Airport Groin Groping: What’s Going On?

This is way off topic for us, but it is timely, and what’s the point of having a blog if we can’t occasionally indulge ourselves?

Everyone knows about the current controversy regarding the latest airport security measures being implemented in the US — very revealing body scans, or very intimate physical inspections. The press is aflame with the subject.

So what’s your Curmudgeon’s opinion? We think it’s the almost inevitable result of an administration that is — or pretends to be — totally clueless about the very real threat to the US.

The reality is that we’re at war with a malignant faction of Islam, and the threat comes mostly from a very specific portion of the world. But the Obama administration rarely acknowledges the nature of the war — or even the existence of the war — and instead proceeds on the confused assumption that bad things do happen, but they’re perpetrated for no identifiable reason by people with no identifiable commonalities.

When administration officials speak, they do so in painful circumlocutions suggesting that there is no war and no enemy. There are only random incidents brought on by random people. They are “man-caused disasters,” whatever that means. But despite the “baffling” nature of the problem, the administration assures us that they are bravely struggling to keep us safe. Yes indeed, they really are.

If it seems to you, dear reader, that the administration is, ah, groping with the problem, yet is somehow unable to determine what is happening or how to deal with it, we must ask ourselves why they’re having so much difficulty. Is it mere stupidity and incompetence, or is it a campaign of deliberate obfuscation? Either way, the effect is the same. By not recognizing reality, their responses are weird, unfocused, ineffective, and actually punitive — but in the case of airport security it’s Americans who are being punished.

The administration’s policy seems to be that in order to protect the American people, it’s the Americans who must be humiliated and abused. Why? Because it’s no one’s fault but ours. “The chickens have come home to roost,” so to speak.

Well, your Curmudgeon has the solution. There’s an historical precedent for this kind of struggle, but we’ve never seen it mentioned in this context. It’s generally known as the suppression of the Thugee, an operation conducted by the British rulers of India in the 1830s, initially under the supervision of Sir William Henry Sleeman. Here’s a very good article: [sorry, that link is dead].

The eradication of the Thugee cult is one of the greatest gifts the British Empire brought to India, because before them, the Thugee had secretly terrorized the population for centuries. The campaign was so successful that the Thugee are remembered now mostly in fiction, and few realize what a grip they once had on the subcontinent.

It’s arguable that some of the interrogation methods employed by the British would be upsetting to extremely sensitive civil libertarians, but it must be remembered that we’re not dealing with Americans. And although some will deny it, we are indeed at war.

Anyway, that’s our thinking on the subject. In the meanwhile, will your Curmudgeon meekly submit to the current security procedures now being imposed at US airports? If we need to fly somewhere, probably we will. But it’s crazy, it’s wrong, and it’s symptomatic of an administration that is out of its collective mind.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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34 responses to “Airport Groin Groping: What’s Going On?

  1. Well, the problem is that racial profiling is a form of discrimination and is illegal. If you want to search people because they are Middle Eastern, then you have to search everybody. That is the way it is.

    I will go through a scanner or be searched IF a female employee does it. I will not go through a scanner or be physically searched by a man. This is the legacy of the Underwear Bomber. I personally don’t want to die on a plane because people were squeamish about being searched.

  2. The problem with the TSA approach to security is two-fold:

    1. it’s “security theater” — the primary object of which is to create the illusion, if not the reality, of safety, so the public will buy tickets and fly on airlines.

    2. their sniffer machines and scanning machines and groping personnel are all focused on one thing: going through the motions of detecting bombs and bombing materials, instead of detecting likely bombers. Thus the innocent victims and potential bombers alike are subject to heavy handed intrusiveness, most of which is a waste of time, and an affront to law abiding citizens for whom there is zero reason to be suspicious about them.

    Why does TSA insist on wasting time looking for bombs on 5 year old children and elderly blind WWII veterans? Because they buy into the PC mongering madness that afflicts this country, and dare not limit enhanced screening to people for whom there is a reasonable suspicion they might be connected to jihadists, and leave the rest of us alone. Thus, they fall back on the egalitarianism of intruding on everybody’s privacy, regardless of whether or not there is the slightest reason to suspect them.

