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On December 22, 2001, a 28-year-old minor thug and former gang member from South London climbed onto a Boeing 767 bound for Miami.  On the sparsely booked flight, he settled into a window seat in an otherwise empty row. Ninety minutes into the flight, with the plane well out over the Atlantic, a flight attendant noticed smoke coming from his area. She informed him that as the flight was an American flight, no smoking was allowed. A few minutes later, he was hunched over in his seat when the attendant saw that he wasn't trying to light a cigarette. He was trying to light his shoe. The flight attendant, aided by passengers, acted quickly.  Richard Reid never got another chance to light his shoe bomb.  

Thanks to the immediate action of the the those on board, there was no damage to the plane.  No injuries or loss of life.  

Since that day in 2001, every passenger entering a commercial airliner has been required to remove their shoes for inspection and X-ray. A precaution that is... massively, even breathtakingly idiotic.

Why? Well, first off the volume of a shoe sole is not all that great. Reid managed to cram about 100 grams of high explosive into his shoe. Had he been successful in setting off the explosion, it's unlikely that the plane would have been so damaged as to crash, but almost certain that there would have been deaths in the passenger cabin. If the bomb had worked, it would have been a serious problem. So why is making people take off their shoes before entering a plane a crowning bit of stupidity? Because that 100 grams might have fit almost anywhere. Anything that will fit in a shoe sole will also fit in a back pocket, or under a shirt, or in a pair of extra comfy undershorts, or in a bra (as a comparison, the average breast implant weighs three times as much as much as Reid's shoe bomb -- and that's just on one side). There is absolutely nothing magic about shoes. In fact, as a place to store explosives like the ones that Reid carried -- which can be quite shock sensitive -- packing them into your shoes has to rate at the bottom of the list. But here we are years later, still showing off our holey socks to the world and making business for the folks at Tinactin.  

Assume that each airline traveller spends an additional minute in line because of removing, scanning, and replacing their shoes. Just one minute. In the United States, there are about 830 million domestic airline passengers a year. That's about 1,600 man years of time spent each year on removing shoes that are no more threat than any other piece of clothing.  If you put a $10/hr value on the time of the average air traveller,  that's about $33 million / year worth of shoe time. Better than $300 million worth since Reid got tackled in business class.

Which has to make Reid and those like him very, very happy.

So why do we go through the shoe ritual? First the fear factor around shoes was bolstered by other events. Only a few months after Reid's failed attempt, an airliner went down in Queens. Immediately, the rumor circulated that the plane had been the victim of another shoe bomber -- a theory that seemed to be confirmed by "cooperating" terror suspect, Mohammed Jabarah who was feeding information to the CIA from inside an al-Qaeda cell. Jabrah claimed that the plane had been destroyed by an unnamed "12th hijacker" using a shoe bomb, as part of a "second wave" of airliner attacks. Thing is, Jabarah was lying.  The flight that came down in Queens failed because of problems with the plane's rudder, and Jabarah was later rearrested after it turned out he was giving plenty of real information to al-Qaeda while feeding fairy tales to the US. This came after a period in which Jabarah was the "subject of some interrogation which was improper" while a prisoner in Oman (i.e. torture doesn't work, and it's a really bad way to start your relationship with your new double agent). Similar suggestions of other shoe bombings made by imprisoned terror suspects have never turned out to have any basis in fact.

The bigger reason we did something is because the response of politicians is always to do something. Even if that something makes no sense -- even if that something is actually counterproductive. The reason you're tiptoeing along the concourse in your Hanes (and tossing that Coke in the trash) has more to do with why jails are overpopulated than it does with stopping terrorists. When politicians see something on the news, and when pundits are screaming for action, the inclination is to provide that action. If that means a million gallons of Head n' Shoulders in airport trash cans or a life sentence for stealing a pizza, so what? What counts is that action was taken.

Dave Kilchen in his new book The Accidental Guerrilla describes terrorism in the terms of an auto-immune disorder.  Like lupus, where the systems of the body designed to protect against infection turn on healthy tissue, our response to problems can often result in far more damage than the problem itself. It's not the terrorists that do the real damage -- it's how you respond to the terrorists. Certainly, if you look at all the ways that the United States has responded to the threat of terrorism since 9/11 we've damaged our overseas relationships and reputation, tossed much of our own constitution in the dumpster, and spent millions for every dollar that our enemies have spent. The self-inflicted wounds have been deeper, more serious, and more lingering than anything that was done from the outside.

The extent of the damage is often hard to judge. Since 9-11, self-inflicted wounds have turned up almost everywhere, even in subjects as distantly related as environmental law.

In 2008, the failure of a containment area released about 300 million gallons of water and coal ash mixed in a slurry. This is just the latest and largest of several huge spills which have flooded communities, ruined rivers, destroyed homes, taken lives, and all the other fun stuff that happens when a wall of black goop goes raging through a valley. While the physical damage caused by the floods is clear, the long term damage from the heavy metals and other chemicals in the slurry is less clear. Some agencies said fly ash slurries were serious problems.

A draft report last year by the federal Environmental Protection Agency found ... that the concentrations of arsenic to which people might be exposed through drinking water contaminated by fly ash could increase cancer risks several hundredfold.

Similarly, a 2006 study by the federally chartered National Research Council found that these coal-burning byproducts “often contain a mixture of metals and other constituents in sufficient quantities that they may pose public health and environmental concerns if improperly managed.” The study said “risks to human health and ecosystems” might occur when these contaminants entered drinking water supplies or surface water bodies.

Other agencies didn't agree.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has issued no warnings about the potential chemical dangers of the spill, saying there was as yet no evidence of toxic substances. “Most of that material is inert,” said Gilbert Francis Jr., a spokesman for the authority. “It does have some heavy metals within it, but it’s not toxic or anything.”

Attempts to more strictly regulate the storage of ash were met with opposition from coal companies and utilities. Which, as anyone watching the current health care debate might predict, squashed any thought of changing the regulations.

Senator Barbara Boxer has led an effort to at least put together a public database of ash storage sites so that people can judge the risk to the areas where they live.  However, even this effort has been blocked not by coal companies or utilities, but by the DHS. How could it possibly be a national security interest to cover up the location of material that's "not toxic or anything?" It's not. In fact, even if the ash turns out to be as bad as its worst critics fear, blocking the database is far more dangerous than revealing the location of these sites. Not only has there not been any threat against these sites by terrorists, and no workable scenario by which they might cause a problem, coal slurry impoundments are already failing with regularity, dousing parts of America with millions of gallons of this material. It doesn't take terrorists to make this happen.

Blocking the release of this information doesn't protect the citizens of the United States in any way. It's just another example of the same creeping secrecy that makes cities more difficult to manage because of secrecy over facilities. The same creeping secrecy that "blurs" national monuments from images and puts intentional gaps in public information. The same creeping secrecy that increasingly elevates the most unlikely attack -- the shoe bombers of the world -- above our right to know what's going on around us so that we can make informed decisions. The same secrecy that defends torturers.

It's worth remembering that the United States made it more than 170 years without any recognized need for a "national security" argument that acted as a trump card over any law. It wasn't until a Supreme Court ruling in 1953 that national security was enshrined as an all-purpose reason to deny access to information.

After the B-29 Superfortress crashed near Waycross, Ga., in 1948, killing nine of the 13 men aboard, the widows of the Philadelphia-area engineers sought damages against the Air Force in federal court. ... Arguing that the widows' claim that Air Force negligence was responsible for the crash was unsupported -- and that the release of any information on the aircraft or its mission would pose a threat to national security -- the government appealed. Though the government's appeal was defeated in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court overturned the district court's verdict, ruling in United States v. Reynolds that even federal judges were not necessarily entitled to access sensitive information if national security could consequently suffer.

