Non Sequitur: Privatize TSA Screeners for Invasive Body Scans

Republicans are exploiting public outrage over whole body scanners and new invasive pat-downs to justify privatizing TSA screeners:


As criticism grows of the government's new full-body imaging scanners and the alternative "enhanced" pat-downs, some airports are considering ditching TSA agents altogether. This month, Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida wrote letters to 100 of the nation's busiest airports asking that they request private security guards instead. [CBS]

This argument is on an intellectual par with "I hate socialized medicine, hands off my Medicare!"

If TSA screeners were replaced by private contractors, they would still have to follow the same rules, using the same machines, and the same search protocols. The only difference would be that John Mica's corporate campaign contributors would stand to make a lot of money.

Magical market forces will not give us better screening service. The contracts will be handed out to cronies behind closed doors. Passengers are literally a captive audience. If your flight is about to take off, you can't just walk out and find an airport with nicer baggage screeners.

The question then becomes, who would you rather have up in your junk: The TSA or Blackwater?

This is a false dichotomy, of course. The nude body scans and front-handed genital pat-downs violate our privacy without enhancing security. The policy needs to change. At least the policy-makers work for us. For-profit security firms work for their shareholders first and the public second. That's just how corporations are. Do you really want your safety to be secondary to someone else's profits?

No matter who administers it, the whole body scanner project is all one big human experiment. The TSA can't even prove that the scanners are more effective than existing technology. Adam Serwer writes in TAPPED: "The current scanners were being evaluated at a time when, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report, the TSA had neither implemented a cost-benefit analysis of its passenger-screening technologies nor established "performance measures that assess how deployed technologies have reduced or mitigated risk." As of today, the GAO says the TSA still hasn't done either, despite having deployed the scanners nationwide."

So, we're being asked to submit to virtual strip searches on spec. Nor is there any particular reason to think that the new front-handed pat-downs will discover significantly more contraband than the old frisks, which I recall as being very thorough. If you were hiding something in your pants, it would be pretty obvious, even without the genital probing. It's not like the underpants bomber could have been stopped at the gate if only someone had specifically checked the gap between his scrotum and his inner thigh.

Not only is privatization not a solution to the scanner problem, it isn't even logically related. Calling for privatization because of bad TSA rules is a total non sequitur because private contractors would have to follow the same rules!

Your civil liberties are being violated and Rep. Mica is exploiting your outrage to further his own radical privatization agenda and line his campaign contributors' pockets. Don't fall for it.

[Photo credit: Lindsay Beyerstein.]

Befriend your ideological opposite. It’s fun.

Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
  • Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
  • "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

Videos
  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Keep reading Show less

Physicist advances a radical theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.

Photo by Willeke Duijvekam
Surprising Science
  • The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
  • The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
  • While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
Keep reading Show less

UPS has been discreetly using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo

TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.


PAUL RATJE / Contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.
Keep reading Show less