Not everyone who passes through a TSA checkpoint upon entering (or, when they totally screw up, even as passengers are leaving the airport) the secure area of an airport has an unpleasant experience. And who doesn’t want them to catch a terrorist, even though they’ve never actually done so. But for those who have enjoyed the euphemistically-challenged deeply personal hard work of TSA agents to
play their role in security theater protect you, they aren’t nearly as much fun as some might believe.
One aspect (of many) that has been particularly troubling is the way that the TSA has basically enabled sexual assault of travelers. If you felt that wasn’t too bad, have no fear, the TSA is apparently increasing the sexual assaulty nature of these searches:
The new physical touching—for those selected to have a pat-down—will be be what the federal agency officially describes as a more “comprehensive” physical screening, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman.
Denver International Airport, for example, notified employees and flight crews on Thursday that the “more rigorous” searches “will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.”
Got that? I love the way they dance around the fact that this is randomly allowed sexual assault on people who just want to travel somewhere. But it’s described as “physical touching” that is more “comprehensive” and “may involve an officer making more intimate contact.”
Put aside, for the moment, that TSA agents are not law enforcement officers, but rather the nice folks who you last met inquiring whether you wanted to supersize, now wearing blue shirts to create the impression of important authority. There are nearly 43,000 agents in the TSA’s employ, at a cost of $7.6 billion. By all metrics, it’s quite a show. An expensive, intrusive show, put on by poorly trained, poorly managed and, if one were to judge by their achievements, dangerously out-of-control actors.
So naturally, the way to improve matters is to direct these pizza lovers to engage in conduct that would, under most other circumstances, constitute crimes. Why isn’t it a crime? Because it’s consensual, travelers having consented to their children, their spouses, themselves, being touched on any part of their body by a TSA agent by electing to travel by airplane a privilege, not a right. Hey, you could walk across country. Is it TSA’s fault you chose to fly?
But the fact that they can doesn’t sufficiently explain what pushes the TSA to announce that they will now insert fingers in orifices that in the past required dinner and affirmative consent. Rather, they are responding to their own inadequacies.
So why are TSA agents allowed to get more gropey, just a year or so after it was discovered that some TSA agents were scheming specifically to be able to sexually assault travelers they found attractive? Well, it’s because it’s been revealed how useless TSA security theater is. Really. After yet another set of reports pointed out that all this security theater is useless, the TSA said “welp, the answer to that must be moar sexual assault!:
The change is partly a result of the agency’s study of a 2015 report that criticized aspects of TSA screening procedures. That audit, by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, drew headlines because airport officers had failed to detect handguns and other weapons.
There will some, perhaps many, for whom this snarky explanation fails to evoke outrage, if not concern. After all, do we not want to stop the terrorists? Do we not think it’s more worthwhile to prevent another 9/11? Do we not care about the lives of the other passengers of the plane more than the unfortunate but necessary fact that some will suffer momentary indignity going through a checkpoint and the occasional private body part touched or nail clipper seized?
This is madness. The answer to the TSA’s awful and useless security theater should never be to give TSA agents more power to sexually assault travelers with “more intimate contact.” This is not about security. This is about the TSA wanting to make it look like they’re doing something, and apparently that includes groping strangers who are just trying to get somewhere. How the hell does sexually assaulting travelers make anyone any safer?
Putting aside the fact that the TSA has yet, in the entirety of its existence since its formation on November 19, 2001, stopped a terrorist. It may well be argued that its efforts have prevented potential terrorists from boarding planes. And the fact that its performance has failed test after test to challenge its efficacy, as it has caught weapons that some passengers tried to pass through checkpoints, as well as missed weapons and seized completely innocuous items that nice Americans bought and, because they may have been unfamiliar to former Dairy Queen employees, seemed remotely threatening in their fertile yet ignorant imaginations.
But we can’t have it all, can we? To train them better, to hire smarter, more astute people, to confer greater law enforcement authority upon these agents whose purpose is to safeguard our privileged air travel, would come at significant expense. And, given the experience with fully trained and authorized law enforcement officers, might well alter nothing about their skill at performing their job or restraint in sexual touching of travelers they find attractive.
Regardless of whether you’re not much of a traveler, and so you don’t really care about other people’s problems, or your fear so overwhelms your reason that you’re willing to have someone else suffer any invasiveness for your own false sense of safety, there comes a point when the question must be answered: are you good with some TSA agent’s performance, rubbing a little girl’s vagina? Or a woman’s breasts? Are some guy’s penis?
Calling it “more rigorous…intimate contact” doesn’t change where there hands go. Is this conduct, criminal under other circumstances, rendered benign when performed by a guy who reflexively mutters, “would you like fries with that”?