10A073 Gropers by Jim Davies, 11/14/2010

Reuters reported Thursday that the TSA is beginning to bend a bit under the barrage of protest about its airline gate screening process. The choice is to get X-rayed down to nudity, or to be patted by the government in places we all consider private. Lew Rockwell has suggested it's designed to "to control, humiliate, intimidate, and condition us to abject obedience" and I'd say he's right.

His web site has featured a number of recent articles on the subject, including one from a pilot, Michael Roberts - whose opinion is shared even by the pilot unions; good for them. Others are concluding it's time to stop flying, to travel if at all by other means, so as to retain proper human dignity and privacy.

One cannot alas travel by car across an ocean, so I'm not likely to stop flying and am not sure how I'll treat the TSA, next time. So far I've handled them just as people doing their jobs, and even elevated one of them to humor status: I'd been told to put my jacket in a tray, but after passing through a metal detector I was asked for my ticket and said it was in the jacket pocket. Let the record show that the TSA guy said something funny like "Oh, boy, some mothers do have 'em", and so we all laughed and kept our tempers. I applaud the motives of those who protest and try to bring the TSA to its knees, but think that target is too trivial.

Government started mandating scrutiny of airline passengers in 1973, and there was some protest on Fourth Amendment grounds, but (surprise!) the Judicial Branch said it was quite okay for persons to be searched without "Warrants [issued] upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation." The present more intensive scrutiny is merely an extension of that law; if it was valid 37 years ago, it's valid now, and vice versa.

It wan't, and isn't. According to the Wikpedia article on aircraft hijacking, "The Nixon Administration in 1973 ordered the discontinuance by the CIA of the use of hijacking as a covert action weapon against the Castro regime. The Cuban intelligence followed suit." So frequent hijacking - the excuse used for the 1973 law - was evidently initiated by the CIA. The PLA then tried the same tactic because the FedGov so relentlessly supported the Israeli State to the disadvantage of Palestinians, and an even more terrible blow was struck for the same reason in 2001. Our present dilemma duly followed, and the entire mess (give or take a few unbalanced individuals) resulted directly from government actions and policies.

The principle at work is that of government interference in contracts between airlines and their passengers. Absent government, there would of course be none; then, airlines would compete in part on the basis of how well they preserved their customers' privacy and safety, both. I expect to see a variety of policies, aimed to achieve that balance; some would have no prohibition of weapons aboard and no scrutiny, some would offer the opposite. Pay the fare, take your choice. That's freedom; and a rational strategy is not to quibble about the symptoms, but to eliminate the disease.

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