Monday, January 4, 2010

Draconian Security Measures vs Civil Liberties

The news media, news pundits, talking heads and politicians are all yaking about fear, terrorism, racial profiling and full-body scanners. Gavin Dahl at Raw Story focuses on the issue of, "'Experts' justify profiling, body scanners with familiar paranoid rhetoric."

In the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound flight, a large number of so-called experts have raised the ire of civil libertarians in their pursuit of increasingly draconian security measures.
Appearing on Fox News Saturday, a retired U.S. general called for "very serious, harsh profiling," singling out in particular all 18-28 year old Muslim men, calling for them to be "strip searched" at airports.
As new TSA regulations take effect, passengers flying into the country from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called "threat-based" screens.
Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney set up his egregious recommendation by claiming first that "in the next 30-100 days," there is "very high probability a US airliner will come down."
When the host blandly objected that racial profiling would not go over in the United States, he replied, "I agree, that's the problem."
The issue of civil liberties.

The desire to violate American ethical and legal standards, supported by alarmist rhetoric, is reminiscent of the scandalous domestic Pentagon propaganda carried out over the US airwaves under Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates.
Turns out McInerney is not even the first surveillance advocate this week seen hawking serious violations of civil liberties on cable news under the guise of expertise and authority.
What is missing in this conversation is a discussion about alternative means of screening.
In fact, there are currently at least two other known alternatives to full-body scanners up for consideration.
American Civil Liberties Union is advocating the use of the “Puffer,” a machine that analyzes puffs of chemically-sensitive air blown around an individual. Greg Soule, a spokesman for TSA told The Christian Science-Monitor 18 Puffer machines, originally developed by General Electric, across the US but are being phased out due to maintenance issues.
Another potential alternative is the “Guardian,” an “explosive trace-detection portal machine” more advanced than the Puffer. Chris McBee, director of sales and marketing for Syagen Technology, told CS Monitor, "We have a better mousetrap. There are solutions out there that are viable alternatives to whole body imaging and that have superior detection characteristics."
Conflict of interest has become an issue in this debate.
Last week Michael Chertoff played "a little fast and loose with the public trust" using his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients. He was talking up whole-body-imaging technology as an airline security solution when the conflict of interest came up in a Wednesday interview on CNN. His Washington Post editorial cautions against, "privacy ideologues, for whom every security measure is unacceptable."
Reporters in Britain have discovered that new airport scanners touted by PM Gordon Brown would not have detected the underwear bomber, leading The Independent to ask if the entire plan is a scam. "The solution is to acknowledge that there isn't a single technology out there that is an answer to the whole problem," security expert Kevin Murphy told the paper.
...Current Defense Secretary Robert Gates oversaw the continuation of a domestic propaganda program created to build support for the US invasion of Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld recruited military analysts with US taxdollars to espouse optimism and spin on unquestioning TV networks and NPR, even when the analysts suspected the information was false or stood to profit from weapons contracts, according to a bombshell report in The New York Times.

The message is to slow down and evaluate this situation without fear tactics while maintaining our basic civil liberties.

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