Boehner Avoids a TSA Boner

While our fearless Stinque leader Nojo (who admits he seldom flies) says he can’t get excited about the electronic strip searches and probing pat downs conducted by TSA at airports, I am incredibly riled up about this blatant violation of 4th Amendment rights by our government.  And believe me, I’m someone who thinks about the 4th Amendment quite a bit.

As the worst day for travel approaches next week (Hi Mom! This Wednesday is why I never visit you at Thanksgiving!), more non-traveling regular US ‘Merikans and not just us frequent flyers are getting to experience the double bind of choosing between radiation exposure/virtual strip search, or a highly invasive pat-down.

So people are rightfully pissed off that House Speaker-Elect John Boehner (R-Fake Tan) was able to avoid the nekkid body scanner and the pat-down; and in fact he managed to avoid all security at Washington’s National Airport.  No doubt — no doubt — he has a lifetime’s worth of radiation exposure from the tanning bed.

Meanwhile, I decided to follow the money. Guess who’s making money off of this airport performance art?

Why, it’s none other than former Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, whose lobbying firm represents the company that has sold more than 300 of the nekkid machines to the government at $150,000 a pop. Chertoff has done his part, going on teevee and extolling the virtues of the nekkid machines in fighting the War on Terrah.

Earlier this week as I flew out of a Southern airport, I saw the signs posted that were advertising jobs with the TSA.  Nine bucks an hour, high school diploma or G.E.D. were the requirements. Law enforcement personnel who search criminal suspects and inmates must pass extensive background and criminal records checks, and are given exhaustive and detailed training on how to conduct searches (and comply with the varying levels of Constitutional rights of criminal suspects, inmates, and parolees). To date, TSA will not detail what training, if any, its “agents” have received on conducting searches, nor on operating machinery that emit radiation. Nor will TSA respond to a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU and EPIC as to any studies regarding the effects of the radiation of the machines.

Ron Paul introduced the “American Traveler Dignity Act” yesterday. I guess there’s a first for everything, as I am contacting Nancy Pelosi, my Congress-critter, to ask her to co-sponsor a piece of Ron Paul legislation.  In his speech introducing the bill, Paul called on every Member of Congress and the Obama Administration to subject themselves to the same invasive procedures being forced upon passengers and airline staff alike. Guess Boehner didn’t want to chance getting a boner from having his dick fondled by a minimum wage Smurf, but it’s okay for a 3-year-old to have her genitals worked over.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

[ACLU Technology & Liberty Project]
[Electronic Privacy Information Center]
40 Comments

Anyone who doesn’t wanna be flash-fried or seshally assaulted on their way to Concourse B is obviously a treasonous communo-terrahist preventing our Angels of the Apocalypse from Keeping Us Safe.

@¡Andrew!: Why do you hate ‘Merikah, Andrew?

I love that TSA keeps pointing to some CBS poll that showed that 80% of Americans support enhanced searches. What percentage of that 80% have been on a plane in the last decade? Did the person calling from Bangalore conducting the survey explain that “enhanced search” includes fingering labias?

We used to call that “stinque-finger.”

I’ve found that the TSA goon behavior is less common at smaller airports. LAX is the worst I’ve experienced — not surprising since LAX is a big heap of shit in so many ways.

@SanFranLefty: I appreciate your rage, Lefty, especially as (one of?) our constitutional counsel, but I’m still mostly in the “meh” camp. No, I don’t want to be unnecessarily groped and certainly don’t want my kids to unlearn everything we’ve taught them about what is appropriate and what isn’t, but I too fly a lot – and a fair number of the most recently dicey air routes, I might add – and am pretty much still willing to just relax and think of England through it all. If they start taking away my lithium batteries, however (watch for it, cuz it’s coming) I may get ticked.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – that’s engraved on the outer wall of the Pennsyltucky state house, and the first time I noticed it was when we were all flush with the first excesses of the Patriot Act.

