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  • Kathryn Patterson

Still Not Flying This Thanksgiving

When the TSA aggrandized the terrorist threats to airport security, I rolled by eyes at the obvious attempt to manipulate public opinion.  But when the TSA inflated security measures from the sane to the ridiculous to meet the imaginary threats, I stopped flying. Why?  Because I believe that anyone willing to give up his rights and liberties for the illusion of safety deserves neither.  Because I believe if enough people stop flying, the airlines will be effected.  No, I don't think that one person not flying will make a difference to them, but it would be rather hypocritical of me to suggest people stop flying when I still used the service.  I stopped flying because it was the one action available to me that allowed me to do whatever I could to protest the blatant violation of the 4th Amendment. Earlier this year, the TSA stopped using the nude body scanners, due to public pressure.  But security still involves invasive pat-downs and less obnoxious body scanners.  Still, I thought about lifting my self-imposed no flying restrictions.  That is, until I read about Jonathan Corbett. This man from Michigan sued the TSA over their ridiculous security procedures, with the first filing in 2010.  Earlier this year, someone in the court system published what was supposed to be a redacted version of a briefing.  In simple English, that means someone published text that the TSA did not want made public. I downloaded the briefing (I love the power of the Internet!) and read through it.  Do you know what the TSA doesn't want made public?  Let me quote it for you.

No terrorist has attempted to take an explosive on board an airplane through a U.S. airport since approximately 35 years ago . Exhibit K, "American Airlines Flight 444," Wikipedia (Last Updated Sept. 28, 2013). All of the explosives brought on board airplanes discussed in the administrative record happened outside of the United States. And, even on the global scale, including Middle Eastern countries with extreme civil unrest and a high prevalence of improvised explosive devices in use on the ground, explosives on airplanes are extremely rare. For example, the TSA analyzed hijackings in 2007, and found 7 hijacking incidents across the globe, but none of them involved actual explosive devices. Admin. Rec., Vol 3, Doe. 136, p. 2196 (U//FOUO).
The hijackers on 9/li had no explosives; only knives. Notwithstanding, the government concedes that it would be difficult to have a repeat of 9/11 due to hardened cockpit doors and the willingness of passengers to challenge hijackers rather than assume a hijacking merely means a diversion to Cuba. Admin. Rec., Vol 3, Doc. 136, p. 2197 (U//FOUO). The government also credits updated pre-flight security for that difficulty assessment, but the assessment was written before the en masse deployment of body scanners and before the update to the pat-down procedure. Id. Further, the government admits that there have been no attempted domestic hijackings of any kind in the 12 years since 9/11. Id.
This begs the question, then, of what evidence the government possesses to rationalize that we should be so afraid of non-metallic explosives being brought aboard flights departing from the U.S. that we must sacrifice our civil liberties. The answer: there is none. "As of mid-201 1, terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports; instead, their focus is on fundraising, recruiting, and propagandizing." Admin. Rec., Vol 3, Doc. 137, p. 2219 (U//FOUO).
Even if TSA actually did deter terrorists from passing through TSA checkpoints with explosives with its nude body scanners and invasive pat-downs, there is no evidence that this prevents terror rather than merely shifting the target to buses, trains, stadiums, or even the checkpoint of the terminal. In 2011, terrorists indeed detonated an explosive device at an airport checkpoint at Domodevo Airport in Moscow, Russia. Exhibit L, "Domodedovo International Airport bombing," Wikipedia (Last Updated Aug. 3 1St, 2013). By using procedures that take significantly longer than the prior metal detector search (a few seconds per passenger), the nude body scanners (22 seconds per passenger) and pat-downs (about 3 minutes per passenger) extend the security lines, creating a terrorist's dream target.To sum it up, the government knows that there is negligible chance for a terrorist attacks, that there is an even smaller chance that someone would use explosives, and that the previously used walk-through metal detectors were in fact good enough. This is why I am still not flying.

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