    As Mark Steyn has so eloquently pointed out, it wasn’t Presbyterian Norwegians who attack us on 9/11, who tried to blow up Times Square, and who strapped explosives to his crotch on Christmas Day, and thus screening 100% of Norwegians or Presbyterians of Amish or Quakers or Bhuddists isn’t going to make us ANY safer.

    Real security can only be achieved by using intelligence gathering and common sense to identify suspicious people long before they ever get to the airport.

  3. retiredsciguy

    Every year, about 40,000 people die on U.S. highways. Except for 9/11, hardly anyone has died on a U.S. scheduled airliner. Do we really want to discourage people from flying, and put them on the highway instead?

  4. Being Middle Eastern =/= “reasonable suspicion”

    BTW Tim McVeigh was white and a terrorist.

  5. I have a son who sometimes works unloading container ships at a major port. Care to guess how many of those containers are inspected for…oh, bombs, people, contraband…?

    But, we’ll grope old people and small children at the airport so we can all be safe.

  6. LRA says: “BTW Tim McVeigh was white and a terrorist.”

    Wow! Hey, so was Lee Harvey Oswald. I’ll have to re-think everything.

  7. My solution is the TSA Lapdancer Corp.

    I’d be glad to volunteer for the pilot program. The public would find airport security much less intimidating if the TSA was manned by Chippendales and lap dancers. In fact, I’d make sure I showed up early.

  8. The TSA was started by the paranoid Republicans – let’s get that straight. None of what they have done is justified. It’s all about control.

  9. Benjamin Franklin

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

  10. We think it’s the almost inevitable result of an administration that is — or pretends to be — totally clueless about the very real threat to the US.

    There is a much simpler and more realistic explanation, although it doesn’t sate your need to dislike the Obama administration. The explanation is the government in general, and the TSA in specific, is a bureaucracy that is so risk adverse that no one, but no one, would ever say no to this scanning technology. And it matters not who occupies the White House. Do, you really think any of the crop of Republican presidential aspirants (save Ron Paul, but he isn’t a serious contender anyways) would actually do anything different? Not a soul in a position to nix this idea wants to be the guy to say no, then have a terrorist slip through.

    It is the same reason that the Color coded threat alert has never been any color except yellow or orange going back to it’s inception during the last administration. No one would dare take it to green in case something happens and no one would dare take it to red and have nothing happen.

    As it happens, when I had to recheck through security after clearing Customs and Immigration at DFW this week, they had the machines installed, but they weren’t using them at all as near as I could tell. I went through un-accosted.

  11. SC, would you be in favor of searches of travelers who hail from specific countries? If so, how broad would it be? For example, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was from Nigeria, not the Middle East, although he had a Muslim name. Not trying to stir things up, just genuinely curious.

    Me, I’m wondering if we can adopt some of the methods Israel uses, where people are questioned by highly trained screeners.

  12. I read the account of the suppression of the Thugs from beginning to end. As related by Steve Bonta, it’s a very interesting read. However the chap doesn’t seem to be playing with a full deck. The final references to pervasive conspiracies and whatnot tipped me off that the piece might not be quite what it seems.

    Looking him up on Amazon, I see that Steve Bonta is credited as the author of several works, most notably a 2003 book called “Inside the United Nations”, published by the John Birch Society.

    Now I don’t want to say “he’s a Bircher therefore he has nothing of value to say”, not least because I found this account of the suppression of the Thugs informative. But I don’t take such accounts uncritically, and knowing his associations I am especially unwilling to rely on the veracity of any uncorroborated statement by Steve Bonta, nor derive any lesson on dealing with terrorist conspiracies from his works.

  13. James F asks:

    SC, would you be in favor of searches of travelers who hail from specific countries?

    I don’t have anything like that worked out. But we need to root out and destroy the enemy, as the British did with the Thugee.

