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A Nude Awakening — the TSA and Privacy

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the keep-it-above-the-waist dept.

Privacy 728

DIplomatic writes "The Oklahoma Daily has a well-written editorial about the current state of airport security. Though the subject has overly-commented on, this article is well worth the read. Quoting: 'The risk of a terrorist attack is so infinitesimal and its impact so relatively insignificant that it doesn't make rational sense to accept the suspension of liberty for the sake of avoiding a statistical anomaly. There's no purpose in security if it debases the very life it intends to protect, yet the forced choice one has to make between privacy and travel does just that. If you want to travel, you have a choice between low-tech fondling or high-tech pornography; the choice, therefore, to relegate your fundamental rights in exchange for a plane ticket. Not only does this paradigm presume that one's right to privacy is variable contingent on the government's discretion and only respected in places that the government doesn't care to look — but it also ignores that the fundamental right to travel has consistently been upheld by the Supreme Court. If we have both the right to privacy and the right to travel, then TSA's newest procedures cannot conceivably be considered legal. The TSA's regulations blatantly compromise the former at the expense of the latter, and as time goes on we will soon forget what it meant to have those rights.'"

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Some People (5, Insightful)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465846)

will give up any freedoms because they are "supposed to" in order to "be safe".

Other people will argue that speed limits and income tax are a violation of their natural born freedoms and need to be abolished.

Most people just want a sane middle ground. Too bad the noisy people get all the results.

Re:Some People (5, Insightful)

hannson (1369413) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465904)

I'd rather go down in an awesome fireball of death rather than being groped by the TSA. At least I'd die with some dignity.

Re:Some People (-1, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466080)

Except a groping is unlikely to be fatal, so you'd die in the same way, ergo with the same dignity as you would have done had the TSA never existed.

In other words it's 99 to 1 that you'd be asleep and soaked in piss. Dignity? Your call.

Re:Some People (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466122)

Except a groping is unlikely to be fatal, so you'd die in the same way, ergo with the same dignity as you would have done had the TSA never existed.

Clearly you haven't reviewed the latest procedures...

Re:Some People (4, Insightful)

hannson (1369413) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466294)

It's more likely that a plane goes down due to failure than terrorist attack and even more likely that you die in a car crash on the way to the airport, but I'm no statistician. Sure the TSA may have risen the bar for the so called terrorists but common, have some balls. It's like physical DRM, it mostly affects the honest people.

Re:Some People (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466096)

I'd rather go down in an awesome fireball of death rather than expect everyone to be groped by the TSA. At least they'd live with dignity.

Re:Some People (-1)

mrmaster (535266) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466140)

Hey, we understand that is the only groping you have going on your life but honestly, people who say they will choose death over a semi-naked picture being taken of them has no clue. I fly a lot. I like my life and have no plans to choose a "fireball of death". The extra security is no big deal.

Re:Some People (5, Interesting)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466328)

Then you sir are an idiot. No offense.

I fly all the time as well...or, to phrase it better...I used to fly alot before the TSA and DHS decided that the 4th Ammendment is null and void while proceeding through a security checkpoint at an airport.

Yesterday, before the Porn Scan and/or Freedom Fondle, I had approximately a 1 in 25,000,000 chance (Soruce: TFA) of dying in a terrorist attack on the plane.

Today, with the Porn Scan and/or Freedom Fondle, I have an approximate 1 in 25,000,000 chance (Source: TFA) of dying in a terrorist attackon the plane.

So between yesterday and today, I have gained nothing & lost my rights.

Sounds like a fair trade to me. Personally, I'd rather die free than live in fear. But that's me.

Re:Some People (3, Interesting)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466168)

I think the government should allow each airline to offer, say, 50 flights per day in which you don't have to go through all the security theater. That way people can take a calculated risk on whether they want to be molested, photographed nude, or none of the above.

Re:Some People (5, Insightful)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466208)

Chances are you wouldn't come down in a fiery ball, either. The TSA is scanning for people with weapons or bombs, both of which are of little use outside of a direct confrontation with the passengers and crew. Unlike 9/11, people now know that if they don't react they're just about certain to die AND to cause the death of hundreds. Crews are better trained to face such situations. Plane cockpits have been reinforced. All in all, the chances of you falling on some terrorist or terrorist group that manages to get on board without triggering the metal detectors and explosive detectors (ie what was already in place way before those intrusive scans) AND manages to control the entire crew and all passengers or blow up the entire plane is absurdly small. Blowing up the plane would require a lot of explosives or very well-placed charges, both of which are highly unlikely to happen, so most terrorists would confront the people there and nowadays the chances of them succeeding are slight.

The TSA's latest "security measures" are just a nice way of making money for some companies and it makes them look like they're doing something.

