Thursday, November 25, 2010

The More Important Question

Half the nation is outraged at the Transportation Security Administration’s new policy of stopping terrorists by sexually assaulting airline passengers. My question is, what’s wrong with the other half?

Never mind the fact that since 9/11 the TSA has spent billions and delayed millions and caught not a single terrorist, the actors in the transportation security circus now fondle children, grope women, and embarrass the elderly who may have lingering memories of a time when an American’s body was still his own – yet half the nation bows down and bends over, with a smile on its face and a flag in its hand.

Perhaps this is explainable on the grounds that at least 1 in 2 hasn’t yet flown under such conditions, but I doubt that’s the reason. The real explanation is that the sheeple believe such procedures – while admittedly invasive – make us safer.

Whether the body scans or TSA grope-fests make us safer is not the point. Let us stop debating the effectiveness of such tools, for this detracts from a more important issue entirely.

Let’s assume these new “security” procedures work as intended. Let’s assume it could be proven that such tactics, invasive as they are, reduced the risk of terrorism by a significant degree. Is such invasion, such treason against the 4th Amendment, justified if it makes us safer? Is “effectiveness” the test of what makes a search and seizure “reasonable?” That is the real question, and that’s what the country needs to review with due haste.

For if the test of appropriate government intervention is whether or not we are thereby made safer, then should we not expect a steady kaleidoscope of new security transgressions deployed as threats continue? Should we not expect an endless parade of shiny security innovations, each conveniently rolled-out after the modest outrage from the former has subsided?

After all, safety can always be furthered by increasing restrictions on risky behavior. Can one not always be made safer by being locked in a sealed room? Is there not always some new place to put a camera? London is currently attempting to answer this very question – over a million security cameras and counting.

If the porno scanners make us safer at airports, then why on Earth do we not install them at train stations (already proposed by Big Sis)? Why are we not groped at malls; do we not spend more time there than in the sky? Why not strip down for daily entry into our large commercial towers; for do they not hold more people than a mere aircraft? And the schools! Our children should be protected, above all. We ought to grope them all to keep them safe, for why should this logic apply only at airports? And consider all the new TSA jobs we could create to help the economy!

Yet as troubling as the porno scanners and gropings may be (a choice nearly as worthless as selecting from the nation’s two wretched political parties), let’s consider the possibility that technology may improve. Imaging will get better. When the new scanners which see into every layer of skin are released on the market, and provide their images in full HD color – thus making the TSA more effective and efficient– would it not be foolishly imprudent to resist the installation?

If indeed safety is the litmus test of intervention, shall we not be overjoyed in 20 years to accept mind scanners at every busy intersection? Reading thoughts, or simply sensing motivations, would immensely help the police protect and serve.

Where does this line get drawn, or will it not be? And more importantly, why would we – a supposedly free people (does that mean anything anymore?) – allow such lines to be drawn by the largest, most intricate, convoluted, and powerful government ever hatched from the good intentions of well-mannered politicians? Are we so dim, so shortsighted, so naive as to see no problem with this? Only half the country is upset, and what percentage of these justified critics intends genuine resistance, I wonder?

Our nation has nurtured a gross and dangerous lack of resistance in the face of diktat – at best, we passionately grumble. What evidence is there that any future transgression will be resisted with any resolve? There is little. Answer this, has the government’s oversight ever shrunk? And what future may be reasonably foreseen under circumstances in which a government believes its role to be the reduction of risk, and half the citizenry cheers this coddling paternalism, while the other half does little more than moan at the television? Nineteen eighty-four does not suddenly happen on the first of January.

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