The Least Most Untruthful Analysis of Obama’s Orwellian Dystopia
Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian says “a lot more significant revelations” about America’s colossal Orwellian surveillance state are coming down the pike — courtesy of the thousands of pages of classified documents he obtained from Edward Snowden, the heroic former CIA contractor. That should be fun.
In the meantime, we’ve got a pair of doozies to digest: Verizon’s decision to turn over its the “metadata” — everything about every phone call (except the sound) to the NSA, and the PRISM program, under which the biggest Internet companies (Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc., pretty much all the top outfits except Twitter) let the NSA read our emails, see our photos, even watch our Skype chats.
Establishment politicians and their media mouthpieces are spinning faster than a server at the NSA’s new five zettabyte data farm in Utah, doing everything they can to obfuscate in the hope that we’ll forget this whole thing and climb back into our pods in The Matrix.
So let’s get some clarity on what’s really going on with 10 things you probably don’t know about the NSA scandals.
1. PRISM, not Verizon, is the bigger story.
Government-aligned mainstream media outlets like The New York Times and NPR focus more on Verizon because — though what the phone company did was egregious — it’s less indefensible. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Obama says. (When that’s what passes for reassurance, you’ve got a PR problem.) PRISM, they keep saying, is targeted at “foreigners” so Americans shouldn’t be angry about it. But…
2. PRISM really is directed at Americans.
“Unlike the call data collection program, this program focuses on mining the content of online communication, not just the metadata about them, and is potentially a much greater privacy intrusion,” notes Popular Mechanics.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified to Congress that the NSA does not collect “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” “Not wittingly.” As The New York Times said in an uncharacteristically bold post, this is a lie. Here’s what’s behind the Rumsfeldian logic of what Clapper describes as his “least most untruthful” testimony: “What I was thinking of,” explains Clapper, “is looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers of those books in the metaphorical library. To me the collection of U.S. persons’ data would mean taking the books off the shelf, opening it up and reading it.”
In other words, the NSA collects the search histories, emails, file transfer records and actual live chats of every American. They store them in a data farm. Whenever the NSA wants to look at them, they can. But according to Clapper, this isn’t “collecting.” It’s only “collecting” when they choose to read what they have.
I have bought several books. They’re on my shelf. I haven’t read them yet. Have I “collected” them? Of course.
I don’t want the NSA to read my sexts or look at my dirty pictures. The fact that they may not have gotten around to it yet — but have them sitting on their shelves — doesn’t make me feel better.
3. President Obama should be impeached over this.
Richard Nixon was. Or would have been, if he hadn’t resigned. Obama, his top officials and his political surrogates have repeatedly and knowingly lied to us when they said the NSA didn’t “routinely sweep up information about millions of Americans.” He should go now. So should others who knew about this.
4. PRISM and other NSA spy programs are not approved by courts or by Congress.
White House defenders say the surveillance — which is, remember, a comprehensive vacuuming up of the entire Internet, and of every phone call ever made — has been approved by the legislative and judicial branches, so there’s nothing to worry about. But that isn’t true. The “FISA court” is so secret that, until last week, no one had ever seen a document issued by it. It’s not a real court. It’s a useless rubber stamp panel that literally approves every surveillance request the government asks for. In 2012, that’s 1856 requests and 1856 approvals.
Very few members of Congress were aware of the Verizon or PRISM programs before reading about them in the media. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a few select Friends of Barack, that’s it. That’s not Congressional oversight. Real oversight occurs in full session, in public, on C-SPAN.
5. There is no evidence that NSA spying keeps America safe. And so what if it did?
According to government officials, PRISM saved the New York City subways from being bombed in 2009. Actually, the alleged would-be terrorist was caught by old-fashioned detective work, not data-mining. There is zero evidence that the NSA has saved a single American from being blown up.
But so what if it did? In recent years, between 15 and 17 Americans a year died worldwide from terrorist attacks. You’re as likely to be crushed to death by your television set. It’s sad for the dozen and a half victims, of course. But terrorism is a low, low national priority. Or it should be. Terrorism isn’t enough of a danger to justify taking away the privacy rights of 320 million people.
6. This is not a post-9/11 thing.
We’re being told that PRISM and the latest Patriot Act-approved surveillance state excesses date back to post-9/11 “make us safe at any cost” paranoia. In fact, the NSA has been way up in your business long before that.
