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It took days to clarify my thinking on the new TSA procedures.

Just seeing the accounts from a few victims, including "Don’t Touch My Junk," caused a mild case of "shock and awe."

So now. Being viewed naked and/or inside-of-the-bra-and-panties intimate touching are part of the price of a plane ride. One thing  was clear immediately: that is unacceptable to me. Therefore I am no longer able to travel by air. Another big shock in itself.

From shock, I went into analysis overdrive. It seemed impossible to rest until I could get a handle on the complex of thoughts and emotions roiled by this very peculiar situation.

Perspective finally arrived. My conclusions were surprising and shocking, even to me. Bear with me, please, while I set them forth, step by step.

BTW I was getting ready to post a long, long diary. It was too awkward.  Instead, the whole piece will be in three installments over the next 3 days.

Overall outline:

Part I.
A Leaden Echo

Part II.
Sexual Humilation

Part III.  
Abu Ghraib
With the Best of Intentions
Final Notes

A Leaden Echo

Reading a number of articles, diaries and blogs about this subject and participating in some discussions, one thing has  been very comforting. Lots of other people on all facets of the political spectrum feel just as horrified. Most are equally convinced these draconian measures provide no increase in safety in any way commensurate with the obscene demand imposed on the public.

Slinkerwink had more on today’s Rec List.

But the head of the TSA has shown that the bureaucracy and political leadership of the current administration have their fingers firmly stuck in their ears.

He called for the public to be "partners" in this. Don't want to be scanned and/or fingered, you won't fly, but

"We want to be sensitive to people's feelings about privacy," he said.

You just can’t make this stuff up. Such a wooden response to public outrage was disturbing in itself.

At the same time I’ve kept feeling like there was some important aspect of this that I couldn’t quite get a handle on. Some resonance or dim familiar echo.

The echo came up when some commenters stated that these procedures must be less for safety than to abash Americans and normalize mindless obedience. I hate to think that this could be true, yet given the irrationalities in the scheme, it was difficult completely to dismiss.

The echo came up when commenters wrote that the "enhanced pat-downs" (talk about Newspeak!) were more like prison searches than any normal security measures. I, too, had been feeling as if the shades of the prison house were now reaching out to touch us all.

(Speaking of Newspeak, they are also now referring to them as "Love Pats."

"I'm wildly excited that I can walk through a machine instead of getting my dose of love pats," Sen. McCaskill said.

Gag me with a freaking spoon!)

The echo came up when some commenters reported that posted photographs of naked travelers called up images from the death camps of the Hitler era. That flash happened with me too. Clearly, the U.S. is very far from being Nazi Germany, so why is this a non-unique reaction?

I started exploring around the web to see if I could rationally clarify a sense of outrage that should not require any explanation, according to all my instincts –- but to high-up TSA officials and some others, apparently it does.


TSA’s position, of course, is that travelers are not being coerced into naked screenings because they can always choose to travel some other way.

But just glancing at a few definitions of the word "coercion" shows this is poppycock.

Chosen almost at random, this happens to be from the Clark University website. The page is about sexual coercion and intended to warn about date rape, but edited down, it sheds light on coercion of any sort.

Coercion is the use of...manipulation to persuade someone to something they may not want to do... To consent to something...means you confidently agree to do it based on your own free will without any influence or pressure.

Clearly, most of the travelers who submit to these searches are hardly consenting in that sense. They are gritting their teeth and enduring it because for one reason or another they feel that they must.

In addition, TSA applies a second level of coercion under the false colors of offering a choice: Travelers who decline the naked screening can now have a more intensive and intrusive experience.

Another definition, Wikipedia. (Emphases in quotes are generally mine.)

Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, intimidation or some other form of pressure or force...In psychological coercion, the threatened injury regards the victim’s relationships with other people.

Such as: if you don’t cooperate, you will lose your job, which requires you to fly.

You won’t get home for Christmas.

You may not make it to your father’s deathbed, or his funeral.

Air travel is for many a normal part of daily life, on which our livelihood and/or relationships have long depended. Threatened exclusion from that normal part of daily life constitutes extreme coercion, no mistake.

