Friday, June 9, 2006



Alright, I haven’t posted here in a looong time, and frankly hadn’t intended to, but an item I ran across PastedGraphic3-2006-06-9-08-30.png has incensed me so much that I just couldn’t stop myself.

The essence of the story is this: A passenger asks too many questions during the airline screening process, and is subsequently held, interrogated, bullied and threatened with arrest by government officials. The story is actually a bit scarier than that, but I’m wanting to focus on something else: the fact that simply asking questions makes you a suspect in our War on Terror.

Let’s think about this for a minute. What sort of person is likely to be asking awkward questions during a security screening? A terrorist? Good God, no. Asking questions is the last thing a criminal or terrorist is likely to do. “What if the terrorists are investigating the security system?” one might ask. What if they are? Again, the last thing a competent terrorist (and al Qaeda has shown that, if nothing else, it is competent) would do is to actually ask about the security; it might draw attention, and therefore suspicion, to themselves. No, what actual terrorists will do is send someone through the targeted checkpoint several times. Heck, make him a regular flyer; a familiar face. In fact, if he is going to ask any questions, it will be of the names of the screeners, so he can say, “Hi, Bob, how’s it going today?” He will become familiar; ingratiated; a no-threat. Someone that gets the most cursory pat-down, or gets to bypass the more intrusive measures, because he’s “safe.”

That’s the high-investment scenario. It’s risky, because you still might get caught when you actually have the weapon or explosive on you. Another is the shotgun approach: send a bunch of people through a bunch of checkpoints a bunch of times, so that you get a notion of what behaviors are safe, of what always gets checked, what usually gets checked, and what only rarely or exceptionally gets checked. Then, on der Tag, send twenty different people (carrying weapons, or explosives, or whatever) though twenty different checkpoints at twenty different airlines at as close to the same time as possible. Sure, some of them will get caught, and your terrorist ring is busted; but there is a strong likelihood, if you’ve done your homework, that several will get through to do the mission.

There are other possibilities, which I’m not going to go into here; this isn’t a terrorist training manual. Heck, for all I know, the two ideas above are horrible ones that would never work for some reason. The point is that no intelligent terrorist is ever going to ask awkward questions. They’re not interested in civil liberties. They’re not afraid of humiliation. Their only interest is to get through the process without calling attention and suspicion to themselves.

So if detaining and interrogating question-askers and rights-asserters doesn’t do anything to harm or deter terrorists, who does it harm?

Why, you and me, of course.

Even if we never fly on an airplane, it harms us. Intimidating, bullying and threatening someone who simply asks what his rights are has only one effect: to condition us never to question authority. It doesn’t stop terrorists. It doesn’t hurt terrorists. In fact, if, as President Bush claims PastedGraphic3-2006-06-9-08-30.png, what the terrorists hate is our freedom, it helps the terrorists. By treating anyone outside of the norm as a suspect (note that I’m not talking about strange-but-quiet behaviors like what the SPOT program PastedGraphic3-2006-06-9-08-30.png is targeting; SPOT is a good idea (update: er…or, well, maybe PastedGraphic3-2006-06-9-08-30.png not PastedGraphic3-2006-06-9-08-30.png)), we inculcate the idea that being in any way out-of-the-ordinary is criminal. By detaining those who question the system, we ensure that the system is never questioned. By refusing to publish the rules PastedGraphic3-2006-06-9-08-30.png, we condition the people to accept whatever they are told.

How is this anti-terror?

It’s not.

It’s anti-freedom.

It’s anti-American.

Don’t for a moment think that this is going to end at the airline check-in counter. This is a precedent that will spread, and spread, until it ultimately dominates the American landscape, unless something is done.

Make no mistake: the American police state is here PastedGraphic3-2006-06-9-08-30.png.

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