Ben Franklin, we hardly knew ye.

9 bucks an hour? A dessicated zombie who sold the US America the machines? Setting up to do things on the cheap has, um, been a good idea. Yeah… like Operation Iraqi Freedums or the Afghani mission both designed by Rummy to be “cheap” and turned out way more expensive than he ever predicted.

As for the radiation… I’ve been zapped with a lot of rads in the past year. CAT scans, X-rays, MRI… more X-rays… What’s a few more? I’d still like to see a few unbiased scientific studies done to get a better idea of just how many rads I’m eating when I step into the 3D peen machine.

As for the Orange one… I suspect he’ll be crying a lot more in 2012.

@Dodgerblue: The only bad TSA experience I’ve ever had was last year at O’Hare.

@Nabisco: I don’t fly nearly as often as you or Lefty, but I’ve moved from “meh” to “annoyed” in the last couple of years just because I have no faith that any of these measures will actually prevent a terrorist from doing what he’s gonna do. So, in the end, it seems to me that we’re just putting ourselves through this hell for a false sense of security.

Point of nuance: I called it Security Theater when the scanner news hit two weeks ago. I fully agree that it’s an ineffective invasion of privacy and potential health risk, depending on which option you choose.

However…

I just can’t get excited about the Don’t Touch My Junk dude, or the way that Godfearing Privileged White Folk have suddenly discovered that we live in a national-security nightmare.

It’s a nuanced point, because there are plenty of good reasons to be pissed about it. I just can’t get on this particular bandwagon.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I think that’s right. The Israelis don’t grab your nuts, nor do the Chinese, whose security I just went through in Beijing (I’m at the airport now). I think the TSA goonery started out of a need by the Bush Admin to show us voters that they were doing something to make air travel safer, and it now has a stupidly reactive life of its own.

Beyond stupid by the TSA, but again, it’s about money and appearance, not actual security. The agency isn’t interested in paying and training people to do the unique combination of security and intelligence work that might work without major interruption.

I actually feel bad for the security people at airports, because I’d be willing to bet there aren’t many of them who actually enjoy this new part of their job.

@ManchuCandidate: The first thing they hammered into us at x-ray school was that there is no safe level of radiation. Every time you x-ray a patient, you’re exposing them to harm. Period. That’s why shielding (putting a lead apron or half shield around a patient’s gonads whenever possible) and collimation (narrowing the beam so only the part you want x-rayed gets most of the beam — there’s always scattered radiation, though) are so important.

The DNA contained within the nucleus of an animal cell is minuscule in comparison to the rest of the cell, and most x-ray photons pass through animal cells without causing harm. Most of the time when the nucleus is affected, the cell dies. But there is always a chance that the nucleus will be hit, the DNA will be altered, and that cell will divide causing all sorts of problems.

Female infants are born with all the eggs that they will ever have (most of which won’t mature), while males continually make new sperm after puberty. We shield both male and female infants as long as the shield won’t obscure the image, but it’s extremely important to shield girls. And it’s extremely important to shield children in general, because their cells are smaller and dividing more rapidly than adult cells. It’s easier to do more damage.

And there’s a cumulative effect of radiation. My dosimeter never read higher than it should, but I was often running fluoroscopy machines in the OR and in the department without a thyroid shield because we didn’t have many at one base. I also ran the fluoro more often than most of my coworkers because the radiologists requested that I help them with this, that and the other procedure. Techs are supposed to rotate through fluoro to minimize our exposure, and sometimes I’d be like, “Dr. X, I’ve been in fluoro for three weeks straight. May I work in a different area this week, please?” Usually, I’d get a respite.

A few years ago, I had benign tumors removed from two of my four parathyroid glands. One gland was removed, and the other was only partially removed. Were these tumors related to my time as an x-ray tech? Maybe. Maybe not, but hyperparathyriodism is very rare, so I wonder.

