Don’t Grope, Profile!

I am taking a break from my step-by-step series on the harmfulness of protectionism to comment on current events. Just a break, I will go back to the series soon.

Try as I may, I can’t get exercised about the new airport security measures that are currently being decried all over the media. Being seen naked by strangers in another room and even being patted down by a person of the same sex (who might be a homosexual, of course but what the hell!) do not rank high on my list of catastrophes. That’s especially true if it decreases the probability of a real catastrophe. By the way, the experts I hear on this are far from enthusiastic about the new procedures’ effectiveness.

I suspect there is a “subtext” to this story, as my post-modernist academic friends would say. People are not really pissed off at the indignity of nakedness before strangers, or at the indignity of being groped by strangers. They are furious about another kind of collective, national indignity: We have become such wusses in this country that it makes us collectively stupid. How low we have gone! Almost everyone sees the obvious: The airline that is certain to be the number one target of violent jihadists and of other, non-religious, terrorists, has never had a serious safety incident. I am speaking of the Israeli airline, El Al, of course.

The secret to this huge Israeli success is not a secret. Everyone in the airline industry, everyone worldwide who has security responsibilities knows what it is: El Al does not rely on increasingly sophisticated, increasingly intrusive, yet necessarily imperfect high technology. Instead, its security people profile systematically, relentlessly and, more importantly, remorselessly. They ask more questions of a 25-year old, male, Arab, Muslim college graduate than they do of a 90-year old Orthodox rabbi. Jews are so clever!

Since it seems I have to spell it out, here is how American profiling would go: 95% of deadly terrorist incidents in the past ten years have been committed by Muslims. I don’t care if they were good Muslims or bad Muslims. I don’t care if their interpretation of Islam is correct or not. I would prefer to be able to do it but only mildly because what I propose to do is not cruel, disfiguring or irreversible. I am thinking of a mild degree of discomfort that does not seem to be appreciably more severe than what Muslim travelers are already suffering, not as Muslims, but as travelers.

Here is the proposal: Give special attention to travelers with Muslim names. It turns out that Muslim names are distinctive irrespective of country or language. I refer, here to the combination of first name, second name and third names, as the case may be. As I write, it would be difficult to find a single Muslim named Peter Smith, or Pierre Dupont, or Giancarlo Lambini, or Hans Gut.

Of course, as the most alert among you will have noticed, violent jihadists and other Muslim terrorists can always change their names. They could go from, say: Abdul Mohamed Hamid to John Woodpecker. That’s fine, let them. It’s such an unusual measure, it’s processed through such narrow administrative or judicial channels, that any Muslim who does it will inevitably draw attention to himself or to herself. It would be like lighting a red light on his or her head for security services to follow. Any such Muslim name changer detained for anything, such as spitting on the sidewalk, would have some explaining to do with respect to the name change. Anyone charged with terrorism before a jury would essentially be forced to plead guilty because there is hardly an innocent reason for a Muslim to change his name to a non-Muslim name. In fact, it’s a kind of minor apostasy from an Islamic standpoint. (I am no making a theological assessement but a cultural remark based on good observation.)

So, my plan call for inviting would-be passengers with Muslim names to step into a separate line and then to ask them questions, observe them and give them a choice between a body scan and a pronounced pat down, as in the current plan for all passengers. Focusing on fewer then 5% of passengers ( I am guessing) rather than a 100%, TSA could do a real thorough job. It would have the resources to follow through on hunches that make much of the success of other security personnel such as cops and customs officers. At least, violent male jihadists in burkas and face covering would have a fair chance of detection! TSA could also allow its bloated, soon unionized work force of tenured, overpaid high-school graduates to atrophy naturally. Or it could re-deploy them where they would to more good, inspecting cargo ships before they enter American harbors, for example. Another idea would be to make them un-inspected cargo that now flies in the planes are body-scanned and groped passengers.

