Sexually Assasulted by the TSA

I just passed through TSA security at Logan Airport, terminal C, in Boston.

There has been much hullabaloo about the backscatter X-ray machines now being widely deployed, including right here at Logan. There are multiple reasons to be concerned. If you have seen the images that result then you know they effectively show you naked (albeit with your junk squashed by your clothing). Despite reassurances from the TSA, there is no doubt that these images can be saved, nor any doubt that they will be shared at some point.

Furthermore, there is a fundamental difference between the old metal detectors (magnetometers) and this new technology, which uses ionizing radiation. In other words you are now getting a small dose of something that is quite clearly adding to your risk of cancer.

Various people have estimated the risk and of course the TSA says they are safe. However the amount, it cannot be debated that they do add risk. Physicists I trust estimate its about the same as the chance of being hit by lightning.  Here’s the thing…that’s also the same as the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack. So we are not doing anything at all to increase overall safety; at best we’re shifting risk.

We can be absolutely certain that people WILL die as a result of X-rays from these devices. “So what?”, you may think. As you may be aware, you have the choice to opt out.

That is what I just did minutes ago.

I was sexually assaulted by a TSA agent.

I am not being hyperbolic. My scrotum was, four times, touched very vigorously by another man against my will.

It was explained beforehand to me that my upper thigh and everywhere else on my body would be touched. I expected what I have experienced dozens, perhaps hundred of other times, when I have been searched before, at airports and concert venues and elsewhere.

This was something altogether different. This was repeated strong touching of my groin and other areas that have been explored by no other person in my life… at least without at least dinner and a movie beforehand.

In any other context, I kid you not, this would definitely be classified as sexually assault.

The supporters of this security theater will say I had a choice, but I did not in any real way. I am traveling for work. I could choose not to work, but isn’t that like saying I could choose not to eat? I could chose not to feed my family?

I could choose to let them photograph me naked while subjecting myself to cancer risk…

..or I can be sexually assaulted.

This is no choice at all.

It it clear to me after experiencing it that this “pat down” procedure is meant to be punitive. They want to make damn sure if you opt out once, you will never do it again.

Just as I give my two year old son the false choice between “walking up by yourself to go to bed” or “having daddy help you”, the TSA is giving us the choice between naked cancer pictures and full-on sexually assault.

The government thinks we are stupid, and frankly, they are right if we keep accepting this along with the rest of the idiocy (like shoe removal) that seems to have been completely accepted by the flying public.

If I were planning to blow up an airplane then I would simply pack a bunch of explosives up my pooper and it would be undetectable by backscatter X-rays, metal detectors, and vigorous pat-downs. What will the TSA procedure be once the first terrorist does this?

This is all such obvious security theater and we all seem to know it yet we all seem to accept it.

Benjamin Franklin:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

He was right. We deserve neither.

Edit: This is an excellent summary of the various articles and information about the situation as it sits now from security guru Bruce Schneier:

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/11/tsa_backscatter.html

Edit 2: This is an article from a molecular biologist how the risks could be much, much worse than the TSA is saying:

http://myhelicaltryst.blogspot.com/2010/11/tsa-x-ray-backscatter-body-scanner.html

Edit 3: On the constitutionality of the scanners, and enhanced searches for those opting out:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/26/AR2010112604290.html

The Idiocy of Mail Disclaimers

Three months ago, I noticed at the bottom of an email from my brother in law one of those idiotic mail disclaimers. They often are longer than the message itself by orders of magnitude, and as far as I know they have exremely limited usefulness in a legal sense (even though he actually works at a law firm).

As an experiment/joke, I took his email disclaimer and added a few lines of my own:

This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Clowns hate me. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. Clowns want to kill me. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message. Please stop the clowns. If you are the intended recipient, please be advised that the content of this message is subject to access, review and disclosure by the sender’s Email System Administrator. Please.

Looks like the usual senseless block of useless legalese, doesn’t it? Take another look with my additions bolded:

This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Clowns hate me. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. Clowns want to kill me. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message. Please stop the clowns. If you are the intended recipient, please be advised that the content of this message is subject to access, review and disclosure by the sender’s Email System Administrator. Please.

I epxected within a few days that someone would notice it… ha ha, very funny. But it’s over three months and thousands of emails later, and nobody has. If you’ve got an email from me in the past three months, take a look. The clowns are there, and they’re coming for you.

