Tag Archives: airport security

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Welcome Aboard, But First US Marshals Will Scan Your Retina – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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For some 15 years, airport security has become steadily more invasive. There are ever more checkpoints, ever more requests for documents as you make your way from the airport entrance to the airplane. Passengers adapt to the new changes as they come. But my latest flight to Mexico, originating in Atlanta, presented all passengers with something I had never seen before.

We had already been through boarding pass checks, passport checks, scanners, and pat downs. At the gate, each passenger had already had their tickets scanned and we were all walking on the jet bridge to board. It’s at this point that most people assume that it is all done: finally we can enjoy some sense of normalcy.

This time was different. Halfway down the jetbridge, there was a new layer of security. Two US Marshals, heavily armed and dressed in dystopian-style black regalia, stood next to an upright machine with a glowing green eye. Every passenger, one by one, was told to step on a mat and look into the green scanner. It was scanning our eyes and matching that scan with the passport, which was also scanned (yet again).

Like everyone else, I complied. What was my choice? I guess I could have turned back at the point, decline to take the flight I had paid for, but it would be unclear what would then happen. After standing there for perhaps 8 seconds, the machine gave the go signal and I boarded.

I talked to a few passengers about this and others were just as shaken by the experience. They were reticent even to talk about it, as people tend to be when confronted with something like this.

I couldn’t find anyone who had ever seen something like this before. I wrote friends who travel internationally and none said they had ever seen anything like this.

I will tell you how it made me feel: like a prisoner in my own country. It’s one thing to control who comes into a country. But surveilling and permissioning American citizens as they leave their own country, even as they are about to board, is something else.

Where is the toggle switch that would have told the machine not to let me board, and who controls it? How prone is it to bureaucratic error? What happens to my scan now and who has access to it?

The scene reminded me of movies I’ve seen, like The Hunger Games or 1984. It’s chilling and strange, even deeply alarming to anyone who has ever dreamed of what freedom might be like. It doesn’t look like this.

Why Now?

I’ve searched the web for some evidence that this new practice has been going on for a while and I just didn’t notice. I find nothing about it. I’ve looked to find some new order, maybe leftover from the Obama administration, that is just now being implemented. But I find nothing.

Update: a reader has pointed me to this page at Homeland Security:

As part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) border security mission, the agency is deploying new technologies to verify travelers’ identities – both when they arrive and when they leave the United States – by matching a traveler to the document they are presenting. CBP’s goal is to enhance national security and protect a traveler’s identity against theft through the use of biometrics.

Biometric information (such as finger, face, or iris) measures a person’s unique physical characteristics. CBP incorporated fingerprints for biometric identification and verification in 2004, and is now testing facial and iris imaging capabilities to help improve travelers’ identity protection, the integrity of our immigration system, and our national security.

I happened to be on the “one daily flight” that gets exit scanned.

Another change has to do with new rules for Homeland Security just imposed by the Trump administration. They make deportation vastly easier for the government. I have no idea if these rules are the culprit for intensified emigration checks.

What people don’t often consider is that every rule that pertains to immigration ultimately applies to emigration as well. Every rule that government has to treat immigrants a certain way also necessarily applies to citizens as well.

Chandran Kukathas is right when he says that “controlling immigration means controlling everyone.”

Regulating immigration is not just about how people arrive, but about what they do once they have entered a country. It is about controlling how long people stay, where they travel, and what they do. Most of all, it means controlling whether or not and for whom they work (paid or unpaid), what they accept in financial remuneration, and what they must do to remain in employment, for as long as that is permitted. Yet this is not possible without controlling citizens and existing residents, who must be regulated, monitored and policed to make sure that they comply with immigration laws.

To be sure, there might have been some tip off that security officials received that triggered these special measures for this flight only. Maybe they were looking for something, someone, in particular. Maybe this was a one-time thing and will not become routine.

The point is that it happened without any change in the laws or regulations. Whatever the reason, it was some decision made by security. It can happen on any flight for any reason. And who is in charge of making that decision?

On the plane, finally, my mind raced through the deeper history here. Passports as we know them are only a little over a century old. In the late 19th century, the apotheosis of the liberal age, there were no passports. You could travel anywhere in the world through whatever means you could find. Nationalism unleashed by World War I ended that.

And here we are today, with ever more controls, seeming to follow Orwell’s blueprint for how to end whatever practical freedoms we have left. And we are going this way despite the absence of any real crisis, any imminent threat? The driving force seems to be this: our own federal government’s desire to control every aspect of our lives.