Re:Some People (0)

webengineer (963272) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466268)

Bullshit! It is easy to say you'd rather die that go through a pat down or walk through a screening device. What's more like it is that you'd rather be right than consider the possibility that even one plane (~250 human beings) might be snuffed out by some crazies, and that such inspections could actually prevent that happening. I, for one will opt on the side of a safe flight.

Re:Some People (1)

zero.kalvin (1231372) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466282)

What if I like being groped ? ok seriously now, what will happen if I tell the TSA personnel that I am enjoying the pat down ?

Re:Some People (2)

Achra (846023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466312)

What if I like being groped ? ok seriously now, what will happen if I tell the TSA personnel that I am enjoying the pat down ?

Then some poor dumb highschool-dropout has an even shittier day at work than he was having previously.

Re:Some People (3, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466062)

I would really like to be more outraged on this topic. But the propects of fondling and pornography are just too titilating to me. Damn prudes :-P

Then again, I haven't actually flown all that recently. Maybe my opinion will change after I fly cross country with the kids later this month.

Re:Some People (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466116)

Hi, I'm running for Congress from the Sane Middle Ground Party, and I hope I can get your vote if you remember you held this position in 2 years.

Re:Some People (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466300)

Middle ground between what and what? I see a radically irrational extreme right wing ultra-fascist party of almighty god and terror and an irrational right wing fascist party of god and fear.I would rather not take the middle ground between those two.

Re:Some People (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466174)

In my life and in my family's life, people have died for the dumbest shit: a car accident because some diabetic blacked out in his truck, an aunt who was obese and smoked like a chimney and knew exactly what she was doing but always had an excuse, lots of cancer, accidental OD, and just being fucking old.

Same with my friends and acquaintances.

Not one has died from a terrorist act. Nor do any of them know any one that has died from a terrorist act or any one that knows someone who knows someone who has died from a terrorist act.

No one has had the cops show up to take the cigarettes away or force healthy eating and exercise. No one has said, "We really need to spends billions on more traffic patrols and stop all these needless deaths on the road. Nope.

But three planes go down and a 3,000+ people die and a bunch of whiny rich bitches who get a GIGANTIC soapbox courtesy of the moronic media, and we have the horseshit of the TSA.

I don't smoke because of health. I keep in shape for the same reasons. I'm careful on the road. I take responsibility for as much as I can and I realize that there are risks associated with life and in the end, I'm fucking dead anyway.

Unfortunately, 81% of Americans are infants and want some parental type of figure (The Government) to keep them safe. The small Government posers frame it as "War on Terrorism" but the net effect is Government taking care of them. Then of course there are the folks who insist that it is the Government's duty to care for them like their parents did.

Some people indeed.

Re:Some People (0)

Achra (846023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466242)

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." --George Carlin

Move Along (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34465854)

Nothing to see here.

Do not pay attention to the man behind the screen.

Stray cats (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34465860)

Poop diggity dog!

Hear Hear! (1)

aquila.solo (1231830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465868)

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Re:Hear Hear! (2)

Evets (629327) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466118)

Unfortunately, the message for TSA security measures are simple: "Terrorists Bad, Must Stop Them"

The message against TSA security is more difficult to understand: "4th amendment violations are not the appropriate response."

Gaining a national mindset on a complex subject requires simplicity. If you look at abortion, the choices for a view are simple "Pro-Choice" or "Pro-Life". I think the views on TSA security should be equally simple.

You are "Pro-Security" or "Pro-Liberty"

It should also be clear to everyone out there that without the "Pro-Security" propoganda, terrorism has zero effectiveness.

But it's pretty much a moot point anyways - if the terrorists acted because they hate us for our freedom, then they probably don't hate us anymore anyways.

Re:Hear Hear! (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466220)

I might have chosen to say it this way (with apologies to Rogers and Hammerstein):

Ooooo-klahoma, where the news editors are speaking plain
And their talking sense in my defense
When the guv'mint starts to be my bane.
Ooooo-klahoma, ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Stay at home all night and plan long drives
To avoid a-trav'ling in the sky.

Hope this is the beginning of the end (2)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465872)

Hopefully this TSA stuff that is now coming into the public news is enough for people to start wondering about privacy and act on it in the USofA.

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (2)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465982)

Does anyone else think WikiLeaks might have inadvertently helped the TSA? Seriously. A couple weeks ago there were many TSA stories online and I also said [slashdot.org] that things might improve since there are stories getting to national headlines. But for the past week, it seems WikiLeaks has been the number one thing in the news, even overshadowing the aftermath of North Korea shelling the South, as well as the huge fires in Israel. Sadly, attention being drawn to something else is precisely what the TSA needs.

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466076)

Not really, the TSA stuff has been done to death. At this point, I doubt another dozen stories would result in any meaningful change for folks around here.

