• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • “Don’t Touch My Junk” and Intelligence-Based Security

    “Don’t Touch My Junk.” The anthem of one furious airport passenger has become a rallying cry for airport passengers around the United States.  Who can blame them? As Charles Krauthammer puts it in his recent piece in the Washington Post, at today’s airport screening line “[w]izened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives…”. There must be something wrong when a 15 hour road trip with the entire family seems a more convenient way to get to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving than flying.

    To Americans, most of this seems downright wacky and unrelated to their security.  But the debate over junk, scans, and pat-downs is missing a critical line of conservation.  Folks should be asking and TSA should be explaining exactly what security measures actually are necessary and indeed do make passengers safer against terrorism?  While there are undoubtedly some who would favor no security at the airports, it is clear that most Americans support security measures of one form or the other. In fact, in 2008, a study of 2,800 people found that 70% thought that the government was “doing an excellent or good job protecting air travel.”  That’s opposed to 13% who thought the Department of Homeland Security was doing enough to enforce immigration laws (that’s for another blog).

    Most law-abiding citizens want to know that there is indeed a method to the madness.  Hello, TSA? Can you hear us?  The right answer should be that TSA will have physical security measures, but they will be used to target passengers on the basis of risk.  Hint to TSA:  not everyone going through security is a risk.   Differentiating between sweet Susie law-abiding citizen and would-be terrorist starts before either of them would ever enter the airport walls.  In fact, previously foiled terrorist attacks have taught us that the best way to stop terrorism is to focus on improving the flow of intelligence between local, state, and federal law enforcement and empowering them to track down terror leads in communities. Additionally, working with our international partners and robust-interagency coordination on visa and intelligence matters is equally vital.  Watchlists like Secure Flight assist TSA in stopping a terrorist from ever getting on a plane, and they don’t involve any kind of awkward pat-down. 

    It is equally naïve to think that there would never be a reason to subject passengers to physical screening, or even a full body scan or pat-down at an airport.  Anyone who suggest otherwise would be great to play in a game of poker.  If intelligence leads TSA screeners to believe that a person requires additional review based on credible intelligence—Americans should expect, if not demand that the government pull them aside.  Most of this physical screening has no place, however, in primary inspection lines. Pretending that everyone is a risk is a weak way to do intelligence—the onus is on TSA and DHS as a whole to improve this process.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to “Don’t Touch My Junk” and Intelligence-Based Security

    1. T. J Harrison - Seat says:

      All the invasion of time and privacy takes away from what appears to be a large, unfortunate and apparently off the radar failure to focus on control over and investigation of the backgrounds of the baggage handlers and other staff who work behind the scenes and completely away from the scanners and searches.

      They are, in the first and final instance in control over what cargo (often very large parcels) are loaded on each of the planes.

      Given those realities, all of the security inspections and rules for the passengers are, in effect, just P.R. – an effort to show that they are addressing whatever danger exists.

    2. Erik says:

      So what do you suggest be done? I would say it is equally naive to assume that terrorists won't simply focus on the vulnerabilities that still are left. If one simply focuses on people with certain names, dress, skin tone, it would seem obvious to attempt to recruit individuals that don't fit those criteria (which they have been attempting to do).

      I also think that you're putting far too much faith for the intelligence community to discover every single plot in time and to be able to coordinate effectively with other agencies, including TSA. It's not like in the movies.

      Whatever the definition of "risk" is, the terrorists simply aim to exploit that.

    3. Frances Haase says:

      The current TSA organization is a prime example of what happens when you give unlimited authority to people with limited intelligence and common sense.

    4. Joe, San Jose, CA says:

      Here is my video response to the TSA debacle:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3yq_Pltlww

      Please feel free to share it if you like!

    5. Bobbie says:

      It is extreme and unreasonable when there are more law abiding citizens than not, unless of course the government is hiding something. Regarding these sex scanners and mandated molestation isn't reasonable and up to the people, NOT GOVERNMENT. The Constitution is the peoples to which the government is suppose to abide.

      It's more practical, reasonable and efficient to use metal detectors and bomb sniffing dogs. The dogs will divert the terrorists just by their existence as terrorist fear dogs. The way the government overrode the people again and in this greatly invasive way is beyond decent, civil, ethical or tolerant.

      I do not want myself or my children subject to this radical perversion of disgusting touches and looks. it is not acceptable.

    6. Bobbie says:

      It is extreme and unreasonable when there are more law abiding citizens than not, unless of course the government is hiding something. Regarding these sex scanners and mandated molestation isn't reasonable and up to the people, NOT GOVERNMENT. The Constitution is the peoples to which the government is suppose to abide.

      It's more practical, reasonable and efficient to use metal detectors and bomb sniffing dogs. The dogs will divert the terrorists just by their existence as terrorist fear dogs. The way the government overrode the people again and in this greatly invasive way is beyond decent, civil, ethical or tolerant.

