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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 11/19/2010

Touch his junk

By Adam Serwer

Count me among those unhappy with the choices the Transportation Security Agency has left airline travelers with. As ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese put it earlier this week, you can "either submit to a virtual strip search or a very aggressive grope."

Both the full body scanner and frisk options are pretty invasive, and in the case of the former the Government Accountability Office says that TSA hasn't established "performance measures that assess how deployed technologies have reduced or mitigated risk," so it's unclear how much security we're actually trading for our privacy. The GAO also said it wasn't clear that the new machines would have discovered the underwear bomb that led them to speed up deployment of the body scanners.

The new security procedures have fueled a small bipartisan backlash against the TSA, with conservatives who supported warrantless wiretapping, torturous interrogations and indefinite detention rediscovering their small-government inclinations when it comes to national security. But as Charles Krauthammer shows us, that sudden libertarian backlash has its limits:

Don't touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don't touch my junk, Obamacare - get out of my doctor's examining room, I'm wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don't touch my junk, Google - Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don't touch my junk, you airport security goon - my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I'm a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?

Later, Krauthammer, a long time supporter of racial profiling, elaborates:

We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

Racial profiling is no more statistically accurate than those random searches conservatives always complain about. Thousands of Muslims travel on airplanes every day, and an infinitesimal number actually turn out to be dangerous. But the argument here is pretty clear -- the problem isn't that the violation of privacy isn't worth an unknown gain in security. It's that the TSA should be frisking "Nigerian nutjobs" instead of grandma. Conservatives like Krauthammer aren't angry that the TSA is infringing on individual liberty, just that it's infringing on their individual liberty.

So it's not really accurate to say that the new conservative anthem is "don't touch my junk." It's more like, "touch his junk." That doesn't seem very libertarian.

By Adam Serwer  | November 19, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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Wow so did Cherkoff piss off the right wing or something? They didn't peep a word a few years ago when he was pimping these devices on the talk shows.

O/T but I can already sense Politico gearing up to breathlessly cover Congressional investigations.

Do those losers over there revel in the instability of our Govn't or something. They are like the pricks at school that spread rumors to see people duke it out behind the gym. I seriously can't stand those idiots.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | November 19, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Greg Sargent is set to announce that the TSA will screen everyone who is allowed to post on his blog.

Full submission is required.


Posted by: RedTeaRevolution | November 19, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse


I have seen some extremely reasonable and informative interviews of the former head of Security for El Al Airlines - I do not recall his name.

He said that the "profiling" is actually much, much more than racial - it is asking questions, recognizing facial expressions -

This requires extensive training - months - instead of the hours or one or two days of training the TSA now does to train its people to check bags and the other procedures.

So, to be fair, Adam, the "profiling" crew have a much more detailed and extensive program which they are in favor of - and it can not simply be described as racial.


Posted by: RedTeaRevolution | November 19, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I object to this aspect of this story

Apparently someone decided to DIVERT stimulus money into buying these machines.

I would like to know just how much "job creation" these machines led to - and how much profit for the politically-connected security firms involved.

And I would like to know how much of the components of these machines are foreign- made.

CLEARLY, the stimulus money should NOT have been used for this purpose - it is security-aimed and not job-creation aimed

Congress REJECTED buying these machines previously - a little known fact of Obama by-passing Congress (again)

In addition, the rush to buy these machines can be explained that they were slipped into the simulus budgets later, and they wanted to spend the money before anyone found out.

It is incredible that everyone is in such a rush to do something - especially when they don't have authorization.

If Congress REFUSED to fund these machines initially, WHAT IS OBAMA DOING BUYING THEM.

It goes AGAINST the clear intent of Congress.

Posted by: RedTeaRevolution | November 19, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Time for El Al Airlines!

Posted by: clawrence12 | November 19, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Hey! If your house is infested by roaches, you don't go out and buy ant traps.

The phoney, liberal outrage against profiling is what causes these idiotic security programs to be instituted.

This bizarro world form of political correctness and worship of multiculturalism helped to shellack Obama and his 'crats in the mid-terms.

With the axis of incompetence back in action, Obama-Pelosi-Reid, it looks like more of the same. Next time the Senate and the White House are likely to fall.