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466004)

I think one issue is that the majority of people don't fly. It's hard to get people motivated to change something that they don't view as having a direct impact on their lives. I fly enough that I'm very upset with the TSA, have been for a while, but I don't have much in the way of hopes that it will change any time soon. There's too much money involved now.

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466060)

I (thankfully) haven't had to travel since the "new" security protocols were put in place, but I have my response all planned out. I'll simply ask for a female officer to frisk my package, and I want it done out in the open in front of all the passengers in the security area, not behind some screen. If I'm asked for justification, I'll just say "for religious reasons I'm not allowed to have other men touching my genitals. I'm perfectly willing to let a female officer do that, or a male can search me provided he doesn't get anywhere near my junk."

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466100)

I can't see a single problem with your plan. It's going to go great - and I recommend recording the whole thing on video so that we can all watch it afterword.

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466200)

Let me know how that works out for you.

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (4, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466098)

It's the wrong part of the election cycle for that sort of hope.

Two months ago this would have made for interesting politics.

Now, lame-duck congress, weakened party of the President, and 22 months until the next election, it'll be old news and nobody will give a damn before anything engages people in their choices.

Re:Hope this is the beginning of the end (0)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466120)

It's a strange world we live in. We have people screaming about the invasion of their privacy while at the same time advocating practices that commend the open sharing of information (not saying you are, just saying).

Maybe a new website is in order, WikiShots, where images of everyone who passes through a security imager are posted online and available to the world. Maybe nobody would care about it anymore if we were all equally embarrassed.

Of course, the alternative is to just not give a shit in the first place, as we have already crossed a line that cannot be undone. There is no fixing this, things will get much worse before they get any better.

Freedom/Security (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34465874)

People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both. - Benjamin Franklin

It has never been about security (5, Insightful)

pscottdv (676889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465876)

and has always been about making people feel secure.

Re:It has never been about security (1, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465966)

Who in their right mind feels more secure about it though?

Having nude pictures taken or having my junk felt up makes me feel quite INsecure.

If its really about security, and the junk must be fondled, than I want to have the right to fondle everyone on the same flight as me, attendants and pilots included, all the passengers, and they should all have the same right to fondle everyone else. With any luck, the procedure will simply take too long to be practical or in semi-rare cases break out into an orgy. Having never taken part in one I can't say I wouldn't relish the opportunity.

Re:It has never been about security (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466038)

Apart from anything else, the scanners cannot deliver what they claim to. A number of experts have stated that someone determined enough can sneak sufficient explosives to bring down an airplane past these scanners.

One could almost understand this if it was a sacrifice of liberty for real security. But it's not even that, it's a sacrifice of liberty for the illusion of security.

Re:It has never been about security (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466090)

I want to have the right to fondle everyone on the same flight as me, attendants and pilots included, all the passengers, and they should all have the same right to fondle everyone else.

You could name your country Fondlestan.

Re:It has never been about security (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465968)

If the goal was to make people feel secure, then fondling them and ogling them through their cloths with x-rays was a really bad decision. In puritan America, with all the hangups that people have about their bodies, they couldn't have made a worse decision.

Re:It has never been about security (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466144)

It's not a matter of this being America. I doubt very much that people in civilized nations would permit such abuse of power. It's one thing to be naked in public because you like being naked, and quite another to be groped because they're threatening you with massive fines and possible arrest for refusing to complete the screenings.

More than that, whatever happened to common human decency? Why should those that have been sexually molested have to choose between being exposed to that sort of behavior again or not being able to fly? Some jobs do require flight as a portion of the work, seems bad to restrict people from applying for those jobs on such a shoddy basis.

Re:It has never been about security (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466024)

and has always been about making people feel secure.

I disagree. I think it's all part of the "power grab" that "LE" has been conducting full-tilt since "9/11". It can be seen at *every* level from local to federal. A great example is the manipulated hysteria that justifies even the smallest Police Departments in Podunk Oregon or wherever spending many 1000$ on bomb robots. We saw it last week in Denver where the cops blew up a 10 inch tall toy, because - you know - it could have been a bomb. Think of the children, and when did you stop beating your wife? You must *want* the terrorist to win.... Blaw, blaw, blaw...

It has never been about rationality (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466032)

and has always been about exploiting irrational emotions.

'The risk of a terrorist attack is so infinitesimal and its impact so relatively insignificant that it doesn't make rational sense to accept the suspension of liberty for the sake of avoiding a statistical anomaly.

Your fancy statistics and rational thought got no place in American politics and national policy. Not these days anyway. Right now Glenn Beck [washingtonpost.com] and Sarah Palin [washingtonpost.com] are more popular than Stephen Hawking and James Watson. Good luck preaching about statistics to the populace that is justifying these privacy violations with fear!

Re:It has never been about security (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466172)

"It has never been about security and has NEVER been about making people feel secure.

There, fixed that for ya.

isn't it special (5, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465902)

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, John Pistole said they can't profile because it might not be Constitutional. As opposed to all the other things they're doing which might not be constitutional.

