Two by Two, Hands of Blue

On Saturday, John Tyner, a 31-year old Californian, refused to go through the new security measures at the San Diego airport.  He recorded his exchange with TSA using his iPhone.  The following is an edited version of their conversation:

TSA: Come on over here
Tyner: Alright
TSA: Do you have anything in your pockets?
Tyner: I don’t think so; they had me take it all out
TSA: Not belts, no nothing?
Tyner: Nope, no belt, no nothing
TSA: Do you have any external or internal implants that I need to be aware of?
Tyner: No
TSA: We are going to be doing a standard pat down on you today, using my hands and going like this…
Tyner: Alright
TSA: Also, we are going to be doing a groin check.  That means I am going to place my hand on your hip, my other hand on your inner thigh.  Slowly going up and sliding down
Tyner: Okay
TSA: We are going to do that two times in the front and two times in the back and if you would like a private screening, we can make that available for you also
Tyner: We can do that out here but if you touch my junk I will have you arrested
TSA: Actually we are going to have a supervisor here because of your statement

Typifying the public backlash that has met these new security procedures, Tyner’s YouTube videos have become the proverbial internet sensation.  Which is probably just what he was looking for when he carried his already recording iPhone through the metal detector.  The Transportation Security Administration, the TSA have instituted two new security protocols to meet the threat posed by Islamic terrorists and their use of explosive liquids to blow-up airplanes.  The afore-mentioned “pat-down” procedure is the second element of TSA’s defense.  The first and primary line of defense is their full body scanner.

The full body scanner is an x-ray machine that is capable creating images of people without their clothes on.  Unlike dental or bone x-ray pictures, these scanners look at the reflected x-ray image and not the image created using penetrating x-rays.  They are capable of creating a high-definition image of a naked person.  This technology has been the wet dream of thirteen year old boys since the advent of Superman who with his own x-ray vision was able to see criminals behind solid walls.  Superman never turned this vision upon Lois Lane, but that is exactly what these thirteen-year olds want to do.

I was prepared to show sample images from these scanners, but because of propriety I have elected not to.  I wasn’t planning on using the images of the dumpy middle-aged man and women that the TSA has been purveying, but rather that of a much younger and more comely female’s that the Europeans are using.  Interestingly, at least to me, all of these body scanner images appear to be the negative image.  Using Photoshop, I was able to with just one click invert the negative and create an image of a naked, flesh toned woman.  I still don’t see how she could have hidden that automatic so completely under her jeans, when it was sitting there right on top of her butt?

Pilot’s unions have already spoken out about these new security measures.  In a recommendation to their union members union leaders have recommended that pilots opt out from using the body scanner and instead elect the pat-down.  There reasoning was health based.  Airline pilots already get more than the normal dose of radiation by simply flying at 30,000 feet.  Compounding this radiation exposure with frequent x-ray scans was deemed a health risk.

Secretary of Transportation Janet Napolitano has urged the public to be patient.  But with the holiday season travel almost upon us patience is already short.  The busiest travel day of the year, next Wednesday, before Thanksgiving, has been declared as Opt out Day.  Protesters are expected to opt out of the body scanner and try to clog the TSA security system.  Unfortunately, my son Dave is schedule to fly on this day too.  It ought to be fun.

NPR had the humorist, Dave Barry, on last night.  His interview involved a retelling of his own TSA nightmare.  Berry was body scanned, but was found to have a “blurry groin”.  This devolved into the pat-down scenario, where poor Barry found himself being talked-up by one TSA agent/fan, while being felt-up by another, simply unbelievable. 

The bottom line here folks is, are we willing to trade our privacy, for our safety?  I for one have already traded away most of my privacy, but at least in my trade I got employment.  I hate to use this word, because it is so overused, but the kabuki theater that is TSA security is only good at fooling ourselves.  It doesn’t fool al Qaeda.  We are trading our privacy for a false sense of security.  Neither body scanners nor pat-downs penetrate the body, so do you know now where this TSA rabbit hole is leading us?

7 thoughts on “Two by Two, Hands of Blue

  1. You already know what I think, probably. I had been pondering flying my mother down here for Christmas. I had decided against it even before I heard that story on NPR. I actually don’t think she’d be able to navigate Metro without help, let alone deal with the damn TSA. We’ll drive her instead.

  2. The fact that our airline security measures are reactionary instead of pre-emptive is what really bothers me. As I have read while following this episode points out, the terrorists already know how to get around all the “Kabuki Theatrics” the TSA is putting the traveller through. There have been fine examples of people who have gotten through the checkpoints with contact saline solution bottles – exempted because they are “medical” – but unchecked for what the contents truly are. Yet, unlike the Israeli Airport Security, no one in the USA’s TSA pays any attention to *behavior* and micro-expressions and other subtle signals, which would provide better clues than the current “you have no more privacy” backscatter imaging system that everyone is subjected to, including the flight crews…. where the sole exceptions are the airport employees allowed free access to the secured parts of the airport without any screening whatsoever.

    Prime example of TSA’s “effective screening”: Val, in 2007, had a pocketknife (one that G’pa Jack gave her) in her backpack (carry-on) that she’d forgotten was in there… and it passed through all the USA TSA checks unnoticed; however, when we went to board China Air at a Chinese airport, it WAS noticed… and luckily, she was able to have the backpack checked through with her luggage and still make the flight without her special Jack knife (ok, pun inadvertently intended) being confiscated.

  3. Great comment Karen!

    One of the guys at work also suggested that we emulate the Israelis’ approach.

    I think that one of the most fundamental problems with the TSA is that it was created out of whole cloth in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The organization was shot-gunned into existence and the lack of forethought in its creation has led to its reactive rather than proactive approach to security. Almost ten years after 9/11 the TSA is still playing catch-up.

  4. I heard someone on NPR interview TSA chief (chief?) Pistole last night about searching children. He stammered a bit and said something like, “We did not initially do a good job of communicating our policy about searching children. We are not going to pat down children under 12.” My first thought was, “This stuff is extremely upsetting to all of the law-abiding citizens that fly the “friendly” skies and you had better DAMN WELL communicate your policies clearly.” My second thought was, “what about the *children* who are 12 and over and going through puberty, et al.”

    Of course you get whatever TSA agent you get. I’m not sure what they are paid or how well they are trained. Or whether their own top-level management have effectively communicated TSA policies to them.

  5. I debated including this picture as part of this post, but finally elected not to show it. Now that the comment stream has vectored into its neighborhood, here it is:

    My First Cavity Search

  6. I’m just gonna watch the Day-Before-Thanksgiving Circus, see what the reports are regarding the numbers of airline passengers who “opt-out” of the backscatter full-body scanners. Wondering also, how many are going to strip down to their skivvies in full view, how many are going to threaten the TSA with crossing the line with the pat-downs, and how many are going to be arrested for “civil disobedience”.

    And that “children’s book cover” mock-up? That was all over the Atlantic Daily website, and there was even a photo (purportedly) of this being used as a TSA’s wallpaper.

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