  14. Tony Sidaway says:

    I see that Steve Bonta is credited as the author of several works, most notably a 2003 book called “Inside the United Nations”, published by the John Birch Society.

    I didn’t know that. I’m not recommending him. But the suppression of the Thugee was real, and that’s what needs to be done again.

  15. James F. states, “I’m wondering if we can adopt some of the methods Israel uses, where people are questioned by highly trained screeners.”

    If we adopted the same methods, it would make it very difficult for any would-be terrorist to circumvent the security measures. Since it would be a human being asking the questions and doing the screening, the terrorist could not be sure of what to expect. His nervousness would most likely give him away.

    And as for LRA’s comment regarding Tim McVeigh, he had a very specific beef with the FBI under Janet Reno regarding what had transpired at Ruby Ridge (at least, that’s what he said). His attack specifically targeted the FBI offices; it was not a random attack meant to terrorize the entire citizenry.
    Now please don’t misunderstand — in no way whatsoever do I condone his horrific actions, nor do I share even a smidgen of his politics. But I wouldn’t think we have to worry about a Tim McVeigh-type being a suicide plane-bomber. And if someone like that were to attempt it, Israeli-type screening would be a far more effective means of prevention than the TSA screening in place now.

  16. Benjamin Franklin

    Certainly a major difference between the British eradication of the Thuggees and the situation we face with fanatical Muslim terrorists today is that the British didn’t respect the sovereignty of nations as we are expected to respect the sovereignty Pakistan, whose government has inhibited and prohibited the pursuit and destruction of Al Queda within their borders.

    On another note, does anyone reading this blog really think that having Americans remove their shoes at security checkpoints for 10 years has prevented a single terrorist act?

    All it has done is to help accomplish the primary goal of Osama Bin Laden when his group executed the 9/11 attacks, that of draining, and eventually collapsing the American economy. How abysmally high has been the cost of lost productivity by adding on hours to each plane flight for “security”?

  17. “Ben Franklin” raises an intriguing point: is the cost (both in terms of money/time & loss of personal liberty) to stop the jihadists from blowing up something worth it?

    There is a case that has been made (I haven’t decided I buy it) that it really isn’t worth it — that the probability of a successful terrorist attack, and the associated cost in property and loss of life, is dwarfed by the costs we incur trying to prevent them. The calculus basically says it’s better to accept the risk, and occasional reality, of isolated terror attacks, than it is to screw ourselves up trying to stop anything from happening.

    It’s a provocative point of view.

    A second point to consider about security madness: to the extent we succeed in making commercial airlines safe, we in reality are simply inducing the jihadists to pick different targets that are NOT as well protected — shopping malls, chemical plants, schools, who knows where they could strike. But at some point it behooves the jihadists to bypass all the scanners, sniffers, and gropers at the airport and target something less secure.

    At that point, what has all the cost (financial as well as loss of personal liberty) of our TSA -airport Kabooki theater bought us? As always, an illusion of safety, and a damned expensive illusion it is.

  18. I once (within the last 18 months) was talking to a woman inside the security barrier of a medium sized international airport. She checked her purse for something, gave a shock of surprise, and pulled a bowie knife out of the bottom of her purse.

    Interestingly, the private air section of an airport doesn’t have security like the passenger terminals do, yet there are entrances from the tarmac into the passenger terminal. Yes, people are supposed to have ID badges and the like, but really do you think Joe the baggage guy is going to stop someone?

    There is little, if any security in airports. It’s just there to remind us that the government is ‘doing something’ . Something ineffective, but something.

  19. Random toughts:

    My plan for my next flight is to opt out of the scan, and at the critical point of the gate rape groping, pee. “Oops, sorry Officer, I get nervous.” If people start doing that, the groping will stop.

    If anyone believes that pictures won’t be kept and that TSA pervs aren’t getting off on seeing teenage girls naked (you think the screen monitors are gender segregated? Hah!), then they are naive beyond redemption. The system is ripe for abuse, and that abuse is already happening.

