Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why bother?

Seen today at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport:

A Clark Griswold-ish family of four spends many minutes in the security line dithering about what to do and where to go, holding up the many other passengers who already know the drill, having been paying attention over the last seven years. Mrs. Griswold is noticed removing a gallon-sized plastic bag from her carry-on and placing it into one of the bins to go through the X-ray machine. Said bag contains at least 6 full-size bottles of sunscreen, lotion, shampoo and bug repellent. Mind you, the bag was all by itself in plain sight in the bin, visible to anyone.
The bin is slid into the X-ray unit, and the TSA agent in charge of scanning the items just passes it right on through. No stopping the belt, no reversing the belt to check it again, just thank you and have a good day.

On the other side of the unit, at least two other TSA employees gossiping with each other walk within inches of the bin, never noticing the contraband lying inside. Mrs. Griswold, muttering under her breath the entire time about the complexity of the process, then reclaims her items and shoves them back into her bulging carryon.

This is in addition to your humble correspondent honestly forgetting to remove his cell phone from his pocket before going through the magnetometer. Did it trip the alarm? Nope. The phone is a Blackberry Curve to boot, which is a not insubstantial piece of metal. I could have had quite the knife in my possession instead, and I still would have skated right on through.
So here we are: The Federal government places arbitrary, burdensome and onerous restrictions on the traveling public, and then becomes quite lax and sloppy in enforcing them. This trend will undoubtedly continue until some other tragedy occurs, at which time we will be told that we need even more restrictions on our freedoms, as the previous ones proved to be ineffective. Next stop - clear ponchos over naked bodies and no carryons. Think it won't happen? I wouldn't take that bet.

In related news, we note that the Feds seem to have finally decided that letting loose the SWAT teams on AMTRAK is an idea whose time has come, again almost seven full years after the last tragedy. All they seem to be doing, however, is inconveniencing the public, as true terrorists bent on mayhem aren't going to be intimidated by black uniforms, helmets and shiny boots.

"Douglas Davison, an Amtrak agent for five years, said passengers sometimes get nervous when team members show up carrying huge guns and wearing helmets, bulletproof vests and heavy black (jack? -ed.) boots.
Sometimes they approach "sheepishly and ask if everything's OK," he said. Agents reassure them that there's no threat against their train — just a routine security show of force, he said."

(Officer Davison, from the USA Today article. Feel safer?)

Sounds to me like intimidating and scaring the public is the mission. Like having "tacticool" wannabe soldiers swaggering around is going to have any effect in stopping a lone determined bomber from succeeding in their task. More worrisome is the fact that Officer Davison seems to quite enjoy his little show of power over the peasants. He'll do well to remember that he's there to serve the passengers, not to control them.

"No one has yet refused to have a bag scanned out of thousands of trainloads screened since February."

That's because I haven't had occasion to ride AMTRAK recently. Should I do so, they won't be violating my Fourth Amendment rights.

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