Peeter Joot's (OLD) Blog.

Math, physics, perl, and programming obscurity.

On the uselessness of airport search procedures.

Posted by peeterjoot on August 6, 2013

I blundered across this video of a “Miss USA”‘s upset at having been groped by TSA.  Choice quotes include “she touched my vagina, four times” and “are we going to get rectal exams at the airport?  Is that what’s next?”

It is darkly amusing that there is even a “choice” to opt out of the scanner.  You can “choose” to not be radiated, and go through a pat down instead.  To me, this seems like a very cleverly engineered distraction.  It doesn’t change the fact that pretty much all airport security is completely meaningless.  This choice lends validity to the whole procedure.  Very much like a “choice” between two political parties that will invariably behave exactly the same in most respects.

It’s very ironic that this bureaucratic search procedure is portrayed as something  that will help protect us from terrorists.  Sure, they will stop my ~70 year old mother from bringing her dangerous fingernail clippers on the plane, and ensures that I can’t bring dangerous “large” drinks onto the plane, but in reality, I’m confident that they are completely useless.

In any security situation, what is the biggest risk?  It’s the insider.   Here at IBM I could walk out of the lab with a USB key with all of the DB2 source code.  So could any student.  It’s only integrity of the insider that keeps any operation safe.  This has to be true for border and transport issues too.  If you wanted to get something illegal (or dangerous) onto a plane, you’d pay somebody off.  Would it really be that hard to find one an airport staffer, probably paid close to minimum wage, to help you get that material moved where you wanted in the airport.  I doubt it.  One of the reasons for that doubt is a story of friend I once had.

Eons ago when I was in high school, an old neighbor and childhood friend that I hadn’t seen in a number of years showed up at my house.  He’d had the bad luck to meet the daughter of a Toronto Chinese mafia kingpin at a dance club.  Once they started dating, he told me that he had no choice, he had to join, or he’d have been dead.  He desperately wanted to talk to somebody that was outside of his new mafia circles.  His new life was dangerous to say the least, and he told me about the Porsche chop shop that this mafia ran, how he’d been part of an armed robbery of a different mafia where they stole a few hundred thousand dollars of their counterfeit money, how condoms were used to smuggle just about anything in and out of jail in the anus, and more.   Relevant to airport searches, however, was one last story.  He told me how they could get whatever they wanted through the airports or international shipping ports.  This included weapons and counterfeit money.  How this was done was simple.  They just pay off the border and airport personnel.  They know exactly who to go to, because they’ve installed their people in the jobs, or know from other contacts who has been installed, bought, or threatened enough that they are a viable go-to-person for insider activity.  I haven’t seen my old neighbor since that day, and heard a rumor that he ended up in jail (again).  I hope he is still alive and hope he managed to extricate himself from the life of crime that he felt he’d been coerced into.

Are border officials still paid low incomes?  Can they still be blackmailed and threatened?  I doubt that’s changed much.

When it comes down to it, it’s my opinion that airport searches are a total scam.  They don’t improve safety, because they will only impede people that play by the rules.  I think that the actual desired effect of these searches is just to install fear in the population.  That fear makes us more compliant and more easily controllable.

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