BTW that poll where 81% of respondents said they were perfectly okay with the new scanners? Details here. It was conducted by CBS News between Nov. 7 and Nov. 10. Respondents were asked:

"Some airports are now using full-body digital x-ray machines to electronically screen passengers in airport security lines. So you think these new x-ray machines should or should not be used at airports?"

The assertion is made  that "a majority" of both men and women said yes, but does not provide the statistical breakdown by sex.

The question as asked did not reveal that TSA officials would essentially be looking at – and potentially storing and transmitting -- naked pictures. It asked nothing about the acceptance of intimate fingering as an alternative or supplement to the x-rays. It asked nothing about health concerns.

These kind of polls are very sensitive to the specific question asked. Moreover, there was apparently no effort to determine how many respondents actually used air travel with any frequency. Inevitably, very few if any who answered this abstract question had any experience or much knowledge about the totality of the new procedures they might face, including the threat of feeling-up.

To continue...bear with me...

Originally posted to Clio2 on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 10:41 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is a fabulous diary! (9+ / 0-)

    I'm really looking forward to all of the installments.

    As I keep saying, we really are living in a military dictatorship in the United States, under a veneer of democracy.

    I have an uncle 1500 miles away who is on the brink of death. There is no reasonable way to take a train there. I absolutely refuse to fly anymore. And I'm a bad driver with very poor night vision. So I feel trapped, as you articulated so well.

    It is a do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

    by Timaeus on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 10:47:11 AM PST

  •  Well-written. (6+ / 0-)

    Much appreciated.  I look forward to the next installments.  I think this thoughtful enough that it deserves rec list attention.

    "With all the wit of a stunned trout, prodigal stumbled clumsily into the midst of a discussion . . . " -- droogie6655321

    by prodigal on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 10:47:12 AM PST

  •  Show people the pictures, then poll them. (7+ / 0-)

    "pat them down" and then poll them.

  •  It makes me angry (8+ / 0-)

    That I have to submit to one or the other in order to travel.  Travel is one of my greatest pleasures, but it is getting harder and harder to justify given the police state tactics involved.

    I refuse to go through that friggen' machine but I really don't want to be groped and I especially don't want to be groped in private where there aren't any witnesses should the gropers do something (even more) out of bounds.

    Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

    by Sychotic1 on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 10:49:39 AM PST

  •  This diary is so good I just reread it all. (8+ / 0-)

    It's deep. Enough ideas here for many diaries.

    I'm especially struck by this passage:

    The echo came up when some commenters stated that these procedures must be less for safety than to abash Americans and normalize mindless obedience. I hate to think that this could be true, yet given the irrationalities in the scheme, it was difficult completely to dismiss.

    The echo came up when commenters wrote that the "enhanced pat-downs" (talk about Newspeak!) were more like prison searches than any normal security measures. I, too, had been feeling as if the shades of the prison house were now reaching out to touch us all.

    "Less for safety than to ... normalize mindless obedience."  That's exactly how it feels to me.

    "Feeling as if the shades of the prison house were now reaching out to touch us all."  Wow. That is really good writing.

    It is a do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

    by Timaeus on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 10:52:28 AM PST

  •  The child sexual assault element upsets me most (12+ / 0-)

    The whole thing is upsetting, but I can't understand how anyone can possibly justify or waive off this treatment as applied to children. Children can't choose not to get on planes with their parents.

    I called the FBI earlier; they told me to contact TSA or my Congressional Rep. If my child was molested by someone other than TSA, can you imagine such a response?

    I then wrote this letter to the NY Times:

    I can not understand why TSA is permitted to take nude body scans of children, with physical groping of their bodies, including their genitalia through their clothing, as the only alternative. These actions are considered child pornography and child sexual assault under the laws of our country.

    As an adult I can choose not to fly. But what about protection for all of those children traveling through airports who don't have a choice? Why aren't we protecting children from sexual abuse in airports?

  •  Learn to sail. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There are alternatives for travel in North America.

    You can thumb, for example.  Very cheap.  Unpleasant in bad weather.  Occasionally risky.

    The real problem is if you need to traverse water.

    Sailing is a great way to travel.  Being away from the noise of internal combustion engines is part of the draw.  There's some nomenclature to pick up, distinguish a sheet from a halyard.  With a boat big enough to go trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific, single-handing is not generally practical, so you'll need to recruit some crew headed the same way.  Could be fun.

