What is important to consider here, is that no one saw it coming. No one was looking.
Several years ago, my four year-old daughter was pulled aside in one such screening because she happened to be the Nth person in the line to go through security. Though she was traveling with me, her mother, and sister, she was subjected to 40 minutes of terrifying interrogations and inspections of all her personal effects, though not a bodily patdown.
The startling part of it was the mindlessness of it all. The guards were simply being good Nazis. Today, it is no longer mindless. It is part of a sustained campaign to condition the American public to being humiliated by government officials in the name of national security.
Physical humiliation of the subject is the first act that an interrogator performs ...
In a nation of people who want to preserve the peace, who want to get along by going along -- the latest Gallup poll shows that 71 percent of Americans believe these measures are worth it to protect us from terrorism -- what has this brought us so far?
* Passenger John Tyner refused a pat-down in a videotaped encounter, famously telling security personnel "If you touch my junk I'm gonna have you arrested." (Joe Sharkey, Screening Protests Grow as Holiday Crunch Looms, New York Times, November 15, 2010.)
* A breast cancer survivor was forced to remove her prosthetic breast. (Grantham, Molly (November 19, 2010). "Cancer surviving flight attendant forced to remove prosthetic breast during pat-down". WBTV News. Retrieved November 22, 2010.)
* A bladder cancer survivor had his urostomy bag seal broken during a pat-down, leaving him soaked in urine. (Doig, Polly Davis (November 21, 2010). "TSA Pat-Down Soaks Man in Own Urine". Newser. Retrieved November 22, 2010.)
* A woman with a hip replacement was singled out for pat down. (Replacement hip singles out woman for new TSA pat-down, KATU.com, November 19, 2010)
* A rape survivor was distressed by a pat-down that she described as feeling like being sexually assaulted again. (Schulz, Cara (November 8, 2010). "Rape Survivor Devastated by TSA Enhanced Pat Down". Pagan Newswire Collective – Minnesota Bureau. Retrieved November 22, 2010.)
* A 3-year-old child was distressed by surrendering her teddy bear and being subject to a pat-down. (Graff, Amy (November 16, 2010). "TSA pats down a screaming toddler". SFGate – San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 22, 2010.)
* An eight year old boy was patted down on his genital area. (Leonard Greene, TSA pat-down of shirtless boy, 8, adds fuel to the ire, New York Post, November 22, 2010.)
* An adult male who stripped down to his shorts to avoid a pat down was arrested. (R. Stickney, Passenger Chooses Strip-Down Over Pat-Down, NBC San Diego, November 22, 2010.)
These are isolated incidents, and easy to ignore. As a result, it is less likely that they will decrease, and more likely that they will increase. We tell ourselves, these men in their blue uniforms, they mean well, they are trying to protect us. That is what Joe Carter, writing his apologia for the TSA as web-editor of First Things, would have us believe. A respondent by the name of Stuart Koehl begs to differ.
I've been a defense and security analyst for more than thirty years. I've studied terrorism and counterterrorism for a good many of those. My principal objection to TSA is not that its inspections are intrusive, but that their inspections are ineffective, amounting to--as George Will put it--"security theater". That is, nothing TSA does is likely to stop a determined terrorist plot, but does waste a lot of resources that could be applied better in other ways ...
Mr Koehl goes on at some length, and in considerable, and illuminating, detail. (He's not alone among his colleagues either.)
After thirty years in Washington, I can tell you that appearances, perceptions, are of such potency in the crafting of public opinion, and by extension any effective political strategy, that they can mean as much as the substance of accomplishments themselves. There will be outcries here and there. There will be some who even claim to beat the system. But a population that can be lulled into believing, that draconian methods will protect them from terrorists, is unlikely to stop and ask who will protect them from their protectors.
If that should happen, the terrorists will have already won.