That ruling established the pattern that we've seen so often of late -- the use of "national security" to crush any other concern. It was not until decades later that the crash report on the B-29 became available. When it did, the results went unnoticed for years longer. It took the children of one of those dead engineers to discover that... the government was lying. The crash report revealed no national security concerns, but it did reveal a long history of maintenance issues, mechanical problems and pilot error. It revealed exactly what the widows of the dead engineers had said it would reveal. In that very first example of national security being used to deny information to the public, the government was doing nothing less than protecting itself and military contractors from legitimate scrutiny.

Which makes it a very good example of the vast majority of such assertions of national security since then.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  stinkfoot is a terrorist plot....... (6+ / 0-)

    Faux news, Failing at the speed of light.....

    by Molotov on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:04:28 PM PDT

  •  A friend of mine in college (15+ / 0-)

    used to quote something his dad would say to him when he was being lazy: "Do something! Anything! Even if it's wrong!"

    (My friend says he then blew his dad a raspberry, eliciting the reply, "That was wrong.")

    Anyway, clearly, our elected and unelected officials must also have been acquainted with my friend's dad, or at least his "wisdom."

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:06:12 PM PDT

    •  That's the logic behind this (5+ / 0-)

      What if the government were to say "We can't really do anything about this short of strip-searching everyone, which will be a major cost and major annoyance. If someone is determined enough they will bring stuff onto the airliners.  Passengers must be alert for suspicious behavior."?

      The government doesn't say it because that isn't what people want to hear. If the government doesn't say what the people want to hear, the opposition party will.

      So we have Potemkin security: It doesn't do anything but make it look like the government is doing something.

      "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

      by wayward on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:15:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But even that isn't quite right (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, BYw, brein

        "Passengers must be alert for suspicious behavior."

        That's good, in a way. I mean, if people do see something they really think is a problem, they should bring it up to someone.

        But Bruce Schneier has a saying. "If you ask amateurs to do security, you get amateur security."

        So, you really need to have experts looking for the suspicious behavior. (And by "experts" I don't just mean "amateurs with TSA badges", I mean people who can actually tell the difference between Muslims praying and actual security threats, or between a bomb and a lite-brite.)

        Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

        by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 05:58:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Reminds me of all the pressure (5+ / 0-)

      put on Pres. Obama during the last few days to "do something!" about Iran.  I'm really happy that he has more sense than all of the press and Republicans put together.

      "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." --Samuel Johnson

      by joanneleon on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:46:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Politician's Fallacy: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, roadbear, foresterbob
      • We must do something.
      • This is something.
      • Therefore, we must do this.

      Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

      by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 05:48:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I just picked up kids at the airport and had (8+ / 0-)

    the same conversation as my non-flip-flop-wearing husband had to untie, remove, then retie his shoes.

    This is so relevant.

    "Sean Hannity...he's the guy who put the 'a' in moron" - Jed Lewison

    by voracious on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:06:59 PM PDT

  •  Ask The Pilot (14+ / 0-)

    If this issue is interesting to you, I highly recommend Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot column in Salon.

    The idiocy of airline security is extensive.  

  •  Discussion of National Security concerns (16+ / 0-)

    is a security threat and constitutes low level terrorist activity.  You will be reported.

  •  well, let's hope that no idiot decides to stuff (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, jds1978, Zulia, Amayi

    100 grams of plastic exoplosive into his boixer shorts or we'll all have to eb strip searched before baording and that would take about 45 minutes per passenger, probably longer for good looking girls!

    That moght usher in an era of mass transit in America and stop air transport dead in its tracks.  Ah well. Can't secure everything.  It's all symbolic anyway.

    •  or shoves it up his ass (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Then we could have random TSA cavity searches with vaseline and latex gloves.  

      Hey, if you're a good, patriotic American with nothing to hide you shouldn't mind a finger up your rectum just to make sure.  After all it's "national security".

  •  Abolish the TSA, and instead hire (5+ / 0-)

    people to give karate lessons in the airport while you're waiting for your plane. It'd cost about 1/100th as much, and people could get a nice workout/way to relieve stress while waiting for their delayed flight to come in.

    I am not kidding.

    I'm writing in Lizard People on my next ballot.

    by George Hier on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:16:12 PM PDT

  •  The entire system (16+ / 0-)

    needs to be gutted and re-examined. My 80 y/o father with Parkinsons couldn't hijack a toddler's tricycle, yet my mom must take off his shoes, and help him put them back on.

    The entire approach is classic "elephant gun for a mosquito". I remain truly disappointed there's no new TSA director on the horizon, to hear (privately) from foreign security staff what they dare not tell the holdovers.

  •  snark (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jds1978, dconrad, Amayi, Wheever

    Can I get to check the bras of 18-30 year old hotties?

  •  I suspect that after this essay ... (21+ / 0-)

    ...there will be a clamor among some Kossacks for TSA to require the removal of all bras at the security gates.

    Seriously, though, one of the most ridiculous aspects of shoe searches and having to buy $5 bottles of  water after you pass through the metal detectors is the fact that cargo is still not fully examined. So while you don't have to worry about that 100 grams of high explosive in the loafer of the guy in the row behind you, your seat may be directly over 100 kilograms of the stuff in the cargo hold. Only 50% of such cargo is now screened, and the chances of meeting the end-of-2010 deadline for 100% is nil.

    Some people would be better off not reading diaries they comment on, since they already have all the answers.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:19:03 PM PDT

  •  Obssing about selective risks and ignoring others (14+ / 0-)

    makes little sense, unless you're trying to manufacture fear.

    Insurance, Oil, Bank, and Defense corporations all have a substantial equity positions in what's supposed to be our Congress.

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:19:22 PM PDT

  •  The TVA needs to be cleaned out of deadwood (9+ / 0-)

    and incompetent fools. Arsenic has been known to be a poison since ancient times. Arsenic is the toxic substance in coal ash in greatest exceedence of water quality standards.

    It's carcinogenic over time and deadly in high acute doses.

    What Gilbert Francis said was just plain false.

    The Tennessee Valley Authority has issued no warnings about the potential chemical dangers of the spill, saying there was as yet no evidence of toxic substances. "Most of that material is inert," said Gilbert Francis Jr., a spokesman for the authority. "It does have some heavy metals within it, but it’s not toxic or anything."

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:21:21 PM PDT

  •  early bird, no worm (0+ / 0-)

    I was wearing slide-ons and removing my shoes before the requirement b/c of the sensitivity of the gateway scanners to any metal in shoes/boots.  Best not to delay passage b/c of nails or other reinforcement, I thought.  Who knew all those who followed suit were not just following my reasoning?

    ::casts eyes sideways and down to the left::

    Find your own voice--the personal is political.

    by In her own Voice on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:21:30 PM PDT

  •  Look up the Bojinka Plot (3+ / 0-)

    Ramzi Yousef used his shoes and a contact lens solution bottle to smuggle in components for a bomb that killed one man while blowing a hole in the side of a Philippines Airlines flight.

    Of course, that was back in 1994.

    Yousef, who is now kept heavily isolated in a US prison, happens to be the nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

    Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

    by Anthony de Jesus on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:22:17 PM PDT

  •  The problem with your argument is that the shoe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    bomber only has to succeed once. And here is the problem with your argument if you are talking from the perspective of the TSA, DHS, the government, and airlines.