    The number of terrorists caught by TSA: zero.

    When the mandatory installation of the peeping tom machines were first announced, I predicted that someone’s brother-in-law had stock in the company that makes them. Then the news came out about the connection with Chertoff… this qualifies me for the Randi $1MM award?

    Cargo screening is still haphazard- maybe because it’s not visible and thus disqualified for theater?

  20. Cargo screening is still haphazard- maybe because it’s not visible and thus disqualified for theater?

    Actually, the TSA has implemented, IMO, a fairly decent screening program for cargo that is transported on passenger aircraft. Most of the actual screening is performed further upstream in the logistics network.

    Here is a link describing the Certified Cargo Screening Program. It is interesting to see how far the program has evolved since I did my company’s initial assessment and rollout of CCSP almost two years ago. At that time there were only a handful of certified freight forwarders clustered at about a dozen major airports in the program.

  21. That process is trivially easy to get around. The recent ink cartridge kerfuffle was broken up not by screening, but by an intelligence tip. The knee-jerk reaction of our overlords was predictable and ineffective. Likewise with the porno scanners and gate rape grope- trivially easy for a determined terrorist to get around. More theater, more money for well-connected companies, more useless intrusions and unnecessary humiliation of airline customers. But our government is Doing Something®.

    It’s become almost cliche, but it still remains true- the best, most effective security measures are locking the cockpit, arming flight crews, and passenger awareness- we’re no longer passive, a terrorist with a knife or gun will be subdued quickly with minimum casualties. There are plenty of soft targets- shopping malls, schools, and even the horribly crowded security lines at airports (courtesy of TSA).

  22. That process is trivially easy to get around. The recent ink cartridge kerfuffle was broken up not by screening

    A couple points. The CCSP program protects a fairly specific segment of the air system. The ink cartridge bomb was on a cargo plane, not a passenger aircraft and, even if it was, had not arrived in the US yet to be screened.

  23. The CCSP program protects a fairly specific segment of the air system.

    Res ipsa. If terrorists just want to kill a bunch of people, there’s easy ways to do that. If they want to bring down planes, there’s easy ways to do that. It’s like preparing for a fight by realizing that you can get kicked in the balls, then padding that area, putting on crotch armor, a codpiece, and a few spikes in your fly. You opponent giggles, notes your new lack of mobility and your concentration on one tiny area, then punches you in the throat.

    Here’s yet another TSA idiocy:

    Don’t you feel safer now?

  24. I just read the TSA guidelines which include guidelines when a passenger has a urine bag. The TSA idiots obviously completely ignored those guidelines when they dealt with Thomas Sawyer, but I’m sure he feels safer now.

  25. Benjamin Franklin

    In a special edition of the Yemeni-based Al-Qaida’s English on-line magazine, Inspire, the group says part of a new strategy is to replace spectacular attacks in favor of smaller attacks to hit the U.S. economy.

    “To bring down America we do not need to strike big. With the security phobia that is sweeping America, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve less players and less time to launch” thereby circumventing U.S. security, they conclude.

    In the magazine, an author identified as the group’s head of foreign operations says the package attacks were intended to cause economic harm, not casualties. “We knew that cargo planes are staffed by only a pilot and a co-pilot,” the author writes, “so our objective was not to cause maximum casualties but to cause maximum losses to the American economy,” by striking at the multi-billion dollar U.S. freight industry.

  26. SY, the government sure a heck doesn’t trust the people of this country. It’s actually funny, in a sad way. The government would rather trust a bunch of people with minimal training and making little better than minimum wage that it would trust people who are patriots.

    Whatever. I have to fly, I don’t like to fly anyway. But I have to. No one in the government cares what you or I think or even suggest.

    Sorry, very down this morning.

  27. Here’s a groin-kick to make your morning:

    Some travelers, including Catherine Bossi, have had entirely different experiences, and have been left feeling vulnerable and violated.

