Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Come fly with Whom...???

We must share with you Jane Hamsher’s take on the TSA scanners, which, by the way, she calls “TSA Porno Screeners.”  [Here]  If you do not know of her, Jame Hamsher is one of the leading progressive bloggers in this country and is the founder of FireDogLake, the collaborative and very influential progressive blog.  The full title of her November 22nd blog was TSA Porno Screeners: Giant Boondoggle.” 
Hamsher quotes Elizabeth Fuller’s reporting in the Christian Science Monitor and the picture is not pleasant:  [Here
The TSA received more stimulus funding than any other single agency, company, or organization: $1 billion for aviation security. Most of that money was allocated to screening checked baggage. But $266 million went toward improving checkpoints by acquiring five types of screening equipment: chemical analyzers; explosives detectors; bottled-liquid scanners (which should allow passengers to carry water and shampoo through security checkpoints); enhanced X-ray scanners for carry-on bags; and the AIT scanners.
The first 4 types of screening devices are not yet operational, but the AIT scanners certainly are, with the help of the injection of even more stimulus money this year.   There are 385 AIT machines in operation now and an additional 100 more are scheduled to be ready in December. 
How effective are these machines?  Hamsher has reported that, as of April 2010, the General Accounting Office reported that it is unclear whether the AIT scanner would have detected the device that the so-called underwear bomber used in December, 2009. Nevertheless, the TSA is pouring money into the scanner program.
I might add that the TSA is also pitting its own reputation into backing the controversial airport security program that it has devised--the AIT scanner, aided and abetted with the infamous, “don’t touch my junk” pat-downs.  And now there is a new wrinkle.  If you get to the airport and suddenly decide that both the AIT scanner and the pat-down are not for you and you turn around and go home, you might be searched out, questioned and socked with an $11,000. fine. [Here]  (Nice, eh?)
As Matthew Harwood of Truthout wrote: [Here]
In Congressional testimony last week, TSA Administrator John Pistole stood firm. He said air travelers will either submit to a full body scan or an enhanced pat down or they will not fly.  Pistole pleaded for public cooperation, telling senators that the TSA and other federal agencies and national laboratories are working diligently to deploy next-generation screening technologies to eliminate fliers' privacy concerns.
On Wednesday, November 24th, there has been a grassroots call for a national day of disobedience, called National Opt-Out Day.  We have yet to know what will happen but it will be interesting.  I am not planning to go anywhere but I’ll be eager to hear what happens.  My heart and sympathy will certainly be with those who protest.    
How much more will it take for national leaders to have some common sense or, at least, listen to others who do?
Is this TSA scenario more Shock and Awe?  More tomorrow... 

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