Untimely Observations

Imagine No Security State


According to a CBS poll released on Tuesday, a whopping 80 percent of Americans approve of the Transportation and Security Agency’s full-body X-ray scanners. Scanners that produce shockingly pornographic images of passages; scanners that, according to a group of University of California scientists (PDF), might very well be carcinogenic; scanners that will, no doubt, increase the power of an agency that already wastes millions upon millions of hours of everyone’s time and affords cretins with room-temperature IQs the opportunity to lord over air travelers.

Apparently, Americans want their National Security -- and they want it good and hard!

Until a friend mailed me Byron York’s column this morning, I had no idea that federal x-raying and groping wasn’t actually mandatory.

Writes York,

The 2001 law creating the TSA gave airports the right to opt out of the TSA program in favor of private screeners after a two-year period. Now, with the TSA engulfed in controversy and hated by millions of weary and sometimes humiliated travelers, Rep. John Mica, the Republican who will soon be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is reminding airports that they have a choice.

Mica, one of the authors of the original TSA bill, has recently written to the heads of more than 150 airports nationwide suggesting they opt out of TSA screening. "When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees," Mica writes. "As TSA has grown larger, more impersonal, and administratively top-heavy, I believe it is important that airports across the country consider utilizing the opt-out provision provided by law."

It’s ridiculous for Mica to suggest that no one thought a new government agency would grow into a wasteful, useless bureaucracy.  But this news does offer some hope. The friend who sent me the story suggested that an airport could begin announcing that it is a TSA-free zone as a way of gaining competitive advantage. The market mechanism might force others to follow… I, for one, would be willing to book an off-the-beaten-track itinerary to avoid getting scanned. It's wouldn't just be a matter of avoiding the hassle and humiliation. The MSM have pooh-poohed the idea that the x-ray machines could cause cancer. Perhaps they’re right. But I think it’s far more likely that the scanners cause harm than … say … my plane will get blown up by terrorists.

As much as I hope the TSA would just go away, I think that happy prospect is highly unlikely.  First off, this latest poll proves that the TSA is -- it’s depressing to write this -- popular. “9/11” has retained its psychological hold.

Secondly, the TSA always seemed to me to be a kind of make-work social program for the unemployable. (Let’s remember that 9/11 coincided with the onset of a major recession.) As the Post Office declines, TSA must pick up the slack.

Thirdly, and more importantly, the expulsion of the TSA from airports would mark a major retreat of the post-9/11 National Security State; governments recognize that if they give in on one front, people will get the idea that the security state can be defeated on others.

At any rate, while the American public is in the mood to OBEY, it’s worth taking this opportunity to imagine an alternative universe.

Imagine no “Diversity,” no mass immigration, too.  Imagine free use of racial and behavioral profiling for international travelers.

You’ve just imagined a world in which the TSA does not exist.