Back in December 1998 the French newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur revealed the existence of a covert partnership between the NSA and 26 U.S. allies. “The power of the network, codenamed ECHELON, is astounding,” the BBC reported in 1999. “Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism…the system is so widespread all sorts of private communications, often of a sensitive commercial nature, are hoovered up and analyzed.” ECHELON dates back to the 1980s. PRISM picks up where ECHELON left off, adding the Internet to its bag of tricks.
7. Edward Snowden expects to be extradited.
U.S. state media wonders aloud, “puzzled” at whistleblower Snowden’s decision to go to Hong Kong, which routinely extradites criminal suspects to the United States. But Snowden’s explanation is crystal clear. All you have to do is listen. “People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions,” he told a local newspaper. “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.” Snowden could go to Ecuador, or perhaps Venezuela or Iceland. He’s staying put because he wants to face trial in the U.S. And I doubt he’ll cop a plea when he does. He wants a political hearing so he can put the system on trial. In the meantime, he’ll use the time it’ll take Obama’s legal goons to process the extradition to talk to journalists. To explain himself. To make his case to the public. And, of course, to help shepherd those new revelations Greenwald mentioned.
8. Caught being evil — or collaborating with evil — Google and other tech companies are scared shitless.
And they should be. Consumers and businesses know now that when Big Brother comes calling, Big Tech doesn’t do what they should do — protect their customers’ privacy by calling their lawyers and fighting back. This could hurt their bottom lines. “Other countries will start routing around the U.S. information economy by developing, or even mandating, their own competing services,” speculates Popular Mechanics. Europe, worried about the U.S. exploiting the NSA for industrial espionage, began working on work-around systems that avoid U.S. Internet concerns.
9. 56% of Americans trust the government’s PRISM program, which the government repeatedly lied about. What people don’t know should worry them.
You’re not a terrorist. You don’t hang out with them. So why worry? Because the data collected by the NSA isn’t likely to stay locked up in Utah forever. Data wants to be free — and hackers have already proven they can access the NSA. Some want to sell it to private concerns. To insurance companies, so they can determine whether your buying habits make you a suitable risk. To banks. To security outfits, to run background checks for their clients. To marketers. Mining of Big Data can screw up your life — bad credit, can’t get a job — and you’ll never know what you hit you. Oh, and don’t forget: governments change. Nixon abused the IRS and FBI to attack political opponents. Innocuous census data that collected religious affiliations was used by the Nazis to round up Jews when they came to power.
10. In the long run, the end of privacy will liberate us.
Everyone (who isn’t boring) has a dirty secret. The way things are going, all those secrets will be as out as Dan Savage — and just as happy and self-assured. Blackmail — the nobody-talks-about-real-reason-PRISM-is-creepy — only works if most dirty secrets are hard to come by. But if everyone’s got a nude photo online, if everyone’s sexual deviations are searchable and indexed, the power of shame goes away as quickly as it does at a nudist colony. By the time the surveillance state plays out, we may look back at 2013 as the year when America began to move past Puritanism.
If we’re not in a gulag.
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
IRS Targeting is a Scandal, CIA Targeting is Business as Usual
“We’re fighting for you!” That’s what the Democratic Party tells Democratic voters and what the Republican Party tells Republicans. But even their “battles” reveal how similar the two parties really are.
Case study: what gets investigated.
Less than a week after the news broke that the IRS engaged in ideological profiling in 2011 and 2012 — targeting Tea Party-related non-profits for checks into whether they were violating the terms of their tax-exempt status by spending donor money on political ads — top Democrats joined their GOP counterparts to demand a Congressional investigation. That’s lightening quick for government work — and yet not fast for some. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida, ’16 prez prospect) called for Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to resign immediately. President Obama called the IRS’ actions “outrageous” and “contrary to our traditions.” The IRS has already apologized.
This all goes to show that the federal government can turn on a dime when it wants to do something. It’s a matter of priorities. Millions of Americans whose homes were stolen by banks in illegal foreclosures waited five years for $600 settlement checks that bounced; the Fed gave the executives of those banks $7.77 trillion in a matter of days, no questions asked.
So it goes with what gets investigated.
Thrown under the bus in a matter of days, the IRS is already getting ground to mincemeat. Meanwhile, a spectacular panorama of Bush-era abuses have yet to draw the attention of a single Congressional subcommittee.
The 2000 stolen presidential election fiasco? Still no investigation — even though retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the swing vote in the 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore, now agrees with constitutional lawyers who say the high court had no jurisdiction in the case and thus shouldn’t have heard it.
