November 14, 2010

Profiles in Servility

Hatched by Sachi

I am a frequent traveler. I fly a lot. I fly at least once a month, sometimes eighteen, twenty times a year; so aviation security is a great concern for me. I endure lengthy security line; I wear slip-off shoes, no belt, jewelry, or God forbid, an underwire bra. I am careful and efficient opening up my bags. In short, I am the Asian businessman (businesswoman) you really, really want to be behind in the TSA line.

However, the stupid, new security measures implemented by the Transportation Security Agency simply go too far: The full body scanning and the enhanced pat down -- actually a "custody search," according to one cop on an interview show -- are not only intrusive, they are inefficient and ineffective. I'm thinking of joining the grass-roots protest by refusing to fly to the East Coast and scheduling a teleconference instead.

Already, many pilots and flight attendants are considering boycotts. Many passengers are considering alternatives to flying, rather than going through such terrible experiences. If enough people opt out of flying this holiday season, it could spell disaster for the airline industry.

The TSA would probably justify their security fondling by bringing up Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. Abdul Metal-Knob, a.k.a. the Undiebomber of last Christmas. True, his bomb was not detected by the normal metal detector; but had the Department of Homeland Security (TSA's parent) done its job properly, Metal-Knob couldn't have come near the airport in the first place.

Metal-Knob was a known terrorist, considered so dangerous that his name was already on DHS's no-fly list. He was not supposed to fly at all! But there he was, aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. Why? Because somebody in charge of the DHS failed to do her job; that is, somebody who shall remain nameless, but whose initials are Janet Napolitano, hand-picked by Barack H. Obama to be Secretary of Homeland Security.

Janet Napolitano was once governor of Arizona ("I can see Mexico from my house!"); after Metal-Knob's bomb failed to explode and kill everyone aboard, Napolitano declared "the system worked!"; and she raised a boatload of money for Obama's presidential campaign. The One We Just Shellacked concluded that these three accomplishments (especially the last) easily qualified her to become the point-woman for defending the American homeland.

In addition to allowing Metal-Knob onto Northwest Airlines, DHS and TSA have also done a great job keeping the total number of illegal aliens enrolled in American flight schools down to just a few thousand:

Outside Boston, one shady flight school provided single-engine pilot lessons to at least 33 illegal immigrants from Brazil. But clear counter-terror rules ban illegal aliens from enrolling in U.S. flight schools. Clear counter-terror regulations require TSA to run foreign flight students’ names against a plethora of terrorism, criminal and immigration databases. Head-scratching airport security officials were at a loss last week to explain how dozens of these illegal alien students eluded their radar screen when the agency “performs a thorough background check on each applicant at the time of application” and checks “for available disqualifying immigration information,” the Boston Globe reported....

Whistleblowers have warned for years about the gaping holes in both the TSA’s and the Federal Aviation Administration’s foreign pilot screening systems. In 2005, aviation safety inspector Edward H. Blount of the Alabama Flight Standards District Office sent a letter to the TSA warning of federal policies that were “fostering illegal flight training by foreign individuals” in the U.S. on improper visas. Blount reported that he and another investigator were told by a TSA official that the agency was “not going to look at the visa status” of pilot applicants....

In 2008, ABC News discovered that thousands of foreign nationals were able to enroll in flight schools despite the strict flight security rules. “Some of the very same conditions that allowed the 9-11 tragedy to happen in the first place are still very much in existence today,” one regional TSA officer warned. “TSA’s enforcement is basically nonexistent,” former FAA inspector Bill McNease told the network. The matter was kicked upstairs to DHS higher-ups in Washington. And there it gathered dust.

While TSA agents are busily groping innocent men, women, and children, real terrorists are slipping through the our non-existent security screening, even earning pilots licenses in the United States. I'm sure it's all George W. Bush's fault.

So if you're not keen to have some overweight, sweaty, 22 year old grab your groin -- or worse, give an amateur breast exam to your sixteen year old daughter -- then what is the alternative? Fortunately, others have already paved the way to far more effective and less intrusive security measure.