Of course, many Muslims would be outraged at first. TSA could point out calmly and repeatedly that this economical approach to terrorism prevention protects Muslims as well as other passengers, and Muslim children as well as Christian, and even Jewish children, traveling by plane. Personally, I believe that any Muslim passenger who would argue that protecting Muslim children is not worth the small inconvenience I describe would designate himself as a potential terrorist. Muslim organizations would raise a great cry of discrimination that should be ignored. The moral basis for doing so is that they either represent Muslims in America or not. They may not protest about the Muslim woman who was insulted casually on a bus in the South one time because she wore the hijab and then argue that the Pantie bomber, the Time Square Bomber, Major Hasan, all explicitly Muslim mass murderers, are none of their affair. They might sue with the silly geese of the ACLU, probably. I say, let them and let them pay the corresponding price in public opprobrium. So far, they have gotten off easy with their passivity.

A small technical note: Muslim organizations are already arguing that being patted down or subjected to a full body scan is a special affront to Muslim women. This is total bullshit, of course except that I have noticed that many fully covered Muslim women seem overweight at an early age. That would explain some of the sense of affront; women are women, after all. Eighty-year old celibate Catholic nuns probably don’t think it’s cool, to show their bodies either. (I am just guessing.) There is an easy and cheap solution that calls their dangerous bluff: Recruit a small cadre of heavily scrutinized Muslim female TSA agents to watch traditional, tribal, Muslim women’s bodies on the scanner and to pat them down under the chador or burka. If Muslim organizations reject this solution, they will be demonstrating their complicity with violent jihadism.

For reasons pertaining to some primitive beliefs associated with Islam, most observant Muslim women go to the baths once a month. There, they spend hours naked in the company of many other naked Muslim women. Vigorous exploration of pious, observant Muslim women by other Muslim women would also have the advantage of detecting any illicit weaponry hidden under the chador or burka including but not limited to guns and explosives. (If you know what I mean.) Given the extreme prudery of fanatical Muslims, the practice might even deter reliance on this particular form of concealment by male terrorists. Incidentally, I think we use far too little for our protection the cultural weapons available against fanatics.

The problems of security confronting us have mostly common sense solutions. Unfortunately, we have reached the point in America where applying common sense takes uncommon courage. We began manning up in the last election. I trust this collective recovery will continue. We must get rid of left-wing Democrats because they are extremely dangerous both for what they do and because of what they don’t do. Don’t the recent cowardly TSA “airport security” measures show this with blinding clarity?

About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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23 Responses to Don’t Grope, Profile!

  1. Helene Hagan says:

    I stopped flying several months ago, after I was singled out at the security point in San Jose Airport, and some fat, blubbery, black woman – very much looking like a Lesbian to me – began to grope me seriously and massaging my breasts. I asked her is she was getting a kick out of doing that to women, and she got huffy and told me that if I opened my mouth again, I would be taken to a private room and my bodily cavities thoroughly searched.

    Needless to say, I felt violated by this jerk , hardly a woman in my view, an d the threats of bodily invasion felt like the threats of a rape. I knew I was being denied the most elementary protection of my civil rights. I was hushed , but the result is that I have stopped flying altogether. I am going to Colorado for a family reunion for Thanksgiving and DRIVING THERE because of present circumstances in airports. I think people are behaving in an insane way, and that this whole security system is to give government employment to a bunch of uneducated thugs. I agree with you in regards to the Jewish method of securing their flights: profiling, profiling, profiling. I am in my seventies, have taken the San Jose -Burbank route back and forth at least six times a year for 12 years, besides flying hundreds of thousands of miles for the last fifty years around the world, and do not deserve to be treated like a criminal by uncouth lesbians in my old age each time I need to board a plane. I think they are the criminals. I refuse to be bodily scanned, at airports or any other place. The only recourse I have is not to fly any more until people recover part of their sanity in this country. How did we ever get to such a point of relinquishing our most basic rights to privacy against undue search and seizure?

  2. Terry Amburgey says:

    Why am I not surprised that Jacques doesn’t mind getting groped at the airport🙂 I’m with you, grope and scan away, doesn’t bother me in the least.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Terry, Terry, You promised you would never mention this. It was a long time ago; besides, I was drunk and I don’t remember.

  3. Lawrence Marcus says:

    Thanks for taking note at how completely absurd our airport situation has become. Of course the answer is profiling. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. 100% of terrorists have been Muslim. Maybe we should start there. In stead, the country that has a perception of unlimited wealth is determined to waste it all on screening 100% of all people to look for the 1 out of ten million that might be a terrorist, and by the way again, there is a 100% chance that he or she is a muslim. Maybe a statistics professor could help us out instead of a really stupid liberal democrat. American tax payers are once again footing the bill for this insanity.
    Maybe the answer is unionizing the TSA. Are you kidding me. Another OBAMA disaster in the making. Giving these f k heads the ability to shut down all transportation world wide because they are not getting their coffee breaks or are having to ( sorry, this line of reasoning is not even worth it ).
    This really makes me angry, especially when you are traveling and you see the absurdity of old and young getting scanned by people that are clueless, approved by managers that are clueless, hired by a system that is clueless, legislated by a administration that is clueless, voted in by a people that are becoming more and more clueless.

  4. Lawrence Marcus says:

    Not yet, that is my point. It is supposed to be in the process. The good news is that airports can opt out of the TSA and hire private companies to do their security. A number of airports are doing this, the latest is one in Florida. Why wouldn’t they all? The cost of flying internationally to and from the U.S. now comprises of the ticket for the travel 60% and 40% for the tax to cover security. You can pay in excess of $400 per trip to get screened to show that you are not a muslim terrorist.
    To me this invasion of privacy and cost is a clear touchdown for the bad guys. To them, if it takes 100 years, they still win the game.

  5. David says:

    Perhaps if the TSA had hired some Chippendale dancers and some Playboy bunnies, made the invasive pat downs strictly by the opposite gender; this way no one has to worry about a homosexual checking anyone out and given the attractive nature of Chippendale dancers and Playboy bunnies, I doubt anyone will complain, if anything, people will opt for the more….private…”invasive” pat downs. Everyone will leave with a smile!

    However, on a more serious note, profiling is just a more efficient use of tax dollars and time. Congress ought not waste money we give them. (notice the use of “ought”) And we ought to hold their feet to the fire to encourage them to spend money in a more efficient manner. In my opinion, the most egregious part of this is the waste of my most precious asset…time. Flying post-9/11 has become increasingly time consuming. Last time I flew I was travelling with my daughter (a toddler) and had to get to the airport at minimum 1.5 hours early. I’d love to see TSA have to entertain a toddler for 1.5+ hours prior to a flight. I can only imagine that it is a 2 hour minimum now. 3 hours just to be safe. Granted, I fly very rarely these days, largely due to the inconvenience of the process of getting on the plane. Most places I want to go, I can get to in my truck, usually in about the time it takes to fly. And it’s easier to keep my daughter entertained. Frequent fliers have it much worse. People who fly 2+ times a week have to add a several hours to their work week (driving to and from the airport, waiting at the airport, the actual flight, deplaning, etc.), making them either less productive (fewer hours worked each week) or having to spend more time working to make up the difference.

    To sum up, I think people a) don’t want to be molested by the TSA b) They don’t want people seeing them naked c) They think that this is an over-reach of government authority and d) They feel that their time is too valuable to be spending several hours just waiting for a flight. People are probably most offended by the first two because of their personal feelings regarding nudity and intimacy.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Well put. I have been reluctant to fly since 9/11 also because of the inconvenience of security measures. The terrorists have succeeded in undermining our life style. What bothers me most is our collective passivity in this regard.

  6. I knew that your blog would have the clearest view on this and I was right. Thanks too to those commenting. Jacques, I hope you won’t mind if I bring Bruce your way for an introduction.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Terri: I bet you say this to all absurdly handsome, distinguished looking, suave older men! Bring Bruce. I will look him up and down.

  7. Bruce says:

    I hear some airports are planning to opt out of TSA, and go private.

    http://www.infowars.com/florida-airport-to-opt-out-of-tsa-screening/

    Some people think that will be worse than TSA. I think private enterprise is missing a big opportunity here… how about a special line for people willing to schedule an appointment, arrive early, and get a full body massage by a licensed, trained security-massage therapist? I’d pay extra. And plenty of time for Security to go through your clothes, luggage and wallet to check out your junk. I’d be a lot more relaxed for my flight.

    I also like David’s idea about the Bunnies and Chips.

    One other brainstorm… Not enough time for a massage? How about a line for people willing to wear a thong and pasties?

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      TSA Pres. Bush’s biggest blunder in my book, will still be in charge. We might get intrusion and even lower competence.