There still hasn’t been an independent investigation of 9/11.
No one has ever been questioned, much less held accountable, for the invasion of Afghanistan (ostensibly to catch Osama bin Laden, though he was already in Pakistan), the installation by the U.S. of the unpopular Hamid Karzai as a U.S. puppet, huge cash bribes paid to Karzai by Bush and now Obama, or the lies — an impeachable offense — about Saddam’s WMDs used to con the public into war against Iraq.
People outraged by Bush’s torture program, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention of innocent people, including children, at post-9/11 gulags at places like Guantánamo, the “salt pit” at Bagram and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia — even on prison ships on the high seas — hoped that President Obama would make good on his campaign promises to investigate these horrific crimes against international law, U.S. law and common decency. Instead, he obstructed justice — another impeachable offense — issuing a directive to his Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies to ignore them. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he told a TV interviewer on January 12, 2009, eight days before taking office.
“At the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe,” he said. “I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.”
Yes. God forbid our heroic torturers should face any questions about jamming forced enemas up prisoners’ butts. Sorry: I meant our extraordinarily talented torturers.
And, now a flashback to April 14, 2008 — a mere nine months earlier. Candidate Obama told The Philadelphia Inquirer: “If I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law.”
Except the CIA. And the military. And Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice and Dick Cheney and John Yoo and, of course, George W. Bush, who explicitly authorized the torture and other high crimes, and is now an elder statesman with his own library and everything.
Both parties think it’s bad bad bad for the IRS to target right-wing pseudo-nonprofits for audits.
Both parties think it’s perfectly fine A-OK doubleplusgood to target the buttholes of random Muslims you kidnapped from Afghanistan or Yemen or wherever.
What the IRS did was, of course, wrong. But I’d rather be audited than butt-raped. Butt-raping, especially butt-raping that occurs before illegal auditing, should be investigating before illegal auditing.
Both parties also agree that if there’s ever been something that doesn’t need investigating by anyone, ever, it’s drones. Yes, a whopping 1.8% of Congress recently held an “unofficial hearing” (toothless PR stunt) and politely requested that Obama provide “further clarification of the legal justifications behind drone strikes.”
But no one —not even Vermont’s token “socialist” Bernie Sanders — has called for an investigation into a drone war that ridiculously remains “classified,” a secret to everyone but the dead, the maimed and their survivors. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky, ’16 prez prospect)’s filibuster merely demanded whether Obama planned to drone any U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. (Since he has already droned U.S. citizens on foreign soil, we know the answer to that.)
I’m not Suze Orman, but please let me help you save a few bucks. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, the next time you get a campaign mailer asking you to support them because they’re “fighting hard for you,” chuck that sucker into the recycler. The truth is, the two major parties are on the same page on just about everything.
They’re not fighting for you.
They’re fighting for themselves.
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL
Calls for a return to post-9/11 “unity” in the US, flirt with the elementary constructs of fascism, author says.
In the days and weeks after 9/11 the slogan was everywhere: T-shirts, bumper stickers, billboards that previously read “Your Ad Here” due to the dot-com crash, inevitably next to an image of the American flag.
The phrase carried with it a dark subtext. It wasn’t subtle:
United We Stand —or else.
Or, as George W. Bush, not known for his light rhetorical touch, put it: “You’re either with us or against us.”
“Us” was not meant to be inclusive. Le Figaro’s famous “nous sommes tous américains” headline aside, non-Americans were derided on Fox News (the Bush Administration’s house media organ) as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” (Never mind that that phrase, from the TV show “The Simpsons,” was conceived as derisive satire of the Right, which frequently derided the French as intellectual and thus weak and effete.)
Many Americans were disinvited from the “us” party of the early 2000s. Democrats, liberals, progressives, anyone who questioned Bush or his policies risked being smeared by Fox, right-wing talk radio hosts and their allies. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, for example, called me “the most anti-American cartoonist in America.”
For a day or two after the attacks on New York and Washington, it was possible even for the most jaundiced leftist to take comfort in patriotism. We were shocked. More than that, we were puzzled. No group had claimed responsibility. (None ever did.) Who was the enemy? Sure, there was conjecture. But no facts. What did “they” want?
