My best friend, Zippy, has a masters in Computer Security. That means in the last few years I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined knowing about Security Theory (most importantly, that such a thing exists). The last time I saw him, Zip said the thing that most amazed him is that in the United Kingdom, the people at one point said, “The only way to be safe is to turn our country into a police state,” and the UK became a police state. In the United States, however, we’re becoming a police state, and we never had the conversation to decide that that’s what we want to be.
That conversation is happening right now. Members of Congress are now calling for the use of full-body scanners, that, near as I can tell, are computers that do what every 13-year-old boy who’s seen too much Skinemax can do. These machines can look at a fully-clothed person and create a digital image of what they look like naked. Apparently this contraption could also reveal whether or not you’re hiding plastic explosives in your bra or have a ceramic knife in your colon.
The debate the news outlets are highlighting is the obvious one: security or privacy? Of course the conservatives want the machines because they’ll make us safer and the liberals don’t want them because they’re arguably an invasion of privacy. Of course the truth of the matter is that liberals rely on the ACLU for money and votes, but the liberals and conservatives both rely on donations from the security companies, so these things are a foregone conclusion.
I just want to take a moment to reflect on the reason they’re all going to give us that this is absolutely necessary: A man who is so stupid that he gives all other Nigerians and Muslims a bad name tried to blow up a plane on the way to Detroit, arguably the least-valuable major city in America. His name was on a terrorist watch list, he was thwarted in his attempt, and he will unquestionably spend the rest of his natural life in prison.
Am I the only person who thinks that this is like your alarm system malfunctioning when a burgler breaks into your house, your neighbors call the cops and the guy gets caught, but instead of fixing the alarm system you nail your windows shut?
Every time someone in this society commits a terrorist act, there are warnings. The 9/11 hijackers were reported to the FBI, the Fort Hood shooter had made multiple outbursts that implied he was becoming increasingly unstable, and the most recent would-be terrorist was reported by his own father. Shouldn’t we be looking into fixing a system that doesn’t do the one thing it was designed to do? If we make one system that doesn’t work, who’s to say the next system is going to tell us anything useful? Remember those journalists who proved the heightened security after 9/11 couldn’t stop this kind of contraband in the first place?
Fortunately, our democratically elected leaders are on the case. Here’s George Carlin saying it better than I ever could: