January 31, 2014

"Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full awful display."

"Piercings of every kind were visible. Women who’d had mastectomies were easy to discern—their chests showed up on our screens as dull, pixelated regions. Hernias appeared as bulging, blistery growths in the crotch area. Passengers were often caught off-guard by the X-Ray scan and so materialized on-screen in ridiculous, blurred poses—mouths agape, à la Edvard Munch. One of us in the I.O. room would occasionally identify a passenger as female, only to have the officers out on the checkpoint floor radio back that it was actually a man. All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels."

From "Dear America, I Saw You Naked/And yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent."

26 comments:

Ron said...

Can we get a JLaw post here at the top of the page so we don't need to see this one?

Skyler said...

If, one hundred years ago, a low level government functionary used his petty position of authority to see your wife and children naked when they traveled and you shot him dead, no one would have blamed you.

We have lost a lot of our sense of freedom and individual sovereignty.

But don't tell Cass Sunstein I said that.

SOJO said...

Well, of course. They are manned by people. Imagine what the NSA, still being composed of people, are doing with their higher skill levels. I just try to look at it like a doctor's exam. They've seen better and the've seen worse and it'll be forgotten in five seconds for all but the most extreme ends of the scale.

Humperdink said...

"I just try to look at it like a doctor's exam."

Really? Have you looked at the quality of the people manning these battle stations?

Michael said...

Well, at least some of them are having fun since they are unlikely to catch terrorists. The TSA is a jobs program for people who would otherwise be unemployed or on the dole. Anyone who travels as much as I do knows this. I have gone to the trouble of getting screened by Immigration and thus am always allowed in the precheck line where we keep our shoes and coats on and breeze through. We frequent flyers have our own fun with the TSA folks, observing how uniformly pudgy they are, how slothful they are in executing their meager duties, how they officiously scribble on the paper tickets. They are so institutionally dumb that they think we think those scribbles mean something. If they do then what do they scribble on the electronic ticket on the iPhone. We have our own "free" Kabuki right here in the USA

Michael said...

Well, at least some of them are having fun since they are unlikely to catch terrorists. The TSA is a jobs program for people who would otherwise be unemployed or on the dole. Anyone who travels as much as I do knows this. I have gone to the trouble of getting screened by Immigration and thus am always allowed in the precheck line where we keep our shoes and coats on and breeze through. We frequent flyers have our own fun with the TSA folks, observing how uniformly pudgy they are, how slothful they are in executing their meager duties, how they officiously scribble on the paper tickets. They are so institutionally dumb that they think we think those scribbles mean something. If they do then what do they scribble on the electronic ticket on the iPhone. We have our own "free" Kabuki right here in the USA

SOJO said...

@humperdink

I tried to account for difference in skill levels when talking about the NSA; that goes for doctors, too, in a different way. Young docs are still often quite awkward as they have not learned to hide their natural human reactions as well, both kind and not so kind. You can see how cultural background influences attitudes towards nudity,etc. Very human.

But from my end, it's still being semi-naked while the person analyzing in a non-sexual setting is not, an inherently awkward situation. There also is some crossover on the support staff end of the two professions.

MayBee said...

Awful and unforgivable.

Marshal said...

But you're paranoid if you understood this would happen.

MadisonMan said...

The TSA is a jobs program for people who would otherwise be unemployed or on the dole.

Total agreement. Thank you Bush (This one really is Bush's fault).

I will consider myself part of a theatrical production when I fly on Sunday.

The part of the bored know-it-all will be played by MadisonMan

TosaGuy said...

I take trains for vacation now....not because of the TSA, but because it is relaxing. No TSA is a bonus.

n.n said...

Note to terrorists: Detonate your explosives as you approach the "security" gate for optimal human and property destruction.

n.n said...

MadisonMan:

It was designed to shift liability from the airlines, airports, and, paradoxically, the government, to the government. A quick fix for public perception of a catastrophic failure.

Richard Dolan said...

His article was a nice read. The wasteful stupidity that is the TSA, all in the name of unionized bureaucratic routine, is astonishing even by government standards. The way to puncture the TSA balloon is by ridicule rather than outrage. As I was reading his piece, I was wondering what inane device could someone come up with, like WAllen's Orgasmatron, if they were going to make a movie skewering the TSA. Those Rapidscan machines, and the hand-held wands, both cry out for that kind of treatment. (It's how we channel Kafka and Heller today, I suppose, since bureaucratic craziness is too familiar to get the full-on horror treatment anymore.)

exhelodrvr1 said...

Good job for an art history major - having to work with different cultures, etc.

Laura said...

Perhaps if the TSA were privatized, there would be juicy lawsuits to contend with if this behavior continued...

Freeman Hunt said...

When they started doing these scans, I said that I was done with flying for now. I was willing to put up with quite a bit of inconvenience, but, "We need to see you naked," was a step too far. I feel vindicated. I don't think anyone should have to give up his dignity for the privilege of flying on an airplane.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Then there was the guy in Portland, Oregon who stripped naked in order to put it all out in the open. He was arrested for sharing the peep show, but they had to let him go. Nude but not lude.

Terrence said...

I read this article this morning and after a bit I began thinking that the first sentence should have been "I never thought these letters were true.." This reads like one of those "eight things your waiter will never tell you" articles on Buzzit. First thing that got to me was the weird use of tense, the damn back scatter machines are still in use, second was the idea that in o'hare the TSS guys have enough time to get freaky in the room where they clear people through the back scatter machines. Third was the insistence that someone could get a gun through those machines by facing it "just so".

I go through airport security at least twice per week, sometimes more, there are some places where security is downright crappy (I'm looking at you, Philadelphia) and places where it's ok. I'm sure there are a lot of people who work security that hate their jobs and act the fool, just like any workplace. But I have to say, with very few exceptions, the security people I have observed have been professional and courteous and worked well within their mandate.

I don't like the tsa or the security theater enforced by the tsa, but that whole article smelled like a guy who wants to sell his "Animal House in an airport" script to Ryan Reynolds' agent.

Freeman Hunt said...

I've twice had my suitcase taken to a table, opened, and unpacked in front of me when checking in. The second time, the guy went looking for something specific, and came out with a large, chocolate egg, a gift from my grandmother. He acted angry about it as if I'd done something wrong by packing it.

Skyler said...

Terrence wrote, "But I have to say, with very few exceptions, the security people I have observed have been professional and courteous and worked well within their mandate."

If they had any professionalism or self respect, they would immediately quit. A polite thug is still a thug. It doesn't matter if the boot smashing your face forever has a spit shine.

Kirk Parker said...

" He acted angry about it "

#1 sign that the "public servant" has got the who's-the-servant-who's-the-master part badly confused.

More and more, I'm trending toward Skyler's conclusion about integrity and quitting.

Sabinal said...

Here’s a question I have for you anti-TSA folks; What is *your*solution to airline security? The only solution I ever heard is basically “if you’re brown, stay on the ground, if you’re white, welcome to your flight.” In short, knee jerk racism. I’ve yet to hear cogent solutions to substitute the TSA.
I am so sick and tired of people whose basic response is a Norma Desmond screech “ I’m not a terrorist!!!” My grandmother’s not a terrorist!” Well, we thought 20 dudes weren’t terrorists and were welcomed into the 21st century with the bloodiest attack ever in the US
I have to agree with Terrence; it just sounds like a cheap ploy to make money from (I’ve heard of experiences from TSA agents before and they pretty much mirror this guy).And for those making fun of the IQ of TSA workers, you should be ashamed of yourself. These people are just trying to make a living and it’s a crappy one (mainly because the positions are part time and they can fluctuate in demand during the day).
And all this smug reaction to this means nothing. TSA will continue to work.

Sabinal said...

and stop complaining about tyranny. You know when tyranny has won? When there are no more blogs like these.

Sabinal said...

Well, all I can say to the people upset with being subjected to extra screening at the airport is: Welcome to my world of being Arab-American. For years, Middle Eastern-Americans have complained about being subjected to extra screening at the airport -- "random selection," intrusive pat downs, detainments, etc. - and how did the rest of America respond: "Too bad; get over it; it makes us safer, so suck it up, etc." But now it appears when non-Brown people complain about invasive airport security procedures, people are all up in arms. Let's be brutally honest- if it was just Arab or Muslim-Americans complaining about this new airport security, Fox News would be calling for body cavity searches of all of us-it's only because white Americans are complaining that has made this an issue.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-obeidallah/the-tsa-wants-to-see-your_b_784295.html

Kirk Parker said...

Sabinal,

With all due respect: if Anders Breivik, instead of being a uniquely evil person, were instead a leader of a movement among people of Nordic ethnicity, then I'd probably be getting a lot more attention from the authorities at airports and other places than I do now, and so would lots of other fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed folks.

But you know what? If that were happening I'd direct my animosity toward Breivik and his followers, not to the authorities.