"I'm going to go slap the TSA around in a blog post," I told CSO Editor-In-Chief Derek Slater this morning. He laughed heartily. Around here, we jokingly pitch anti-TSA articles because, let's face it, you can never lose with that chestnut. But this isn't about taking a cheap shot. It's about me re-evaluating something I wrote about the TSA earlier.
On a trip to L.A. last fall, I saw some folks stumbling through the TSA gauntlet in what I thought were foolish ways -- the type of annoying stuff unseasoned travelers do to hold up the line for everyone else. On the plane, I wrote a post about how sometimes, it's not always the TSA's fault. I took lots of heat for that, as I knew I would. Some accused me of supporting a fascist regime.
I still feel the same way about a few things, particularly that some people make the TSA experience harder on themselves and everyone else than is necessary. But when the facts continue to add up, I'm increasingly left with a bad taste in my mouth.
John Adams once said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
And so it is in this case. The evidence against the TSA is rising up like a stinking pile of garbage. Some of the evidence can be found in these videos I recently posted. And the evidence keeps adding up on the news. Take this Todd Starnes report my friend Lori MacVittie shared on Facebook this morning. Here's an excerpt:
A Montana lawmaker is furious after the four year old daughter of one of his constituents was labeled a “high security threat” when the child hugged her grandmother at a security checkpoint at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Michelle Brademeyer, of Missoula, Mon., wrote about the incident on her Facebook page alleging TSA officers called for backup after her daughter would not stop crying and at one point was ordered to spread her legs. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) told Fox News that he is outraged over the four-year-old’s treatment. “Something is clearly very wrong if TSA’s protocol forced them to harass a four-year-old girl until she cried,” Rehberg said. “I intend to sit down with the TSA immediately and demand some answers.” The TSA confirmed to Fox News that an incident occurred at the airport -- but defended the way their officers handled the situation. “TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child,” said Sterling Payne, of the TSA Office of Public Affairs.
I can't ignore what's in front of me. I have to admit it: I was wrong.
Much has been said and written about the TSA as nothing more than security theater -- something that's there for show, to make people feel safer, even though in reality we're not all that safer than we were on 9-11-01. But it's becoming clear that we're dealing with something far more unacceptable than security theater.
This is Big Brother chipping away at our freedom of movement, abusing power on a daily basis in the process, in the name of security.
--Calling for back-up because you've scared a little girl into a fit of tears?
--Detaining a young mom for hours -- making her miss a flight -- because she doesn't want the breast milk she pumped being put through the x-ray?
--Making an elderly couple remove their shoes and belts like they've just arrived at prison to serve out a sentence?
It's not OK. Not in the United States of America.
Some have suggested that President Obama and the man he followed into office -- George W. Bush -- deserve the most blistering criticism for allowing it to get this bad. Indeed, they did play a role. But the biggest blame is staring at many of us in the mirror.
After 9-11, Americans were so freaked out and so anxious for security that they allowed the government to run wild. The Patriot Act and the TSA are prime examples of what happened next.
I'm responsible for this, too. I'm the guy who skipped a relative's wedding 10 days after 9-11 because I was too freaked out about boarding a plane. Back then, I would have felt better seeing security agents groping people in the airport line in search of guns and knives.
Shame on me for that.
And shame on me for sticking up for the TSA last fall.