Unfortunately, the way was paved by the Israelis... so there's about a zero percent chance the Obamunists will ever give it a try. I'm talking about good, old behavioral profiling. David Nodell writes:

The most effective check, as many analysts have commented, remains the human one, Israeli-style, designed to detect bombers rather than bombs. The system works: Every passenger in the queue for the check-in at Ben-Gurion airport, or for any El Al flight elsewhere, is questioned, if only for a few seconds, by a trained ‘selector,’ who can basically conclude within a few seconds from someone’s reactions -- body language and facial expressions more than verbal responses -- to questions such as ‘Where did you come from just now?’ and ‘Did you pack your bags yourself and did anyone give you anything to take to someone else at your destination?’ who might be a potential threat from who is just the average tourist. This leaves time to ask people who might be a threat more searching questions before even considering whether to search them and their bags or not. As Daniel Pipes reminds us in an article almost 21 years ago, this is what saved an El Al flight from London in April 1986 from being blown up by the completely unwitting Ann-Marie Murphy, in whose luggage her Arab boyfriend had hidden a bomb.

Behavioral profiling cannot be mistaken or confused with racial profiling. Racial profiling is not only offensive to certain group of people, it simply doesn't work: Terrorists quickly realize you're only searching Arabs, for example, so they recruit another blond-haired, blue-eyed Johnny Taliban to carry the plastique. You just can't go by race, sex, or country of origin; you must hunt for people who behave suspiciously, then implement a thorough search.

Whatever name, religion, skin colour or clothes you bear passing through airports and their security checks, your behavior is the most telling. If you are planning to blow yourself up together with two or three hundred other people, you are anxious that you are going to succeed without first getting caught, and concerned that Allah’s heaven will match the glowing descriptions on which you have been fed by your instructor or imam: the stress does show -- which is why there is a good chance that you will get caught.

This, of course, cannot be done by an untrained TSA circus-seal just been hired off the street last week. The selectors must be highly trained professionals with real-world experience in behavioral profiling; so what better material to recruit than current or former police officers? Police profile people's behaviors all day, every day, as anyone knows who has watched even a couple episodes of COPS.

You're pulled over by a highway patrol officer. "Good evening sir; do you know why I stopped you?" (First test -- guilty conscience?) "Where are you going, sir? Where are you coming from? (Second -- the route should match the location of the stop.) "Have you had anything to drink tonight, sir?" (Third -- Does the driver start to get nervous? Can he not remember exactly how many drinks? Does the cop smell alcohol on the driver's breath?) And so on; the patrolman's exact sequence of questions depends on the circumstances, what more serious offenders he's already on the lookout for, and of course on any evasive, non-responsive, or just plain goofy answers he receives.

And the same basic technique works for jihadi bombers too, as the Israelis demonstrate with their almost perfect record of keeping their airliners safe.

Obviously, ordinary beat cops don't pat down or interrogate everyone they see; they have neither the time nor the need. Instead, they are very highly trained over many months in the Academy, augmented by years on the job, to spot suspicious activities and notice people who are simply wrong. They pull such people over and start asking questions that anybody with nothing to feel guilty about should easily be able to answer.

Most of us are innocent; all we want to do is get from one place to another with no delay. Conducting custody searches and taking pornographic pictures of everyday grandfathers, grandsons, and businesswomen wastes time and causes unnecessary anguish.

It also gives TSA and DHS -- and the American public -- a dangerously false feeling of security; we think we're safe, when in fact terrorists can use fairly simple tricks to "defeat" the security protocols (administered by bureaucratic nitwits): Terrorists can always find some weapon nobody thought to scan for. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, nobody imagined nineteen men could bring down the two tallest buildings in America with a handful of retractable utility knives, a.k.a. "box cutters."

So, why not implement the more effective, tested, and proven technique of behavioral profiling? I think there are three main reasons the current administration shies away:

  • First, it's just too hard for a three-weeks wonder to do.

In the short training period, TSA can teach him to conduct an invasive custody search, fondling passengers for fun and wages, and to push a button and look at a video screen. Whether he can spot something suspicious in the image is another question; but I doubt the TSA workers are as much concerned with protecting passengers -- the inspectors aren't flying! -- as they are with getting a cushy job that requires no heavy lifting, putting in their eight hours, and going home.

But he certainly cannot be trained in a week, a month, or even six months to spot a wannabe terrorist walking through the airport concourse.

  • Second, profiling of any kind smacks too much of "discrimination."

The "progressive" nomenklatura who clutter up the TSA and the rest of DHS, along with the CIA, Justice Department, State, the Department of Agriculture, and all other branches of the administration (even when we have a Republican president) have an ideological fetish that prevents them from "discriminating" in any way between people... including discriminating between the innocent and the deadly. They simply do not believe in evil people... just evil inanimate tools, like guns, bombs, and Bibles.