@nojo: “I just can’t get excited about the Don’t Touch My Junk dude, or the way that Godfearing Privileged White Folk have suddenly discovered that we live in a national-security nightmare.”

Yes. This. Part of me is like, “Now you guys know how I feel,” but I try not to let myself feel this way. Schadenfreude? And by You Guys, I don’t mean You Guys, but I think you know what I mean.

In June, Jr got to spend some time in the Lucite Box getting a pat down. It wasn’t as invasive as these pat downs we’re discussing, but it was odd. We laughed it off, but part of me was very angry.

It was the first time he’d flown as an adult. I was trying to get all our stuff out of the gray bins, and I realized he was missing. I looked around, and there he was in the box getting patted down. Why? Because he was wearing baggy pants, they say. Cargo pants. I’ll get him some skinny jeans next time we fly and see what happens. My bet is the brown skin and foot-long dreadlocks had more to do with his time in the box than his pants did. Who knows?

Anyway, I still try not to go to that place where I’m like, “See? I’ve been dealing with this shit for years, and I don’t like it. But I’m powerless to change it. How do you like it?”

Don’t get me started on Driving While Black or Brown.

@JNOV:
In a past job, I had to spend some awkward time around radioactives and am very familiar with the Dosimeter.

But you are correct.

@ManchuCandidate: Cool. Cool. Wasn’t trying to school you so much as to say that I don’t take radiation lightly for many reasons.

The exposure from diagnostic x-ray equipment varies. Mammogram machines use a different filament target to produce “slower” x-ray photons that are better suited for imaging soft tissue. Radiation exposure from mammos is quite high when compared to that from a chest x-ray. That’s why people are constantly arguing about the age a woman should receive a baseline mammo and how often women should receive them. Baseline at 40 and screening mammos every year? Every five years? Baseline at 50? If I were a breast cancer survivor or had a family history of breast cancer, I’d never go through one of these machines.

If I’d had several CT scans, I’d never go through one of these machines. CT photons scatter like crazy. I don’t know how much the technology has improved since I was a tech, but we didn’t bother shielding CT patients because there was no point. And techs NEVER stood in the CT room during a scan. Never. We also try to avoid holding patients for regular x-rays, but that couldn’t be avoided sometimes.

MRI is in its own land of scary cool. There’s no radiation, but the polarity of cells are changed for a nanosecond, and then the cells revert. That’s the idea, at least. I don’t follow the literature anymore, but while MRI is a better alternative to CT scans w/r/t imaging soft tissue, I think the jury is still out on the long-term effects, if any, of changing the polarity of cells.

4th Amendment issues aside, there are plenty of reasons to question the safety of these scanners and to worry about the exposure the people running these scanners face. Lead does a good job, but you always have scatter and leakage.

“Two by two…hands of blue.”
Looks like Firefly was predicting the monster the TSA would eventually grow into.

@JNOV: I was wanting to ask you about the radiation given your past life doing x-rays. I’ve had multiple MRIs and CT scans so now you’re making me more convinced to avoid the machines.

Okay, I hear you and Nojo. So maybe I’m a whining privileged white person. Yes, part of me thinks, now these middle aged white businessmen are getting a concrete example of civil liberties violations that others have experienced their entire lives, what schadenfreude. OTOH, the reality is that it’s not until people like them are affected and it’s something tangible, that people in this country will really start to understand WTF is going on with our military-terrorism-industrial-complex that is making a shit ton of money off of spreading fear and violating people’s rights. Yes, I know in the grand scheme of things that this is small potatoes compared to the digital snooping that goes on and Gitmo, and calling out hits on people and drone attacks, etc., etc. And believe me, like I said in the post, I spend a lot of time thinking about the 4th Amendment – mainly how it doesn’t seem to apply to black or brown folks. But I’m sorry, fondling little kids and making arthritic old people stagger through a radiation-spewing machine does nothing to make us safe. Perhaps some of the time and energy and money wasted on airport kabuki theatre could be spent, oh, I don’t know, screening cargo?

@SanFranLefty:

So maybe I’m a whining privileged white person.

No, I don’t think you are. I think the “God-fearing” qualifier Nojo used is important.

OTOH, the reality is that it’s not until people like them are affected and it’s something tangible, that people in this country will really start to understand WTF is going on with our military-terrorism-industrial-complex that is making a shit ton of money off of spreading fear and violating people’s rights.

Yes. This. There’s this dude named Doug Massey who co-wrote a great book called American Apartheid. I had the chance to meet him once. I was pretty nervous, but I managed to say, “Thank you for writing this book. Without [white] allies like you, people think [us brown folk] are just whining.” He looked pretty uncomfortable, but I think he got it.

The problem all minority populations face is one of achieving critical mass strong and dedicated enough to affect political power, which is why it’s so important to have allies.

@Dave H: Ahhhh, Firefly. Thanks for my first smile of the day.

I have to say that SAN was a delightful breeze back earlier this year compared to ATL, the world’s busiest airport and the most Soviet in terms of security. My best experience ever was at the Melbourne, Fla., airport, where the TSA guys shocked me by being friendly and sociable. It freaked me out.

Here’s a Canada City issue. For some reason, the CC equivalent TSA guys have a hard on for toothpaste. I’ve had TWO tubes confiscated at security checkpoints during my travels. One was a regular 250ml tube (okay, I screwed up) and they took it away from me when I was leaving Toronto for Sandy Eggo. The 2nd time was when I was leaving Vancouver. I had what was supposed to be a “travel” tube and the morans took it away from me.

Toothpaste?

@SanFranLefty: To clarify the nuance: JNOV got it right.

It’s not that everybody is acting in bad faith about this, it’s that some people are. Even though everybody is right.

And it’s not necessarily a DWB situation. It’s that for some people, they don’t see what’s happening until the government literally reaches out and gropes them. Everything before this, well, that’s cool.

Good to know. Fourth Amendment violations are a lot easier if nobody notices.

Follow-up nuance: Palin tweeted, following somebody else’s column, that profiling would be preferable to groping — because if we’re gonna have ineffective security measures, better that they affect somebody else. And that’s where DWB comes back in.

@nojo:
Yeah cause Timothy McVeigh, John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald would have been stopped by racial profiling.

It will be fun to watch when her world implodes on her.

I’d rather just worry about airplane maintenance:

An ASU physics professor says that those body scanners are generally safe, because they only give you a small dose of radiation. But still, Professor Peter Rez has some reservations.

After crunching the numbers, Professor Rez came to this conclusion — the odds of you dying from radiation exposure are about 1 in 30 million. Ironically, those are the same odds you’ll be killed in a terrorist bombing onboard a plane — exactly what those body scanners are meant to prevent.

He says that fact basically makes the body scanners superfluous.

Even though Rez thinks the machines aren’t harmful, he refused to go through the body scanner during a recent trip. That’s because the professor worries about how these machines are operated and maintained — a mechanical failure could expose passengers to dangerous levels of radiation.

@nojo: Even though everybody is right.

Yup. And I just linked to a Fox affiliate. Crazy, crazy world.

@nojo: @JNOV: @SanFranLefty: Sheila Addison at California NOW summed it up nicely:

It is no accident that women have been complaining about being pulled out of line because of their big breasts, having their bodies commented on by TSA officials, and getting inappropriate touching when selected for pat-downs for nearly 10 years now, but just this week it went viral. It is no accident that CAIR identified Islamic head scarves (hijab) as an automatic trigger for extra screenings in January, but just this week it went viral. What was different?
Suddenly an able-bodied white man is the one who was complaining.

Bruce Schneier has an excellent overview of the controversy here.

@Mistress Cynica: Yes. And then there’s this flight attendant, a breast cancer survivor, who went through the scanner and was still subjected to a pat down and then forced to remove her prosthetic breast.