Senator Chuck Schumer proposed a bill to make it illegal to redistribute porno-vision image. Wrong problem, wrong answer. How about: it is illegal and unconstitutional to generate porno-vision images or perform an enhanced patdown without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

Re:isn't it special (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466236)

But they are profiling, under present conditions religious hard liners can't fly.

Money (5, Insightful)

jimpop (27817) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465908)

It's not about anything other than money. Follow the money. EOM

Re:Money (3, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466182)

Wrong, it's about reminding the population that terrorists are out there so that politicians running on a strong military platform don't lose their elections.

The money to the companies is mostly just a sweetener.

It's a pork project to sale security scanners... (5, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465922)

Stoping a terrorist with a bomb at a crowded TSA security checkpoint is too late.

Re:It's a pork project to sale security scanners.. (3, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466070)

Inasmuchas everything has to be built somewhere, saying things are pork is not sufficient to prove that's the only reason they're being done.

Re:It's a pork project to sale security scanners.. (3, Insightful)

Lundse (1036754) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466284)

Please mod up insightful (since we have no "succint")!

Let's take this just a bit further, btw:

Say a terrorist for some reason decides to take over a plane with a bomb, either for traditions sake, or because he is misinformed.
If he manages to get on the plane, his death toll will be rather low - the chance of killing more people than are at the plane are miniscule.
If he is discovered, he can detonate where he is and kill more people.
So, the TSA procedures are far more likely to help the terrorist kill more people.

there is $$ involved, directly and indirectly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34465926)

Directly because it benefit scanner mfgs. Indirectly because it continues to build a culture of fear that can be used for future control.

The TSA will NOT back down on this. The only way it'll stop is if enough people refuse to fly, and let them know why.

BTW here is a good blog from the movie commenter Roger Ebert on this, titled "Where I Draw the Line"

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/11/where_i_draw_the_line.html [suntimes.com]

Pricing the Sacrifice of Liberty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34465928)

A wise man once said..."Those who will sacrifice liberty to obtain security, deserve neither liberty or security."

This wise man happened to be a founding father of the United States of America, Benjamin Franklin.

How far has American society fallen where we choose to travel and enjoy our nether regions being fondled or our bodies being X-Ray photographed leaving nothing to the imagination? This is all based on the unlikely perception a terrorist attack is imminent every where, at any time.

Right to Privacy ? (2)

MikeMc (91878) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465934)

There is *no* explicit right to privacy in the Constitution, or any other doctrine that the USA was founded on. There is a limitation on unreasonable search and seizure, but no explicit right to privacy.

Check out Caroline Kennedy's "The Right to Privacy". A bit dated, but still relevant.

Re:Right to Privacy ? (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466020)

>There is *no* explicit right to privacy in the Constitution

There should be. It's a concept that is as worthy of a Constitutional Amendment as anything I can think of.

Re:Right to Privacy ? (3, Informative)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466156)

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." the 4th amendment.

That covers the government not being able to violate your privacy without cause and specific warrant.

Re:Right to Privacy ? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466260)

But in this case, this runs afoul of the explicit ban on unreasonable search and seizure. You'd have much more of a point if the current constitution didn't explicitly ban the searches.

They specifically have to have a warrant granted upon probable cause to search a person or their possessions. It's been expanded a bit over the years to grant law enforcement the ability to do searches without a warrant when there's probable cause for it.

But there isn't anywhere that I've seen where one can strip search or fondle everybody that wants to go on a plane as being reasonable.

Benjamin Franklin quote (3, Insightful)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465956)

Benjamin Franklin said it best, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Re:Benjamin Franklin quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466302)

Hey look, it's the proper quote! It only took reading through, maybe, 4-5 attempts.

Stop using risk as basis of argument (2, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465970)

It's really bothering me, that in all these things people keep bringing up "the risk of a terrorist attack being so low" as an argument against security measures.

Being against them because of privacy concerns or basic rights, that makes a ton of sense and is a great argument. But to me it's absurd to claim that we should drop security measures that may be preventing terrorist attacks because of the rate of said attacks being so low. As in, we have no idea how likley they are wihtout these measures.

You can argue that most things are security theater and that is true. But even theater can be a deterrance, as in WWII when they used sets of false tanks and things to make the Germans think we had materials we really didn't have.

Similarily we all know you could probably slip something past security as it is today. But there's a chance to cannot as well because of all these measures, and why would someone attack if there was a decent chance they'd never get a chance to actually do anything?

Security measures have gone to far, no question. So lets make sound arguments for rolling them back to things that make the most sense. But don't pretend you know exactly what risks will be like after you change the whole system. There's no need.