Think of it: there might be no getting out of the country without subjecting yourself to this process. It’s a digital Berlin Wall. This is what it means to put “security” ahead of freedom: you get neither.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

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Fast-Track Atheist Security Lanes and More: Time to Jettison Perverse Egalitarianism – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Justice, Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
June 13, 2015
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I agree fully with the recent recommendation by journalist, author, and US Transhumanist Party presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan to establish fast-track security lanes in airports, enabling declared atheists to avoid wasteful, humiliating, and time-consuming security procedures ostensibly designed to ferret out potential terrorists. The rationale behind Istvan’s recommendation is straightforward: since the motivation for virtually every plane hijacking has been some manner of religious fundamentalism, it is time to recognize that the probability of an atheist perpetrating such a terrible act is negligible and spare atheists the stigma and inconvenience of invasive screenings. Indeed, even the argument of certain religious critics of atheism that “there are no atheists in foxholes” can be used to bolster Istvan’s proposal. If it is indeed the case that a lack of a belief in a deity or an afterlife leads to a greater reluctance to risk one’s own life in battle for some ostensibly “higher” ideal, then this could be expected to translate to an even greater reluctance to perpetrate plane hijackings, suicide bombings, or other self-sacrificial atrocities, which lack even the blessing that political authorities bestow upon organized warfare.

Of course, it is also the case that most religious people would never perpetrate acts of terrorism, and it would be desirable to include in Istvan’s fast-track process any particular types of religious adherents for whom the perpetration of wanton murder for ideological objectives would be similarly inconceivable. Jainism, for instance, upholds nonviolence toward all living beings, as do some interpretations of Buddhism. Various Christian denominations throughout history – Quakers, Mennonites, and certain Anglicans – have been pacifistic as well. In addition to anyone who professes these beliefs, all people who can demonstrate that they are opposed to war and political violence in general should be exempted from airport screenings as well.

But we can, and should, be even more expansive in determining eligibility for fast-track security lanes. For instance, the probability of a two-year-old toddler, a 70-year-old grandmother, or a visibly afflicted cancer patient seeking to perpetrate an act of terrorism is just as negligible as that of an atheist or a pacifist. Screening people of those demographics – and many others – is equally pointless. It is similarly inconceivable that people with high-profile public lives – celebrities, businesspeople, holders of political office – would perpetrate plane hijackings, and yet the current airport “security” procedures apply to them all. One could, with some deliberation, arrive at tens of other attributes that would preclude their possessors from being terrorist threats. In progressively filtering out more and more people as having virtually no probability of committing mass attacks on civilians, it would be possible to rapidly restore liberty and convenience to virtually all airline passengers. Furthermore, this more expansive clearance from suspicion should apply not just with regard to airport screenings, but also with regard to any surveillance of a person’s activities. The logical end result would be to roll back both “security” screenings by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) until each of these processes is focused solely on perhaps a few hundred genuine suspects while leaving the rest of us alone to live and travel in peace. Or, perhaps better yet, we should start with the age-old presumption of free societies: that an individual is deemed innocent unless he or she has shown evidence of guilt. So, instead of developing an array of characteristics that would enable people to opt out of detailed scrutiny, the system should be designed to only surveil an individual if there is probable cause and a strong reason to suspect criminal intent on the part of that specific individual. In short, we would return to the libertarian and classical liberal approach to issues of security.

Even if the detection and thwarting of terrorists were one’s sole goal, it would be logical to support as many valid methods as possible for narrowing the scope of one’s focus toward those who might pose genuine threats. The less time and effort are spent screening and surveilling completely innocent people, the more resources can be directed toward pursuing and thwarting actual wrongdoers.

And yet nobody seeking to fly today is safe from intrusive scrutiny, and the political class will take neither Istvan’s more limited recommendation nor my more expansive one seriously. Why is it that, in contemporary America, whenever somebody does something sufficiently terrible to generate headlines, procedures are deployed to ensnare everybody in a web of ceaseless suspicion, humiliation, and moral outrage? When a handful of fanatics hijack planes, destroy buildings, and murder civilians, the vast majority of civilians, who resemble the victims far more than the perpetrators, nonetheless become the principal targets of spying, prying, groping, and expropriation. Some libertarians will make the argument, not to be discounted, that the genuine purpose of the mass surveillance and screenings is not to catch terrorists, but rather to instill submissive attitudes in the general population, rendering more pliable those who have been acculturated to inconvenience for inconvenience’s sake, just because those in authority ordered it. Yet such a nefarious motive could not be the sole sustaining force behind persistent mass surveillance and humiliation, as most people do not have an interest in subjugation for the sake of subjugation, and enough people of good conscience would eventually unite against it and overturn its exercise. Another mindset, which I will call perverse egalitarianism, unfortunately afflicts even many people of generally good intentions. It is the prevalence of this perverse egalitarianism that enables the perpetration of mass outrages to persist.

Perverse egalitarianism, essentially, upholds the equality of outcomes above the nature of those outcomes. To a perverse egalitarian, it is more important to prevent some people from receiving more favorable treatments, resources, or prerogatives than others, than it is to expand the total scope of opportunities available for improving people’s lives. The perverse egalitarian mindset holds that, unless everybody is able to get something favorable, nobody should have it.

For those who value “equality” – however defined – there are two essential ways to achieve it – one, by uplifting those who are less well-off so that they are able to enjoy what those who are better off already enjoy; the other, by depriving those who are currently better off of their advantages and prerogatives. From a moral standpoint, these two types of egalitarianism cannot be farther apart; the first seeks to improve the lives of some, whereas the second seeks to degrade the lives of others. The first type of egalitarianism – the uplifting form – is admirable in its desire to improve lives, but also more difficult to realize. Beneficial qualities in life do not magically appear but often require the generation of real wealth from previously unavailable sources. Through technological and economic progress, the uplifting form of egalitarianism has a potential to succeed, although, paradoxically, it can best emerge by tolerating the natural inequalities associated with a market economy. Free enterprise will generate tremendous wealth for some, which in turn will enable vast numbers of others to achieve more modest prosperity and emerge out of dire poverty. The most economically and societally unequal societies are the most authoritarian and primitive, in which an entrenched caste of rulers controls virtually all the advantages and resources, while the rest of the population lives in squalor. Often, those are the very same societies that embrace “leveling” and redistributive policies in the name of achieving equality. As Milton and Rose Friedman famously wrote in Free to Choose, “A society that puts equality – in the sense of equality of outcome – ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.”

But perverse egalitarianism is much easier to implement than uplifting egalitarianism. Indeed, it is much easier to destroy than to create. The perverse egalitarian does not even need to do anything to improve the lot of the worse-off; he or she just needs to bring the better-off down to their level. But the greatest taboo for the perverse egalitarian is to allow anybody, for whatever reason, to escape the “leveling” process and “get away with” an advantage that another lacks. Perverse egalitarianism is the reason why “security” measures ostensibly designed to catch a handful of wrongdoers and prevent potential attacks by a tiny minority of perpetrators, almost inevitably burden the entire population. It would be “unfair”, according to the perverse egalitarians, to scrutinize only a subset of people, while letting others walk into airplanes unsearched or live their lives un-surveilled. Because it is indeed true that some people cannot altogether escape suspicion, the perverse egalitarians believe that nobody should be able to. To do otherwise would be to commit the cardinal sin of “profiling” – never mind that the perverse egalitarians’ way would visit the very same inconveniences of such profiling upon everybody.

But perverse egalitarianism brings only the permanent enshrinement of suffering under the guise of equality or “social justice”. It is reprehensible to make everyone suffer simply because an inconvenience might justifiably exist for some. And while profiling on the basis of circumstantial attributes is itself morally and practically questionable, there is no question that, from a purely probabilistic standpoint, certain attributes can rule out suspicion far more definitively than others. As an example, while the risk that an atheist would hijack an airplane is negligible, it is incontrovertible that some fundamentalist Muslims have hijacked airplanes in the past. It is still true that even most fundamentalist Muslims would never hijack airplanes, but just knowing that someone is a fundamentalist Muslim would not tell us this; we would need to know more about that individual’s outlook. But, in spite of all this, it is eminently reasonable to spare the atheist any further scrutiny; the only purported argument for not doing this would be to avoid “offending” the fundamentalist Muslim or creating an appearance of unequal treatment. But this is precisely the perverse egalitarian position – affirmatively inflicting real suffering on some in order to avoid perceived slights on the part of others. The best approach is to seek to treat everyone justly, not to spread injustice as widely and “equally” as possible. Highly targeted approaches toward threat detection should be used to focus solely on probable offenders while deliberately aiming to keep as many people as possible out of the scope of searches and surveillance.

Zoltan Istvan’s proposal to spare atheists from intrusive airport screenings would be a step forward compared to the status quo, but his argument, taken to its logical conclusion, should lead to virtually everybody being “fast-tracked” through airport security. The special treatment, and special lines, should be reserved for the tiny minority of likely wrongdoers who truly warrant suspicion.

This composition and video may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.