The liberal agenda is poisoning the Democrat party. Republicans don't have to do anything. Liberals are doing it all for them.

Posted by: battleground51 | November 19, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer's not a libertarian, which is why it's hard for him to backpedal on this issue. But you can't apply a libertarian principle to the TSA now when the entire premise is an affront such principles.

On a more practical level, I think metal detectors and bomb dogs are both more effective and protect civil rights. The metal detectors are less invasive and the bomb dogs would give officers a reason, probable cause, to pull someone from the line for questioning and further examination.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | November 19, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The AMEX Plum card ad is a nice touch.

Posted by: clawrence12 | November 19, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

These security procedures are going to face 4th Amendment challenges.

Obviously, there are serious questions here whether the new procedures meet the "REASONABLE" standard.

The choice of "Radiation or Sexual Assault" - that is going to be the issue.

I wonder if Obama considered all this.

I also wonder if the enhanced pat-downs are all a RUSE to get people to accept the radiation.

We need another way - and the Obama people made a big mistake doing this before the holidays. After January would have been wiser.

Posted by: RedTeaRevolution | November 19, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse


What does a terrorist or an illegal immigrant look like?

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | November 19, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Now that the climate of "fear" has generated 9 years of irrational eroding of our civil liberties, I don't know what anyone expects. The chances of being killed by a terrorist still rates well below salmonella poisoning. There's also the MIC money quote to be considered and Chertoff's financial security. My daughter's flying home Monday, so I'll see what she has to say about it. I know she's not looking forward to it though. I'm working on a road trip.

Posted by: lmsinca | November 19, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The reason racial profiling would not work is that the bad guys would adapt and use what is not the "public perception norm."

I'm sure it is just a very small percentage of people that are resisting this type of security. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Posted by: dozas | November 19, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

It is amazing that for Obama, nothing has worked.

The stimulus - failure - billions diverted to non-job creation projects

The health care plan - it is going to get repealed or substantially modified.

Now Foreign Policy - completely a mess, very little progress

NONE of Obama's foreign policy ideas from the campaign have worked - the world did not suddenly turn into candyland because we elected a black President.

It is amazing how many of Obama's policies have fallen flat or been complete failures

The guy is incompetent and unqualified

And it is showing.


Posted by: RedTeaRevolution | November 19, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Is battleground even going to try and defend Krauthammer's position? I usually think Adam's articles go too far, but I think this one is pretty much right on.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | November 19, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

"worship of multiculturalism"

Hands down the best part of this thread.

Just hilarious.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 19, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Wait a minute, weren't the Catholic Bishops AGAINST the Affordable Care Act?

At an international papal conference on health care yesterday at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI and other Catholic church leaders said it is the “moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.” Saying access to adequate medical care is one of the “inalienable rights” of man, the pope said, “Justice in health care should be a priority of governments and international institutions.”

In a separate statement, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said, “Justice requires guaranteed universal access to health care,” adding that minimal levels of medical care are “a fundamental human right.” “Governments are obligated, therefore, to adopt the proper legislative, administrative and financial measures to provide such care,” the cardinal explained, saying that, “The governments of richer nations with good health care available should practice more solidarity with their own disadvantaged citizens.”

Posted by: pragmaticagain | November 19, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

All great stuff on what Obama needs to do going forward from an expert:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | November 19, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

What does the typical terrorist look like(?) you ask. Isn't it obvious??

The typical terrorist is clean shaven, has light brown to blond hair with blue, green or brown eyes. Somtimes the hair is red and these are the worst ones.

The typical terrorist is usually white, Anglo-Saxon and Christian. The devout Christians can be spotted easily as they are apt to be carrying Bibles. Watch out, those Bibles are loaded with lies and fables.

The typical terrorist is middle aged and older. They are conservative Republicans and may belong to a radical group of racist rubes called the TEA PARTY. These people are dangerous bigots and should be handled with extreme caution.

The above also applies to OUTLAW "immigrants" otherwise known as illegals. They drift down out of Canada.

Happy, liberal profiling!

Posted by: battleground51 | November 19, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

The Bishops opposed PPACA due to the abortion issue but were otherwise supportive. You can be for all the things listed in the Vatican statement and oppose PPACA.

"For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for reform of our health care system so that all may have access to the care that recognizes and affirms their human dignity."

