Fiscal Hawks For Body Scanners?

November 30, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Stan Collender makes his case:

From virtually every federal budget perspective — keeping taxes lower, reducing domestic spending, making government more efficient, keeping the deficit and borrowing as low as possible — scanners are the kind of initiative that should be rewarded and encouraged rather than condemned. The United States is better protected at a lower cost because the TSA is getting better information faster without having to hire additional people. 

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Poll: Majority Of Flyers Okay With Body Scanners And Pat Down Searches

November 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A new Rasmussen poll suggests that Americans who fly frequently aren’t nearly as upset about the TSA’s enhanced security procedures as the last two weeks of media coverage would seem to suggest:

Most voters who fly appear comfortable with the federal Transportation Safety Administration’s new airport security measures.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, taken Sunday night at the close of the Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend, finds that 51% rate airline security as good or excellent, while just 16% view it as poor.  (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Seventy-five percent (75%) of voters who fly at least once a year think it is appropriate to require some passengers to have either a full-body scan or full-body pat down before boarding an airliner. Eighteen percent (18%) disagree and say such measures are not appropriate.

Support for the techniques is even higher among those who fly once a month or more often.

These numbers would seem to support a conclusion that James Joyner made her earlier today:

The 9/11 attacks were almost a decade ago but they’re still a powerful touchstone.  The result is that those who want to fight the system not only have to buck their own government but also endure scorn from a large swath of their fellow countrymen willing to sacrifice pretty much everything in the name of “safety.”

Indeed, and considering that this poll comes nearly a year after the last serious attempt to direct a terror attack on a commercial passenger airline, it would seem that the effort to arouse populist ire against security procedures that are intrusive and arguably not accomplishing anything is unlikely to succeed.

Score one for “safety” over liberty.

Outside the Beltway

The Emperor’s New Scanners

November 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

“The Emperor’s subjects have no clothes!”
American Thinker Blog

Body Scanners (and Groping?) Coming To A Train Station Near You?

November 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

If Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has her way, the enhanced security procedures just starting to make their way into American airports will be showing up elsewhere in the near future:

The next step in tightened security could be on U.S. public transportation, trains and boats.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists will continue to look for U.S. vulnerabilities, making tighter security standards necessary.

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on “Charlie Rose.”

“I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”

In addition to mass transit, there’s also discussion about enhanced search techniques popping up in other places, like the nation’s Courthouses:

Taking a trip during the holidays isn’t the only time that people might get a full-body scan to pass through security. People heading to court to testify, get a restraining order, pay a ticket or answer criminal charges could also face a full-body scan at courthouses.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which is in charge of protecting federal judges nationwide, is exploring their use at federal courthouses. And two state courthouses in Douglas and El Paso counties in Colorado have already deployed full-body scanners that use radio waves to detect all objects on a person, including paper.


The new security techniques are meant to thwart plots by would-be terrorists to use liquid explosives and bombs hidden in shoes and inside underwear. Court observers note that the threat in a courtroom is somewhat different.

“What we are still worried about at a courthouse is angry divorce litigants with a gun,” said Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. “Metal detectors are pretty good at that.”

Honestly, I can see Americans eventually accepting enhanced security at airports given the history of security threats to the airline industry, and the palpable evidence we’ve all experienced of what can happen if those security threats are allowed to succeed. It becomes a different story, though, when you’re talking about making things like naked image body scanners and, presumably, enhanced pat-downs, part of everyday American life.

For one thing, the sheer logistical problems associated with subjecting everyone who boarded a train, or a subway in a city like New York or Washington, to some kind of security screening would grind both of those systems to a fault. It would be essentially equivalent to requiring every single car entering Manhattan to be subjected to a stop and search. It would make life, and commerce, unmanageable and it would affect the daily life of enough Americans that the revolt we’re seeing now over airport security would be a tempest in a teapot. That’s why I think, in the long run, it’s not going to happen except perhaps at some high-security federal installations.

For another, the liberty v. security trade-off has a different connotation when it implicates more than just the 45 minutes or so that you might spend in an airport security line. The idea of having to be felt up by a security officer every time you want to get on a train, subway, or boat is something that I would venture to guess the average American would not be willing to accept. Of course, that could change in the event of a wave of terrorist attacks aimed at these facilities but at that point, I’m afraid whatever is left of the American way of life as we’ve known it would be long gone.

Outside the Beltway

Coming up: TSA body scanners on public transportation

November 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Get on the bus.

Jazz has a list of reasons why he doesn’t object to the body scanners. Now it looks like we’ll be getting scanners all over the place, including public transportation, trains and boats. Janet Napolitano: “I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit […]

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Body Scanners on Trains, Boats, and Subways?

