Kevin Drum has posted what he calls an anti-rant about TSA. I have a lot of respect for Kevin. He's far to my left, but he's thoughtful and usually has to say besides just scoring political points. But not this time.
Kevin opens with:
I hate the TSA screening process. Everyone hates the TSA screening process. You'd be crazy not to. It's intrusive, annoying, and time-wasting. It treats us all like common criminals even though most of us are just ordinary schlubs trying to get on a plane and go somewhere.
But guess what? The fact that you personally are annoyed — you! an educated white-collar professional! — doesn't mean that the process is idiotic. I've heard it called "security theater" so many times I'd be rich if I had a nickel for each time it popped up in my browser, but although the anti-TSA rants are often cathartic and amusing, they've never made much sense to me. All the crap that TSA goes through actually seems pretty clearly directed at improving the security of air travel.
He then proceeds with a Q&A. For example:
Q: Why do we have to take our shoes off?
A: To prevent terrorists from packing explosives into their shoes and bringing down an airplane.
Q: Why do we have to go through those new body scanners?
A: To prevent terrorists from packing explosives around their bodies and bringing down an airplane. ...
Q: But other countries don't do all this stuff.
A: That's because Islamic terrorists mostly target American planes. It's fine for Switzerland to be a little less cautious, not so fine for us.
As Doug Mataconis observed, however:
Abdulmutallab boarded his flight to Detroit in Amsterdam, so these enhanced screening procedures would have done nothing to stop him from getting to the United States, and that remains true for vast numbers of foreign terrorists who could theoretically carry out an attack on an American airliner without ever stepping foot on American soil. Richard Reid boarded his flight to the United States in Paris, for example, and the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 took place without a single terrorist entering the United States. In that case, the explosives that brought the plane down over Lockerbie, Scotland were put on the plane in Germany. Neither the attempted attacks by Richard Reid or Adbulmultallab, nor the successful attack on the Pan Am airliner, would have been prevented by screening procedures in the United States. So, forcing American travelers to undergo invasive security procedures doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything.
Then Kevin opines that:
Q: The Israelis don't do all this stuff either. Why not adopt their methods?
A: Because even experts don't think we could scale up the Israeli system for use in the United States. What's more, the Israeli system is only convenient for Israeli Jews. It's a huge pain in the ass for everyone else.
Crapdoodle. Everybody knows El Al security includes racial and ethnic profiling. So we can't use it in the USA because profiling would violate the civil liberties of those who get profiled. And that's how it should be, for both prudential and moral reasons. But instead we have a system that violates everybody's civil liberties. Excuse me for preferring a system in which nobody's civil liberties get violated.
Then Kevin decides to play politics:
For seven years, Republicans insisted that every security procedure ever conceived was absolutely essential to keeping the American public safe, and anyone who disagreed was practically rooting for an al-Qaeda victory. Now a Democrat is in office and suddenly they're outraged over some new scanners.
Just for the record, this Republican was blogging about how bad the TSA sucks as long ago as 2006. I'm guessing I'm not alone.
In sum, I expect better of Kevin. I'd have hoped that he would agree with those of us who believe that those who give up liberty to get a little safety deserve and ultimately will not get either. And I'd have hoped that he would have seen this as an opportunity for people on all sides of the political debate to stand up and say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." It's a chance to recover some liberty and basic human dignity in a modern world that constantly chips away at them.
Sadly, I find myself disappointed on both scores.