Posted by: NoVAHockey | November 19, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

You missed the point. Profiling isn't 'racial', it's a professional psychological and factual analysis. For example, you profile serial killers based upon a demographic that is created by the characteristics of your average serial killer. Who is 'X race' or 'x age', more like to be in X profession and have X habits...

You don't make it up out of stereotypes, you make it up out of KNOWN demographic qualitites and the chips fall where they may.

It works for El Al, an airline that we have much to learn from. They're constantly assessing behavior of passengers and havn't had trouble for decades. Or we could just do what we do, which is to stupidly physically assault 85 year olds in wheel chairs and three year olds in a manner that doesn't even reveal the explosives that the TSA is claiming that it's looking for. We're not safer, they're just pretending to the public that we are.

Can we profile, use behavioral analysis and bomb sniffing dogs? Or do we want to continue to violate people's fourth amendment rights, while foolishly claiming that it's going to keep us safe, when it probably won't?

And call me libertarian or whatever you want to. As a supposedly a 'free' person, I'm free to want to keep your nose out of all of my business and only invite you in as a matter of choice. Seriously, i'm not interested in your opinion on that part of the matter. You don't get to vote on what I should want or not want. You only get to decide that sort of thing for YOURSELF. The rest is overstepping your bounds, especially if the person whose boundary you're violating complains about it.

Really, get off of my lawn. Didn't your mother teach you any manners?

Posted by: Geepers1 | November 19, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

ChuckinDenton | November 19, 2010 11:42 AM

We are a Nation of Immigrants.

We all look like immigrants

I would suggest you start with the people who do not look like immigrants.


Posted by: RedTeaRevolution | November 19, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

"The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known."

100% correct as objectively tested in Israel.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 19, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

While there is some justification for the preflight security precautions, which have been around since hijacking airliners to Cuba became the in destination, the whole TSA is an unintended consequence of Bush's willingness to let hijackers attack domestic flights to give him an excuse to attack Sadaam.

When 9/11 turned out to be much worse than he was willing to expect, he had nobody to blame, since he couldn't admit HE should have done something, so he had to invent one idiotic policy after another. Meanwhile public opinion forced him to Federalize airport security, which WAS a good thing. Every other policy, from making everybody park in a different Congressional District from the one where they were flying out of to Colour Coordinated Terrorist Identification demonstrated a true conservatives response to problems, do something stupid and hope nobody notices.

These scanners are the last remnant of the Bush policy of responding to 9/11, and how long they last will depend on whether they actually ever find something worth finding. If in the first few months somebody bad gets caught the experiment will continue.

Of course, if you can get a free pass by showing your Republican party Identification Card, we will never get rid of the system.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 19, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"Wait a minute, weren't the Catholic Bishops AGAINST the Affordable Care Act? Posted by: pragmaticagain"

No, just that they have reservations about health care that pays for abortions (Catholic Church definition, not standard medical definition) and non-natural birth control (CCDNMD).

It made for interesting voter discussions in various groups sponsored by Catholic Churches, when letters from Bishops had to juggle the distant potential for abortions (see above) with the quite proximate considerations that arise from the very real potential of reducing abortions because medical considerations aren't so daunting to unintended mothers.

I tried to get some Project Rachel people to consider what they might accomplish with a clause in the AHCA that said that "Controversial, experimental, dubious or potentially unnecessary procedures that get government funding require that the patient receive sufficient counseling to properly make an informed decision". The premise was that, if such a clause had been included, and so they got to be part of the counseling, according to their own literature they might be able to prevent many abortions that would otherwise occur.

Heads are still shaking about that.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 19, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

""The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known." 100% correct as objectively tested in Israel. Posted by: illogicbuster"

100% wrong.

Israel's profiling is basically, Jews can be trusted, everybody else can't.

El Al can virtually banish anyone from any profile that remotely looks Arabic, South Asian, S.E. Asian, African, and any nationality not Israeli and nobody complains. El Al never makes a profit and never will, but Israelis pay the difference in taxes to give themselves a kosher airline to ride.

Israel's profiling isn't effective, just exclusionary. The blond haired blue eyed Swede who is actually a Jihadi gets by everybody's profile. Care to bet that there aren't any Blond, Blue Eyed, Swedes who are Wahabi zealots?