November 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Looking to avoid airport body scanners?  You might not be able to do it on any form of public transit if Janet Napolitano gets her way, Jordy Yager reports for The Hill.

The next step in tightened security could be on U.S. public transportation, trains and boats.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists will continue to look for U.S. vulnerabilities, making tighter security standards necessary. “[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on “Charlie Rose.” “I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”

Napolitano’s comments, made a day before one of the nation’s busiest travel days, come in the wake of a public outcry over newly implemented airport screening measures that have been criticized for being too invasive.

The secretary has defended the new screening methods, which include advanced imaging systems and pat-downs, as necessary to stopping terrorists. During the interview with Rose, Napolitano said her agency is now looking into ways to make other popular means of travel safer for passengers and commuters.

Napolitano isn’t the only one who’s suggested that advanced scanning machines could be used in places beyond airports. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, introduced legislation this past September that would authorize testing of body scanners at some federal buildings.

Napolitano’s comments were in response to the question: “What will they [terrorists] be thinking in the future?” She gave no details about how soon the public could see changes in security or about what additional safety measures the DHS was entertaining.

Now, as a practical matter, Napolitano is likely right.   Terrorists are naturally going to look for softer targets and al Qaeda has already attacked trains and subways elsewhere.  But, sheesh, with the administration already taking flak for using these devices in airports — where public support for security is naturally higher, owing to the 9/11 attacks — you’d think they’d avoid talking about using them elsewhere.   The tone deafness on this issue continues.

Outside the Beltway

Who’s Profiting On the TSA’s Use Of Scanners? George Soros And Michael Chertoff

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Wonder why the TSA spent billions of our tax dollars on scanners that don’t detect explosives hidden in body cavities and can be easily fooled by someone who knows what he’s doing?

Wonder no more.

One of the major contractors for the machines is a company called Rapiscan, and their political connections are impeccable.

One of Rapiscan’s chief lobbyists is Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee who personally approved the contract.

Another shill for Rapiscan is George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who earned part of his salary going a media tour promoting the use of these scanners without disclosing that he was a paid employee of Rapiscan.

And finally, the big enchilada. None other than George Soros, Obama intimate and the primary financier of the Left’s infrastructure owns 11,300 shares of OSI Systems Inc., the company that owns Rapiscan. Not surprisingly, OSI’s stock has appreciated hugely since Rapiscan got their lucrative guv’mint contract.

Amazing how the dots connect, isn’t it?

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Americans united on scanners, divided on pat-downs, profiling

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

(CNN) – When it comes to new airport security screening for passengers, Americans agree that full-body scanners are okay, but split over when additional measures cross the line, according to two new polls.

A majority of Americans surveyed in two new polls released this week support the Transportation Security Administration’s use of full-body x-ray machines that use new technology to highlight outlines of the human body in an effort to detect hidden weapons.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, roughly two-thirds of Americans support full-body x-ray machines, known as Advanced Imaging Technology, but less than half agree that enhanced searches are justified.

When asked whether privacy or the ability to investigate possible terror threats is more important, almost 7 in 10 say that combating terrorism is more important than protecting personal privacy, but 50 percent say the enhanced pat-downs go too far. Forty-eight percent say the more thorough pat-down is justified, indicating that Americans are split on how much personal privacy they are willing to compromise.

The Washington Post-ABC poll echoes findings released by CBS News last week. In the CBS poll conducted during the second week of November, 81 percent of Americans agreed that airports should use full-body x-ray machines.

The TSA website lists 385 “imaging technology units” at 68 airports across the country. In an effort to refute the myth that complaints about pat-downs are extremely high, a blog hosted by TSA responds that “Only a small percentage of the traveling public receives a pat down as they travel through the security checkpoint. Approximately 2 million people fly in the United States every day. The number of complaints is extremely low.”

The CBS poll did not ask about enhanced pat-downs, but it did query respondents about whether it is justified to subject people of certain racial or ethnic groups to additional security checks at airport checkpoints. Over half the nation said that ethnic profiling is not justified in the survey – up fourteen percent from January 2010, the last time this question was asked.

Results from the Washington Post-ABC poll paint a different picture. Seventy percent of Americans support using available information about passengers in order to determine who gets chosen for extra security screening at airports in the poll. Of the criteria that should be used to select passengers for extra security screening, 86 percent believe personal behavior should be included, 78 percent say travel history, 55 percent responded that nationality should be considered, and half indicated that personal appearance should be included. Four in ten said that race should be a factor.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone on November 21, 2010 among 514 adults. It has a sampling error or plus-or-minus five percentage points.

