The TSA failed to identify 73 airport workers with links to terrorism. Ooooh, sounds scary! Yesterday Jalopnik covered, like the rest of America, a story that seems to be of some importance about the TSA. Hooray for the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General but that’s .0081 percent of the 900,000 airport workers that they audited. Sounds pretty good to me, and that’s not even talking about what “terrorist-related category codes” are, or hell, what terrorism is. This type of story can be read any day of the week – and it is – but in this case, the IG could have just as much congratulated the agency for a job well done. But then, that would have made the news AND it wouldn’t have kept the American people in line, which is the entire grand strategy of post 9/11 governance.

First, a disclosure: I think the TSA is a black hole on American society, proof that if you can wear a uniform you’ll never be without a job in our glorious nation. Whatever purpose it serves in securing American commercial aircraft, TSA is also the closest thing we have to a Stasi or a Ministry of Behavior or an SS. We have let the federal government build up an army of over 50,000 TSA “agents” in a wide variety of uniform sizes – mostly extra-large – a triumph of idiocy, and while we’re on the subject, of some union somewhere.

I was boarding an aircraft in Miami this Christmas to return to New York and pointed out to my traveling companion the new behavioral detection specialist on duty. He was the pumped up jerk with the sun glasses on, standing next to the sad drone checking ID’s with her little flashlight.

What do they do? she asked. And I answered, loudly enough for him to hear, he’s supposed to scrutinize everyone to look for signals of terrorist behavior because I guess making us take off our shoes and belts isn’t enough to make us feel small enough.

And he says to me, in a gruff tone: “Keep talking like that and we’ll see…”

Now I had two choices. Fuck up our flight and make a ruckus and embarrass my traveling companion, or slink away. I quickly remembered my training and a basic rule of society: just shut the fuck up when around people in uniform, cause some idiot’s going to pull a gun out at a pool party or stick a baton up your ass to prove he’s bigger than you – and I’m not even tall. I could have whipped out a press ID and say, “Hey, fucker, I know your boss.” I could have quietly said that the most professional thing for him to do is saying nothing to me. I’m obviously not a terrorist (not that type) and what distinguishes police everywhere (or at least I naively think) is that when rioters spit in your face you stand firm because your job is maintaining the peace not adding to the violence.

In deference to public order and a relationship that didn’t turn out well anyhow, I shut up and slinked (slunk?) away. He won, another citizen put in his place. I thought about asking for his supervisor or badge number or writing a letter but instead thought, she’s sort of nice and I’m looking forward to a bagel and cream cheese before I board my flight.

Don’t say bomb. Don’t joke around. We’ve all been told it enough times it’s imprinted on our brains. Meanwhile you can get on any train or subway, travel through any tunnel, and walk into the lobby of any building without being checked. In other words, not only we are fighting yesterday’s war (or put another way, still over-reacting to 9/11) but we are ridiculous over-blown about one area of security while we are completely blind about others.

But wait! See? That’s what they want you to think, too. Okay, Mister Arkin, you are right – let’s now check everyone who goes on to the subway or train. And then pretty soon – and it will be pretty soon – we have a national ID card and everyone’s name is run through computers constantly and in order to be considered a good American, there start to be rules. We’re getting there. TSA is the vanguard.

In August 2004, President Bush signed a directive mandating all federal employees and contractors use a standard smart ID card for access to federal buildings and information systems.

That mandate was soon expanded to first responders as well, and then the federal government wrote additional rules that it should include volunteers from state, local, tribal, private sector partners, as well as non-governmental organizations with special statuses like the Red Cross and Salvation Army. The law doesn’t require non-federal workers to carry some kind of national ID and be part of the homeland security army, but as a 2011 homeland security report on first responders stated, the government “strongly encourages them to do so.”

Register everyone; collect verified information on identity, licensure status and professional credentials. By the time of Super Storm Sandy, more than nine million credentials had been issued in America to first responders who didn’t work for either the military or the federal government. And outside government in terms of credentialing, TSA has made the greatest progress, credentialing over 15 million individuals in the “transportation sector.”

As I wrote in American Coup, the Department of Homeland Security now refers to a community of some 23.5 million “first responders” in the nation, more than double the number that government officials referenced a decade earlier. Closer to 60 million Americans, about one-third of the adult population ages 20-64, serve in a regimented conglomeration of troops and law enforcement officials, a gigantic all-hazards’ auxiliary. Pretty soon, if you are a member of the .0081 percent – those who don’t join something or submit to some federal program of approval – you are a terrorist.

So, the TSA failed to identify 73 airport workers with “links to terrorism,” out of 900,000? You think about what that story really means. That fucker is still there in his sun glasses, measuring dicks and keeping watch. I’m much more scared of the TSA than I am the NSA.

[Photo courtesy of Air Mobility Command; Gattaca screenshot courtesy of Columbia Pictures.]

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