    Let's assume that they decide to stop looking at shoes. Nothing happens for maybe five years. Then, one day, on a flight from overseas to the US, Khaleel the terrorist decides to blow up the plane with his shoe. Everyone on the plane dies.

    What happens in the aftermath? The public and elected officials then scream "why did they stop checking shoes? Didn't Richard Reid teach them anything? Why didn't the government do anything?" Even worse, as those elected officials deal with the blowback, the airlines face an even worse situation. Lawyers for the dead victims then will sue the airlines, claiming that they "ignored the threat".

    The shoe bomber only has to succeed once. And hence that's why they check shoes. Maybe it is ridiculous, but I can understand why the government will do that.

    •  The 'bra' bomber only has to succeed once, the (10+ / 0-)

      extra comfy underwear bomber only has to succeed once, the wallet bomber only has to succeed once, the back pocket bomber only has to succeed once ...

      John Douglas, the renowned former FBI profiler, wrote a story about a conversation he once had with a compulsive gambler, as they rode along in a car in the rain. The gambler supposedly told him to look at two raindrops rolling down the window. He said, I bet the one on the left will reach bottom before the one on the right. His point was, no athletic contest was required to give a gambler an opportunity to gamble, and that there was nothing which could stop a committed gambler from doing so.

      I am not a huge John Douglas fan, and I don't think I even agreed with the point he was trying to make with the illustration he gave. But I do agree that gamblers can gamble anywhere, anytime, and it is beyond human power to stop it, if the gambler does not find the impetus within him or herself.

      Similarly, it isn't possible to stop every possible terrorist scenario. Never has been, never will be. All flights would have to be cancelled forever to prevent all possibilities for bringing down commercial aircraft. It's the only way. And that, thank goodness, is never going to happen. Hopefully the end of the shoe stupidity will find its end. That's what I hope, anyway, as I agree completely with Devilstower on this issue.

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

      by BeninSC on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:42:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're not the one who has to deal with the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        lawsuit and the angry public. You're not the one who has to face the voters. And that's why they're not going to change that. Is it a little overboard? Maybe so, but you're not the ones who have to deal with the consequences.

        •  The consequences are no different regardless of (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          StrayCat, brein, Kanscott

          how a terrorist attack occurs. People, corporations and governments ARE going to be blamed. There is no measure possible to keep that from happening. Ratifying and maintaining the idiocy of shoe checks isn't going to provide any liability shield, and it is not and will never be possible to check for everything.

          The problem 'apologists' for shoe checks face is that an infinite number of things are just as likely as a shoe bomb. If you want to make an argument for continuing shoe checks, sadly, you have to also make an argument for why a shoe bomb is more likely  (or poses a greater danger) than any other scenario, and no such argument is going to be a reasonable, much less a plausible one.

          I may not have to deal with a lawsuit, but I could be killed in a terrorist attack on a commercial airliner, since I do fly, and I'd rather be the plaintiff in a lawsuit than a dead person, so please don't discount my argument on the basis that I don't have 'skin in the game.' I do, and I still say shoe checks are idiotic and indefensible.

          "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

          by BeninSC on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:26:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I do not have to remove my shoes (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LuvSet, StrayCat, dconrad, BYw, brein

      when departing from most European airports, not in Dublin, nor Stanstead, nor Schipol. What do they know that we don't know about the amount of risk from 'shoe bombers' and the like?

      Meanwhile, our high-tech attempts at aviation security have resulted in X-ray machines that can't 'see' thru books, and 'sensor' machines that can't differentiate between sunblock lotions transferred from hands onto suitcase handles and the explosive materials it supposedly can detect. Oh, and corrupt employees who steal from checked luggage while supposedly making sure the luggage is not carrying a bomb. Of course, employees in such a position of 'trust' could just as easily place a bomb or a kilo of cocaine into the luggage, but that doesn't seem to be a concern to those entrusted with the security of our aviation industries.

      Feh. At this point, I drive when the trip is less than 500 miles, and if I have the time, I'll do 1K in 2 days. Trains not possible for most of my journeys, not without risking bigger delays than I can accept getting to the east coast or the west.

      •  They don't know anything we don't know (0+ / 0-)

        Their officials are braver about running the risk of being accused of dropping the ball if and when another shoe-bombing happens. Our officials are a bunch of nervous nellies who are running scared, and they institute and continue these boneheaded policies to assuage their fears.

        There's a disconnect in the back-and-forth with oceanstar17 in that people seem to think that he is defending these policies as rational, or as efficacious in limiting the liability of officials in the event of an incident, when in fact he is merely trying to explicate the psychological motivation that is driving them to do the (admittedly) wrong thing.

        The point is not that shoe searches will actually stop a disaster. The point is not that shoe searches will indemnify them, legally or politically, in the event of a disaster. The point is simply that they are plagued with an unreasoning fear of being accused of dropping the ball if they cease the shoe searches, and no amount of our agreeing that the shoe searches are foolish and bothersome and unnecessary will change that.

        Thus, the CYA shoe searches will continue.*

        At this point, I'm not really sure what can be done. We have to either find some way to insure them against the accusations, or it will take some leadership at the top. Someone has to say, "This is foolish, and we're going to stop it, and I'll take the blame if something goes wrong, if that's what it takes."

        (* The beatings will continue until moral improves.)

        Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

        by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 08:19:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  So what? Your reasoning assumes that xrays can (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      detect explosives in shoes.  The scientific fact (and there is a DHS report backing this up) is that x-ray scanning of shoes ***CANNOT*** detect explosives.  Explosives don't look different from any other non-metallic substance in the xray image.  The most that a scanner might see is if someone had been sloppy at peeling away the shoe sole and gluing it back.

      So not only is the "shoe carnival" dumb as a policy but it won't do the slightest to protect us against the original threat in the first place -- most definitely the ultimate in security theater.

  •  Absolutely f***ing spot on. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, FishOutofWater, rini6

    The failed shoe bomb attack has always been my benchmark for
    a) successful terrorist action, and
    b) example of neurosis about the threat of terror attacks.

  •  I have never believed this--Here's why! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    redwagon, FishOutofWater

    The flight that came down in Queens failed because of problems with the plane's rudder, and Jabarah was later rearrested after it turned out he was giving plenty of real information to al-Qaeda while feeding fairy tales to the US.

    The day before that flight, there was a major incident with four men who were videotaping the same flight and the security procedures, trying to give the security guard a very hard time when he tried to confiscate their tape. (At this point National Guard were still doing security.) We saw more than the security team did since we followed them to the end of the corridor to get our own plane. Wrote FBI, the airline, and others--never even got a response.

    I'm not a tin foil hat person. But I think there are a lot of layers to what we investigate and what we don't.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:23:52 PM PDT

  •  Larger point: (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, vcmvo2, CParis, StrayCat, jds1978, brein, jm214

    The public, the media and politicians seem obsessed with preventing CONVENTIONAL terror attacks at the expense of making UNCONVENTIONAL attacks more likely.

    The entire Bush "strategy" (such as it was beyond indiscriminately killing brown folks to make his buddies hundreds of millions) set the entire globe on edge and made acquiring nukes almost a necessity.

    It radicalized Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and pushed China towards a huge military buildup.

    My point: our "terror" strategy is completely insane and does not address THE biggest fear of our age.