The CBS News Poll was conducted among 1,137 adults from November 7-10 by telephone. It has a sampling error of plus-or-minus three percentage points.

CNN Political Ticker

Public Accepts Body Scanners, Divided On Pat-Down Searches

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

After almost two weeks of media coverage, the American public still seems to support the presence of body image scanners in airports, but is far less comfortable with the new pat-down searches that some have described as “groping,” according to a new poll:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support the new full-body security-screening machines at the country’s airports, as most say they put higher priority on combating terrorism than protecting personal privacy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But half of all those polled say enhanced pat-down searches go too far.

The uproar over the new generation of security technology, and the frisking of those who refuse it, continued Monday with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano saying the new measures are necessary for public safety.

“There is a continued threat against aviation involving those who seek to smuggle powders and gels that can be used as explosives on airplanes,” she said. “The new technology is designed to help us identify those individuals.”

According to the Transportation Security Administration, less than 3 percent of travelers receive the pat-downs.

But Napolitano said the TSA would “listen to concerns. Of course we will make adjustments or changes when called upon, but not changes or adjustments that will affect the basic operational capability that we need to have to make sure that air travel remains safe.”

One possibility that could generate public support is the use of profiling at airports, where the TSA would single out specific passengers for extra screening based on available information. Overall, 70 percent of Americans back the idea, which has been floated as an alternative.

These numbers are down from the 80% support that body image scanners had in a poll taken before the controversy erupted, which is probably a reflection of the almost non-stop negative coverage that has come out about TSA procedures in general over the past ten days or so. Not surprisingly, the numbers are somewhat different for people who fly on a regular basis:

Two factors behind the public’s reaction to the new airport-screening procedures: Few Americans fly regularly and their concern about the risk of terrorism on commercial aircraft remains muted.

Just 15 percent of those polled say they travel by plane every few months. Most say they fly less than once a year or never. Sixty-six percent say the risk of terrorism on airplanes is not that great.

Those who say they take flights at least once every year are less supportive of the new scanners than those who rarely or never fly, although most still like the idea. By 54 percent to 43 percent, those who fly at least once annually say the pat-down procedure goes too far.

Meanwhile, via Hit & Run, airline security expert Bruce Schneier says that all of these security methods are nothing more than “security theater” that will have no real impact on actual security:

Q: Has there been a case since 9/11 of an attempted hijacker being thwarted by airport security?

A: None that we’ve heard of. The TSA will say, “Oh, we’re not allowed to talk about successes.” That’s actually bullsh*t. They talk about successes all the time. If they did catch someone, especially during the Bush years, you could be damned sure we’d know about it. And the fact that we didn’t means that there weren’t any. Because the threat was imaginary. It’s not much of a threat. As excess deaths go, it’s just way down in the noise. More than 40,000 people die each year in car crashes. It’s 9/11 every month. The threat is really overblown….

Q: Do you think there’s been an over-reaction, on the part of the government and the press, to the underwear bomber?

A: That case was really instructive. Nobody was injured, and the plane landed safely. It was a success! And it was pre 9-11 security that made it a success. Because we screen for superficial guns and bombs, he had to resort to a syringe and 90 minutes in the bathroom with a bomb that didn’t work. This is what success looks like. Stop bellyaching!

Q: What’s the motive behind introducing this new level of security?

A: It’s politics. You have to be seen as doing something, even if nothing is the smart thing to do. You can’t be seen as doing nothing.

Q: Is this security theater?

A: 100 percent. It won’t catch anybody.

Of course, that assumes that “catching” anyone is the motive behind security ramp-ups like the one we’re experiencing now. Like Schneier says, this has more to do with the powers-that-be making sure that they’re seen to be doing something even if what they’re doing isn’t actually dealing with a security threat and is doing little more than inconveniencing large numbers of innocent air travelers and subjecting Americans to searches usually reserved for suspected criminals being taken into custody. As this poll indicates, despite the outcry we’ve seen in the media, that seems to be working out just fine. It reminds me of something a wise man once said; “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Outside the Beltway

Oh my: 64% support new TSA scanners but public split on patdowns; Update: Why the decline?

November 22, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This won’t hurt a bit.

Something for everyone here. For TSA skeptics, evidence that relentless media scrutiny over the past week is turning the public against the new protocol. That widely linked CBS poll taken between Nov. 7 and 10 showed 81 percent support for full-body scanners; this new one from ABC conducted just yesterday shows support down to 64 […]

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