Just bleed all over the airport– it’s safer

A self-described “rule follower” went through an airport pornoscanner wearing a panty-liner (she was menstruating). Because the hygienic item obscured the screener’s view of her vulva, she was made to endure a humiliating fondling, “so invasive that I was left crying and dealing with memories that I thought had been dealt with years ago of prior sexual assaults.”

For more, go here.

36 thoughts on “Just bleed all over the airport– it’s safer

  1. There’s a similarly awful story about a cancer survivor, urine and a “patdown.” It’s all over the internet; try googling “tsa urine cnn”.

  2. Also a story about breast prostheses being removed to make sure they weren’t bombs….jjjeeesshhhh TSA folks, use a bit of common sense to say nothing of common decency!

  3. J, I forgot about that one! Too awful. What if one was trying to keep it a secretF Or what if they were just falsies that one didn’t want advertised.

    I do remember hearing Ann Richards relating about how she liked to wear body stockings, as I think they are called, and hers had little metal snaps at her crotch. Also, when she was campaigning in Texas, she took a lot of one way flights, which raised great suspicions. So people were forever running electric wands over her, which would go off in between her legs. She thought it was very funny, but she was a very, very tough woman.
    She was the beloved govenor of Texas.

  4. I have no idea how many recent airline terrorists were women. And I remember really liking work by Sara Ruddick, for one very quick example off the top of my head. However, I think many people might be surprised to learn about the roles that women often serve in terrorism (amongst certain circles of terrorists anyway).

    Unsurprisingly, there is deep sexism if not misogyny amongst many terrorists (and so much sexual inequality in the different stages, planning, collecting relevant materials, transporting materials, final decisions about executing plans, etc. in terrorism). Nonetheless, women still can (and I believe often do) serve all sorts of roles in supporting (and facilitating) various forms of terrorism.

    If I am either mistaken, or mistakenly not considering various relevant factors, please do correct me.

    Of course, in any case, none of this supports/legitimates any of the awful stories reported above.

  5. Has anyone seen The Battle of Algiers? Of course, I’m not sure how much of that was a dramatization, and like David, I don’t think that justifies what happened in these cases at all.

  6. If you’re willing to concede racial profiling to the Glenn Beck crowd, I’m sure they’d be willing to lay off the women in return.

  7. Erin, I think I am more happy than embarrassed that I do not know what the Glenn Beck crowd is. However, contemporary terrorists (or perpetrators of violence, warfare, etc.) are often very adept at adapting to tactics against them. So if something led to widespread, systematic decreased screening of women, then many terrorists would quickly turn to using women in various terrorist ways, I think.

  8. The TSA deserves criticism for instances where its employees fail to know or follow their own regulations–and not just because it’s inconvenient to humiliating for the passengers involved, but also because such failures can constitute a risk to the remaining passengers on those flights.

    We shouldn’t forget, though, that the TSA is attempting to deal with real threats that are inherently very difficult to deal with…the TSA deserves our compassion as much as the passengers it interacts with.

    Inspecting someone’s prosthetic breast seems outlandish until you understand that many explosives are passively undetectable (i.e. require physical search)–for example, the PETN-filled printer cartridges recently on the news passed through x-ray analysis without a hitch.

    Certainly, there is much to be said for privacy–I don’t think any sane person is denying that. However, it would be just as insane to maintain that any traveler, by virtue of their right to privacy, has the right to put the lives of other travelers at risk.

    Not on my flight.

  9. I completely agree with Asur. Which is why I wholeheartedly support full bodily cavity searches prior to entering airports. True, they are uncomfortable and often embarrassing (for both the recepient and the TSA officer who must conduct them), but nothing matters more than our safety. After all, many plastic explosives can be hidden in bodily cavities and assembled afterwards in the airplane lavatory. There is always a trade off between security and privacy, but no air traveler has the right to put other travelers at risk. Not on my flight.

