Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would like to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. Or something like that. Her exact words were actually along the lines of “Only a small percentage of people are getting groped at airport checkpoints, so quit your bellyaching and take it like a man.”
The secretary has a point. Flying is a privilege, not a right. You can always, for example, travel by train, secure in the knowledge that you won’t be subject to radiation, embarrassing nude images of your most intimate parts, or pat-downs of the same.
At least that’s the case for now. It appears that the TSA has plans to take its act on the road. They have even developed a futuristic mind scanner on wheels that can read “evil thoughts” among those lined up to attend sporting events and rock concerts. As the helpful video produced by Homeland Security shows, they even have a clever acronym for it—FAST, short for Future Attribute Screening Technology.
The best thing about FAST is its portability. If the Big Sis has a mind, they can park an MMR (mobile miner reader—my own acronym) outside the local mall, the petting zoo … you name it, and the government will be there to tap into your brainwaves and find out whether you’re naughty or nice.
As for travel by train, bus, or subway, the TSA has your back. And front and every part in between. Not that the plans to conduct airport-style screenings in train and subway stations should come as a surprise. Shortly after his Senate confirmation as TSA administrator in June, John Pistole told USA Today that
[p]rotecting riders on mass-transit systems from terrorist attacks will be as high a priority as ensuring safe air travel. Given the list of threats on subways and rails over the last six years going on seven years, we know that some terrorist groups see rail and subways as being more vulnerable because there’s not the type of screening that you find in aviation. From my perspective, that is an equally important threat area.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, which presumably means that delays are train or subway platforms will no longer necessarily be the result of traffic slowdowns but long lines at security checkpoints.
When Pistole speaks, moreover, of taking the “TSA to the next level,” having screeners function as a “national-security, counterterrorism organization, fully integrated into U.S. government efforts,” one would be justified in supposing (hoping?) that he has plans for a more elite corps of security personnel. Those currently employed by the TSA are not required to have completed high school. Their annual salary, moreover, averages $25,000, an amount that works out to not quite double the minimum hourly wage and makes them the lowest paid federal employees in the nation.
The country right now is in serious financial straits. It would seem however that if we’re going to invest in security at all, we should go the extra mile and hire the best people for the job we can find.