@Mistress Cynica: Great link. Good comments and good links within the comments, too.

@Mistress Cynica: Bingo.

Extraordinary rendition: Cool. Total Information Awareness: Fine. Assassination orders against American citizens: Whatever.

But don’t touch our junk.

That’s when we get pissed.

@nojo: well, because it doesn’t matter until it can happen to me, goddamnit!

(Neither PDX nor Bob Hope have these things yet, so my trips between here and the eastern part of L.A. are safe for now.)

@Mistress Cynica: The NOW post was great, especially this part:

I am on to the fact that conversation about civil liberties and police states is just now starting to go viral, when we have held people in Guantanamo for 8 years now without pressing charges against them, when 1 in 4 women is the victim of an attempted sexual assault in her lifetime and that’s without counting “enhanced pat-downs,” when suddenly it’s the single black high school graduate mother feeling up the well-off educated white guy instead of the other way around. Suddenly images of violated (young, attractive) women are being used to stir sentiment, and commenters on blogs are saying “dude, what if that was your wife or your daughter?” as if starting this week, assaults on the bodies and spirits of women and girls were a Very Serious Issue.

Never mind the fact that those wives and daughters are at much more frequent risk of harassment, humiliation, and unwanted touching just by stepping out their front doors on a daily basis yet there’s no viral media buzz about holding an Opt Out Day where men all agree to stop routinely violating women.

The Schneier post was great.

@SanFranLefty: This is no dimension of this scam that does not define a new outer limit of evil and perfidy in American civic life. Machines that should be in the hands of expert, trained and certified technicians are being used by escapees from the home of brain-damaged orphans who are capable of any and all manner of incompetence and vengeful behaviors. The machines themselves have been tested for long-term effects on user, examinee or third-parties. The only reason they are in airports is because a former TSA supremo, Michael Chertoff, pushed them through for a big payoff from his new employers – who may have had him on the payroll when he was acting head of DHS. The scan and search protocol won’t stop a psycho who has a bomb in his ass and distracts authorities from the now increasing threat of cargo-based explosives. Lastly, acculturating Americas and their kids to grab their ankles and bark, “FUCK ME HARDER, CAPTAIN AMERICA” whenever some petty authority says your fourth Amendment rights have been neutralized by his mouthing of the word ‘safety’ is an invitation to ubiquitous of adoption of rape as safety mechanism. It won’t stop at the airport and your kids will be submitting to fisting before they get on a school bus. Beyond the law and the slippery slope is the despair of a population that is constantly reminded they is no violence that they would be spared, no shred of humanity that will be preserved and vouchsafed as sacrosanct.

@FlyingChainSaw: BTW, given how much you travel, should I set up the FlyingChainSaw Legal Defense Fund right now in anticipation of when you refuse the body scan and amateur proctologist exam?

@SanFranLefty: You might as well. It’s going to get bizarrer and bizarrer, you just know, until it presses even stoics like me beyond our endurance.

@FlyingChainSaw: I feel the same way. I’m a good daughter of an alcoholic who tries to accommodate and sooth everyone, but I’m a civil libertarian too, who loves and cherishes the 4th Amendment on a level of the 1st, 5th, 6th, 8th, 13th, 14th, 19th, and 21st amendments. I’m going to snap by March if my current work travel schedule keeps up.

@JNOV: @nojo: Totally with you on the nefarious claims of health regarding radiation.

All that aside, why the fuck are we submitting to pre-crime scans? And why the fuck do we center our security theater around aeroplanes? Terrorists could kill lots more people in any number of other locations.

Perhaps terrorists are more rare than the security-industrial complex would lead us to believe?

@SanFranLefty: And how many of those amendments has Obama violated?

@PedonatorUSA: What? Are you questioning the assumption that terrorists number somewhere between 1/3 to half the US population and that busloads of them constantly criss-cross the US and are in constant communication with Obama waiting for the signal to kill all the white people? Why do you hate America?

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