[ISN] TSA and the New "Americanism"

From: InfoSec News <alerts_at_private>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2010 01:34:46 -0600 (CST)

(c) 2010 Richard Forno. Permission granted to reproduce freely with 

There is a vocal segment of the American political fringe that throws 
around words like "communism", "socialism", or "fascism" in describing 
the economic or social policies of the current Administration. Right or 
wrong, they're entitled to their opinion, and this is not the place for 
a primer on these different political philosophies. (Disclaimer: I am an 
independent voter.)

However, to my knowledge, nobody from those fringe elements has drawn 
similar "-ism" comparisons about how the federal government, through the 
TSA, is mandating that American citizens give up some of their 
constitutional rights to support the "greater good" of the State when 
traveling by air.

Consider that, as Americans, we have the constitutional right to free 
speech but aren't allowed to shout "fire" in a crowded movie theater. If 
we do, we get arrested for causing a panic, and the courts have upheld 
that restriction on free speech. We citizens accept that.

However, the government does not have legions of federal guards deployed 
at fixed checkpoints outside movie theaters taping patrons' mouths shut 
to prevent someone from shouting "fire" or "bomb" once inside or issue 
billion-dollar orders for controversial machines that can probe the 
minds of theatergoers for references to "bomb" or "fire" or "boom!" 
before they hit the concession stand. Much to the dismay of the MPAA, 
there is no Pre-Crime Police at movie theaters.

But that's just what TSA is becoming -- albeit somewhat less 
melodramatically -- in how it handles passenger screening.

I, and I suspect many others, have no problem with TSA searching for 
"bad stuff" on airline passengers -- up to a point, for the world truly 
is a dangerous place. However, as I wrote on Monday, Americans need to 
accept a certain degree of risk in their lives, and not subject 
themselves to the misguided belief that everything "bad" can be 
discovered and prevented through the ongoing relinquishing of a few more 
individual rights to the State. Such practices transform a routine two 
hour business flight into a stressful all-day psychologically draining 
ordeal for passengers and present an image to the world not reflecting 
the America of opportunity and tolerance but rather an America of fear 
and angst.

I believe that the "wealth" of Americans is not found merely in money, 
goods, or services but also within our individual rights as its 

As such, can we not interpret TSA's current policies as another 
"redistribution of private wealth" away from individuals to the State 
under the justification of being necessary for the public welfare? At 
least that was how the recent bailouts of the American auto and banking 
industries were justified, weren't they? Reflecting over the past 
decade, the redistribution of our individual wealth in the name of 
homeland security continues to be a truly bipartisan affair.

Many people complain about the "redistribution of wealth" in situations 
where generally they are powerless to do anything about it -- but will 
they remain silent about the "redistribution of rights" in areas where 
they can do something about it? I don't mean ranting in the convenient 
forums of the blogosphere, YouTube, by the water cooler, but rather in 
public and made-for-television displays of widespread protests that show 
American citizen-travellers taking a public stand against this 
arbitrary, unaccountable, and unnecessary redistribution of their 
constitutionally-provided wealth. The world should stand in awe as 
public cries of "Keep Your Hands off My Health Care" pale in comparison 
to the cries of "Don't Touch (or Scan) My Junk."

Since 9/11, we've seen the rise of a new political and social philosophy 
that favors the redistribution of increasing percentages of a citizen's 
wealth -- in the form of personal rights and hidden costs, both 
financial and psychological -- to a national government for protecting 
the homeland. Looking back on the past ten years and seeing how the 
homeland security establishment requires increasing "redistributions" of 
our wealth to the government as it flails about trying to protect us 
against every possible new danger, I respectfully suggest that this 
emerging philosophy of nationalised fear isn't "communism" or 
"socialism" but rather a modern, and unfortunate, definition of 

Clearly this will be a matter for the courts, or perhaps Congress, to 
decide. Unfortunately, I worry that these institutions will declare that 
submitting to invasive scanning, screening, and molestation procedures 
are another necessary redistribution of our individual American wealth 
to the State as it continues a futile attempt to protect its citizens 
from Anything Bad(tm). But absent significant and visible public outcry, 
this fear-based philosophy of the New Americanism will be ensconced and 
embedded further into law....until the next redistribution is required 
of us. In that case, as with the past ten years, the only folks who will 
lose are We The People.

Someone told me yesterday that the one good thing about TSA isn't that 
it's making America safer -- rather, it's reminding Americans that we 
have rights.

It's time we exercised them.



Previous Comment: (15 Nov):

TSA and America's Culture of Zero-Risk (c) 2010 Richard Forno. 
Permission granted to reproduce freely with credit. 

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Received on Sun Nov 21 2010 - 23:34:46 PST

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