A photo has gone viral around the Internet, showing TSA officers giving a baby the full patdown. That’s right, a baby.
A baby being held up in his mother’s arms so the TSA agent can pat him down. Because he can’t, you know, walk or talk yet. But he still might be a dangerous terrorist. Better see what that kid has going on in his diaper.
The witty headline circulating with the photo asks if the TSA is searching for “poop bombs” now.
No way, says the TSA in a response on their blog. I have to say, I love the TSA blog. They seriously just wrote about “poop bombs”. For a famously humorless government agency, someone in the blogging office there must have a fine sense of humor.
That aside, if they weren’t looking for poop, what were they doing rummaging around in a baby’s diaper? Yes, terrorists are recruiting younger and younger these days. I suppose it’s possible that little one could have been a very scary terrorist prodigy baby. Or a prop being used by terrorist parents.
But in reality, of course, he was just a baby. A baby whose privacy was invaded by TSA agents doing too thorough a job. Yes, there’s some elaborate supervillain scheme that involves sneaking weapons onto planes via baby. But why not focus your efforts where they’ll count, which isn’t on the unlikely infantile supervillians.
As security expert Bruce Schneier has been saying for years, our current security system isn’t really designed to efficiently catch terrorists. It’s meant to make us all feel like we’re being watched. It’s security theater, creating an aura of protection but leaving wide holes in the net. In 2008, Schneier told the Atlantic:
Counterterrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better. Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.
So why are our babies now at risk of invasive searches in airport security checkpoints? The TSA says they’re working on new procedures that would make for less aggressive searching of “younger passengers”, which is a step in the right direction.
It still kind of misses the point though: all of their security antics aren’t really making us safer. They’re just making us more afraid, and less able to defend our own rights to privacy and personal boundaries.