Schneier stated, "Body scanners are one more example of security theater.

Last year, the organizations asked Secretary Janet Napolitano to give the public an opportunity to comment on the proposal to expand the body scanner program. Secretary Napolitano rejected the request. Since that time, evidence has emerged that the privacy safeguards do not work and that the devices are not very effective.

"At this point, there is no question that the body scanner program should be shut down. This is the worst type of government boondoggle -- expensive, ineffective, and offensive to Constitutional rights and deeply held religious beliefs," said Marc Rotenberg, President of EPIC.

And if Bruce Schneier's opinion isn't good enough for you, take heed of what a leading security expert who is constantly on the front lines says about the scanners:

A leading Israeli airport security expert says the Canadian government has wasted millions of dollars to install "useless" imaging machines at airports across the country.

"I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747," Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada.

"That's why we haven't put them in our airport," Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.

Sela, former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority and a 30-year veteran in airport security and defence technology, helped design the security at Ben Gurion.

Despite what the experts say, he wasteful airport security process that we have allowed the Transportation Security Administration to impose on us continues unabated at a substantial direct cost and an even greater indirect one.

It's bad enough that the TSA's procedures do virtually nothing to discourage serious terrorist threats. What's worse is that the inspection process is really just "security theater" that makes only a few naive travelers feel safer about airline travel.

And if all that weren't bad enough, the worst news is that once a governmental "safeguard" such as the TSA procedures are adopted, Congress has no interest in dismantling it even when it's clear that process is ineffective, expensive and obtrusive to citizens. Stated simply, the TSA has become a jobs program for thousands of registered voters.

James Fallows sums up the absurdity of the situation well:

TSA + defense contractor + security theater vs Israeli expert + Schneier + common sense.

Hmmm, I don't know what to believe.

Posted by Tom at April 29, 2010 12:01 AM |


"We" don't do this to "ourselves." "They" do it to everyone they can.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at April 29, 2010 8:48 AM

I recently had a pacemaker implanted. That means I cannot go through the metal detectors. It was no problem on a cruise ship or in Heathrow Airport. But, in Newark, I thought the TSA guy wanted sex in public. TSA sucks.

Posted by: Rick Caird Author Profile Page at May 1, 2010 4:32 PM


I always enjoy your posts. Thanks for taking the time to share your opinions.

I agree that this program should be shut down, and for the same reasons. Regarding the Israeli commentator, and assuming that the Tel Aviv IA is one of the most secure in the world as asserted in the post, I'm curious to know what measures are in place in that airport. Furthermore, I wonder if those measures, if in place in the US, would offend our notions of privacy and Constitutional rights. I'm going to look into it, but you might know off-hand.

I've only been to a non-US territory once - Paris. I'm still surprised that I saw bands of 4-5 soldiers with drawn assault weapons perusing the crowd. Not sure that I prefer stepped-up measures such as that, even if they are less expensive and more affordable.

Posted by: Dan L. Author Profile Page at May 2, 2010 1:00 PM

Dan, my understanding of the Israeli policies, which Bruce Schneier has analyzed extensively on his blog, are based upon multiple levels of screening that begin literally as passengers are entering the airport in their vehicles. The main problem in transferring those policies to U.S. airports, apart from the civil rights issues, is one of scale -- i.e., that the multiple levels of screening are possible in the relatively small Israeli airports, but not feasible in the far larger U.S. airports.

Posted by: Tom K. Author Profile Page at May 2, 2010 10:21 PM

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