The Closet Moderate: Whose nutz? Deez nutz! An ode to TSA.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Whose nutz? Deez nutz! An ode to TSA.

This bloggard looks on in glee as the Transportation Security Agency faces a backlash over their growing use of millimeter wave and x-ray backscatter imaging machines. As our readers all know, the machines waylay airline passengers as they try to enter the "secure" area of an airport, forcing them to empty their pockets of every receipt, coin, and piece of lint in their possession while low-dose irradiation creates a detailed image of their fat folds and wrinkles.

Compared to the magnetometers previously used, the new technology takes longer but could potentially detect receipts, coins, and lint that passengers previously snuck onto planes. Would these machines prevent a would-be bomber from bringing underwear bombs on board? Perhaps, but are there would-be underwear bombers waiting for their opportunity? Explosive printer cartridges are way easier, after all. And would they stop a would-be bomber from bringing a suppository bomb on board? No. Nor would they stop a whole slew of other potential attack vectors that could be used.

More to the point, who cares!!? Bombs, guns, knives, or snakes on planes are just not a serious threat. As Patrick Smith points out in Salon, terrorists have targeted aviation lots and lots of times, but it's hard. Building bombs, finding and training bombers, and getting to the airport is the hard part, and most people just can't pull it off. Even when they do succeed, we're way more likely to die in a car crash enroute to the airport than from a bombing onboard, or any sort of plane crash for that matter. We're also more likely to be struck by lightning. Lightning people. From the sky!

Part of me hopes that the media attention prompts policy makers to chill. That part is vastly overwhelmed by the part that thinks no national politician alive would dare restore sanity to security for fear of being blamed for the next attack. So in the end, I'll continue to glower at screening agents who probably hate their jobs just slightly less than I hate their jobs.

I also have a plan. It's MacGuyver-esque in its elegance, I think. It involves scotch tape. Specifically, I want to tape a message to my undershirt. It will look something like this:

And if that doesn't work, there are other things to look forward to. I was treated to a demonstration a few years back of a facial "micro-expression" recognition system. The engineers told me it looked for "facial leakages" to detect hostile intent. I give it credit. I stared into the camera and the computer chomped away at the image. Eventually the computer had seen my soul, and a message popped up on the monitor that exactly matched my mood... disgust.

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