Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't grope me, bro!

The recent implementation of backscatter x-ray body scanners and intrusive body searches by the TSA has been the source of countless critiques in print, broadcast and internet media, from George F. Will to Dave Barry to Charles Krauthammer to Michael J. Totten, and literally hundreds of others. My friends, after some conversation on the subject, urged me to share my thoughts.

American TSA "security theater" is rooted in the primitive notion, inherited from the Middle Ages, that evil is contained in objects, not people. It is this animistic thought process that gives us gun control, drug prohibition, and civil asset forfeiture laws. Many people have pointed out the stark contrast between American air travel security and that of Israel, arguably the most effective air travel security program in the world.

The Israelis screen for dangerous people, and make sure they have no dangerous objects. The TSA screens for dangerous objects, and assumes that will identify the dangerous people. I've been profiled twice by Israeli airport security, both in New York and in Tel Aviv. They are good at what they do, and always professional. (BTW, TSA, that small Swiss Army knife you took from me was a non-issue for the Israelis. After their last, semi-aggressive interview of me, they probably figured the more weapons I had, the safer the flight would be.)

Our leaders are like trembling, superstitious primitives, with no idea of what security is. Like a "cargo cult" they erect flimsy barriers against whatever object last frightened them. To these simpleton policy makers, it wasn't a radicalized, religious extremist man in his 20s on a suicide mission that almost blew up a plane over Detroit; it was a bomb in someones underwear.