December 2nd, 2010

In which the Daily Sun reaches new depths...

It's not often that I feel the need to pull out the soapbox and step up (nor am I compelled to use its companion, the high horse). But I had the misfortune to stumble across a piece entitled "See-Thru: Privacy Melting" in Wednesday's Cornell Daily Sun, and I'm ready to saddle up and ride. Before I even come to the drivel that Amelia Brown tries to pass off as competent content, I have to state that I'm puzzled by its placement. An article about the TSA and WikiLeaks - in the Arts and Entertainment section? Sounds to me like this should have been run on the op-ed pages.

As for the article itself...well, I'm not sure I can find enough negative adjectives to do it justice, so I'll just go ahead and rebut my "favorite" parts.

We start with a dismissal of the dissent from the implementation of new super wham-o-dyne scanners by the Transportation Security Administration, and the "enhanced pat-downs" that serve as the alternative. Did Ms. Brown fly over the Thanksgiving weekend? Has she personally experienced these procedures, which have been described as "worse than going to the gynecologist"? And if not, is she familiar with travelers being covered in their own urine? Oh, by the way - would these new scanners have thwarted the 2009 Christmas Day bombing? (Take a guess.)

Ms. Brown cautions that taking umbrage at such practices amounts to a "misunderstanding of the role of the body in public space." When you travel by airplane, you become "a traveling body that can be regulated by security officials and not a private, sexual body regulated by its own interests." An attempt at proof by tautology - that's rich. And you only become a traveling body if you step on a plane? Are you not traveling when you drive, or even if you walk down a street? Carrying this line of logic to its end would justify such invasive measures at any time one were outside his or her home.

Next up: a paragraph squaring these actions with the Constitution. I wasn't aware that the Fourth Amendment contained exceptions in cases of terrorism or other exigent circumstances. Stepping onto an airplane does not, in and of itself, give the probable cause required to support the level of search involved in the new TSA procedures. This is the United States of America. We don't treat innocent people like prison inmates.

After a bit of meandering, Ms. Brown comes to the subject of the recent WikiLeaks document release. She seems to want to scold the public at large for being so interested in the dirty laundry of various masters of international intrigue. She further laments the presence of "information among the leaked documents that endangers lives of informants and undermines productive national strategies." Allow me to translate this into the language of the Lynah Faithful: Hey, Amelia! Julian Assange called! He said, he doesn't give a rat's ass about 'productive national strategies!' This is a critical point. The publication of this material must be separated from the leaking itself. Those who have a responsibility to protect classified information and fail to do so should be tried or court-martialed as appropriate, and if convicted, should be treated to an extended stay at exotic Fort Leavenworth or Club Supermax. Without the criminal acts of people like PFC Bradley Manning, Assange would be little more than a shell, to say nothing of his other alleged misdeeds.

Ms. Brown closes by posing a question: "Who can we trust, and with what currents of information?" Thankfully, she poses a refreshingly honest answer: "[t]rusting our governments to keep the right secrets and do positive things with classified information and trusting the TSA to use the images of human bodies as data for security purposes, not for the spying objectives of the X-Ray specs." It's tough to blame her. She exhibits a mental disorder state of mind that is common throughout the People's Republic of Ithaca - a faith in the benevolent power of government. She's entitled to that belief - and I'm entitled to say she couldn't be more wrong. In the case of the TSA, we're asked to trust in unelected bureaucrats who undoubtedly have some interest in looking tough on terror - "security theater," if you will. As for the classified documents, the veil of secrecy can be used to protect the government from embarrassment just as easily as from enemy attack, or even for no reason at all (as I can personally attest).

The government Ms. Brown trusts is the same one that routinely gets tax preparation answers wrong, wants to make your health its business, and banned Four Loko - and that just scratches the surface. I've worked for the Federal government in the past, so I know firsthand what it's capable of. I see no reason to blindly accept that the surrender of liberty the TSA demands is a price worth paying for whatever additional security be may achieve. In fact it goes even further - by insisting on the necessity of the scanners, the TSA asserts that air travel is inherently dangerous and that we should fly in fear. Yes, I'm going to say it: acceptance of full body scanners and enhanced pat downs = the terrorists win.