    Not recommended during hurricane season, though.

    •  Give Me A Break... (0+ / 0-)

      I hope that your comment is Snark, because if not it is ridiculous.

      •  Not snark, just whimsical and not too practical (0+ / 0-)

        Sailboats take a lot of training and maintenance, and require easy access to open water. Not too great if you live in the middle of the country, particularly in the dry West.

        Here again it's our pressure-cooker society that makes such suggestions "impractical", because we "have" to leave Friday night and return Sunday night so we can be back at work Monday morning. Kicking back and relaxing, doing something the slow old way? Not an option in our rush-rush-rush world.

        So much the worse for us.

        If it's
        Not your body
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        AND it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 11:27:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't mind scanners or pat-downs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    There are far more important issues to work on.

    Let's choose our battles.

    •  Sorry, but this comment seems to imply... (6+ / 0-)

      ..that your apparent feelings of ho-hum are somehow more valid or important than other people's very poweful revulsion?

      BTW, do you speak from experience? May I ask if you yourself been through one of the new inside-the-panties "pat downs" yet?

      As to whether other things are more important, that could be. I would hope that given the number of progressives out there, as a group we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

      •  not really (0+ / 0-)
        1. I don't understand the basis for your first point. I'm just expressing my opinion, both on the TSA practices and on other priorities.
        1. Yes, I travel frequently, internationally (mainly) and domestically. I've been through a wide variety of US and other practices, including the recent ones.
        1. My observation is that to achieve anything of real importance in politics, one must whittle down one's efforts to maybe three (at most) issues to focus on. Of course this whittling means constantly looking at a wide variety of issues, perhaps including TSA screening procedures. My opinion, after reading a variety of articles about it (some on dKos, some on right-wing blogs) is that this is not a top issue, at least for me, as I stated.
    •  You may not (8+ / 0-)

      I do.

      The choice is now like this: if I want to fly, I must be willing to have some random stranger touch my genitals. If I find that touch inappropriate, I have no way to address that, since either complaining or removing myself from the situation is likely to result in jail or a heavy fine.

      You may be down with that, and that's your choice, but I am not. And if you think most people are going to be just fine with some stranger touching them -- and especially their mothers, daughters, and wives (gender is a part of this in our culture, for better or worse) -- I think you don't understand Americans very well.

      •  top priorities (0+ / 0-)

        I haven't taken a good step back in a while and looked at my top political priorities for the coming couple of years. I'm open to many possibilities, this could be one (though I doubt it), and I certainly respect your right to consider it as such.

        Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it seems to me the choice if you want to fly those routes that offer scanners is to go through the scanner or get a physical pat-down.  (In Australia, it appears, the latter will not even be an option starting in 2011 -- get scanned or don't fly.)

        There's a political question as to how Democrats (and President Obama in particular) should respond to the public outcry about TSA procedures, an outcry which seems to cut across partisan lines: left, right and center. (Perhaps this is one issue on which "bipartisanism" will be popular here?) But politics is not the 'angle' that I've seen in most diaries.

        This is currently the top headline issue on Drudge:


        It is followed by no less than eight related articles on Drudge:

        Homeland Security chairman to TSA: 'Reconsider' pat downs...

        Former Gov. Ventura Will No Longer Fly Due to Abuse He's Endured at Hands of TSA...

        Woman With 2 Artificial Knees Describes 'Sexual Assault' By Screener...


        Cancer surviving flight attendant forced to remove implant during pat down...

        Airports consider call to ditch TSA...

        Will Turkey Day Fliers Cry Foul?

        Another Hacker's Laptop, Cellphones Searched at Border...

        Airport Mobile Command Post Used for Sex Romps...

        Is there a distinctive Democratic response?

