After the attacks of 9/11, it was only natural that our government would put in place new policies to help prevent future terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, thanks to the Bush Administration and its “fear everything” doctrine, we went nuts. As a result, what we have today is a system that is badly broken, that does very little to actually protect the lives of Americans, and that is in need of some serious reconsideration.
Since 9/11, the focus has been on airport security, or the lack thereof. Because airport security had been privatized and airport screeners were about the same caliber and pay as Burger King workers, the Bush Administration established the TSA in November of 2001. According to the agency’s website, the mission of the TSA is to, “protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”
But there’s always been a dynamic tension between freedom and security, as Ben Franklin identified after the Constitutional Convention. And when security is overdone, it can sometimes end up somewhere between an oppressive institution and a clown show.
That’s where 3-year-old Lucy Forck comes in.
Earlier this month, TSA officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in St.Louis, Missouri detained 3-year-old Lucy, on her way to a family vacation in Disney World.
The agents threatened the frightened little girl with an invasive pat-down. Little Lucy is confined to a wheelchair, and her mother took cell phone video of the entire traumatic experience, and put it up online for the world to see. In the video, you can clearly see a scared Lucy, and hear her mother questioning why such invasive security techniques need to be performed on a wheelchair-bound toddler.
But Lucy’s story is just one of many tragic and unnecessary acts in America’s modern security theater.
In October of 2012, Michelle Dunaj, a terminally-ill cancer patient, was on her way to visit friends and family in Hawaii, for what would likely be her last time seeing them. When Dunaj arrived at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport, TSA agents forced her to lift up her shirt in public, so that they could check underneath her bandages. Dunaj had asked for privacy, but the agents wouldn’t allow it. The whole situation started after a TSA agent had seen tubing connected to Dunaj’s torso, a result of her medical condition. Dunaj was eventually allowed to proceed, only after being hurt and humiliated.
Earlier in 2012, TSA agents at Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida pulled 18-month-old baby girl Riyanna off of a flight, because her name was on the federal government’s no-fly list. Her family believes they were being profiled due to their Middle Eastern name, and because Riyanna’s mother was dressed in a traditional hijab.
Rewind two years, and America’s security theater rears its ugly head yet again. Three-year-old Rocco Dubiel was traveling with his family, and was in a wheelchair with a broken leg. As his family passed through the security checkpoint, Rocco was detained by TSA agents, and swabbed for explosive residue. Again the incident was posted to the web, and again the TSA was forced to issue an apology.
All of these incidents took place at our nation’s airports. But that’s not our only mass transit system. And, at least so far – thankfully – there are no pat-downs or public shamings in our nation’s other transit systems. That’s because, ever since the Bush
Administration created the TSA, all security focus has been placed on the skies, and not on the ground.
Is that because they just haven’t gotten around to busses, trains, and cars? Or because the whole thing is more theatre than reality.
Back in the 1970s, after numerous aircraft hijackings to Cuba, legislation was introduced in Congress to require airlines to harden their cockpit doors. El Al, the Israeli airline, had been doing that since they started flying. Virtually all the European airlines had hardened cockpit doors. But the US airlines didn’t want to pay the one-time cost – which would have been around $100,000 per plane. It would have cut their quarterly profits. So they lobbied Congress hard, and the legislation died.
If United and American Airlines had had hardened cockpit doors, 9/11 never would have happened. It’s part of why it hasn’t happened ever in Israel. And, in the ultimate example of locking the barn door after the horse is out, those doors are hardened today.
But we behave like they’re not, and like we’re all terrified. And this security theatre, like the military-industrial-complex it’s become a part of, just keeps growing and growing without ever being questioned. From Chertof Porno X-Ray machines to groping kids in wheelchairs to humiliating cancer patients.
This nation used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but since Bush and Cheney, we’ve become the land of the frightened and the home of the sheep. It’s time we changed that. It’s time for sensible security in the United States that protects the lives, and, frankly, even more importantly, the rights, of all Americans.