  •  Melville, in Moby Dick, wrote ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snazzzybird, StrayCat, skohayes

    Of the long-lived ramifications of a whale carcass, spotted on the open seas:

    Desecrated as the body is, a vengeful
    ghost survives and hovers over it to scare. Espied by some
    timid man-of-war or blundering discovery-vessel from afar,
    when the distance obscuring the swarming fowls, nevertheless still
    shows the white mass floating in the sun, and the white spray
    heaving high against it; straightway the whale's unharming corpse,
    with trembling fingers is set down in the log--shoals, rocks,
    and breakers hereabouts: beware! And for years afterwards,
    perhaps, ships shun the place; leaping over it as silly sheep
    leap over a vacuum, because their leader originally leaped
    there when a stick was held. There's your law of precedents;
    there's your utility of traditions; there's the story of your
    obstinate survival of old beliefs never bottomed on the earth,
    and now not even hovering in the air!

    (From here.)

    That is what I think of, anyway, when thinking about everyone peeling off their shoes before boarding a flight.

    Thanks for this, Devilstower, could not agree more.

    "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

    by BeninSC on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:27:53 PM PDT

  •  security? LOL (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    look around you. How secure do we seem as a  nation, now, after 55 years of "national security"?

    don't always believe what you think...

    by claude on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:27:55 PM PDT

  •  If they aren't doing cavity searches (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it's not enough to stop someone truly dedicated.

    They see me trollin'. They hatin'

    by obnoxiotheclown on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:28:18 PM PDT

  •  Yes, but, it wasn't until the passage of the (6+ / 0-)

    Federal Tort Claims Act and the Freedom of Information Act that covering one's ass became a problem for public officials.  Up until then, they enjoyed "sovereign immunity"--i.e. in the process of doing the public's business, they could mess up without any fear of consequence.

    Just think what power that implies--to act without responsibility for consequence!

    It's no wonder that public officials are doing their best to return to those care-free days.  If they can't be immune, then keeping their mistakes secret is the next best thing.  

    The the question becomes how to get around the FOIA.  That's a more potent piece of legislation than the civil rights acts.  FOIA is the key to popular government.

    How do you keep them from using it?  Intimidation.  What's more intimidating than having to disrobe in public?  It's not just the shoes, you know.

    How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

    by hannah on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:29:45 PM PDT

  •  Will we ever address the root of the problem? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think that mending fences in the Middle East is a good start. We also have to support family planning and women's rights. We have to build a broad based international coalition to find and capture or kill militant terrorists.

    I hate walking in my socks on a dirty airport carpet....ewwww.

    An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.

    by rini6 on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:31:11 PM PDT

  •  Garrison Keillor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ornerydad, StrayCat, brein

    still said it best on the subject of inane security procedures:

    "They don't think it be like it is, but it do. " Oscar Gamble, circa 1980

    by Spider Stumbled on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:31:27 PM PDT

  •  Why after 9/11 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, Boreal Ecologist, brein

    didn't they just lock the pilots doors.
    If there is any problem in the cabin land the plane asap. instead they created an entire agency called the TSA really just go back to screening the carry on and keep the door locked.

  •  Discussing costs of doing nothing is the wrong (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    approach when it comes to national security.  Noting costs of lost time is the wrong approach when lives are at stake. I've italicized that word because I'm troubled by the framing, and I'm not sure of the answer.

    BTW, for those who aren't legal nerds: the 1953 ruling was a true travesty.  The equivalent would be if Plessy vs. Ferguson remained in place today because some 1890s judge read a report in the KKK Times praising a drinking fountain for coloreds, which had been built for show but didn't actually dispense any water, and based on reading about in a biased source -- but not seeing -- that one nonfunctioning drinking fountain concluded that "separate" was indeed "equal."

    Healthy Minds & Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays 5 PM PDT

    by RLMiller on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:32:08 PM PDT

  •  The Atlantic . . . (6+ / 0-)

    . . . last year had an article on how easy it is to defeat the TSA precautions

    To me this looks like the classic way guerrilla forces win.  You don't win by defeating your opponents in a toe-to-toe fight.  Instead, you tie the military power down responding (or over-responding) to pin pricks here and there and way over there and back again.  Keep them busy running around, wearing down their troops by keeping them at high alert all the time (since who can tell when the terrorists might attack, or where?), while you provide just enough irregular positive reinforcement to wind them back up when it looks like they are starting to calm down.

    The shoes at the airport is no different than the stupid "nothing over 13 ounces in the mailbox" rule.  How many millions of dollars of time have been wasted by people driving to the post office to stand in line to hand over their perfectly harmless package, all because there were 5-10 people out of 300 million that were killed by letter bombs?  The Unabomber killed 3 people and injured 23 over 17 years and I think that was probably the largest incidence of letter bombs that led to the current postal rules.  

    I can't claim that while standing in line I've seen anything done by a postal employee that looks to me like they are carefully screening a potentially explosive package.  

    In unconventional warfare if you work "the death of a thousand cuts" right you can probably just do the first couple of cuts and then get your opponent to stay busy making the other 998 of them himself.


  •  Article 39 of the Soviet Constitution (13+ / 0-)

    stated that "Enjoyment of the rights and freedoms of citizens must not be to the detriment of the interests of society or the state." Article 39 was a black hole that swallowed up the rights granted citizens by other provisions of that document.

    National security is well on its way to become the American version of Article 39. Especially with the right wing arguing that "9/11 changed everything."

    "You don't know what you don't know. And you'll never know."--former NFL coach Jim Mora.

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:36:37 PM PDT

  •  I've never understood the rational (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, brein, roadbear

    behind forcing people to take off their shoes to scan them. My basis for this is in Europe, where most would say their airport security apparatuses are fairly sophisticated, they don't make you do it.

    •  Bush Administration (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was great at knee-jerk response. That's why we have to do that here.

      •  after they got done wetting their pants (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat, brein

        Lets face it, as soon as the first plane hit the tower, the Bush administration freaked out and never stopped for the next eight years.

        We needed "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" and we got "they hate us because of our freedom".  

        The only thing they were good at is leading the panic.

    •  One of the best things about flying back from (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LuvSet, StrayCat, roadbear

      Mexico was -- no shoe removal!!  

      My sister said the same thing about flying back to the States from France this spring-- it just makes the experience so much more pleasant.

      •  Much more pleasant (0+ / 0-)

        ...and it makes the policy seem even that much more stupid.  Once you as an international traveler land in the US you can then transfer to domestic flights filled with people that had to have their shoes checked, while you didn't.  That certainly makes a lot of sense!

        Just took a Hong Kong-Seattle flight; no shoe check at Hong Kong, just liquids (and they check you for that at security AND at the gate...same at Kuala Lumpur) Narita they made us get off the plane and go through security AGAIN just to go back to the exact same gate and exact same plane we had just been on.  That was even more annoying than the shoe check in the States since by definition we were already in the secured area when we landed.

        The shoe check is freaking stupid.

        I like lemurs -6.50, -4.82

        by roadbear on Mon Jun 22, 2009 at 09:20:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  loved the funny spin on the shoebomber portion. (0+ / 0-)

    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

    by publicv on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:40:11 PM PDT

  •  Great writing (7+ / 0-)

    This diary must have required a lot of effort. It came out very well. Thank you, devilstower. Great work.

    Does Obama approve of having Homeland Security block Sen. Boxer's database? If so, what's the rationale?

    "This document is totally non-redactable and non-segregable and cannot even be meaningfully described." *

    by dratman on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:41:45 PM PDT

  •  Just like banking (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maudlin, LuvSet, elfling, wayward, dconrad, jm214

    it is better for your career to be wrong  together with everybody else than to be right before it is socially acceptable to admit to whatever you're saying.

    So, don't rock the boat, do what the conventional wisdom suggests is prudent rather than what logic or hard analysis would propose.

    It's so depressing.

  •  State secrets are rubbish, a decay of democracy, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LuvSet, snazzzybird, StrayCat, brein

    actually antithetical to the idea of democracy, and should have been made unconstitutional forthwith, were it not for enough corrupt justices on the U.S. supreme court. The only consolation is that a similar perversion affects nearly every other democracy.

    The well-known phenomena of pshychological projection and confirmation bias account for 198% of conservative so-called 'ideas'

    by power2truth on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:44:01 PM PDT

  •  Whenever I read something... (6+ / 0-)

    Like this, all I can think of is the rhetoric thrown out early after 9/11. Bush and all them saying that we cant let the terrorist win. then you look at all the changes since then, all the assaults on our rights as outlined so well by this article. All I can think is "Wow, the terrorists really did win". they got us to throw away everything we stand for, start wars of aggression, and harass our own citizens for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights. And all they had to do was sacrificie, what, 12 of their people? I dont think a more decisive victory, or loss on our part, has occured in history. considering how powerful the US is and how weak these terrorists are, it makes me sad that they can so easily decide our policy for us. I'll be glad for the day when the threat of possible, potential death at some point in the future wont be enough to get everyone to give away their lives.

    •  19 of their people (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to pick a nit. Excellent point, nonetheless.

      Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

      by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 06:10:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree with everything you write except... (0+ / 0-)

      your attributing this "victory" to the "terrorists'.  It should be very plain that Bush and company benefitted greatly from the events of 9/11.  They wanted to start wars of aggression and stifle dissent, and 9/11 worked beautifully for them to do just that.

      As Joseph Goebbels observed, "it works the same in any country"--terrify the populace with some sort of external threat--real or invented--and people will sign away the most basic rights in exchange for promises of security.  For awhile, anyway.  Perhaps it is time for us to learn from this sorry episode and become less trusting of our leaders.

  •  I hate being treated like a criminal in airports (9+ / 0-)

    I hate the fact that we weren't allowed to smile for our passport pictures.  That made me feel like a criminal getting a mug shot.  Taking off my shoes and jacket feels demeaning.  And what about this machine that sees right through one's underwear?  How is THAT for humiliation?  Not that anyone would be thrilled to see through my clothes--I'm old.  Still, it's the violation of privacy that is so teeth-grating.

    I wish we'd get grown-ups in charge of security!

    Equal "rites" for ALL Americans!

    by Diana in NoVa on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:48:34 PM PDT

  •  Well beyond shoes (9+ / 0-)

    the entire concept of airport security as a counter terrorism strategy is silly. The 9/11 attacks succeeded because the passengers and crew on the first three airplanes 'knew' that the hijackers were going to divert the flights to Cuba and demand ransoms and political actions like prisoner release. By the time the 4th airplane was halfway to its destination, the passengers had learned of the actual intention and they rushed the hijackers. There will never be another successful airplane hijacking. The passengers will tear the hijacker's arms off and beat them to death. That's the real lesson of the shoe bomber.  

    "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

    by johnmorris on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:49:36 PM PDT

  •  Anything we can do? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LuvSet, dconrad, Zulia

    To fix this? I had to travel on an airline recently and I did have to take off my shoes. I thought this was something that would have blown over by now. I am convinced that this policy does not make anyone safer, and it doesn't make me feel safer either.

  •  error in the timeline... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I seem to remember that the Queens crash happened before the shoe bombing attempt (in Nov. 2001 according to wikipedia) whereas the shoe bombing attempt happened a month later. Of course Jabarah and Reid did try to claim responsibility for the Queens crash several months later.

    Excellent diary though - and don't even get me started about the ridiculous liquids ban....

  •  Speaking of which, how about the Strip Search (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    tecnology that's coming to an airport concourse near you? A "defense" contractor develops a "millimieter-wave" imaging system that lets the prurient TSA and security forces see through your clothes,  just the way the old "x-ray glasses" sold in comic books for decades were supposed to. And then lobbies Congress and TSA and anyone else they can reach to peddle the devices, at a couple hundred thousand a pop, to be installed everywhere.
    And these things are supposed to be "secure" in the sense that there's no recoding of the virtual nudity, no storing of info on the "traveler,"  and no way to see the face of the person being zapped in lieu of the incompetent pat-downs now being administered.

    It's all bullshit, just way stations on the fast train to the repressive state.

    Where's Neo when you need him?

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:53:56 PM PDT

    •  Don't mistake technophobia for legitimate fear of (0+ / 0-)

      intrusive government. Any sensor or security device can be misused in the wrong hands, that's why we have laws and regulations about using such things.

      T-Ray (AKA millimeter radar) technology is a good thing in that it can quickly and easily detect hidden objects which can't be detected with x-rays or metal detectors, meaning it can easily detect things like explosive charges or non-metallic weapons.

      Yes, it can "see through" clothing, but it just builds up a false color computer image of objects underneath, so it's hardly prurient. Unless they're really hard up and have really good imaginations, don't expect security guards to get much erotic satisfaction from watching t-ray scans. While T-rays might reveal the size of a man's package, they're not going to show the world his Prince Albert piercing or the Hello Kitty tattoo on his butt. Likewise, the scans I've seen don't reveal hair, subtle facial features, eye or skin color, or similar features, making it difficult to use the images for identification.

      So, while we can argue about whether such security measures make sense, whether it's worth adopting millimeter-wave radar surveillance given its cost, or whether it is legitimate for the government to retain images obtained using millimeter wave radar. I don't buy the invasion of privacy or "virtual strip search" arguments. Personally, I'd consider a pat-down search to be more intrusive than a radar scan.  

      •  non-metallic weapons (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        So, while we can argue about whether such security measures make sense, whether it's worth adopting millimeter-wave radar surveillance given its cost, or whether it is legitimate for the government to retain images obtained using millimeter wave radar. I don't buy the invasion of privacy or "virtual strip search" arguments. Personally, I'd consider a pat-down search to be more intrusive than a radar scan.  

        So why do they still perform both procedures, (body-scan with mm-radar and pat-down) sometimes on the same person? During one lengthy line-wait, I watched a senior white woman undergo this procedure - perhaps polyester pants are lethal non-metallic weapons?

        Pendelton State University is a college located in Rutherford, Ohio.

        by annieli on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 05:00:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Are you maybe one of those folks who has "nothing (0+ / 0-)

        to hide," and are either in possession of a get-out-of-jail-free card like some other folks of a "conservative persuasion" seem to be (I am taking it from your handle that you are in that set), or live a lily-pure life without crime or sin and a name that doesn't somehow slip into that infallible "no-fly and watch list"? Have nothing to fear from ECHELON and all the other technological intrusions? And say that no intrusion into what little is left of our "freedom" and "liberties" and "rights" is too much of a price to pay for "keeping those sacred rights secure"?

        Kind of curious which "false-color" scans you have seen -- the one in the link I added seems pretty complete and at least to my thinking qualifies as soft porn. And I'm sure it's of course not technologically possible, in the face of this profitable new technology, to shape a bit of explosive like Semtex or C-4 so it escapes detection.

        But hey, we all need to come to the realization that the "security impulse" that impels the likes of J. Edgar Humorless and all our G-men and spooks and such is eventually all-conquering. After all, "threats" are everywhere. Threats from and to WHAT, I guess that's up to the steely-eyed patriots to say. As they say in Borg-land, "Resistance is futile."

        Technophobia, my foot.

        "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

        by jm214 on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 06:58:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, deep-dyed liberal (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I chose my handle on the spur of the moment because I've been "blue in a red state" most of my life and because I wanted to stick KKKarl Rove's "Permanent Republican Majority" quip up his ass and out his throat. A Permanent Republican Minority is also one of my pipe dreams and "Successful RICO prosecutions against the RNC and their Corporate Masters, followed by long prison sentences for all those involved" is too long a handle.