“We watched, stupefied—it was immediately a television event in real time—and we were bewildered; no one had the slightest idea of why it had happened or what was to come,” writes Paul Theroux in the UK Telegraph. “It was a day scorched by death—flames, screams, sirens, confusion, fear and extravagant rumors (‘The Golden Gate Bridge has been hit, Seattle is bracing’).”
Politically, the nation reminded deeply divided by the disputed 2000 election. According to polls most voters believed that Bush was illegitimate, that he had stolen the presidential election in a judicial coup carried out by the Supreme Court. Even at the peak of Bush’s popularity in November 2001—89 percent of the public approved of his performance—47 percent of respondents to the Gallup survey said that Bush had not won fair and square. During those initial hours, however, most ordinary citizens saw 9/11 as a great horrible problem to be investigated, analyzed and then solved. Flags popped up everywhere. Even liberal Democrats gussied up their rides to make their cars look like a general’s staff car.
Dick Cheney and his cadre of high-level fanatics at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were salivating over newly-drawn-up war plans. “There just aren’t enough targets in Afghanistan,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell. “We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around.”
Obama and the US media are taking credit for Gaddafi’s downfall, but it was the Libyan fighters who won the war.
The fall of Moammar Gaddafi was a Libyan story first and foremost. Libyans fought, killed and died to end the Colonel’s 42-year reign.
No doubt, the U.S. and its NATO proxies tipped the military balance in favor of the Benghazi-based rebels. It’s hard for any government to defend itself when denied the use of its own airspace as enemy missiles and bombs blast away its infrastructure over the course of more than 20,000 sorties.
Still, it was Libyans who took the biggest risks and paid the highest price. They deserve the credit. From a foreign policy standpoint, it behooves the West to give it to them. Consider a parallel, the fall 2001 bombing campaign against the Taliban. With fewer than a thousand Special Forces troops on the ground in Afghanistan to bribe tribal leaders and guide bombs to their targets, the U.S. military and CIA relied exclusively on air power to allow the Northern Alliance to advance. The premature announcement that major combat operations had ceased, followed by the installation of Hamid Karzai as de facto president—a man widely seen as a U.S. figurehead—set the stage for what would eventually become America’s longest war.
As did the triumphalism of the U.S. media, who treated the “defeat” (more like the dispersing) of the Taliban as Bush’s victory. The Northern Alliance was a mere afterthought, condescended to at every turn by the punditocracy. To paraphrase Bush’s defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. went to war with the ally it had, not the one it would have liked to have had. America’s attitude toward Karzai and his government reflected that in many ways: snipes and insults, including the suggestion that the Afghan leader was mentally ill and ought to be replaced, as well as years of funding levels too low to meet payroll and other basic needs, thus limiting its power to metro Kabul and a few other major cities. In retrospect it would have been smarter for the U.S. to have graciously credited (and funded) the Northern Alliance with its defeat over the Taliban, content to remain the power behind the throne.
Despite this experience in Afghanistan “victory” in Libya has prompted a renewal of triumphalism in the U.S. media.
Like a slightly drunken crowd at a football match giddily shouting “U-S-A,” editors and producers keep thumping their chests long after it stops being attractive.
When Obama announced the anti-Gaddafi bombing campaign in March, Stephen Walt issued a relatively safe pair of predictions. “If Gaddafi is soon ousted and the rebel forces can establish a reasonably stable order there, then this operation will be judged a success and it will be high-fives all around,” Walt wrote in Foreign Policy. “If a prolonged stalemate occurs, if civilian casualties soar, if the coalition splinters, or if a post-Gaddafi Libya proves to be unstable, violent, or a breeding ground for extremists…his decision will be judged a mistake.”
It’s only been a few days since the fall of Tripoli, but high-fives and victory dances abound.
“Rebel Victory in Libya a Vindication for Obama,” screamed the headline in U.S. News & World Report.
Ten Years Later, Americans Still Stupid and Vulnerable
They say everything changed on 9/11. No one can dispute that. But we didn’t learn anything.
Like other events that forced Americans to reassess their national priorities (the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Sputnik) the attacks on New York and Washington were a traumatic, teachable moment.
The collective attention of the nation was finally focused upon problems that had gone neglected for many years. 9/11 was a chance to get smart—but we blew it.
First and foremost the attacks gave the United States a rare opportunity to reset its international reputation. Even countries known for anti-Americanism offered their support. “We are all Americans,” ran the headline of the French newspaper Le Monde.