  10. mm, that’s just sensible. I also worry about service animals, or in fact any animals on board planes. Goodness knows what’s in them.

  11. I still stand by Jender’s post and jj’s comments (if they let me). At the same time, I think we should take care not to become too flippant about these matters. Try talking to, or reading personal stories by, soldiers who served in Red Zones after the U.S. and Britain invaded Iraq (or any other combat zone, really). Combatants, experienced/trained and/or amateur, do use children and pets to lure their alleged enemies toward explosive traps, for instance. An injured person is a classic example for setting traps. The tragic real world contains common cliches about this and much worse. Prostheses and physical aids are prime locations for storing and using dangerous substances. One tragically effective attack on soldiers is simply to light them on fire (with all the ammunition and such that they carry, things do not go so well for the ignited soldier). Talk to doctors who treated soldiers in Iraq, and you will not like the stories. I imagine that this is one source for the concern over flamable and explosive liquids/materials.

    Of course, as I said above and Kathryn kindly noted/agreed, none of this justifies or legitimates the awful stories reported in the post and initial comments. I have no answers to defend, though I do think we need to take seriously considerations from both sides of this apparently debated issue.

  12. David, I certainly think that body cavities and animals can be very serious problems. In addition, we know that human beings will ingest things to hide them; what’s to stop a suicide bomber from ingesting something that can be detonnated? In the first version, I was going to suggest travellers be held at airports for 24 hours and be required to ingest laxatives.

    So what’s the point? It’s a way of drawimg attention to Asur’s claim that

    Certainly, there is much to be said for privacy–I don’t think any sane person is denying that. However, it would be just as insane to maintain that any traveler, by virtue of their right to privacy, has the right to put the lives of other travelers at risk.

    and pointing out that if we do not have some strong conceptions of rights and privacy we can use such appeals to danger to make intolerable demands.

  13. The distinction should be between what is necessary and what is unnecessary rather than between what is tolerable and what is intolerable.

    Unless by intolerable you mean unnecessary.

    In context, ‘necessary’ is a function of what is being screened for and what technology is available to screen for it. If an electronic scanner can’t detect something, guess what?

  14. The distinction between necessary and unnecessary is not the deciding distinction, at least not in a country with a respect for human rights.

  15. I have to agree with jj- but further, necessary for what? And is whatever answers that question, necessary itself?

  16. Surely not all human rights are equal; are you really saying that you have the right to preserve your dignity at the cost of someone else’s right to life?

    Because that’s exactly what we’re arguing about, preserving dignity v. preserving life.

  17. Asur it’s not that simple. What would you say about requiring blood tests to measure cholesterol before we allowed people to eat fast food? As far as I know, heart disease is directly related to more fatalities each year than illicit substances getting past airport security. But surely we wouldn’t deem it appropriate to preserve life in this way.

  18. I agree, Kathryn.

    The difference, as I see it, is that we’re not concerned about terrorists blowing themselves up so much as we’re concerned about them blowing other people up in the process.

    The issue isn’t the rights an individual has against themselves (such as a right to harm their own body) but the rights individuals have against each other.

  19. What about children whose guardians bring them? Or how about killing one person in order to harvest their organs to save many others? Or, theoretically, locking one innocent person in prison if it meant terrorists would all decide to behave peacefully?

  20. To Asur (and jj and Kathryn and other readers following this thread) from David Slutsky,

    Here is a sketch of an argument that supports the position in the comments above by jj and Kathryn. (I do not speak for jj or Kathryn – they can and do speak for themselves. However, I do think that they might agree with some version or variation of what I say here.)

    First sketch of argument: Presumably, somewhere in NYC, there are one or more dangerous criminals planning to harm or kill innocent persons for no good reason (out of hatred, or envy, or theft with no witnesses, etc.). Although many police (and other law/security enforcement) officers have hunches/intuitions and circumstantial evidence about who these dangerous criminals are, (very often) they do not have enough evidence to convince a judge to issue search and/or arrest warrants so that the officers can (legally) force their way into the suspects homes in order to arrest them, allegedly with illegal weapons and evidence of crime/terrorism plans in their homes, on their persons, etc.

    Now consider two policies: policy number 1: give police (and other law/security) officers the legal power to search, at their will/discretion, suspects’ homes, cars, persons, property, belongings, and, at their will/discretion, surreptitiously to surveil the phones, homes, and workplaces of their suspects with hidden video cameras and microphones.

    Now consider policy number 2: give police (and other law/security) officers no legal power to invade the privacy or intrude on the lives of any suspected criminals/terrorists unless the officers have an abundance of direct, non-circumstantial evidence that their suspects are indeed dangerous criminals/terrorists.

    Next, consider one set of alleged consequences of these two policies: first, let us suppose that under policy number 1, the crime/terrorism rate drops dramatically. However, the officers are not perfect. Although the crime/terrorism rate drops plenty, the privacy and basic rights of several innocent people are violated (due to the police mistaking those innocent people for suspects/criminals).

    Now consider the alleged consequences of policy number 2: although the crime/terrorism rate goes up under this policy (because the enforcement of individual rights prevents officers from more aggressively pursuing their jobs), the number of innocent people whose privacy and basic rights are violated is much lower (than the number under policy number 1).

    Ask yourself questions such as these: which of the two different policies do I think is more just/ethical (or perhaps required by ethics/justice)? Which of the two different policies would I want enforced where I live and go? Many people choose policy number 2. Many people think that certain basic rights are so morally important, that the differences in consequences between the two policies does not provide a moral justification for policy number 1. (One could develop this into an abductive argument by making the two policies competing hypotheses about the requirements of ethics/justice, and inferring the hypothesis that best explains the choices that people make, and the thoughts that people have, about the two hypotheses.)

    (This is a simplified – or much elaborated? – version of the nonconsequentialist argument that Thomas Nagel gives for enforcing basic rights based on a special moral status that he calls inviolability – on pages 85-93 in his 1995 article titled, “Personal Rights and Public Space” and in his 1994 French journal article reprinted in English in a 2007 OUP anthology under the title, “The Value of Inviolability”. Of course, Frances Kamm develops brilliant defenses of similar positions in a series of articles and books.)

    There is more. Let us now consider the second set of alleged consequences of the two polices. Let us suppose that policy number 1 has various negative remote (or remoter) and precedent effects (of the sort described by Bernard Williams, or of the similar sort developed in subsequent writings by others). Let us suppose that many of the officers abuse their power to do their jobs (and that the officers proceed to abuse innocent people out of prejudice or perverse self-interest, for instance). Let us suppose that, despite their best efforts, the officers are not very proficient. As a result, not only does the crime/terrorism rate not go dramatically down, but the number of innocent people whose basic rights are violated by the officers goes dramatically up. In addition, a general and strong distrust (and/or fear) of the officers and the law/security enforcement system develops throughout the majority of the population. And so on. Of course, it is an empirical issue which of the two sets of consequences would result from implementing policy number 1. Based on the suppositions in this paragraph, one could give a sophisticated consequentialist justification for policy number 2. Many people actually do base public policy decisions/positions of this precise kind for these specific reasons. One could further develop variations of arguments along similar lines by exploring different or further suppositions, though I will stop here and leave anyone still reading and interested to continue thinking for themselves.

    Interested readers could not do much better than checking out work by Jane Mayer

    For instance, see her 2008 book titled, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals” and her 2005 New Yorker article titled, “Outsourcing Torture: The secret history of America’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program”. Here is a link to this 2005 article:
    – David Slutsky

  21. I would have pulled the ‘offensive’ object out of my drawers, done the scan over and after the gropers turned their backs, I would have left it somewhere they’d be sure to step in it. The nerve!

  22. Hippocampa has a good point, too. I can only remember one incident involving female terrorists. That was the incident Moscow.

  23. I just saw this link on Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports blog posted on 11/22/10:

    “More Fun with the Airline Screening Playset: Body Imaging X-Ray Edition! Posted by Daniel Solove”

    Funny yes, though I think there comes a time for (attempted) reasoned argumentation instead of mocking and sarcasm(s) (or conviction standoff/expression). I was hoping some people might appreciate my comment #22 above. If not, perhaps others can do better.

  24. Yes I appreciated your comment #22, David. You’ll get no argument from me. Let me add another unforseen problem with policy #1. Lawsuits are expensive. Maher Arar just won over $10 million for the abuse he suffered in Syria.

  25. Thank you Xena. Your additional unforseen problem with policy #1 is truly excellent. Indeed expensive. And the expenses can and will have all sorts of (bad, non-monetary) consequences themselves.

  26. Xena, I think you are wise to be skeptical – especially about the misogyny/sexist-serving sociological and psychological speculation.

    I wonder what you make of the material linked in my comments numbered 8 through 11 in the Saudi Arabia on UN Women Board post thread

    Fake PR reaction to the ethics minded and social activist world regarding the UN Women executive board? Or perhaps a bit of real change forced by this social pressure (from vocal activists and ethically minded ordinary people)?

  27. I don’t even know where to begin. That mess with the UN is an Ideological Soup that knocks everything I’ve learned about Rights, Freedom, Cultural Relativism, Justice and Fairness into utter senselessness. Too many competing gods ruining the proverbial Tower of Babble.

    A Saudi Canadian DOCTOR!!! has to live in a place that’s worse than the one I’m in and kiss her dad’s feet so he won’t lock her up for disobedience? She has the most valued skill set achievable in 2 of the best places on the planet to use those skills, and she has to live like that? WTF?!?

    And don’t even get me started on the head of the burka police showing up at that meeting. The guy’s a thug.

    I can’t fathom how the input of a nation with bassackward values like these can be compatible with the UN’s goals. Yeah, somebody got bought. Unfortunately it will take somebody, or a whole team of somebodies with far more expertise than I have to work out some semblance of a solution to the conundrum.

  28. Another addition to the problems generated by policy #1 in comment #22 wrt Mayer’s article “Outsourcing Torture”:
    The system designed by the CIA and Bush&Cheney’s legal people to deal with terror suspects undermines real justice when a detainee is actually guilty and could be tried and convicted, without all the waste and expense. I’m referring to Omar Khadr. American terror laws are inadequate to convict him. They couldn’t prove that the shots (or was it a grenade?–same difference I guess) that killed the American medic actually came from Khadr. Nor could they prove that Khadr was directly responsible for maiming the other American soldier. So they leave him in Gitmo on vague suspicions surrounding his ethnicity, while the Warchild activists work the bleeding hearts into a tizzy, and everybody misses the point.

    Khadr was in an enemy camp, working and training with the enemy, behind enemy lines during a war where Canadian soldiers are engaged in combat, just like the Kamloops Kid.

    Khadr was not some starving Congolese, or Chechen victim living in a smoking crater getting spoonfed gunpowder and cocaine, or getting raped and beat down to make him a more efficient killer in a leaderless society. He is a Canadian. He speaks at least 2 languages, went to some of the best elementary and secondary schools in the world, had access to free health care and everything else that privileged western kids have access to, including constant streams of “be good, play safe and take care of your community” public service broadcasts of whatever type. He was old enough to get a driver’s license. He knew exactly what he was doing.

    So why are they pissing around with this racist BS, instead of handing him over to our authorities, like they would do with any white person who got caught in the act of committing such a serious crime?

    Jane Fonda’s the only person who’s good enough for the treason label or what? (No she wasn’t actually a traitor for singing to those poor little Vietnamese kids–I’m just saying how white does a person have to be to get a fair trial?)

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