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (5, Informative)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466108)

We know the rate of attacks before these measures. The 80s was a busy time for airplane-related terrorism, with a few hundred affected in peak 5 years IIRC (either killed, or held hostage for a considerable time). It's reasonable to conclude that with just the old-style metal detector, and X-Ray for baggage, the death toll would be less than 100 per year. Per that recent Cornell study, there are about 600 deaths per year now from people who choose to drive to avoid the hassle of flying. Is that not enough data to make the judgement to remove the TSA, even setting aside the (more important IMO) concerns about liberty and dignity?

Also, for all the security theater, there's still quite minimal security for food trucks and maintenance workers and the like. We continue to harden the front door, but the back door is unlocked (and even so, there are so few incidents).

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (5, Insightful)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466148)

Risk management is exactly what the TSA isn't doing. They are taking a past threat and building security they *think* would protect the current system from it. Only, that's not really what they're doing.

If we had learned anything from 911 planes would takeoff manually, land and fly on autopilot with a remote operator ready to take over in case of automation failure. A co-pilot who can only take control if the remote override is toggled would suffice to prevent the entire situation of flying bomb. Now you think we can't do that? We can put a missile through a window at 500 feet above the ground, we can fly a large lumbering bird through clear skies to a known destination safely and eliminate the threat. We don't want to do that, since it would mean "the terrists" won. Instead we put on a kindergarden play and let strangers touch our no-no places.

And WWII warfare was not security theater, it was misdirection. Totally different. The TSA is telling the world what they're doing is real security, they're buying real security devices and creating completely irrelevant measures.

And yes there is nothing currently in place to stop another rectum bomber. And yes, we know what the risks are without these measures. We flew hundreds of thousands of flights since air liners started to be used as a weapon of terror in the 70s.

As a security professional I must say what the TSA does is a mockery of real security.

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466166)

If any attack were to be successful, the methods would presumably be repeated until we changed something to prevent it. The 9/11 attacks are unrepeatable for the simple expedient of a locked door and an aware populace. The rest of the security measures are actually largely unnecessary in preventing the thing of which people are most afraid: a large plane being used as a weapon in itself.

Beyond that, both al Qaeda and the FBI seem obsessed with blowing up planes. There have been a few attacks where the got an explosive on board, and it was bad luck that prevented deaths. There's no reason they shouldn't try again, with more success. And if there was success, they would continue to try it again.

That makes past analysis of the odds of attack unsuccessful: if you took no effort, they'd bring explosives on every day. Some effort is appropriate. How much effort is a matter of degree and subject to debate, but I feel as if the debate isn't being held on rational grounds. It's all gut reactions and noise.

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466184)

"Being against them because of privacy concerns or basic rights, that makes a ton of sense and is a great argument. But to me it's absurd to claim that we should drop security measures that may be preventing terrorist attacks because of the rate of said attacks being so low. As in, we have no idea how likley they are wihtout these measures."

Are you suggesting that we should ban the use of BBQs because they cause cancer (regardless of the rate of incidents)? I don't want the BBQ of my neighbours to be the cause for my mom's cancer. Ban them.

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466218)

The plain fact is you can determine how needed this security is by dividing the cost by the lives it saves. If it comes out over $X million/head it is useless, because that money could save more lives applied elsewhere. What the risks are can be analyzed and are. At this moment the risk is so low, that we would be better off without the security and spending a tenth of that money on, healthcare, fixing potholes, inspecting food products, any of that would give more lives saved per dollar spent.

We are spending billions on something that kills less people per year than farm animals. Would you support spending billions a year to protect farmers from their livestock?

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466240)

Every time scared people like yourself are happy to give in to another loss off freedom, is another victory for those that dislike our way of like, i.e. the terrorists. At what point will you complain? Rectal examinations? We only need 1 bomber with a bomb up their bottom to start enforced pornovision scans, or gloved fingers up your anus.

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466290)

The problem is that we need to back off on some of the "security measures" and work on ratcheting down the fear level. The whole point of terrorism is to instill large-scale fear in people and the US government has baught right into it. The simple reality is that, even at it's worst, terrorism has a incredibly low casualty rate. Now that people know to fight back in the event of a highjacking (and the terrorists know we know) the best they can really accomplish is to kill a place's worth of passengers. Is it horrible? Sure, but far far more people die every year from things like car accidents. It's the nature of a world with such high population counts and, statistically, the chances of it being you on that plane are probably worse than the chances of you winning the lottery.

We need, as a country, to grow some balls and realise that the actual threat isn't that high. Much of the money we're wasting implementing all this demeaning security theater at the airports could be better spent installing equipment and manpower in our ports where a terrorist agency could, possibly, sneak something like a nuclear weapon into the country. THAT is one of the few terrorist threats to this country that could cause a significant death-toll. Yet, we still don't check all, or even most, of the shipping containers that come into the country.