The permanent bureaucracy is horrified by the very idea of holding individuals responsible for their own actions; it flies in the face of leftist orthodoxy, which sees people only as representatives of special interests. If a member of a minority group (and who isn't?) commits a crime or even acts suspiciously, he cannot be held responsible unless you hold every other member of that group equally responsible. When a highly visible group (race, sex, age) is considered "oppressed," then every member of that group has what Ann Coulter calls "absolute moral authority" and cannot be held to account for anything.

To a liberal, behavioral profiling doesn't really exist; it's mentally impossible due to stereotypes and hidden prejudices; to the Left, "profiling" always and everywhere just code for racism, sexism, homophobia, or Islamophobia.

  • And third, there's that pesky Israeli "taint."

You just can't get away from it. If the Jews Israelis pioneered the technique, then it must be a crime against humanity!

The fact that the progressive-bureaucratic ideology fits so neatly with the laziness of most TSA hirees is sheer coincidence. (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.)

But when the TSA and DHS refuse to do their jobs, we shouldn't allow them to play "CYA" by forcing us to endure yet another level of intrusive inspection, one that goes beyond even that reserved for criminal suspects. What's next, full body-cavity searches? Lengthy background checks? Forcing all air passengers to fly stark naked?

Ordinary Americans will not stand for being treated like potential killers; we'll either file lawsuits or simply refuse to fly.

Meanwhile, if you are planning on flying this holiday season, expect to see a long line at the security check. Especially be prepared to hear children screaming, men yelling, women crying, and passengers being dragged off to detention for "dissing" their TSA protectors. Nice way to start the Christmas holiday, don’t you think?

Dafydd adds: Could these "custody searches" and full-body naked scans be a back door to full-blown affirmative action in TSA hiring? If they're really going to do this, they'll need a massive hiring spree; but since at least a third of air passengers are female, and since females make up a much smaller percent of the TSA, and since most women would absolutely refuse to be fondled or seen in the nude by a male TSA agent... then logically, nearly all the new hires would have to be women, just to bring females up to parity with males.

I can just see the Triumvirate of Harpies -- Janet Napolitano, Hillary Clinton, and Carol Browner -- marching arm in arm into the Oval Office chanting "We shall overcome!" The president would be charmed, I'm sure.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 14, 2010, at the time of 11:01 PM

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Tracked on November 18, 2010 12:44 PM


The following hissed in response by: Elyjf

Foreign nationals are not the same as illegal aliens. Many of the world's pilots are trained here; a friend runs a helicopter flight school; it's cheaper to come here, pay meals, hotels, etc than to get training in Japan.

I took a few hours instruction in Germany years ago(I already had a license) the simplest aircraft rental alone was 6 times that here.

The above hissed in response by: Elyjf [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 15, 2010 10:44 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Sachi is away for a few days.

Foreign nationals are not the same as illegal aliens.

Sachi quoted from a column by Michelle Malkin, who was definitely talking about flight training by illegal aliens, not legal foreign nationals. I took the liberty of adding a few more quotes from the Malkin piece -- and I included Malkin's links to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and to ABC News.

Malkin and Sachi were correct: Thousands of illegals have been able to enroll in flight school in the United States.

Bear in mind that Sachi is a (legal) immigrant here herself; she certainly knows the difference between legal and illegal immigration, and she bear no animus against the former... and is even far more sympathetic to the latter than are most conservatives.

But it's surely a horrific breach of security to allow illegal aliens, about whom we know next to nothing, to train in the U.S. to be pilots. Have we forgotten where the 9/11 terrorists obtained their own flight training?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 15, 2010 11:16 AM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

Thank you for the reminder. I have just contacted my friendly neighborhood airline and told them I am not flying under these circumstances. I also suggest the simple expedient of a "do-fly list," people with freguent flyer cards who have had a background check. They produce positive ID and get on the plane. Simple, neat, and effective. Airlines should know and understand that there are millions of people making exactly the same sort of decisions, and that the TSA is very rapidly destroying the airline industry. Time for some serious lobbying.

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 15, 2010 11:39 AM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

By the way, has anyone else seen that video of the guy testing the new scanners and, after getting a clean bill, pulls out eight bombs?

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 15, 2010 11:41 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E


Racial profiling is not only offensive to certain group[s] of people, it simply doesn't work…

Maybe it doesn’t, but according to this Wall Street Journal report the Israelis definitely use “ethnic” profiling as one of the arrows in their airport security quiver.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 15, 2010 9:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E

(Sorry, Dafydd. I've been around here long enough to know better.)

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 15, 2010 9:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

I don't understand - why don't they just use dogs to detect explosives? Have them sniff everyone as they go through?

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2010 3:29 PM

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