Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No exemptions from TSA full body scanners or enhanced pat-downs, not for religious reasons --- but yes, exemptions yes, for special politicos

John-BoehnerImage via WikipediaOn November 17, 2010, we wrote about the TSA administrator's insistence at a committee hearing up the Hill that there will be no exemptions, not even for religious reasons from the enhanced security screenings (see  The TSA, the terrorists who succeed even when they fail, and who the heck is going to do my cavity check?):

TSA administrator John Pistole told the Senate Homeland Security Committee yesterday that there will be no exemption from the full-body scanners or the enhanced pat downs.  Not for religious reasons. And obviously no exemption either for 96 year old grandma, or the two-month old sweet Samantha or that would give ideas to the bad guys..

Oh ... and since presumptive House speaker John Boehner says he will fly commercial between his Ohio district and Washington instead of using military aircraft, can we expect that he, too will not/not be exempted from the backscatter or the enhanced pat down?

Um, sorry, to disappoint -- it seems we expected too much too soon.

NYT's The Caucus reported November 19 the No Security Pat-Downs for Boehner:
Representative John A. Boehner, soon to be the Speaker of the House, has pledged to fly commercial airlines back to his home district in Ohio. But that does not mean that he will be subjected to the hassles of ordinary passengers, including the controversial security pat-downs.

As he left Washington on Friday, Mr. Boehner headed across the Potomac River to Reagan National Airport, which was bustling with afternoon travelers. But there was no waiting in line for Mr. Boehner, who was escorted around the metal detectors and body scanners, and taken directly to the gate.

Mr. Boehner, who was wearing a casual yellow sweater and tan slacks, carried his own bags and smiled pleasantly at passengers who were leaving the security checkpoint inside the airport terminal.

We were disappointed to be so quickly disabused of our expectation.

But -- had the TSA touched the junk of the incoming Speaker of the House (and our second in line to the Presidency) -- we probbaly would see more hearings and expert witnesses about these TSA procedures and technologies pronto. If you are the SOTH (horrible acronym, yes?) and you go through this every time you travel, I imagine you, too would want to know the things these scanners can do to your junk, your skin, or even if it really "unzips double-stranded DNA."

In any case, we think that Mr. Boehner could have done a great public service -- by helping diffuse the furor over the screenings with "I was groped; it was no biggy." After all, he is the incoming Speaker of the House, and the media, of course, would want to tell us what he says!

So, a teachable moment was forever lost, unfortunately.

At our house, this TSA issue is a pretty contentious subject for a variety of reasons (security theater? does it work? health effects? follow the money, yada, yada mo).  Just last night the head of my household said that "Of course, Mr. Boehner should get an exemption."

Head: "Can you imagine the Speaker of the House in pat-downs like a common criminal on suspicion of a blurred groin syndrome?" That's the Speaker of the House!

Me: But ... but ... how do we know it is really him unless he is subjected to aggressive screenings? And he's not officially the Speaker of the House, yet.

Head: Everybody knows what he looks like.

Me. I bet you can't even pick him from a line-up!

Head: How hard could it be, he's all over the news.

Me. Exactly! Did you see that 20 year old Chinese male who boarded the Air Canada flight in Hong Kong last October wearing a silicone mask ala Mission Impossible to make him look like an elderly white man? See these photos (show prop)?  What if a terrorist wears a mask that makes him look like ....

Photo from CBS Alert

Head: Honeeeeey -- I really don't want to talk about John Boehner, or the TSA, anymore.  May I go to sleep now, please.

Me: BUT! (uppercase voice) HONEY (uppercase voice and stomp foot here)! What if that man on the Ohio flight was wearing a John Boehner mask? How would TSA know?

Head: Zzzzzzzzzz 

So that was that; we were talking national security and head of household went to sleep! 

Oh, right -- so, how would TSA know? Um, I don't know.... But I'm not traveling to Ohio unless everybody in my plane gets screened for bombs or masks.

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