    Bossi, a flight attendant and breast cancer survivor, said she was forced to remove her prosthetic breast while a TSA pat-down was administered.

    “I was horribly shocked,” she said. “Yes, I was I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I had cancer and this was the way I was being treated.”

    Feel safer?

  28. “The Security Officer should offer you a private screening if clothing will need to be lifted or raised in order to obtain the explosive trace sample. You will not be required to remove any clothing during the process or remove or display the belt that holds your prosthetic device to your body.”

    “Security Officers will not ask nor require you to remove your prosthetic device, cast, or support brace.

    “During the screening process, please do not remove or offer to remove your prosthetic device.”

    Perhaps before we do anything else, we should have TSA read their own guidelines?

  29. res ipsa. If terrorists just want to kill a bunch of people, there’s easy ways to do that. If they want to bring down planes, there’s easy ways to do that.

    Well, sure, but you are using an example of one while talking about the other. Cargo that travels on passenger aircraft within the US is screened through a fairly thorough process. That cargo travelling on cargo aircraft may be screened less thoroughly is a different point altogether. Frankly, as Ellie points out, the real weakness in our logistics systems is in ocean freight.

  30. The cargo screening is done by private contractors. TSA tells us that private contractors aren’t good enough for passenger screening. Huh-what?

  31. TSA tells us that private contractors aren’t good enough for passenger screening. Huh-what?

    Well, having private contractors patting down your stuff *is* considered illegal in every state, except Nevada.

  32. Very interesting link there Mr C and good to see you are reading into your history. The Thugee campaign was one of the first true “intelligence led” anti-terrorist operations and a textbook example at that. You can read Sleemans own memoirs on it, and the Thuggee cult, at – look up his name in the “texts” section…its ripping reading and fascinating stuff. “Thuggee; Or A Million Murders” is the most concise version he wrote.

    One important point to note is that it took Sleeman Snr and Sleeman Jnr (his son took over the operation) over 30 years to finish them off.

    Another is that they didnt completely wipe them out. There is recent news reporting from India showing that the human sacrifice sect of the Cult of Kali has revived and is back in action.

    A third is that the Sleeman operation involved ONE intelligence organisation with ordered access to lower commands. In the US you have a multitude of intell organisations including DHD that dont co-operate fully with each other and continue playing spitting games. In the UK we have 5 primary departments with involvement and I know they dont really talk fully….utter f ing madness. Its nicknamed the Pearl Harbour Problem after that famous intell failure.

    As to the airport stuff…well as an ex intell analyst I can assure you and your readers that the checks and ever crazier demands on passengers prevent only the occasional idiot like the woman with the bowie knife…which would have been picked up by a standard bag scan.

    A determined terrorist attack cant and wont be prevented no matter how many pat downs body scans and bag searches they impose on you.

  33. Gabriel Hanna

    @carlsonjok:The explanation is the government in general, and the TSA in specific, is a bureaucracy that is so risk adverse that no one, but no one, would ever say no to this scanning technology.

    My hat’s off to the Duke; I endorse every word.

    Re: terrorism, like piracy and Thugee it can be successfully combated. Piracy nowadays exists only where the US Navy can’t or won’t go.

    Re: profiling. Since Islam is not a race, and Muslims aren’t all from the Middle East, I don’t see how arguments against profiling apply. A person chooses to become a radical Muslim willing to kill large numbers of people , it is not something inherited that cannot be helped.

    It’s true, as LRA points out, that not all terrorists are Muslim, though I’m surprised that she equates “Muslim” and “Middle Eastern”. “White” Muslim terrorists have killed people in Russia and in the Balkans for the last twenty years; Asian Muslim terrorists have killed people in Europe, India, China, and Indonesia.

    There are people known to have radical views and dangerous associates who have no business being allowed in this country or on a plane. If they are citizens here of course there’s not much that legally can be done, but in the case of foreigners it seems fairly straightforward.

  34. retiredsciguy

    Gabriel Hanna — well-said, as usual.