Saturday, November 2, 2013

Airport "Security" In Our Brave New World

As I was preparing to write this post about creeping "security" measures at an airport near me came news that a suicidal gunman had killed one person and wounded several at the Los Angeles airport (LAX). Reports are the killer specifically asked people if they "were TSA" referring to the unarmed personnel who herd people through the checkpoints at airports since the Transportation Security Administration was created following the events of 9/11.
Passengers wait at Terminal 1. At least 118 flights en route to LAX were canceled or rerouted; 135 departing flights were canceled. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 1, 2013)
Do you feel safe yet?

A friend wrote to me yesterday:
I was creeped out by the new security sequence you have to go through when you return to the Portland Airport.  The EXIT sign pointed me to some doors that slid open suddenly and then closed behind me .  I was in a small empty chamber like a prison cell.  
A sign said "Keep moving", so I advanced toward the next closed doors.  An electronic eye again opened the doors and closed them behind me, and I was in a second prison chamber, this one with a suspicious inspector sitting there.  
I  lumbered along, a 69 year old lady with a yellow backpack stuffed with clothes, and passed through, scot free, to the Portland Airport I was used to.  Reagan National Airport had nothing like that for people who'd flown in.  Why Maine? 
Any more thoughts on this?
Yes, Lynne, I have a few thoughts on this. My thoughts are about cameras and iris scans and other biometric pillaging of your former right to privacy. And dignity, really. 

My husband thinks most in the U.S. have given up any notion of a right to privacy rather easily, with not much more than a shrug. But I'm not so sure.

As for why Maine -- Because we're a border state? A coastal state? With a toothless media? Because the small scale of arrivals to Portland's airport is ideal for a trial run of more invasive technology before it rolls out at airports in large urban areas? Because control of our abundant natural resources is in the sights of 1%?
The scene Lynne described reminded me of unmanned checkpoints used in Palestine to impede travel. A friend who traveled in the West Bank told me that if metal hidden beneath layers of clothes set the alarm off, the whole line would be held up while people helped a bewildered elderly person find a hidden coin. No human in charge of the machine, who can decide to let people through. The cameras need no human operator on this end.

So control robots are what your taxes buy now, for use at home and abroad. You're taxed to pay for your own "security." And that of Israel. And Egypt. Et cetera. Technology for machines even more effective at controlling humans is "developing" rapidly. 

Yet a lonely man who was bullied through school and feels bullied by the TSA can arm himself with an assault rifle and bulletproof vest without any oversight at all. How convenient for the burgeoning security state when he snaps and goes on a violent rampage. 

Surveillance is everywhere, yet we who reside in the USA seem to be a little less safe from violence with each passing day.

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