Following on from Brian Micklethwait’s posting on the TSA issue below on this blog, I was surfing the news pages via the RealClear Politics site and came across a piece of condescending nonsense from Ruth Marcus:
“The uproar over the new procedures is overblown and immature. The marginal invasion of privacy is small relative to the potential benefit of averting a terrorist attack. Meanwhile, some of the loudest howls of outrage emanate from those who would be quickest to blame the Obama administration for not doing enough to protect us if a bomber did slip through.”
This is pretty desperate stuff from the pro-Obama side. It manages to treat the appalling incidents at US airports as minor issues (they are certainly not); it also gives the false impression that the TSA methods are effective in deterring terrorists. But that seems far-fetched. Terrorists invariably change their choice of target to stay one step ahead of the game, as they see it. Instead of blowing up aircraft, they might be more likely to attack the airports as such; with all these passengers milling around waiting to be processed, that creates a pretty tempting target.
And as the author of the piece ought to know, it is things like good intelligence gathering and capture of terrorist backers and operatives that gives the real edge over these barbarians. For all the talk prior to the 2008 presidential elections, I very much doubt that anti-terrorism activities have changed all that much under Obama than was the case under Bush. The Patriot Act is still law; the Department of Homeland Security still exists, and is bigger and better staffed than ever; the DoD is still firing drones at targets over Afghanistan and who-knows-where-else; Gitmo is still standing, and indefinite detention of terror suspects remains a fact of US life. Funnily enough, both Republicans and Democrats are pretty easy with most of this, apart perhaps from some of the more independent minded ones, such as Rand Paul.
The TSA search procedures have outraged people who perhaps have not been as angry as they should have been about the growth of the database state in the US. At least this issue seems to be really pissing Americans off, just as the ID card issue annoyed a significant number of Brits. And that is a good thing for libertarians; it sometimes feels as if so many of our fellow citizens don’t give a flying expletive deleted about liberty any more. Well, it appears that quite a lot of them do, actually.
By the way, last night, I spoke to PJ O’Rourke – who I can attest is a thoroughly nice guy – and he reckons the TSA search procedures will have to change to reflect the public mood. Talking to Americans as if they are hysterical teenagers is part of why the Democrats got “shellacked” a few weeks ago, remember.