      All good suggestion but I don’t see why you don’t loop the loop: Special lounges for people who are willing to arrive early for a conventional examination and for people willing to wear thongs and pasties. In an adjoining room. private MDs could offer quick prostate exams for best medical practice combined with time efficiency. That would be a step in a libertarian direction.

  8. Lawrence Marcus says:

    I had a feeling this would be a hot if not emotional issue.
    Look at it from this angle and it will drive you nuts!
    What if you ran a bank and one day a robber comes in and robs your bank. Does the government then demand that you must check everyone of your customers when they walk in the door to transact business for the possibility that they are the next bank robber.
    What if a shoplifter steals something at a store in the mall, do you then hire the TSA to scan everyone walking into the mall. And of course all of the store owners would have to share in the cost of the hiring of the now unionized TSA folks, including healthcare and 401k plans. And these costs would be passed down to customers.
    Of course bank robbers and shoplifters don’t poise the same deadly threat but for our government to think that scanning every American born citizen, let alone any American citizen, when all airlines terrorists have been foreign born and particularly of muslim persuasion i.e. no one else is this crazed, is a debacle for our economy, states of mind, and guarantee of our pursuit of happiness; by being able to visit grandma on Thanksgiving in Wisconsin, without every one of us facing the threat and intrusion of our own government.
    It seems like a set up for things to come. Soon there will be a scanner for people with and without wealth. If you are honest and go through the scanner for wealthy people there will be unionized IRS people waiting at the far end of the scanners inorder to collect the peoples fair share.
    I for one hope that the American people rise up at the airports and let the “TSA officials and supposed heads of “National Security” The likes of Janet REno, are you kidding, know that enough is enough and “We aren’t going to take it any more”. I like the governor of Texas’s idea of sending all of the TSA personel to the Mexican border and have them frisk and abuse the people that really want to do harm to our country!!!

  9. Ron says:

    Number of deaths from the 9/11 attack = ~3,000
    http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/US/resources/9.11.report/911ReportExec.pdf
    Number of vehicular deaths in 2001 = 42,196
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year
    So we seem to be spending large amount of money addressing a rather small problem.
    And per Bastiat, we could try to quantify the number of vehicular deaths from those who choose to drive rather than fly because of TSA. And the man-hours (lives) lost in wasted time going through security.
    While you have a point about the actual source of the anger, and I can’t argue against the profiling you propose, I have to wonder if TSA would pass any sort of cost/benefit analysis at all.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      The number of death at Pearl Harbor was smaller, I think. So, do you think the Japanese fascists would have left us alone if we had not fought back? Do you really believe that the violent jihadists would leave us alone if we walked away? Besides, they have already inflicted considerable damage to our society beyond killing 3,000 innocents. Take the new TSA security measures, for example. For me, and many other older people, they are the last straw. I am not traveling by air any more. I want to stop them with my volunteer army before it gets much worse.

      • Ron says:

        Jacques,
        I’m not arguing what you seem to think; pacifism ain’t my thing.
        My point (obscure as it may be) that we can certainly trust the passengers to never allow *that* to happen again.
        Even the guy with the bomb in his shoe was caught by the passengers.
        Would a plane go down now and then? Probably; they do now. Would the overall death toll rise? Doubtful, especially if we count the hours (lives) lost in security and the auto alternative.
        So, I’m asking on a cost/benefit basis, is TSA worth taking out behind the barn and drowning? I think so.
        I’ll grant your point; if profiling could reduce the costs, it might make sense. The way it is now doesn’t.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Sorry I misunderstood. The direct damage done by terrorists pales compared to say highway deaths. I am concerned about the emasculating effect their constant threat has on our society, about our growing cowardice. There are several reasons why you have to beat up bullies by practically any means. I am sure you have heard them. Besides, in the case of the Taliban, I would enjoy doing it because of their treatment of women and because of their general asshole-ishness.

        Tell more about how profiling isn’t cost-effective.

  10. Ron says:

    “Tell more about how profiling isn’t cost-effective.”
    Uh, I didn’t say that; seems we’re separated by the same language. I said:
    “if profiling could reduce the costs, it [TSA] might make sense.”
    Let me try this: I’m tired of standing in long lines, dealing with folks who probably didn’t quite qualify as hall monitors in high school, emptying my pockets, taking my belt off, taking off my wedding ring, taking off my shoes, and emptying my dop kit to get on a damn plane.
    In short, I’m tired of acting like some poor, frightened 4 year old checking under the bed for boogie men, all because some religious whacko might bomb a plane every several years if the passengers don’t beat the crap out of him first.
    On top of having to act like that, I’m pretty sure that TSA as it stands is *not* cost-effective as regards just plain loss of life; I’m pretty sure it costs more (in lives) than it saves, added to the lump of wasted money in the process.
    So, “if profiling could reduce the costs, it [TSA] might make sense.” Until then, TSA ought to be disbanded; I’ll take my chances.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Thanks for the clarification. Brevity is usually a virtue but not always!
      Three things: 1 On 9/11, the passengers who stopped the assault over Pennsylvania all died.
      2 If we did not take public security measures, attempted acts of terrorism would almost certainly increase. We don’t know to what extent. It could be within limits you are willing to live with. It could be very big. We just don’t know
      3 You seem to be ignoring the costs to our society of the terrorist threat that fails to materialize. As I have said before, I am not flying anymore because of the bother you describe so well. That’s a restriction on my freedom and an economic loss.

      As I said in the original posting, profiling works for El Al, I don’t know why it would not work for other airlines.

      Thanks.

      • Ron says:

        BTW, thanks for getting to the ‘escalators’; I was on pins and needles….
        Anyhow, at the risk of belaboring the subject:
        “On 9/11, the passengers who stopped the assault over Pennsylvania all died.”
        Yes, they did. The cockpit had already been captured. I don’t think that will ever happen again.

        “If we did not take public security measures, attempted acts of terrorism would almost certainly increase.”
        We already had security measures, and by every account I’ve seen the new ‘strip or grope’ rules merely make the acts a bit more difficult. As have each of the (you’ll forgive me…) ‘escalations’ . Hence the results have been to make the fanatics somewhat more uncomfortable with no real gain in security. Again, balanced against the man-hours (deaths) of delay and the resultant increase in deaths from more dangerous forms or travel.

        “You seem to be ignoring the costs to our society of the terrorist threat that fails to materialize.” I’m not ignoring that at all; I’m including it in the costs of TSA; see paragraph above. It is implicit in my statement that TSA could never withstand a cost/benefit analysis.

        I’m not sure it is clear that I have no argument with profiling, merely the doubt that such a logical approach has little chance of employment. And, of course my hope of disbanding TSA has the same sort of chance.
        Perhaps one chance (if people get angry enough) is to threaten the disbandment unless profiling is adopted; subject TSA to a C/B analysis.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Ron: I am glad you got the pins and needles out of your skin.

        I suspect you are systematically overestimating the capabilities of violent terrorists. They are small groups of amateurs with limited finances and little technical training. 9/11 was a model of ingenuous terrorism and it was not even expensive.( I calculated that I could have paid for it by selling my house.) The sophistication and the efficacy of terrorist attempts against the US and other countries have gone downhill ever since in terms of intended scope, ingenuity and quality of execution. There is also evidence a contrario that this view is correct: If you think of the huge number of soft targets promising large numbers of victims that have not been attacked (sports events for example) it seems that the terrorists’ capabilities are very limited. I think they are so limited that any protective measure or any threat of a protective measure undermines them, including small measures such as body searches, electronic spying, and anything that feeds into their own paranoiac view of the world. Apart from this, I think large centralize organizations such as TSA are pretty much the wrong tool to rely on to undermine terrorists’ capacities. But even TSA, such as it is, under a militant administration could be useful. (Obama does not want to fight. )Those are two different questions: What to do? Who should do it?

        We don’t need the whole TSA giant bureaucracy to implement intelligent profiling but some subset of it could do it. Here again, the Israeli example is worth studying.

        As an aside, I think we have not begum to use the cultural weapons available to us: Violent jihadists hold a particular narrow worldview. They have a particular set of primitive beliefs that are easy to identify and to exploit. No more on this right now; perhaps later.

        I would be curious about the cost/benefit analysis you would employ in any of this. You have not persuaded me that you are considering the erosion costs of the terrorist threat because of your apparent focus on the TSA monster.

        Incidentally, I don’t remember if I said this but I am less afraid of another couple of planes downed than I am about a dirty bomb on a city. I understand it’s entirely feasible.

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