I give up; it’s obvious no one reads them, so why do people keep using them? They’re just email pollution.

You Stupid Fucking Hicks

Nice job, Wisconsin. You overwhelmingly voted for the amendment to ban gay marriage (and civil unions).

In 1895, South Carolina amended its state constitution to prohibit the “marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto or a person who shall have one-eighth or more of Negro blood.

In one hundered years history will look back at this moment and recognize that what was just done in Wisconsin was just as abhorrent as what South Carolina did in 1895 (and didn’t fix until 1998).

You are a stupid fucking hick if you voted for this ban. You probably also think we shouldn’t let the n*****s marry our pure white folk.

Shame on you.

Shame on the small minded, dogmatic, hateful religion which inspired your vote.

I’ll bet it was Christianity.

Today’s Vote in Wisconsin

(This is an email I recently sent out to just about everyone I could think of.)

Hello. I am sending this email out to a very wide range of folks I know. Some of you I have known for many years, yet we have not ever discussed politics. Some of you I don’t yet know very well at all… and with some of you I’ve already discussed these issues ad nauseum. =)

You may disagree entirely with my politics, and vice versa. Certainly I do apologize if any offense is taken by what I say here, and I thank you for your time to read this.

While I do generally vote (and when I do, I have in the past had no particular leaning to either major party), I have never canvassed for any candidate or cause before, nor ever sent out an email such as this (and I do not do so lightly).

However, today there is an issue on our ballot which I believe is much more important than which career politician is going to be our congressman, attorney general, or state coroner.

It is being pitched by the Republicans as the Gay Marriage Amendment, but it goes much further than that. The entire text of the amendment to the state constitution is:

"Marriage. Shall section 13 of article XIII of the constitution be created to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state?"

What I would like to point out about this:

– Gay marriage is already illegal in Wisconsin; it will still be illegal even without this amendment (and with conservative control of both houses of the state legislature, this is not likely to change any time soon). Do we need to write discrimination into our constitution?

– This will also affect STRAIGHT couples NOW – unmarried couples will lose health care benefits, death and dying rights, and even domestic violence protections.

– This means that civil unions will never be possible. Even of those folks who think gay marriage shouldn’t be legal, most don’t have a problem with civil unions of some sort… this prevents that entirely!

– Marriage as an institution is not under attack. No church would ever be forced to allow gay marriage under their purview. A couple forming a civil union does not invalidate or threaten straight couples’ marriages. It does not make marriage as an institution any less real or important in our society. A civil union is only to allow those families who love each other have the ability to take care of each other. Passing this amendment will prevent that, most likely forever, in Wisconsin (no amendment has been overturned in WI).

This is a chance for your vote to make a real difference. This will be a close one, and even in places (like Dane County) where there is heavy opposition to the amendment, a vote against it still helps since the vote is statewide.

Please vote NO!

Secondly, this is perhaps less urgent, but also be aware there is a non-binding referendum on the ballot to bring back the death penalty.

While it is non-binding, I think it would be a real shame if we in Wisconsin allowed this to pass. Only one man has ever been executed by the state, and that was in 1851. We banned the death penalty in 1858 (only 10 years after we became a state!), a time in which the death penalty was commonplace elsewhere in the country, and in the world.

While certainly I want murderers, rapists, and molesters to pay for their crimes, even with DNA evidence, we can never be 100% sure of someone’s guilt. Eye witnesses are not infallible… neither is DNA evidence, and neither are juries.

Illinois to our south has shown what can happen. There is no doubt that many innocent people have been put to death there in punishment for horrible crimes… but they sent the wrong man to die, and no matter how much technology advances, we can never be completely certain.

By sentencing someone to life in prison, we can always correct the problem if an innocent man is convicted. When we execute someone, we have no way to correct the injustice.

Let’s not go back to 1857. Think about our country then.

Slavery was legal.
Women could not vote.
The death penalty existed.

All three of these are barbaric and shouldn’t be a part of the modern world, least of all here in Wisconsin.

Please vote against the death penalty.

If you have any questions or comments about what I have said, I am more than willing to discuss this matter with you. I do believe all I have said here is true… and I think many who are in favor of the marriage amendment have been misrepresenting the facts.

Also note that in most places, these issues are on the BACK of the ballot, so don’t forget to turn it over when you vote.

Thank you for your time.

johnS