          That said, I tend to be libertarian about technology - you can't hold it back, you can only try to keep people from using it in unethical ways. That's why the "unreasonable search and seizure" part of the 4th Amendment is so critical. It's why cops could use IR cameras to scan everyone's house for the telltale signatures of the grow lights used for indoor pot cultivation, but they can't, because the Supreme Court said they can't (back when the SC had a conscience).

          Millimeter wave radar is potentially a very cool imaging tool which might have non-security uses, like fast 3D rendering of objects, once the price goes down. Just because the first application is defense/security doesn't mean that we should fear it. After all, the original radar was originally spooky secret defense technology, and now it's a critical tool in all sorts of non-military fields.

          The millimeter wave false color scans I've seen of people are mostly black and white or grayscale - as seen on a Google image search. Sure, you can make them flesh-colored, but I'd still call it a poor substitute for porn. Anyhow, the makers of millimeter wave radars are very concerned about revealing peoples' naughty bits (conservatives get really uptight about seeing those sorts of things - at least in public), so the operating system pixelates the crotch area in the scans.

          Your point about millimeter wave radar not being able to identify explosives is valid, as are your concerns about creeping authoritarianism in the name of "security." I very much believe the Ben Franklin quote about "Those who would give up a little freedom in exchange for safety deserve neither." My point, though, was that it's not the technology we need to fear, it's the mindset that got us into this mess.

          •  Amen to all of the above. (0+ / 0-)

            Any thoughts as to whether the rat-on-your-neighbor, spy-on-everyone-because-We-in-the-Matrix-can, we-believe-the-myth-of-Control authoritarianism is treatable disease or just one of the outstanding death warrants on our species?

            And just one more observation about deadly mindsets and technology. You note the "first" application of the very cool millimeter-wave imaging is "defense/security," with others to follow. The first application of the Frisbee was "toy," but DoD and its contractors did try to turn it into a improved-range grenade-type weapon that the draftee youth of America was well acquainted with already.

            And on that note, we should never forget that the Really Smart People who profit from keeping us on the War Toy Treadmill were wise enough, back in 1949, to change the label of the "War Department" to the "Department of Defense." Because what sane person could be against "defense?" Hey, a Trident missile or theater IRBM capable of depressed trajectory, minutes-to-target launching is all about "defense," right? I just love the twisted logic and the delicious insanity of MAD and "massive retaliation" and "first strike capability."

            And it looks way too much like the Roves and dickless Cheneys, etc., are off the hook.

            "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

            by jm214 on Mon Jun 22, 2009 at 04:30:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I'm so grateful (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snazzzybird, skohayes, Zulia, roadbear

    ...that Richard Ried didn't choose to smuggle the explosives stuffed up his arse.

    "Joe The Cop Killer" for Republican Presidential Nominee. A REAL Conservative, fighting for the American Dream!

    by AdmiralNaismith on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:55:06 PM PDT

  •  There's a third real reason (14+ / 0-)

    for the shoe nonsense and most of the other TSA "security" routines: to keep the general population intimidated and docile through the use of implied threats. Make "trouble" and you might have some rent-a-cop exploring your orifices or you might not be allowed on a plane again. These measures obviously are not going to set back any would-be crasher of planes with half a brain. Nobody can bring box cutters or razor blades or cutlery on the plane as if there aren't hundreds of objects as sharp and effective for the purpose as box cutters, none of which would show up on the xrays or even manual inspection.

    So we have an unholy mix of the police-state's need to keep the civilians barefoot and eager to please and the population's need to tell themselves that they're being "protected", no matter how blindingly stupid that means of protection is. Whatever is "anti-terrorist" becomes worth throwing away the rule of law for. It's pretty much like begging the king or the priest to intercede against the volcano.

    And it has the bonus value of taking our minds off the bankers, coal companies, masters of war, and all the other domestic terrorists who really threaten our very existence.

    Everybody talkin' 'bout Heaven ain't goin' there -- Mahalia Jackson

    by DaveW on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 02:55:57 PM PDT

    •  I agree, (0+ / 0-)

      and think this reason is probably the most important one.

      " keep the general population intimidated and docile through the use of implied threats. Make "trouble" and you might have some rent-a-cop exploring your orifices or you might not be allowed on a plane again."

      This is probably the main reason why you do not see more people protesting these intrusive inspections--they do not want to end up on a list.  As things stand now, we have no recourse, unless we are willing to accept the risks that come with jousting with the bureaucrats.

  •  shoes are not the point (8+ / 0-)

    I remember when the shoe removal process began, "you don't have to take them off, but will have extra steps if you do not" or something like that. Everyone was like WTF? I do not fly often, so the next time I flew everyone was lining up and taking off shoes without protest. I thought it was all about training citizens to obey, not safety. The points raised here affirm my thoughts, and makes me wonder whats next?

  •  Also stupid is the restrictions on carry on items (14+ / 0-)

    like water bottles, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.
    That's all because of the scare back in 2006. All becuase of an alleged plot by some nitwits in London to bring aboard a bomb "cocktail."
    As it turns out, in order for their plan to work, there would have had to be an amazing set of things that would have to fall into place. They would need to be in First Class. They would need an ice bucket with champagne (for the ice). they would need to make several trips to the restroom to bring all the elements together. And in starting the process, the sulfur smell would be so bad that they would probably pass out from the fumes in a small place like an airline restroom, or the stench would alert crew to something amiss (as if all their shenanigans wouldn't have done so already). More here.
    And yet even two years later, all those restrictions are still in place.

    Electing conservatives is like hiring a carpenter who thinks hammers are evil.

    by MA Liberal on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:00:07 PM PDT

  •  average breast implant (8+ / 0-)

    omg It's a booby trap

    Dear GOP&Conservatives If all you have to offer are Cliches and Hyperbole then STFU. Thanks XOXOXO

    by JML9999 on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:02:17 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for doing the math (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2, StrayCat, brein, xgy2

    I've thought often about the wasted hours this idiocy involves, but never wanted to spend the hours to do actually do the calculation. You've confirmed my suspicions (which I always appreciate).

    Remember, everyone, the correct term for all this is "Security Theater" - it's all a show. And you're not supposed to look backstage . . .

    "One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others." - Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898

    by Audio Guy on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:03:10 PM PDT

  •  Decades ago, Braniff Airlines was proud of their (0+ / 0-)

    leather seats in all classes of their planes.  So proud, in fact, that they had a series of commercials touting the luxury of flying in their leather seats.

    Unfortunately for them, their commercial copy did not translate well into the Spanish language; it came out "Fly Naked!"

    An idea whose time has come!

    Personally, I like my original post-9/11 idea of putting an engineer back on every flight, whose duties would included keeping an eye on various security cameras in the cabin.  At the first sign of something amiss, the flight crew would immediately go on oxygen, while the cabin air was flooded with nitrous oxide, or some kind of sleeping gas if things looked really hairy.  It would stay that way until the end of the flight.

    If it looked as if Muslims were the culprits, the scent of roasting pork could be added to the sleeping gas, just to piss them off.

  •  Refusing fear (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brein, speedingpullet

    The K&Q stayed in London during the blitz - night after night of bombing raids. They showed us what it is to face down fear. A different story here with scary-story Cheney, Bush and Rice. Mushroom cloud indeed.

    Democrats are the new Republicans. - Bill Maher

    by mrobinson on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:05:31 PM PDT

  •  The flight that crashed in Queens (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    turdraker, brein, roadbear, JC from IA

    went down on November 12, 2001, not "a few months after Reid's failed attempt".