Re:Stop using risk as basis of argument (2)

Entrope (68843) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466314)

People are irrationally risk averse, but we should at least try to make informed and accurate cost-benefit analyses. The cost of a security measure is the number of times it is performed times the time and liberty lost any time the measure is applied but doesn't stop an attack. (We should probably also add the marginal cost in fuel and accidents when people use alternative travel methods, such as driving.) The benefit is the number of times it stops an attack times the expected loss due to an attack. When people point out that the rate of attacks is so low, they are pointing out that the potential benefit is rather small, so we had better think hard whether the cost is worth that benefit.

In fact, terrorist attacks are so infrequent that applying security measures to stop the last one is bad for two reasons. The obvious reason is that attacks are so infrequent that these checks are not likely to stop many of them. The less obvious reason is that attacks are so infrequent that an attacker can spend a lot of observation and thought to find the weak spot in a dumbed-down security process. First we made it hard to sneak explosives in via shoes. Next we made it hard to sneak explosives in via underwear. The time after that we will have to solve a different problem. Screening against yesterday's (attempted, and incidentally failed) attack is like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

New fundamental rights test (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465984)

It used to be that there were three different tests for determining whether some government action that, on the face of it, appeared to violate one's rights, was nevertheless permissable. There was the "rational basis" test, which allowed the government to perform the rights violation if it could show there was some rational basis for doing so. There was the "strict scrutiny" test which insisted the government have some compelling interest in doing whatever the law was doing, and that there be no better way to do it. This was applied to certain rights considered particularly fundamental, like freedom of speech, religion, and the press. And there was the "heightened scrutiny" test somewhere in between, which tended to show up in equal protection cases.

Now we have the "irrational basis" test, replacing all three, which says that if the government can come up with any scenario where allowing their violation might be good, or any scenario where protecting the right implicated might cause harm, no matter how implausible and farfetched, the government's action is allowed.

Personally I find strict scrutiny to be insufficiently strict, and prefer the "rights are rights" test, but I'm one of those wild-eyed radicals.

Just dump PC already (0)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466002)

Just dump PC (Political Correctness) already. If you're from a short list of countries, or you're an American convert to Islam, you get a pat-down. Discrimination? No. It's just the profile of a terrorist. If middle-aged Caucasian Catholic men start lighting their underwear on fire, pat them down too.

Re:Just dump PC already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466138)

Just dump PC (Political Correctness) already. If you're from a short
list of countries, or you're an American convert to Islam, you get a pat-down.
Discrimination? No. It's just the profile of a terrorist. If middle-aged
Caucasian Catholic men start lighting their underwear on fire, pat them down
too.

What profile would you use to describe home-grown nutters like Ted Kaczynski? One that includes you, perhaps?

Re:Just dump PC already (1)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466246)

And how does that make any sense? First off, in case you hadn't read the Declaration of Independence, it says that "all men are created equal." As a result, based on the Constitution alone, we all should be protected from unreasonable and unwarranted search and seizure. Secondly, the point you very much miss is that there are individuals (middle-aged Caucasian Catholic men) who would be just as willing to bring harm to America as any other terrorist. So, that's why we have to look at everybody, and not just certain people.

Now, I would argue, that we are going about profiling about the wrong way. Don't profile by culture or race - that would just piss people off. Instead, train the airport employees to be able to psychologically profile individuals. Almost all people (and, in reality, all people) have nervous tics and the like that can give away clues that they are planning on doing something wrong. Someone who is trained in spotting this can pick these people out. If we had highly trained employees to watch for this (ticket agents, airport security guards, etc), everybody else could go about as normal with absolutely no problem, and those few individuals who are displaying psychological signs could be pulled aside for questioning (NOT search until there is more evidence).

Of course, training requires more money than we've put into TSA already...so...that's not likely to happen...

Re:Just dump PC already (0)

CyberBill (526285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466254)

Timothy McVeigh was a white, middle aged, Christian, army veteran... And he killed 168 people. It is the second deadliest act of terrorism in the United States, behind 9/11.

Profiling someone based on their age, gender, religion, race, etc, is not only unconstitutional, it also doesn't work.

Re:Just dump PC already (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466258)

How do you know what religion I practice?
Anything this predictable would be exploited. Heck, white folks like McVieghs or abortion bombers might start blowing up planes then since it would be easy.

Wil Shipley got it right (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466036)

Wil Shipley posted a (ficticious) interview [wilshipley.com] with the TSA that I think covers the problem perfectly.

There was also a post on Reddit today that pointed out that the TSA would save more lives (statistically) if all they did was listen to people's hearts, check their blood pressure, and refer them to a doctor if it was outside the normal range.

You still have a right to travel. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466050)

Right to travel and right to travel by the most inefficient and unstable means possible are two different things.

If you want to argue about right to travel and privacy, get the border guards off our backs.

