Friday, July 25, 2008

Prodedure Takes Precedence Over Virtue

I arrived back in the Old Dominion in the wee hours of this morning. I’m just getting started on the email — I notice that y’all took no pity on Dymphna while I was gone. It may take me many days to go through all of it. If it’s important, please send it again.

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TSA noticeI spent the last few days doing computer-related work in a midsize American city. The trip took two flights, and I checked my suitcase through (a three-hour layover at Dulles — UGH!). When I arrived at the hotel and opened my suitcase, I found a little present waiting there for me, courtesy of the United States Government (“Hi! We’re here to help you! Hand over your wallet!”).

I scanned the leaflet for your enjoyment. On the flip side (not shown) was an identical message in Spanish. When I read that the TSA “está obligada bajo la ley de inspeccionar todo el equipaje registrado para protegerlo a usted y a sus compañeros pasajeros”, my immediate reaction was, “Hey! What about Arabic? Or Farsi? Or Urdu? This is discrimination!”

Or maybe it’s just that people from countries that speak those languages hardly ever get their bags opened. After all, that would be “profiling”.

But the best part of the story is that when they opened my suitcase, the agents of Uncle Sam charged with my protection found packed among my socks and underwear a brand new copy of Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, which I had brought along to read during the long boring evenings at the hotel.

When I got home and told the Future Baron this story, he wondered if the process of officially protecting me might have involved the blacking out of certain selected passages in the book. But I’m up to page 272, and so far it seems to be intact…

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Given that I was immersed in Liberal Fascism, I couldn’t help but observe the New Deal roots of the TSA’s handout. Below the fold is the entire text of the notice, interspersed with my comments.
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Transportation Security Administration


To protect you and your fellow passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is required by law* to inspect all checked baggage. As part of this process, some bags are opened and physically inspected. Your bag was among those selected for physical inspection.

First of all, any protection of me during the TSA’s operations is incidental.

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against cargo-hold luggage being searched.

But the searches are random, and given that the Muslim Brotherhood has affirmative-action-hire moles burrowed into the TSA just like all other federal agencies, the terrorists are well aware of the selection frequency for baggage searches. If they’re serious about blowing up the plane, they’ll simply pick a day and send through enough bombs — one per plane — to beat the odds.

During the inspection, your bag and its contents may have been searched for prohibited items. At the completion of the inspection, the contents were returned to your bag.

Yes, they were. The officers did a good job; everything was repacked neatly, and if it hadn’t been for the TSA calling card, I might never have noticed.

If the TSA security officer was unable to open your bag for inspection because it was locked, the officer may have been forced to break the locks on your bag. TSA sincerely regrets having to do this, however TSA is not liable for damage to your locks resulting from this necessary security precaution.

Fortunately, I understood that ahead of time. When I prepare for a trip, I assume that the government is going to be poking through my toiletries and small clothes, and pack accordingly. Anyone who locks his suitcase and then checks it through is being foolish.

For packing tips and suggestions on how to secure your baggage during your next trip, please visit:

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact the TSA Contact Center:

Phone: 866.289.9673 (toll free)

I believe in the squeaky wheel. Everyone is encouraged to call or email (Remain calm! Remain polite! Remember your manners!) and explain to the good folks at the TSA exactly what they think of its ludicrous security procedures. Suggested improvements: open-carry privileges for all passengers licensed to do the same in their home states. Now that would deter terrorism.

But don’t hold your breath.

And for those of you who couldn’t read the fine print, a reminder of how completely legal all this coercive rigmarole is:

*Section I 10(b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, 49 U.S.C. 44901 (c)-(e)

Rev. 8-1-2004

Smart Security Saves Time

And how is that? What’s “smart” enough to save time?

Patting down the occasional granny and searching little girls’ Hello Kitty satchels at random, rather than searching everybody and everything?

Not making everyone strip down to their lingerie — is that what saves time?

Not bothering to search people “of Middle Eastern appearance” — boy, I’ll bet that saves lots of time.

I saw a female TSA officer in hijab at Dulles charged with monitoring passengers at the security screening. That may have saved time. But why does it not make me feel safer?

Over the last seven years the phrase “going to the airport” has become synonymous with interminable waits, pointless procedures, official arrogance, indifference towards the traveling public, and excruciating boredom punctuated by the occasional humiliation of invasive personal scrutiny. It’s right up there with “colonoscopy” as another way of saying “something to be avoided at all costs”.