    The problem with statements given to the FBI and CIA investigators is that our intelligence has been so faulty that we're not sure which threats pose a significant danger.

    As far as this flight that crashed in Queens two months after 9/11, the NTSB was declaring mechanical failure before the fire from the crash could be put out.

    I would rather be lucky than good any day.

    by banana pancakes on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:13:15 PM PDT

    •  That one I remember (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      A group of us were flying in a corporate plane that day on a make-up trip that had been postponed in the aftermath of 9/11.  When we stopped to top of the tanks, we all de-planed and lit up our cel phones.  The news of the Queens crash hit almost immediately, upon which we went into an instant conference with the pilot regarding our chances of being allowed to continue our flight.

      We were absolutely stunned to learn that the Queens crash had immediately been attributed to mechanical failure, and that we were allowed to continue.

  •  This is all so ridiculous (0+ / 0-)

    Taking off your shoes, you can't take a bottle of water through security, but lighters are okay again, go figure.
    Yet only half of the cargo carried in the hold has been screened.
    If you've ever been to a large airport, and watch people snake through the lines, uniformed people yelling to take off your shoes, have your boarding pass and ID ready, take out your computers, it is frighteningly reminiscent of movies about the Jews in Germany being loaded into trains and sent to the death camps.

  •  But. but. butt (0+ / 0-)

    I was feeling "Biartisan" this week..

    CNN has denigrated my President into "Salesman if Chief."

    Jeebus. Just cornhole the guy and get it over with you corporate fucks.

    Did I mention how totally pissed I've been this week?

    When you come to a fork in the road. Take it. - Yogi Berra

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:17:09 PM PDT

  •  This American Life (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Had a story on U.S.v Reynolds and the fact that the State Secrets doctrine was based on the refusal of the Government to release a document that we now know had no State Secrets. It did have incriminating evidence of negligence.

    "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed." General Buck Turgidson

    by muledriver on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:22:43 PM PDT

  •  Devilstower, (0+ / 0-)

    You are right on, but what is your objective here?

    To keep the troops pumped up?  Which is fine.

    Or to suggest revolution?  Which is fine.

  •  Well, first it was . . . (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LuvSet, elfling, brein

    Fly this plane to Iraq or I'll give you a really bad manicure. Then, Fly this plane to Iraq or I'll give you a really bad pedicure. Then, Fly this plane to Iraq of I'll knit you an ugly sweater with 3 arms.

    One member of a flight crew noted in 2002 that the crew also was subject to the restrictions on nail clippers, knitting needles, etc., while once they were on board there was a fire ax on the wall of the cockpit in case the door jammed.

    The sleep of reason brings forth monsters -- Goya

    by ceratotherium on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:24:38 PM PDT

  •  Glad to know I'm not the only one who (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LuvSet, rambler american, brein, TerryDarc

    has to assume a zenlike state to deal with the sheer idiocy of having to practically disrobe in order to fly. The clincher for me, and my SO will attest to this, was the time TSA bent off the file to my tiny fingernail clipper, and then made me leave my lipstick at the terminal. I looked at the agent and said, "You really are going to buy into this shit?"

    Sarah Palin: All pistol and no squint.

    by CanyonWren on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 03:34:28 PM PDT

  •  Clear book bags an example (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LuvSet, dconrad

    Our school district many years ago decided all students needed to carry clear book bags so that a student couldn't conceal a weapon. LOL! Girls can  still carry purses. Athletes can carry solid bags ( conceal the bras, jock straps ah, maybe a 9mm). Boys can wear baggy pants that an AK-47 would fit in. As ridiculous as this is would they reverse this policy? NO! If something would happen, then they are afraid they would be blamed.  

    •  Doesn't work, anyway (0+ / 0-)

      The students can just place another bag inside the clear bag, or a weapon between two books or inside a hollowed-out book, inside the clear bag.

      See this thread for other interesting comments.

      The best two comments, I thought, were that they were treating weapons as the problem rather than the fact that some students want to settle their problems with guns and knives, and that our schools are increasingly resembling prisons.

      Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

      by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 09:42:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ridiculous shoe policy (0+ / 0-)

    I know Obama made no mention of airport security measures but when I contemplated voting and I did say to myself, well, Obama will surely have some sense when it comes to taking off our shoes & throwing away our sunscreen.

    Maybe in the 8th year of his term.

  •  Security Theater (6+ / 0-)

    Security theater is a topic that has been much discussed. Wiki has a good overview:

    Security theater consists of security countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security. The term was coined by Bruce Schneier for his book "Beyond Fear", but has gained currency in security circles, particularly for describing airport security measures.

    One of the aspects that is usually overlooked is that added policing to normal daily lives gets people into the mindset to follow orders and makes them more careful about expressing their opinions. It's a form of opposition control.

    The East German STASI was widely thought to be listening to every phone call, reading all the mail and having thousands of informers. But now that the archives have been opened up it turns out that the program was actually a lot smaller than thought. If you make people fearful that they will get into trouble if they try to organize you achieve your purpose much more efficiently.

    Notice the same trend in the US. We don't know to what extent the FBI or NSA uses wiretaps or other illegal surveillance, but many people are convinced that they are being monitored. A few prominent cases, such as catching an internet predator or the like aids in the overall impression.

    Democracy and secrecy cannot exist together. We are leaning towards giving up the former to "protect" us from unknown enemies, while those who really want to curtail our freedom are right in government.

    •  You can't spell STASI without TSA (T*A) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      StrayCat, dconrad

      Pendelton State University is a college located in Rutherford, Ohio.

      by annieli on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 04:53:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thousands Standing Around (0+ / 0-)

        is what I've heard that other law enforcement types call TSA employees. So they're hardly the new incarnation of the KGB, even if they do work for an agency with a really creepy name. (What genius came up with "Homeland" security?)

        Remember that the TSA took over from the myriad of private airport security companies that ran the show back in 20th century. Not surprisingly, these companies paid their employees squat, often did minimal background checks on new hires, and didn't adequately train or supervise their employees. The TSA, for all its failings, is a government program designed to redress the historical failings of the free market and to pay security workers a living wage.

        Could the TSA be doing a better job? Probably. Could its people be better used by checking cargo at ports and airports? Absolutely. But it does represent an improvement over what we had before.

  •  Tough S**t America (0+ / 0-)

    In my experience, I recall that other than the usual xenophobic harassment of US citizens in EU airports by their equivalent of T*A minions, the requirement of shoe removal is not consistently enforced there, although I am amused by at least one company's individual one-on-one verbal interrogation at the gate instead of using a machine even after going through the regular security.

    What's more interesting is the T*A interpretation of random searches and their use of the full-body scan machine for their erotic entertainment (they don't seem to think that the passengers/suspects can hear them as they ogle the bodies going through). They do seem to be the same folks who would order x-ray glasses from comic books since the pre-9/11 wage for the now-federalized workers was $5.50/hr.

    Their arbitrary and capricious treatment of what they presume to be "foreigners" (any person of color or non-English speakers) is also a curious example of the degree of profiling at work. The recent arrest of a ring of 10 baggage handlers at one US airport for theft from checked luggage over a 6-month period shows the degree of transportation security we receive.

    Since that day in 2001, every passenger entering a commercial airliner has been required to remove their shoes for inspection and X-ray. A precaution that is... massively, even breathtakingly idiotic.

    Pendelton State University is a college located in Rutherford, Ohio.

    by annieli on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 04:27:38 PM PDT

  •  Good Thing that we All Oppose Nuclear Power (0+ / 0-)

    because unlike pollution caused by coal and production of silicates, it is icky-poo-dirty.