This is not about the right to travel; it's about the desire to make a month's journey in two hours and share the transportation cost with 280 other people (and get a snack and a movie cuz it's sooooo booooooringggggg otherwise).

Seriously. Don't presume freedoms you don't have. Your insistence on having them will allow your actual freedoms to be eroded by the same means used to erode your priviliges, only that will happen behind your back because you don't notice those freedoms are even there.

Re:You still have a right to travel. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466142)

Right to travel and right to travel by the most inefficient and unstable means possible are two different things.

Sure, you have the right to travel... on foot.
The right to speak... with your unaided voice.
Freedom of the press -- the hand-cranked variety.

Oh, boy! This again! (2)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466052)

People seem to have picked an odd point at which to become suddenly outraged. This has been going on for years, and I've been hearing the "trade essential liberty" quote to the point that it's tattooed on my retinas.

This one seems to have provoked especial outrage, and I can't help but see it as politically driven. Your average civil-liberties-minded Slashdotter has been roughly consistent, but I feel as if for much of the population it was different when The Last Guy was in charge. Now that The Other Guy is in charge, gosh, those other civil liberties violations were Necessary to the Security of a Free State, but this one's too much.

Or maybe it's just the prurience of it all: oooooh... nekkid pictures and groping. Sounds like headline news to me.

I just don't feel like we've suddenly crossed some line, where the other rights we gave up weren't Fundamental, but these are. Americans threw a hissy fit when the Shoe Bomber and the Underwear Bomber and the Toner Cartridge Bomber managed to almost cause serious harm, but you've got two choices: either accept the occasional death-by-bombing, or the occasional massive personal intrusion. (There's also the Israeli option of spending ten times as much on security and standing in line while they quiz everybody, another unpopular stance.)

My point being... if all you've got to offer me is "I hate this", well, yeah, I knew that. When you've got an option that doesn't also generate "I hate this" from practically everybody, you've got News. Until then I feel like this story has been about biting dogs for way longer than is of any interest.

Assessing backscatter safety (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466058)

I was trying to figure out whether any of the safety claims (for or against) are true.

Guess what? You can't. The press, blogosphere, and government has made such a pigs dinner of the situation that it's impossible to make heads or tails of the safety claims.

Nothing is compelling either way. We could just as well use a Ouija board to assess the safety.

Here's [okianwarrior.com] my analysis.

If you agree or disagree [about safety claims] and have insight, I'd like to hear it.

Wouldn't it be great? (1)

oic0 (1864384) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466082)

Wouldn't it be great if this whole TSA ordeal was the straw that broke the camel's back? People finally waking up and realizing how much freedom they have given up. It would be amazing for the US to do so where so many other countries just kept on heading down that road.

A friend of mine might disagree with you on that.. (1)

avatar139 (918375) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466084)

...Or at least she would have if she hadn't been killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Just because something is statistically unlikely, doesn't make it any less stupid not to take necessary (which given the potential consequences of not having these measures, I'm inclined to view as more important than reasonable) precautions against it happening.

passengers save lives (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466088)

travelers are so pissed already, that they themselves stop terrorists....in order to reach their destination. Passengers already bitch and moan about the airplane landing 5 minutes late.

Remember, they were the ones who stopped the underwear bomber...shoe bomber...and countless other drunks and disorderly passengers. The TSA and air marshalls haven't done shit. It's the disgruntled passengers who did everything in order to ensure a timely landing.

Tail End Event (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466092)

"The risk of a terrorist attack is so infinitesimal and its impact so relatively insignificant"

9/11 was one of those tail-end events that proved this wrong. I totally agree with them that security has gone too far, but it's stupid to claim a risk and its associated costs are insignificant just ten years after we learned that they really aren't.

Some perspective: 9/11 cost at least 100 billion dollars in actual, immediate costs - this is over 10x the entire global airline industries' expected income this year. 100 billion dollars pales in comparison to the final price tag, which included massive loss of life, a fall in global markets, and the USA's misguided overreaction to the whole thing.

We are still paying the price, with higher security when we fly.

travel != right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466136)

since when is traveling by airplane a right

He had me until... (1, Insightful)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466146)

The writer of the article -- which despite Slashdot's implication, is not in The Daily Oklahoman [newsok.com] but in the University of Oklahoma student newspaper -- makes several valid points, and I fully agree with his conclusion. But he couldn't hide his bias:

We should be concerned with the 12.7 percent of Americans who live below the poverty line, or the 7.9 million people who die worldwide because of cancer, or the 9,000 innocent Afghani civilians we've killed fighting an unjustified war...

I know I'm going to anger my fellow Green Party members with this, but a little bit of history is relevant. We were attacked from Afghanistan. They made themselves a target. The fact that President Bush was to afflicted by his ADHD to focus on one war at a time, causing massive failure in Afghanistan, doesn't negate the fact that we had the right (and even international support of that right) to invade the country.

