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TSA’s machine mentality: If you don't like it, don't fly [Most commented]

June 28, 2011 | 12:18 pm

Tsa The Transportation Security Administration's invasive pat-downs and daunting full-body scanners remove human judgment from airport security, Op-Ed columnist Jonah Goldberg argues Tuesday. One of the latest such lapses was when 95-year-old Lena Reppert, dying of leukemia, was reportedly asked by a TSA agent to remove her adult diaper during a body search. Goldberg also cites the example of Drew Mandy, a 29-year-old mentally disabled man who was forced to throw away the 6-inch plastic toy hammer he had been carrying for the last 20 years.

It seems the first commandment of the TSA is that every mind must be trained in the likeness of a machine. "Garbage in, garbage out," is how computer programmers explain the way bad outputs are determined by bad inputs. Likewise, if TSA workers are programmed not to use common sense or discretion -- surprise! -- TSA workers won't use common sense or discretion.

Why not? One reason is we've institutionalized an irrational phobia against anything smacking of racial or religious profiling. Once you've decided that disproportionate scrutiny of certain groups is verboten, you'll have to hassle everyone equally. Thus we're told that a 95-year-old woman's diaper is just as likely to be the front line in the war on terror as a 22-year-old Pakistani's backpack.

Defenders of the TSA insist we can't abandon such mindlessness because if we do, clever terrorists will start using adult diapers as IEDs. Others say we know that profiling isn't effective because the Israelis don't use it.

Readers are likening the United States to a police state, blaming conservatives for getting us in this "hyper-secure" but terribly flawed mess. A few, however, are saying that those who don't want to deal with security should stay out of the air.

It's not the worker's fault; blame Congress

Uh, the TSA machine is people, every single one of them is a live human being. Not very skilled, or well-educated people. I bet not a single one is trying to be mean or humiliate anybody. But they're not very bright, they don't have much time to think about what they're doing, they have lots and lots and lots of rules and they therefore make mistakes, lots of them. So would you if you had to stand there for 8 hours and feel up a bazillion strangers a day. That's nobody's idea of a good time.  

They're there because the rest of America got all scared in 2001 and demanded to be safe. The whole Congress decided that America was so frightened that they would tolerate major intrusions. If you're not that scared anymore, skip the sc-fi analogies and do something useful. Tell Congress to make them go away. Congress put them there, Congress can make them go away.

--StanStansbury

This is what a "zero-defects" policy gives you

How many terrorist plots were foiled at the airport by TSA agents? How much money does the TSA cost? Are we getting our money's worth? The only way to have 100% security in the air would be to ban airplanes. But we accept a certain level of risk in order to have a functioning economy and society. The "war against terrorism" has unfortunately adopted a zero-defects mentality. Zero defects sounds good on paper, but it takes human thinking out of the loop and becomes a barrier behind which those in charge can avoid accountability for their actions. I agree with the TSA. Nobody forced her to remove her diaper for inspection. But the other half of the truth is if she hadn't, she would not have been allowed on her flight. That's a weak excuse.

--bkmoore

Shut down TSA

Forcing a dying woman to remove a soiled diaper is reprehensible. TSA is not protecting anyone by humiliating and degrading a dying woman. This behavior is criminal and these sick screeners should be prosecuted.

This is simply gratuitous abuse of a passenger who poses no threat whatsoever. TSA is a complete farce and accomplishes nothing other than harassing, humiliating, robbing and otherwise abusing travelers. The daughter should sue TSA for this blatant violation of her mother's basic civil and human rights.

Congress has permitted TSA to promote an agenda of passenger-focused paranoia without consideration for the realities of airline safety. In the past eight months, TSA has been plagued by reports of agent thefts, sex crimes, assaults, drug trafficking, security breaches, drug use and dereliction of duty. Over sixty screeners have been implicated without one notable success to offset this abysmal record.

After the Lockerbie bombing carry-on, items were X-rayed eliminating the possibility of that tragedy being repeated. When a flawed hijacking policy allowed the 9/11 terrorist to take control of four airliners and crash them into targets, cockpit doors were reinforced and pilots were armed making a repeat of the 9/11 attacks impossible. This agency is out of control and needs to be shut down and security returned to FAA.

--fisher1949

This is where the conservatives got us

So much for those "9/11 changed the world" -- "Freedom isn't free" lectures we've gotten from conservatives for the past decade, huh, Jonah? If it wasn't for all that "Raise the terror alert level and improve President Bush's approval rating" Patriot Act propaganda, maybe we wouldn't still, even post-bin Laden, be enduring these excessive security measures.

--Ironman Carmichael

A sad but necessary check

A few things....remember the underwear bomber?  That's why they need to inspect things like adult diapers. It's easy to hide stuff there.  There's even a term for it.  It's called keistering.  (I may have spelled that wrong?). 

Anyway, I fly about 60K miles a year.  Nothing earth shattering, but I spend a decent amount of time in the airport.  I've never had a problem with TSA.  I've only had a problem with the people going through the security check point. 

If you don't want a pat down, go through the body scanner.  As has been noted numerous times, the amount of radiation you are exposed to from the scanner is less than you are exposed to in an airplane.

While I think it's sad what happened to Ms. Weber, you HAVE to check everyone, because it's too easy to disguise someone a terrorist knows gets through without a strenuous check.

--CjPomerantz

Conform, and they won't bother you

They have gone a bit overboard, yes it's true, but perhaps people need to be reminded that this is a post 9/11 world and you are not getting on a bus. The people getting the prison treatment sound like total nubes. It's not that difficult to prepare for a flight. How does a machine operate? It likes uniformity. It does not like something that is different. So all you have to do is conform for your travel, and you will have no problem.

Be smarter than the machine.

If you don't give them a reason to bend you over they probably won't. Knock on wood.

--Charlie_Sheen

Update: A previous version of this post misidentified Lena Reppert as Jean Weber, her daughter.

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'Don't touch my junk' rap almost as funny as comparing body scanners to public colonoscopies

--Samantha Schaefer

In this Nov. 17, 2010, photo, a Transportation Security Administration employee performs an enhanced pat-down on a traveler at Denver International Airport. Credit: Craig F. Walker / Denver Post

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