        Ridding the world of suicide-bombers, that's a high priority for me. I don't have an answer for it. TSA screening certainly is not the answer (but that's a red-herring), though it plays an important role. My off-the-cuff inclination is that a massive increase in human intelligence is part of the answer -- but this can't be safely ginned up overnight. (Firing military Arabic and Farsi linguists under DADT is stupid.) The war in Afghanistan is complex and difficult (women's rights, etc.), but I think the US probably should pull out. US military action against Iran, as McCain and Lindsay want, strikes me as playing into the hands of mullahs'/Ahmedinejad's nationalism-mongering. Drone-strikes with the inevitable civilian casualties seem to create more problems in many (most?) cases, though are probably worth doing for a very few select targets. (But the casualties seem to create or embolden future terrorists.) Ike's warning about the [Congressional]-Military-Industrial complex seems more salient than ever, and a partial-explanation as to why military violence gets more support than e.g. infrastructure-building programs. (Nearly 6,000 US citizens have died fighting in the Iraq-Afgh wars; more than twenty times that number of foreign civilians have been killed by the US military.)

        There are many, many important issues we consider -- quality, affordable health-care for all; unemployment; the domestic and international economies; creating opportunities for the world's poorest (Haiti, Africa, etc.); nuclear non-proliferation; climate-change; renewable energy; habitat loss and species extinction; immigration; racism; education; judicial reforms; campaign finance; corporate power; gun-control; capital punishment; preserving social security; Mideast peace; China; choice; etc.

        •  The personal is poltical (0+ / 0-)

          as the pioneers of women's liberation noticed in the 60s.

          Politics is about government by the governed, and while this is a Demicratic site, we're hardly  limited here to us-versus-them partisan politics, or issues where clear lines have been drawn for us to line up behind.

          I'm sure you're aware of a lot of people here arguing Obama should do this, Obama should do that...

          As to Drudge, etc., even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

          You agree that these so-called security measures are not making us significantly safer. Meanwhile, they are hurting people and costing a brickload of money. So why is it so important that NOTHING be done to fix this?

          You've listed a lot of important issues. Are you suggesting that people should abandon all of them, too, except two or three?

    •  Right! They're just silly words! Why worry? (12+ / 0-)

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated

      •  are scanners 'unreasonable'? (0+ / 0-)

        That seems to be the question on this issue, which is not something that quoting the Constitution will solve. Scanners strike me as reasonable, given other tradeoffs, though I understand that others might well disagree.  (Are there steps that can be taken to make scanners reasonable? Do the use of metal-detectors, wands, or sniffers constitute unreasonable search-and-seizure?)

        "That is all I have to say." :-)

        •  Yep, I consider them very unreasonable (0+ / 0-)

          If your gut doesn't tell you so, see parts II and III.

          Coming up.

        •  I'll take the Constitution over the dictionary (0+ / 0-)

          One part that's unreasonable about the backscatter scanners and enhanced pat-downs -- and you point this out indirectly in your response -- is that they add close to nothing in the way of additional security over the already-in-place scanners and detectors.  To be "reasonable", the new scanners and pat-downs would have to provide a level of increased security commensurate with the increase in privacy violation.  

          You cannot make airplanes completely safe from attack.  Cockpit door locks are the the biggest step to preventing another airplane-as-weapon attack like 9/11.  If someone is determined to "just" blow up a single plane, there is simply no way to prevent that 100% of the time, and items carried on a passenger's body aren't even close to being the biggest threat.  

          There are dozens of situations you go through every day that would make easier, more attractive targets for a terrorist intent on killing lots of people.  And many of them would cause more terror and economic disruption than a blown-up airplane.

          Personally, I'd prefer that the government worried less about terrorist attack and more about the economy, climate change, poverty, education, infrastructure, etc.  But if we insist on worrying, I'd rather spend the resources and energy on things that aren't already well-protected, and where an attack is likely to much more severe.

  •  Blacks and latinos are groped every day... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Silent Lurker, Clio2, Sharon Wraight

    for just walking down the street... The TSA starts groping air travelers (disproportionately white and well off) and suddenly there's outrage on all the networks...

    I think it's healthy for the air traveler to realize, just a little, what it is like to be searched for no reason.

    everything Bertrand Russell ever said...

    by ptolemynm on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 11:52:23 AM PST

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      belinda ridgewood

      that the outrage ought to be more comprehensive. Hopefully, this experience will eventually cause people to take a harder look at such abusive practices in other contexts as well.

    •  It may not be entirely about race (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      belinda ridgewood

      I agree with your premise that profiling and police misconduct with minorities doesn't always generate the outrage it deserves.