Sure, it's not fair to paint the entire article by this one off-putting statement. But it diminishes the argument greatly -- it's a Godwin effect. If I were to, say, repost it on Facebook, its effect would be negated by a reply saying "This loser thinks we shouldn't have fought the terrorists in the first place".

It sounds like the student has been in a debate class at some point. He should have known better.

Whiners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34466152)

"I'd rather go down in an awesome fireball of death" ... what a tard, you'll have plenty of dignity when you crap yourself as you plummet to the ground.

Two basic problems with risk assessment (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466154)

We're facing at least two major problems with human risk assessment and risk mitigation.

1. The security theater surrounding searches and detectors isn't primarily designed to make *us* feel safer. It's designed to make the people who are responsible for aviation safety feel safer, because if and when something *does* go wrong, they're the ones who get in enormous amounts of trouble. As such, the minimal loss of civil liberties that they personally experience because of the increasingly intrusive security procedures they come up with, is dwarfed by the reduction in their risk of being on the front page of the New York Times in a story that says "ignored all the obvious warning signs" and "didn't enact simple safety procedures" and other hindsight-is-20/20 statements from scads of scared and upset people. There is a tremendous incentive, and no downside, to the people coming up with MOAR SECURITY NOW! ideas: if they propose processes that are immoral, unethical, and unconstitutional, so what? it's not their problem, and an airplane blowing up IS their problem, so they keep pushing all the draconian stuff they can.

2. People, in general, are really bad at return-on-investment calculations for very low-probability situations. I was reading an economics book last night that talked about this -- "Sex, Drugs, and Economics" by Diane Coyle, that I think everyone should read. One of the things mentioned in there was that if you ask people about the amount they'd pay to reduce the risk of something really nasty happening from 1:1000 to 1:10,000, and then from 1:100,000 to 1:1,000,000, they'll pay very close to the same amount. That's particularly the case if the 'really nasty' thing is described graphically, like a vivid description of dying from cancer from carcinogen-contaminated groundwater.

So, we can yell all day about security theater and the Constitution, but if we're actually going to try to slow down the reduction in our civil liberties, we're going to have to come up with ways of addressing both these issues.

Any ideas?

So I flew this weekend... (1)

Charoncaori (1954098) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466158)

It was the most relaxed flight I've had in a long time. I went from JFK to LAX and back. I was treated like a human being, everyone was nice, and it was fast and easy. Why was this so pleasant? They weren't using the backscatter machines. I guess I seriously lucked out.

Worse, TSA searches are a NET LOSS of lifetime (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466162)

The TSA searches are causing greater loss of life [time] than terrorists ever could. Each year, about 800 million people have to arrive one hour earlier at the airport to wait in lines and now suffer increased humiliation and/or irradiation.

Human beings only live for 700,000 hours. The TSA is wasting over 1000 lifetimes each year.

Chance of cancer (5, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466250)

The machines they use are pretty safe. Only a 1 in 30 million chance of cancer.

Of course, the odds of getting killed by a terrorist are less than one in 60 million.

The TSA claim their searches are 'reasonable'. Then why do they say that congressman don't have to go through it? If it reasonable, then everyone should have to do it.

They consistently say things like "You give up your rights when you buy the ticket."

No. Our rights do NOT go away. The law is clear - the rights remain. The definition of reasonable is what changes. And no reasonable parent man would allow their 14 year old girl pictured nude or fondled. Similarly, no reasonable person would allow the searches the TSA has demanded. This includes the basic stuff and the more viable junk like harassing women for traveling with breast milk, or Armed US soldiers traveling with rifles (OK - let them go) and nail clippers (NO! YOU CAN'T HAVE IT. GIVE IT HERE.), stealing watches, cash from purses, etc..

The TSA has NEVER, not ONCE caught an actual terrorist planning on committing a hijacking that they were not previously given the name. Not once has any metal detector or pat down discovered a terrorist that we were not already looking for.

Wikileaks VS Airport scanners (5, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466316)

I'm astounded that these two issues are seperated, and yet, no one looks beyond the surface to see what it's REALLY about... Privacy.

I'm sure the same people calling for Assange to be hanged are the same people that also say "if you've got nothing to hide..." about going through an airport scanner. They want to have that nice cozy feeling that the nanny state is protecting *them*.

So, they don't want to hear about Wikileaks, and they want to be seen naked at the airport *if* they think that'll make them sleep soundly at night.

This is about privacy. And if the average citizen can't expect any at the airport, why the hell should the government think it deserves *any* privacy? When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you.

So Wikileaks and Airport scanners. Two great tastes that taste great together! Too bad the government doesn't get the irony of being so upset about Assange while they strip away our rights. Too bad the media doesn't get it either. These two events are happening at the same time and both are about an expectation of privacy.

Maybe if the government got rid of the scanners, Wikileaks would calm down.

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