      I do not want myself or my children subject to this radical perversion of disgusting touches and looks. it is not acceptable.

      What did I do wrong?

    7. Pingback: Burt Lancaster | Blu-Ray Player Reviews

    8. Jason says:

      I am glad they are doing this extra security measure. This will hopefully keep the plans safe!!

    9. Lloyd Scallan (New O says:

      It's not about "security". It's about Obama's comrades and czars taking another

      piece of our freedom away until one day we wake and find we are living in a

      totalitarian society run by Obama and his appointed henchmen.

    10. Earl, QUEENS, NY says:

      I just saw an interesting comment posted on CNSnews. (Boehner: GM Bailout Hurt ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Americans, Friday, November 19, 2010) The commentor suggested a possible motive – First it was the bailout and government takeover of GM, and perhaps airlines next?? He said many people making trips under 300 miles will drive instead of fly. My reply to him was: I read it here first. I should've thought of that myself!! The only correction I could make to it is the "….300 miles or less…." Make it 1,200 miles. I haven't traveled by plane in 17 years. All of my trips between Florida, New York and Connecticut since then have been by car. Of course we know the most regulated industries are the ones that are hurting the most. First the auto industry. Now the airlines, which have already been hurt by years of government regulation. Labor unions have also hurt these industries, and have benefited from government takeovers. And of course everyone should know that these new TSA rules won't keep us safe. If they really cared about our safety, they'd stop the politically correct BS!! If profiling is needed, then they should just do it. Target those who are a real threat!! Also – if they really cared about our safety, these BHO Administration miscreants would also start securing our national borders!!

      I also heard a talk show host last night suggest people boycott by not flying this holiday week. Yes!! Of course BHO and his democraps will sabotage industries, one at a time, for the sake of their greedy unConstitutional power grab and their labor union cronies. We also know the democraps are masters at the technique of deception. I.e., they brag about having created social security. But they'll never admit that they've been stealing from it for years, and are bankrupting it. Nor will they tell you how much better off you'd be if you could opt out of social security and invest all that FICA money elsewhere. Likewise with unemployment benefits. They accuse the GOP of not caring about the unemployed because they oppose benefit extensions. But we know the truth – it’s the democraps who’ve created the need for unemployment benefits over the past few years in the first place. If the GOP had controlled Congress and the White House over the past 4 years, millions more Americans would be working now, in jobs paying more than the breadcrumbs they’re getting from the government in the form of unemployment benefits and extensions!!

    11. Pat Regan, Louisiana says:

      Israel has airport security systems that have worked for years. Why does TSA have to reinvent the wheel? Use the Israeli system for goodness sakes. I want to be safe but do not want to be hassled by government gorillas under the supervision of over-reacting Janet Napolitano whose basic solution to any crisis is to have government overkill. Napolitano never backs away from a few thousand new government employees. And she has absolutely no clue about handling illegal immigrants. What a cabinet of dunces we have!!

      Hire the Mossad and they will devise an effective airport passenger safety system and get rid of thousands of un-necessary TSA employees.

    12. Spiritof76, NH says:

      Americans have become docile and subservient. Some of them grumble about being groped but most of them follow like sheep. Can you imagine what would have happened in the 1770s, if such tactics were employed? They used to tar and feather tax collectors! Now we allow the government agents to molest our sons, daughters and wives in the name of security. Stop with the propagand that America is a free country. It is a slave country where the government owns everything including your bodies.

    13. G Rome says:

      Security has become a major issue in this nation since 9/11, and for good reason. It was a lack of a security structure that allowed that horrible day to occur. But the fact remains that since that day, no major offensives or attacks have been successful in a decade. That may be due to the overall and international assistance. It may be due to the incompetence of the enemy. It may be due to the regulations that are causing such a storm with each installation.

      Perhaps one should look at the history of Israel — a nation that has been under attack from the moment it gained recognition of statehood in aftermath of WWII. Certainly, its geography supposes that terrorism would be easier to profligate with such borders, but Israel has taken a hardline stance on such and asked its citizens for much more than what the United States is doing now. Its screening process is stringent, and its intelligence service far more co-ordinated than ours.

      The desire of the Israeli government, having to exist with enemy borders on all sides, is to ensure the safety of its populace as much as possible — and as trying as it may be, it seems to be preventing anything on the level of 9/11, just as these safety measures introduced in our nation within the past decade seem to be doing the same.

      It only takes one incident — like 9/11 — to remind us of our past mistakes. I would prefer that someone search me thoroughly than allow another instance of terror on a plane, within our nation, or however it might arrive on "home field" to bring more loss to this nation.

      And if one does not wish to fly, heed the advice of another commentator, and drive within the boundaries of the United States. It may take a bit longer, but you also have the opportunity to interact with other people and share a similar frustration with the government, as it abounds with all.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×