Posted by: ceflynline | November 19, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"I would suggest you start with the people who do not look like immigrants.Posted by: RedTeaRevolution"


The Navajo, the Mohawks, the Five Tribes, (Iroquois or Civilized) the Shawnee, Miami, Sac and Fox, Hopi, Tohono O'Odham, Zuni, Apache, and all the rest might not like your approach to profiling, Anglo!

Posted by: ceflynline | November 19, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Well, I suppose an alternative would be for passengers to put all their clothing in a bin, like we do our shoes and jackets. That means no added radiation and no touchy-feely groping hands on us. Ridiculous, yes, but so is profiling. We are not only an integrated country, but there are also many anglo sympathizers involved in the terrorists cause. Where would you begin? Most often, innocent people are harassed or arrested.

If you don't like what has been proposed to protect us from being blown out of the sky (I don't especially like the choices either), how about some viable solutions being offered. Lambasting the President and those who are attempting to protect us, is neither creating a safer situation for us, nor solving the risks of air travel involving terrorists attacks.

Our bickering is creating more problems rather than finding answers. We need to somehow reverse the tide of our dissension and put our minds together for a change, leaving politics behind for the moment. If we don't - Al Quaida and those like minded to their cause, just might win.

Posted by: charmian | November 19, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

The grope is ridiculous. So is the fuss about the "virtual strip search".

I'm figuring it's mostly guys coming up on middle age. If you don't like the TSA, just wait for your proctologist!


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 19, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Here's the REAL Don't Touch My Junk theme song!

Posted by: MikeThePatriot | November 19, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

"The grope is ridiculous. So is the fuss about the "virtual strip search". I'm figuring it's mostly guys coming up on middle age. If you don't like the TSA, just wait for your proctologist! BB Posted by: FairlingtonBlade"

Since I'm bored and this is as good a place as any, I'm starting a new rumor that TSA is going to hire ten thousand Proctologists with OB/GYN training.

Pass it on.

Next week watch how funny Republicans walk whenever they get near a security check point.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 19, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

@ ceflynline -ROFLMAO!

While being groped, of course.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 19, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

The TSA is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I'd rather fly El Al and deal with professional security instead of Keystone Kops.

Posted by: mike_w_long | November 20, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

"The TSA is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I'd rather fly El Al and deal with professional security instead of Keystone Kops. Posted by: mike_w_long"

The TSA is doing the job that Republicans reacting to the failure of GWB to protect America have demanded of it. The whole body scanners are a Bush response to America's dears after he let hijackers he knew about crash airliners into American buildings. Every time another wannabe martyr finds a way onto a flight elsewhere in the world headed for America, Reoublicans complain about how poorly TSA is doing, totally ignoring the fact that TSA doesn't have Jurisdiction OCONUS. So everytime you berate Obama because a would be Jihadi gets caught trying to get onto a foreign airliner and trying to blow it up as it is inbound for the U.S. TSA has yo respond.

Of course when the Dutch take a South Moluccan wired for salvation off a Somali Airlines flight terminating in Amsterdam who had ongoing tickets to Portland Maine via Reykjavik you will again scream that Obama isn't protecting the U. S. the way he should be.

TSA is the very real creation of Republicans trying to hide the dereliction of Duty of their last President. Its current operating policy is also the creation of yhose guilty but unrepentant Republicans. Until those Republicans discovered that THEY are also to be inconvenienced should they decide to fly they were quite happy that OTHERS were going to get this abusive treatment. If they could pass the gates by showing a Republican Party membership card they would be applauding TSA's demeaning treatment of the Liberal Flying Public.

When you undertake to build an undying monster, be careful to instill in it a sense of humanity as its prime directive.

The Drs Frankenstein who sewed TSA together forgot that lesson.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 20, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Wasn't it conservative apologists like Krauthamer who calmly told all "good" Americans that they needed to submit to government screening, government wiretaps, and arrest without trial in order for us all to be safe??

What happened? Oh yeah, that's right. Their hero GW Bush and his criminal gang of radical neocon extremists got thrown out of office and the "government" can't feed their rich corporate friends any more. OK! Crank up the propaganda machine and start demonizing government again.

Posted by: thebobbob | November 20, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

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