    And unlike that nasty 10,000 year nuclear pollution, this stuff is stable in chemical and radioactive terms. It will be around for millions of years. Just like the oil.

    sigh why do so many on the left embrace all science but nuclear science? Only coal and nuclear provide the orders of magnitude of generation needed. Instead of well-managed small quantities of decaying waste, we have global climate change and coal waste.

  •  TVA? (0+ / 0-)

    Hides behind governmental BS!

  •  Thank you for this, DT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is a fantastic diary. I've been reading Bruce Schneier on this issue for years, and it seems like a lot of people know about "security theater", but it doesn't seem to be doing any good. And given the massive CYA incentive to keep doing dumb things to "protect" us, I really can't see how we can get ourselves back out of this corner we've painted ourselves into. :(

    Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

    by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 05:45:43 PM PDT

  •  Might be the best diary I have ever read here! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dconrad, brein

    I am an Environmental Scentist and during graduate school I took a class in Risk Analysis that changed my entire view of the world.

    I have never looked at the world the same way again and it is hard sometimes to handle the way that society thinks since then.

    The world is aflame with fear, it is out most basic primal emotion and natural ignorance.

    If every human in this world could be taught one simple concept to make the world a better place it would be.

    Respond to risk, don't react to fear.

    Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value.

    by Gethsemani Sam on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 06:14:42 PM PDT

  •  Amen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This airline kabuki shit really does need to come to an end.

    There is no 100% safety guarantee.  We all die.  Sometimes bad people cause it.

    We need to stop fooling ourselves...and yeah, they need to do a genuine top-to-bottom examination as to what screening procedures and carry-on restrictions accomplish something useful and which are pointless.

    BTW, they still don't scan most of the cargo in the belly of these planes.

  •  Mrs Rambler and I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    boarded a flight to Chicago. Mrs Rambler had a very small bottle of hand cream which was confiscated. I, on the other hand, had a folding knife that doubled as a fob on my keyring which I had forgotten to remove. As it turned out I need not have worried. I and my box cutter sized knife boarded the plane together along with Mrs Rambler sans hand cream.

    ...the do-dah man once told me you've got to play your hand Sometimes your cards ain't worth a dime, if you don't lay 'em down.

    by rambler american on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 06:36:35 PM PDT

  •  I think some of the post-9/11 crazee is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    going away, and I was beginning to wonder if it ever would.  I was at a baseball game a week ago and they DIDN'T play God Bless America in the 7th inning stretch.  I gather they still do in some stadiums, but apparently no longer in San Diego. That always pissed me off because of the religiosity, and because it forced everyone to remember 9/11, and I just don't want to have to think about it all the time. It was just one of those 'things' put in place that I figured would hang on forever out of intertia. Do we still get color coded threat warnings? I've commented before about my white-hot hatred of the shoe thing, perhaps there's hope that will go away someday.

    Were you there when the bra lady went crazy?

    by aunttora on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 06:43:42 PM PDT

  •  But don't we take off our shoes.... (0+ / 0-)

    ...because they set off the metal detectors?

    I didn't think it was because of the shoe bomb thing.

  •  pointless calculation (0+ / 0-)

    The main contention of this post may well be correct, but the calculation of "$33 million / year worth of shoe time. Better than $300 million worth since Reid got tackled in business class. " is really nonsensical. Adding up all the minutes into one big pile of time and then assessing it at $10 and hour makes no economic sense at all. It's not as if, but for the minute having shoes examined, $300 million of goods or services would have been produced. The passengers would not have produced even a nickel's worth of anything had they not spent those collective minutes in the examination.

    This sort of calculation can be used to assess the "cost" of all sorts of things, and in cases where you disagree with the conclusion you will likely see how empty it is.

    •  But it does add up, say to the amount of one or (0+ / 0-)

      two FTE's at each screening site.  In addition, that security labor could be devoted to valid (and IMHO more pressing) security concerns, say such as getting that cargo inspection rate above the 50% mark.

  •  I saw this problem from an insider perspective (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, Simplify, dconrad, brein

    When I worked for the federal government as an emergency management specialist, I struggled to keep senior officials from depriving citizens, other emergency organizations and even other parts of our own agency of information needed to protect public health and safety.  When managers falsely claimed something was classified, I corrected them.  When they tried to withhold information the public needed, I urged them to release it. But, the secrecy continued; often, even I was denied information that I needed to do my job.

  •  Imagining Threats: Control Bias and Availability (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, Simplify, brein

    Bruce Schneier is a security researcher. I first became aware of him through my interest in cryptography. He's the author of the tome Applied Cryptography. He's written a lot about the topic of this diary over the last few years.

    Two excellent pieces are Imagining Threats in which he talks about control bias, the availability heuristic, the peak end rule, and the anchoring effect, and their relationship to misestimating risks, and an essay on The Psychology of Security in which he talks about these and other cognitive biases.

    In short,

    • Control Bias is what makes you think you're safer driving a car, where you're in control, than riding in a plane.
    • The Availability Heuristic is what makes you think that a threat you can easily imagine and think of examples of, like a shoe bomber, is more likely that one that is not so familiar, like radon gas in your home.
    • The Peak End Rule is a fascinating trick your mind plays where the last part of a thing is given much more weight than it deserves. This can impair a threat analysis that is considering various threats in turn (see the first link for a better explanation).
    • Anchoring means your estimate of something is biases towards numbers you've recently thought of. If you consider a large number of threats, it can make you think the threat is large when it actually isn't.

    The first two are more generally applicable, the last two are more specific to a paper on risk analysis he was writing about in the first link, above. I think both these links will help to explain how the thinking around threats goes awry, and I highly recommend his blog if you're interested in this topic.

    Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

    by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 08:56:39 PM PDT

  •  One more article from Bruce Schneier (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Even though I don't think anyone is reading this any more.

    Rare Risk and Overreactions

    Right up the alley of this diary.

    Election went bad. Iran went to hell. Media went to bed. #twitter

    by dconrad on Sun Jun 21, 2009 at 09:15:46 PM PDT

  •  Recommended (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, roadbear

    Well, I can't push that button, but this deserves it.

    The current security for air travel is one of the largest, most-expensive boondoggles in the history of government. I can think of many, many ways to defeat it or subvert it--and I'm not even a terrorist. Imagine what someone thinking about this full time could come up with!

    The only sure way to keep air travelers safe is through normal police work (the stuff that's no doubt been shortchanged to pay for this waste of money). Someone has to look for clues and someone has to learn about plots and someone has to infiltrate organizations where "terrorists" gather.

    The current system of privacy invasions funded by the taxpayers is nothing but a twenty-first century Maginot Line. It is the static set of bunkers that the enemy will simply bypass the next time they launch an attack. All that wasted money could be better spent on widening the default rows from 18 inches to about 24.

    At least then I could work on my laptop while waiting for my plane to blow up.

    Each time you are unnecessarily searched getting on a plane I suggest you do what I've done on occasion: write to your representative in Congress and complain. Explain to them that simply traveling on an airplane does not represent any reasonable probability that you are committing or about to commit a crime, and that as such, it is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Tell them that at a minimum you should be paid for your time and that if this continues you might well send them an invoice.

    If enough paper piles up in Washington, maybe they will do something about this productivity killer.

  •  Classified information... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    is typically something our enemies already know, but would be embarrassing to the government if we all did too.

    I consider myself an Agnostic because the only thing I believe in less than God is certainty.

    by aztronut on Mon Jun 22, 2009 at 02:03:59 AM PDT

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