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November 16, 2010Culture

Four Reasons You Should Resist the New TSA Security Procedures (and How You Can)

I do not get much into causes-- they take way too much energy and produce little change. However, I do think that there are times to stand up-- and I think this is one of those times. Today, there will be much talk in Congress about the new TSA procedures.

I will offer four reasons why I think you should resist these new TSA procedures. Now, I do not mean you should be rude nor do I intend on breaking the law-- I do neither. I think it is important that I am not saying to disregard, disobey, or disrespect. If I am screened, I will submit to the gropes (and refuse the scopes), but I will resist. I will resist by refusing the virtual strip search and complaining each and every time I am groped-- respectfully and kindly (it is not the employees fault). Resist is defined as, "to make a stand or make efforts in opposition; act in opposition; offer resistance." That's what I plan to do and I think you should as well.

But, I think you should resist the policy that requires some passengers to either submit to a full body x-ray scan that produces an essentially nude image of the passenger, or endure an invasive "pat down."

Let me say right up front that President Obama is seeking to protect our county from harm.  And, for that matter, I do not consider Secretary Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole to be bad people with nefarious motives.  They have just made a bad decision. And, if you have watched the news at all this week, it appears that many folks feel the same way (including pilots, flight attendants, the House of Representatives, the New Jersey legislature, and many regular people just like you and me).

Why should we resist the new procedure?

1. It is wrong.

Yes, I will say it that bluntly. It is wrong to take naked pictures of people as a requirement for them to travel across a free country. And, it is wrong to grope their genitals as a requirement of travel.

Now, honestly, I don't care if they want to look at my lumpy physique all day. In one sense, you would have to consider that a painful sacrifice on the TSA agent's part.

But, I have a wife and three daughters. I teach my children that only their parents or their doctor should see or touch certain places on their bodies. And, I do not think I should add, "Oh, and strangers in the airport."

The TSA has already backed down on groping children under 12. (This video is an example of why this change was made.) But, does that mean that at 13 it is OK for a man alone behind a screen to see naked pictures of my daughter. And, let's not forget how graphic these pictures are. (You can see that many places on the web so I won't link that here-- they are too graphic.)

But, you say, "it is a stranger and you do not see that person." Well, I do not want strangers to see my wife naked. Simply put, that is unacceptable.

The government promises they won't keep the pictures, and (last I saw) they have a little paper sign on the door to the room where they see them. The sign says you can't bring in your cell phone camera. Great idea-- but I wonder how long it will be until some famous movie star ends up on the Internet.

2. It doesn't work.

The TSA has been at work for nine years and has caught a grand total of zero terrorists. The widespread view is that this is simply "security theater." It is a show that won't make a difference.

At some point, you have to recognize that you simply cannot continue the ratcheting up of privacy invasion. Yes, you can take naked pictures and grope people's genitals, but that won't stop a determined terrorist. For example, it is questionable if it would have stopped the underwear bomber and it certainly would not have stopped the Saudi assassin who put explosives in his rectum.

So, if you say we have to be sure to catch every possible person at this check point, you need to start searching up people's rectum. That may seem ridiculous, but I bet naked pictures and genital gropes seemed ridiculous in early October.

What is needed is a system more like the Israeli one-- but politicians lack the political will to do so.

3. It gives government too much power.

Our founders always were concerned that the government not have too much power. They put checks and balances on the government because the natural tendency of government is to grow more, not less, intrusive. And, that is exactly what has happened with the TSA.

For example, the House of Representatives specifically voted to not allow the TSA to use virtual strip searchers as their primary means of security (the Senate never voted). Yet, here they are.

It is the right and responsibility of the people to stand up and demand change. I do not think that you should give up your rights in order to fly.

Now, I am aware of the legal issues involved. And, yes, you DO forfeit your Fourth Amendment rights as a condition of carriage, but that can change if people resist.

4. You should not have to give up naked pictures in order to go to work.

I wonder if you would keep working at Home Depot if they required you take naked pictures and have your genitals touched. Yet, millions of people fly for their job. And, that is exactly what this means for them.

Secretary Napolitano has said that you can choose other means of travel. Really? This week I have been in Dallas, Seattle, Oklahoma City, and Columbia. I have taken ten airline flights in the last ten days-- and they were for my work. Some of us have to fly. I could stay home, but I have talked to several flight attendants this week and they, by nature of their job, have to fly -- and they are mortified that the people they see every day get to see them naked.

So, what should you do? Well, I get that most of you do not fly much. And at this time you should be thankful for that. It seems like some are working hard to make it a painful experience. But, you might have to fly some time soon, and you can help make a difference right now.

I believe when you think about the issue you will want to do something. For example, when I showed uberblogger Trevin Wax the pictures (which felt wrong to even do that), he was shocked and has already expressed his concern. (By the way, Doug Wilson is a prominent Christian leader / blogger who has expressed his concerns here).

But, here are three ways to resist:

1. Don't fly and tell your airline that you won't.

Actually, there is a website with that very suggestion. Call the place where you were going and tell them why you are not coming.

2. Opt out of the virtual strip search machine.

And, I would do that by telling the TSA agent (where others can hear), "I do not believe you should have naked picture of me in order to fly -- I opt out." Yes, you will have your genitals handled by a stranger, but I would complain about that as well -- with kindness since they are doing their job.

Now, I recognize that TSA Administrator John Pistole has said (of a forthcoming protest called "opt out day"): "On the eve of a major national holiday and less than one year after al Qaida's failed attack last Christmas Day, it is irresponsible for a group to suggest travelers opt out of the very screening that could prevent an attack using non-metallic explosives." (via) But, I do not think that people exercising their right to not be photographed naked is a threat to national security.

3. Call your Senator today.

You can find a list of those on the committee here. I have already contacted my Senators and one on the committee that is meeting right now.

Let's not forget that they have already changed the policies once and public pressure can help them change again. However, the law of the land is what it is. If you choose to fly, you may have to give up naked pictures of you, your wife, and your children or you will have to explain to them that a stranger will touch them.

So, resistance is a grand Christian tradition. When people have stood up to unjust laws, things have changed. And, this is an unjust (and immoral) law. It is not the fault of the many fine employees of the TSA. They are just doing their job as assigned-- and they don't like the gropes either. So, follow the law, exercise your rights, and call your member of Congress.

This is actually not a radical view.  It is ALREADY the view of the House of Representatives.  As Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, explained, "You don't have to look at my wife and 8-year-old daughter naked to secure an airplane."  The House voted 310-118 to ban the virtual strip search machine as the primary scan. The Senate never voted on the issue so it is not law. Today, I am guessing the Senate will take additional action.

Everyone knows we need security.  My suggestion is simple: enhance the current system with more Israeli-like security and live with the fact that you simply cannot make every place in society a fortress that you can only enter via strip search.  You don't want to live that way.

Feel free to weigh in but do so respectfully or our government and others.

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