You wait for twenty minutes in a line, hold out your ID and your boarding pass, take off your shoes, divest yourself of your wallet and cell phone, put your hand cream and toothpaste in a bag, unpack your laptop, take off your jacket, get it all X-rayed, pass through the scanner, and endure the occasional random wanding and pat-down afterwards.

But do you feel any safer?

All those who think that all this folderol significantly reduces the threat of a terrorist attack, please raise your hands.


Just as in 1917 and 1933, the progressives in our government view the present danger as an opportunity. They have risen to the occasion and seized it eagerly. More government intervention. More state control. More surveillance of ordinary citizens. More interference in people’s day-to-day lives.

But no one feels any safer. Funny about that.

Billions and billions of your tax dollars spent on boondoggles, mountains of paperwork, people in nifty uniforms, fat patronage contracts for favored political contributors, new offices, fancy logos, dozens of additional federal acronyms, and the petty harassment of ordinary citizens. Not to mention the Islamic Sensitivity Training sessions for DHS employees, facilitated by the Muslim Brotherhood volunteers from CAIR and ISNA.

And to no discernable public benefit. Welcome to Liberal Fascism, Phase Three.

“Smart security” is neither. To quote Dymphna from her post last night, it “is not concerned with outcomes; it lives for procedures. And by its lights, procedures take precedence over virtue.”


Anonymous said...

Baron Bodissey! It's good to have you back.

First, I'm so delighted you're reading Liberal Fascism. It's an excellent book and one of my favourites.

Second, the last time I went on a trip, I also had my checked luggage searched. In fact, I've had mine searched no less than three times in the past two years or so--I have no idea why. I'll come home, open up my bag to unpack, and be greeted by the TSA leaflet. Oh, and just to let you know, they don't always put my stuff back neatly. Once, everything was all jumbled up and stuffed in, which was a tad vexing.

kkollwitz said...

"Or maybe it’s just that people from countries that speak those languages hardly ever get their bags opened."

My guess is they are more likely to be able to read English.

VinceP1974 said...

Because I was getting the shoe bomber search every time I took a trip , I learned to watch the person's eyes at the security line who makes the decision on who gets the shoe bomb full pat down.

I saw her dart to the lower right hand corner of my boarding pass and noticed "SSSS"

Well... SSSS is indeed the code that you're going to get felt up.

I'm on some list I guess. I stopped flying years ago because the total experience is inhumane.

spackle said...

As luck would have it I just got back from the store where I purchased a suitcase for an upcoming trip. I was considering buying a lock but thought I better check first as I havent been on a plane since before 9/11. Thanks for the TSA link Baron. I am so looking forward to being pulled out of line and searched. You got me really thinking now about what book I should put in my bag?

ZZMike said...

TSA Stripsearches 71-year old

"She was yelling 'I have power, I have power, I have power," Perry said. The power to stop him from flying to Florida with his wife that day to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary."

Giving an idiot power is not much different that giving him a gun.

babs said...

My husband and I took a 6 day trip not too long ago. As we were packing our suitcases for the trip home, we decided to put all the diry clothes in one and all the clean clothes in another. When we arrived home we found the leaflet in the suitcase with the dirty clothes! He-he, someone got to paw through 12 dirty undies and other assorted stinky stuff!!!

no2liberals said...

You, as well as others, might want to consider the SearchAlert Luggage Lock.

History Snark said...

I overheard a conversation once between two women. One was explaining to the other that, during a recent flight within the continental US, she and her party had been thoroughly searched, both flying out, and returning home. I heard her speculate that it was probably because the tickets had been purchased in her name, but by her sister, using the sister's credit card.

I wanted to scream. She had already told her friend that the party was herself (white, mid-30s) her husband, presumably the same, their infant, the senior citizen grandmother, and her adult brother, who was apparently retarded.

All I could think was that a better explanation for the search was that they were a group that screamed "nothing to see here. No chance on earth you'll find anything here", and thus were a "safe" inspection.

no2liberals said...

On occasion, one must realize the purpose of selecting clearly harmless passengers for additional scrutiny. Stats are kept, and I, and others, believe this is purely for profile busting, so if any discrimination claims are made, they have no factual data to support it.
In a perfect world, this type of a**-covering wouldn't be needed.

Anonymous said...

Does nobody in TSA have a clue? It should be obvious that putting a Muslim in security where they can pass other Muslims through security is an astoundingly stupid idea.