22 thoughts on “Shifting the boundaries of privacy

  1. This is appalling. We spend all this time trying to explain to children about inappropriate touching, but then we say it’s OK if some representative of the government does it? I fail to see how this makes us safer, and even if it does make us marginally safer, it isn’t worth it. I feel sick to my stomach.

  2. Sure, terrorists will use children, if you don’t search them. If you search children, they’ll do something else. The sort of visible security measures that reassure people pretty much only do that; if they’re visible, the terrorists know about them and can devise tactics to circumvent them. And if all you’re doing is providing an illusory reassurance (perhaps a worthwhile thing to do, given how overblown the risk of terrorism is), it seems you should do pointless and ineffective things that don’t invade people’s privacy in preference to doing pointless and ineffective things that invade people’s privacy.

  3. I think it’s a great idea. Every good liberal in favor of big government should want to train everybody’s kids from a very early age that even their private parts fall under the purview of the government.

  4. Mm, you realise over 300 million people live in the US, right? We are a nation of cowards, every single one of us?

    In a blog for philosophy, you’re showing awfully little critical thought and a brazen willingness to make one gigantic generalization.

    The search of the little girl IS despicable, but next time, please base your comment on an argument that actually has merit.

  5. Hey Anonymous: historically, it’s the right wing in the US that thinks people’s private parts fall under the purview of the government. If the people are women, that is.

  6. Surely, the “big govt” versus “little govt” is too crude a distinction to illuminate what’s going on here, as J-Bro’s comment indicates. Wanting medicare does not entails wanting sexual mores under govt control. Opposing govt spending on health care for the elderly does not mean one wants to leave decisions about what to do about miscarriages to the individuals who have them.

  7. Well, this is a tough one. Do we continue within the current paradigm, believing that terrorists will use any and all tactics to pass weapons onto airplanes for their use? Or do we “profile” and pat down only the likely suspects, who happen to be the people whose constitutional protections can be violated with the least public offense?

    It turns my stomach, too, to see this little girl (and her mother, in essence) violated. She plainly cannot appreciate the difference between “wrong” touching and “national security” touching.

    But…..if I were a terrorist, I’d be stupid to hide weapons on a brown-skinned, bearded, dark-haired adult male.

    So I conclude this: I don’t know.

  8. The terrorists will never use terrorist, because—and I’m surprised that almost no one seems to have noticed this—America is not facing anything like a serious terrorist threat.

    Think of serious terrorist threats from the past: the IRA to Britain, the PLA to Israel, the various communist groups of the 70s, the old Libya, North Korea before Kim Jong Il was done consolidating power… One thing you notice is that those groups kill dozens of people or more at a time and frequently. By comparison, how many people are terrorists killing in the USA? Well, in the last almost ten years: Zero.

    This is ridiculous. America has no terrorist problem. The terrorists won’t use 6 year olds because they aren’t even using 25 year old now. The best they have is occasionally some idiot will try to do something like the underpants bomber or the would-be Time Square bomber and fail, fail, fail. The Time Square bomber in particular shows how laughably pathetic the threat to the USA is. If there’s anything Pakistani Al Qaeda should know, it’s how to make a car explode. But this idiot put some fireworks, gasoline, and clocks in his backseat and called himself a jihadi. It’s a joke. It’s not a serious threat. Al Qaeda would increase its death toll for the decade if they could just recruit one guy with a shotgun to go to the mall, but apparently even that escapes their capabilities. They are not a threat and we have no business fearing them.

    America needs to grow a backbone. There is no real threat to us, and to act like there is in the absence of any evidence of a credible enemy whatsoever shows nothing but cowardice.

  9. The TSA is security theatre. Their job is to make people feel better and cover up the various security holes that exist. Smart, motivated attackers can easily smuggle weapons through security checkpoints.

    To quote Bruce Schneier:
    “Exactly two things have made airline travel safer since 9/11: reinforcement of cockpit doors, and passengers who now know that they may have to fight back. Everything else — Secure Flight and Trusted Traveler included — is security theater.”

  10. I’ve just removed a comment mocking another’s comment, so let me explain that we have a ‘be nice’ policy.

  11. I believe it to be right. She is certainly to young to die in explosion, isn’t she? I am unsure if it would be -suicide bombing-I suppose closer to infanticide. Close to transporting explosives in a pram-unfortunately non-novelty. And yes-I am from Jerusalem

  12. Fear is a driving force. It keeps us thinking of many issues but the important ones such as jobs, health care, bring the troops home, etc.
    It is also a big business.
    Let us focus on our policies and why we have arrived at this position.

  13. As others have noted, I think there’s a certain quality of fairness to it. But in its fairness, the reductio shows itself, doesn’t it?

  14. By that I mean that the entire “security” policy is shown to be absurd, lest any security hawks come along and think I’m arguing for discrimination.

  15. There may be important anomalies that show up in the background; you can find them on various videos from news programs, Good Morning American, etc. One is that the pat-down is supposed to compensate for gaps in the screening process. However, the parents and the other child, a two year old, were not given the pat-down. If the 6 year old was just picked randomly, then it probably is a really bad process, since the odds of getting the armed 6 year-old, supposing there ever are any on US flights, are very, very small. If there was some reason for thinking the parents looked suspect or looked like dupes of some sort, then more patting down should have been done.

    So one concludes that this couldn’t be part of an effective methodology, at least as far as one can tell.

    In addition, the parents say that their protests were met with threats, of the “if you continue to complain, things will get much worse” variety. I find that believable, since I’ve heard exactly the same thing from officials, though not in fact TSA people. So the intrusion is pretty bad.

  16. Along with security theater, these practices leave opportunity for outright humiliation. This incident reminded me of another case in which a woman was kept in a glass security booth for an hour because she didn’t want them to x-ray her breastmilk. (They only she showed concern once she broke into tears). I say “practice” because she tried showing them the policy on breast milk (protected as “liquid medication”), and was humiliated in return.
    http://www.insideedition.com/news/5442/woman-allegedly-kept-confined-by-tsa-agents-over-breast-milk.aspx

  17. The “if you continue to complain, things will get worse” is apparently official policy.

    DHS is in the business of making people feel like there is something to fear, and to keep that up they need to have constant public demonstration like the one shown here. The implicit message here is that terrorists could be anywhere, even in a 6-year-old’s pants. And when that plane she’s on doesn’t explode, all of the passengers develop a sense that TSA’s policies work – like a rock that keeps away tigers.

  18. thank you for also picking up this topic.

    unfortunately I find also this terribly retro-active and wonder what kind of impact this will have on this girl ./. everyone getting this kind of “security treatment”.

    recently I read “courage is not the contrary of fear. rather it is the art of overcoming fear.”
    well, most of the/ defacto (intelli-) pre 9/11-info has been out on the web eversince and who wanted could get it and put “the pieces together”/get an educated opinion.

    honestly, I am just so unspeakably glad that I
    1. am no longer 6 yrs or anything beyond 18 yrs (legal age in most of EU-countries) and
    2. no longer have to (by very happy choice) travel internationally and/or into/out of the US
    (and I happen to remember “how travel used to be pre-9/11)

    btw, amongst others/e.g. Austrian scientics/doctors are warning of the negative/effects of xray-bodyscanners.

    either way, IMO farcical.
    *sad-mega-meh :(

  19. just to make the Americans feel better: my four-year-old was picked to be sent thru the full-body scan machine at manchester airport a couple of weeks ago. my partner asked if he could go in it first, so that our son could see that it wasn’t anything to be scared of, and they refused. I couldn’t see a viewing screen–that is, it seemed to be automated, such that no one was standing there looking at an image of my child’s body. but who knows, maybe they had a viewing booth I couldn’t see. it just seems like there’s s huge amount of space for abusing such powers.

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