Global, Israel, Mishegas

Anyone Remember Pornoscanners?

I know that most of us have forgotten all the fuss about the new(ish) scanners in airports because we all have the attention spans of gnats, but they haven’t gone away. The problem that travelers (including the parents of young children) still have to make a choice between being seen naked by persons with whom they have no intimacy, or being groped intimately by the same people -still remains.
tsa-checkpoint-good-satirical-illustration
And it is curious how quickly we have become inured to this violation of dignity, tzniut (modesty) and personal space (note that I’m not even binging up the question of health and safety, even though it is still unclear how safe these machines are particularly for pregnant women and children). The argument that has been offered is that it is needed for our safety, but the truth is that it is needed mostly for two things: 1. to increase profits for the company that produces the scanners (Rapiscan – a rather infelicitous name, which by the way, was promoted by Michael Chertoff while Secretary of Homeland Security, and was a a company that was one of his clients, a coincidence? Really?), and 2. to continue the process of slowly lulling us into giving up more and more of our rights as citizens in the name of “security.”

As we move towards Pesach, I have been thinking about this in reference to “B’ferach.” The Torah tells us in the first chapter of Shemot (1:13) that the Egyptians made the Israelites work “b’ferakh.” Although the literal meaning is “ruthlessly,” the Yalkut Shimoni (and others) understand this term to “b’peh rach,” in other words, with guile and gentle speech (שמות – פרק א – רמז קסג) . At first they said, “well, just make a few bricks, will yah?” and by the end, they were doing all the work of the field, all kinds of hard labor. They oozed the new changes in so that no one noticed – the proverbial frog in boiling water. Moshe Chaim Luzzato in Mesilat Yesharim says it more plainly, “This is one of the strategies of the of the negative inclination and his craftiness, to increase the work with constancy upon the peoples’ minds until there remains no time for contemplating or observing in which direction they are going…This is one of the advices of the wicked Pharaoh, as it says; ‘Increase the work load upon the people…(Shemos 5:9).’ His intention was not to leave any space for them to think at all and discover a method of resisting.”
In this case, we’re talking about physical labor, but the principle is the same: distract and increase slowly – they won’t notice how quickly their freedom slips away.
And am I some kind of conspiracy nut, that I’m saying that our government is doing this? Well, first of all, no – I don’t think it’s because of a power grab, per se – it’s just the usual: greed, and lots of it – Chertoff taking kickbacks, Rapiscan wanting profits, etc. (same thing in Wisconsin. Scott isn’t evil, he just likes his luxuries, and doesn’t care who else’s basic needs he has to take away to increase them).
But mostly this: we don’t need pornoscanners OR groping to keep us safe. Asa matter of fact, the scanners are easily fooled – a pancake shape will do it. They don’t register plastics as dangerous, they don’t see under fat – so if you want, just feed up your terrorists before sending them out, and so on… but best of all, there IS a very good method of catching risky travelers, and we already have the technology, if we’re willing to spend the money. The catch is that you have to give them decent pay, good training and benefits, because minimum-wage thralls probably won’t work. Bur Israel does just fine using – yes, people.
They use something called “profiling,” which is not what we mean when we say “profiling.” People always get weird when I say that word, but what it means is that the guards ask targeted questions, and watch the behavior of the people when they answer; it has nothing to do with race. Well, it’s a little more than that. First of all, the screening starts before you ever get into the airport – there’s a drive through checkpoint before you come into the precincts of the airport – which one could do by essentially setting up a toll booth (I’m thinking of Dulles airport here, which has toll booths – but not for people going to the airport….). That would already address the question which a lot of people have brought up, which is that if someone was determined to harm large numbers of people, it would actually be more effective to target them before they got on any given plane. The toll booth checkpoint – asks two questions – how are you, and where are you coming from. That’s it. Again, what they’re watching for is behavior.
Then you are watched by guards as you come in, in several places; and then, you are asked a series of questions by a trained screener, who looks you in the eye, and – yes, watches your behavior.
This much faster, non-electronic set of interactions is far more effective than the set up we have, doens’t violate anyone’s modesty, and the only drawback? You have to actually pay people and train them to do it.
You have to put some thought into the process. You have to think forward, instead of reacting the previous mistake. Probably why we haven’t done it yet. The only question I have really, is “Why haven’t we done anything about the pornoscanners?”
XPKol Ra’ash Gadol

12 thoughts on “Anyone Remember Pornoscanners?

  1. Sorry KRG, but you’re forgetting the most important part of the system, the one that Jews never encounter: the RACIAL profiling. Arabs are singled out and questioned already at the tollbooth, they are subjected to much more intrusive questioning and are often detained at the airport coming in, stripped both coming in and out, and sometimes not even allowed on flights. The same often goes for other non-Jews who are not connected to a Jew who happens to be there.
    I fully agree that there *can* be a system not staffed by tired overworked nonunion minimum wage earners that is much safer. I just don’t think Israel is a good example.

  2. I don’t deny it. My main point here is that there needn’t be groping or pornoscanners though. I’ll save my racial profiling discussion for another day (not to forget that it’s there, just that in theory in needn’t be)

  3. Arabs are singled out and questioned already at the tollbooth, they are subjected to much more intrusive questioning and are often detained at the airport coming in, stripped both coming in and out, and sometimes not even allowed on flights.
    Wow, I wonder why this is.

  4. oh, that comment makes no sense because the part where i wrote “like” got lost in unintentional html code or something…

  5. Jonathan, really, why is it? The number of terrorists in the Arab population in the Holy Land (Israel-WB-Gaza) is not much higher than the number of terrorists in any other population. Statistically, the chance of catching someone with evil plans this way is close to zero. In reality, since the terrorists know the system, all they need is some Hebrew practice and a fake ID.

  6. Amit,
    It is because they vast percentage of terrorists in Israel have been Arab. Vast majority is an understatement.
    Are you contesting this? I didn’t exactly understand The number of terrorists in the Arab population in the Holy Land (Israel-WB-Gaza) is not much higher than the number of terrorists in any other population.
    Do you mean in comparison to the non-Arab population in Israel-WB-Gaza, or in comparison to populations worldwide?)

  7. @Amit.
    Or, the most fair alternative is to subject all passengers to the same sorts of testing described above. I wouldn’t object to that.

  8. I don’t know what it’s like in other airports, but I’ve flown 3 or 4 times round trip since the scanners were rolled out, and I still haven’t encountered one. I’ve seen them used in Seatac, but they were always really easy to avoid. Not “opt out,” which would result in the pat down, but just elect to go through a metal detector instead. Now I’m angry about the invasion of privacy and the ridiculous waste of money.

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