The century of U.S. foreign policy that led to 9/11—supporting dictators, crushing democratic movements, spreading gangster capitalism at the point of a thousand nukes—should and could have been put on hold and reassessed in the wake of 9/11.
It wasn’t time to act. It was time to think.
It was time to lick our wounds, pretend to act confused, and play the victim. It was time to hope the world forgot how we supplied lists of pro-democracy activists to a young Saddam Hussein so he could collect and kill them, and forget the “Made in USA” labels on missiles shot into the Gaza Strip from U.S.-made helicopter gunships sold to Israel.
It was time, for once, to take the high road. The Bush Administration ought to have treated 9/11 as a police investigation, demanding that Pakistan extradite Osama bin Laden and other individuals wanted in connection with the attacks for prosecution by an international court.
Instead of assuming a temperate, thoughtful posture, the Bush Administration exploited 9/11 as an excuse to start two wars, both against defenseless countries that had little or nothing to do with the attacks. Bush and company legalized torture and ramped up support for unpopular dictatorships in South and Central Asia and the Middle East, all announced with bombastic cowboy talk.
Smoke ’em out! Worst of the worst! Dead or alive!
By 2003 the world hated us more than ever. A BBC poll showed that people in Jordan and Indonesia—moderate Muslim countries where Al Qaeda had killed locals with bombs—considered the U.S. a bigger security threat than the terrorist group.
In fairness to Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld and Bush’s other leading war criminals, everyone else went along with them. The media refused to question them. Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, cast votes in favor of Bush’s wars. Democrats and leftist activists ought to have pushed for Bush’s impeachment; they were silent or supportive.
9/11 was “blowback”—proof that the U.S. can’t wage its wars overseas without suffering consequences at home. But we still haven’t learned that lesson. Ten years later, a “Democratic” president is fighting Bush’s wars as well as new ones against Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Now he’s saber-rattling against Syria.
American officials correctly inferred from 9/11 that security, particularly at airports but also in ports where container ships arrive daily from around the world, had been lax. Rather than act proactively to close gaps in transportation security, however, bureaucrats for the new Department of Homeland Security created a gauntlet of police-state harassment so onerous that it has threatened the financial health of the aviation industry.
“Aviation security is a joke, and it’s only a matter of time before terrorists destroy another airplane full of innocent passengers,” wrote Barbara Hollingsworth of The Washington Examiner after the 2009 “underwear bomber” scare. As Hollingsworth pointed out, the much-vaunted federal air marshals have been removed from flights because the TSA is too cheap to pay their hotel bills. (This is illegal.) What’s the point of taking off your shoes, she asked, when planes are still serviced overseas in unsecured facilities? No one has provided an answer.
Ten years after 9/11, there is still no real security check when you board a passenger train or bus. Perhaps the sheer quantity of goods arriving at American ports makes it impossible to screen them all, but we’re not even talking about the fact that we’ve basically given up on port security.
While we’re on the subject of post-9/11 security, what about air defenses? On 9/11 the airspace over the Lower 48 states was assigned to a dozen “weekend warrior” air national guard jets. Every last one of them was on the ground when the attacks began, allowing hijacked planes to tool around the skies for hours after they had been identified as dangerous.
Which could easily happen again. According to a 2009 report by the federal General Accounting Office on U.S. air defenses: “The Air Force has not implemented ASA [Air Sovereignty Alert] operations in accordance with DOD, NORAD, and Air Force directives and guidance, which instruct the Air Force to establish ASA as a steady-state (ongoing and indefinite) mission. The Air Force has not implemented the 140 actions it identified to establish ASA as a steady-state mission, which included integrating ASA operations into the Air Force’s planning, programming, and funding cycle. The Air Force has instead been focused on other priorities, such as overseas military operations.”
Maybe if it stopped spending so much time and money killing foreigners the American government could protect Americans.
On 9/11 hundreds of firefighters and policemen died because they couldn’t communicate on antiquated, segregated bandwidth. “Only one month away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11,” admits FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, “our first responders still don’t have an interoperable mobile broadband network for public safety. Our 911 call centers still can’t handle texts or pictures or video being sent by the phones that everyone has.”
Because the corporate masters of the Democratic and Republican parties love the low wage/weak labor environment created by illegal immigration, American land borders are intentionally left unguarded.
A lot changed on 9/11, but not everything.
We’re still governed by corrupt idiots. And we’re still putting up with them.
What does that say about us?