      Some of the indifference may be racial; I think some of it may be "well, that couldn't happen HERE".  Local law enforcement agencies are, well...local. TSA and airport security are universal (for those who fly)...there's simply no way to use the "not gonna happen to me" rationalization.

  •  My first question: (4+ / 0-)

    Is it not possible to develop the technology to safely scan only foreign objects on the body, without the full photograph of the naked body?  Seriously.  Not possible?  

    I'm mortified by this whole thing.  The enhanced searches, the naked photographs (that's what they are), and the random quota policies along with the reports that this is an unreliable and inefficient way to find weapons. That children are being subjected to this makes my blood boil.  How much sheeple humiliation will American citizens have to put up with?

    I already have a flight booked for next week to see family for the holidays. And it may well be my last.  

  •  As a comic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clio2, belinda ridgewood

    I tour around the country and into western Canada. Well, I used to go to Canada, but it got to be too much of a hassle.

    Now I guess I'll be driving wherever I'm booked. From Madison, Wisconsin, to Denver Colorado is 15.5 hours and nearly a thousand miles. I'm soooo looking forward to that "choice".

    The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there. - Yasutani Roshi

    by lotusmaglite on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 02:07:33 PM PST

  •  There are several (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    makfan, Clio2, Prachar

    important issues here, but the most important is this:

    The echo came up when some commenters stated that these procedures must be less for safety than to abash Americans and normalize mindless obedience.

    The most important thing to understand, and the most powerful argument, for the few remaining remnants of our society who value constitutional rights, is that the above quote is not an opinion. It is an indubitable fact. We have a case before the court of reason and sanity and common sense on this. The TSA procedures and their overwhelmingly ridiculous presence simply cannot be about protection of the public. There is absolutely no comprehnsible reasoning strategy which will lead any other conclusion. Simply list the causes of death for American citizens in rank order from most frequent to least, and then consider the government's response to each of them. The TSA response to the risk of dying in a terrorist attack on an airplane stands out as massive, incomprehensible overkill no matter how you look at it. There absolutely must be an ulterior motive.

    The argument that the TSA searches are for our protection wouldn't hold water for any other similar risk, nor even for risks which are much higher. The government does essentially nothing to protect us from risks which are several orders of magnitude greater than the risk of getting killed by a terrorist on a plane. Nothing. No doubt this is about government power, authoritarianism, and publicly and symbolically diminishing the validity of the Fourth Amendment. We are on the cusp of having the most important rights conveyed by our founders stolen, and we are doing very little about it.

    With the TSA procedures, the government is establishing precedence which will destroy the rights of our children and grandchildren. Lumping together some odd cohorts of people born since 1945, we are a generation which has been very selfish and very fortunate in may ways. History will not judge us well for many things, but for letting the government do this when we still have the capacity to correct the problem, we will no doubt become infamous. The government is trying to tell us the constitution is quaint, and by going along, we are implicitly agreeing with them. Our progeny will not forgive us for this. They will have to fight bloody battles and lose many lives to regain those rights, if they ever can.

    Every generation has its responsibilities. The Greatest Generation came to the call of our country to stop fascism in Europe. They paid the price. Most of us have enjoyed lives which did not require sacrifice of that magnitude. Losing control of our government and the constitution which so many of our ancestors fought and died for is like a careless child losing the family fortune. It isn't just about us, and how comnfortable our lives will be, and whether we can make it to old age with a retirement fund. An out of control government is the evil which fate has dealt to our generation. It is our WWII. It is our Civil War. It is the menace which history has placed on our plate. And it is our responsibility to at least leave the country the way we found it in terms of human rights.

    We must put a stop to this. It is the duty of every American who has enjoyed life in this great country, under the blood stained constitution handed down to us, to see to it that we don't give it away. There will be future generations who will never know the freedoms we have enjoyed because of our apathy on this matter. These rights which we take for granted were hard won -- paid for with blood and massive suffering. Our D-day has come. We must stop this, or we will be written into history as the most shamefully selfish, irresponsible and immoral generation in the history of this country.

    It is worth it. And we still have the right to vote. A child born in 2050 is asking you why you don't care enough to do something. What is the answer?

    Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
    Mark Twain

    by phaktor on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 09:30:46 PM PST

  •  I would have rec'd this diary (0+ / 0-)

    if I had seen it earlier.  Going on to parts 2 and 3....

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