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.]

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

This 1997 Jeff Bezos interview proves he saw the future coming

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, explains his plan for success.

Technology & Innovation
  • Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for Amazon.com from the start.
  • He was inspired by a statistic he learned while working at a hedge fund: In the '90s, web usage was growing at 2,300% a year.
  • Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less