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
Why TSA Molesters Are Striking a Nerve
“Don’t touch my junk!” Will this be the battle cry of the next American Revolution?
If you think about it, it’s amazing. Why this? But thinking doesn’t have anything to do with it.
There’s a good reason. Which we’ll get to.
“This,” of course, is the intrusive new security-screening regimen at 68 major U.S. airports. You can walk through one of the new “backscatter” body-image X-ray scanners, suck up 2.4 microrems of radiation, and live with the knowledge that a high-res version of your nude flabby body is being stored on some government database so that the Palin Administration will be able to kill you for food and use your cyborg doppelganger as a slave laborer in the living hell that will be the year 2015.
Or you can choose the pat-down. But think twice. By all accounts, the pat-down procedure is thorough. Extremely thorough.
“I didn’t really expect her to touch my vagina through my pants,” schoolteacher Kaya McLaren, an elementary schoolteacher from Washington state told The New York Times about her experience at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. What prompted this feel-up? “The body scanner detected a tissue and a hair band in her pocket,” reported The Times.
Verily, the end times draw nigh. The New York Times is talking dirty.
A visit to the TSA’s official blog (blog.tsa.gov) furthers the impression that the Obama Administration has jumped the security shark. One citizen asks: “Is touching the genitals a mandatory or discretionary part of the pat-down? Will the screener give notice and ask for consent prior to touching the breasts, vagina, penis or scrotum?” Another asks: “Can they spread the buttocks to feel if something is concealed between them? Can they move the penis or testicles aside to see if something is strapped to a man’s leg? Can they lift up breasts to feel underneath them?”
There’s something terribly wrong when a federal government website gets too racy for online parental control software.
CNN’s Rosemary Fitzpatrick reported that an airport screener “ran her hands around her breasts, over her stomach, buttocks and her inner thighs, and briefly touched her crotch.” In Charlotte a flight attendant was ordered to remove and display her prosthetic breast.
It’s happening to guys too. Men wearing baggy pants report TSA personnel, some of whom are convicted rapists and child molesters, sticking their hands down their trousers and ferreting out their naughty bits. In a bit of surrealism recalling my “Al Kidda” cartoon (in which terrorists take advantage of the fact that children aren’t required to show ID to board a plane) there are now YouTube videos showing little kids getting felt up by the TSA.
TSA workers at Miami Airport got caught passing around printed scans of a man they deemed to fall short in the male endowment department. A 61-year-old cancer survivor from Michigan wound up “humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an enhanced pat-down by TSA officers” at the Detroit Airport. The oafs broke the seal on his urostomy bag.
There was, naturally, no apology.
Remember the good old days of the early 2000s, when the only thing the TSA did was announce their favorite color of the day?
Of all the indignities inflicted upon the flying public since 9/11, the radiation/molestation combo strikes me as relatively minor. I’m still scarred by the sight of the young Iraq War vet in front of me at Kansas City airport security. Both of his legs had been lost in an IED blast in the Middle East. Instead of respect or a free pass at the metal detector, TSA goons repeatedly grilled and humiliated him about the titanium in his body.
Contrast this with Iran. Yes, Iran. As at security checkpoints throughout the country, I was waved past the checkpoint at Tehran’s Ayatollah Kholmeni International Airport in August as soon as I presented my U.S. passport. As guests, foreigners are not subject to most bag searches. Not even citizens of the Great Satan.
Don’t touch our special parts, but feel free to poke around our frontal lobes.
If Richard Nixon had been accused of listening to every American’s phone calls and reading their mail, there would have been riots. But that’s exactly what the National Security Agency has been doing since 9/11. Bush started it; Obama made it official. They’re reading your email and listening to your phone calls and tracking your bank statements. It’s a fact. And no one cares.
Personally, I’d rather have the government touch my junk than rape my brain.
Now that they’re feeling up our privates at the airport—with, truth be told, considerably more justification than the NSA has for reading your Facebook status updates—the American people are freaking out.
Which should come as little surprise to Obama’s pet louts at the TSA.
The United States, after all, was founded by Puritans. The folks we’re celebrating this week were religious fanatics, prudes, crazy repressed and so far off the charts that they were too uptight to get along with the British. Immigration has helped loosen us up, but that’s still our national culture.
I had hoped that when the revolution came, it would be about economic injustice or torture or racism. But, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you don’t revolt with the revolutionaries you wish you had. If this is the beginning of the end, so be it.
Say it all together: Don’t touch my junk!
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL