Correlation Does Not Equal KochNation

I wasn’t going to write a post debunking this Nation article on the opposition to gate grope. Sure, it was a specious hit on John Tyner, the “Don’t touch my junk” dude. But I figured as soon as anyone read this passage:

Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast.

Readers would just dismiss the entire article as so sloppy to be embarrassing. I mean, did the Nation really insinuate that everyone who goes to a private Christian school and everyone who lives in Oceanside, CA, including the thousands of Marines stationed at Pendleton, have suspect political opinions? Hey, I live in an even stronger Republican stronghold next to these guys, who just got listed as a hate group. I guess that means all my political beliefs should be assumed to be hateful, huh? Serves me right for living close to my husband’s job.

But after reading the authors’ response to Glenn Greenwald’s critique of the article, I thought a more detailed response was worth doing.

You see, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine claim their only mistake in the first article–one they don’t find all that egregious–was in insinuating certain things about Tyner. But they suggest their underlying point–that we should question “the official narrative” about the opposition to gate grope–is still valid.

Greenwald’s column raises one potentially valid criticism of our article—our treatment of John Tyner, the self-described libertarian and “don’t touch my junk” hero of the anti-TSA protests. Based on reporting from the San Diego Union-Tribune, we speculated that Tyner may have set up his taped encounter with TSA agents—a claim that we also quote Tyner denying. We did not, however, claim that Tyner was affiliated with the Astroturf and/or Koch-funded groups mentioned later in the piece, and indeed we noted directly that Tyner denied any such associations in an interview with The Nation. In retrospect, our article was less than clear about Tyner’s lack of Astroturf affiliations, and we regret in particular including extraneous details from the Union-Tribune article about Tyner’s past—that he went to a private Christian school and lived in a Republican community near a Marine base—because it distracted readers like Greenwald from the article’s main findings.

We believe that Tyner is in all likelihood innocent in his motives, but our larger point is that his discourse and the movement that has embraced it is far from innocent. In focusing entirely on our characterization of Tyner, Greenwald ignores the larger thrust of our argument and the vast majority of the evidence assembled in the piece, leaving a distorted impression of it.

Here is what the article really said: Like many Americans, we found the TSA’s intrusive procedures offensive and we are against the invasive pat-downs and attack on our civil liberties. This was a given in our article, and we stated as much. What our article did was look beyond the obvious surface, into possible reasons why this particular issue suddenly rose to forefront of the national debate, when dozens of other, more pressing issues are getting so little attention–people being kicked out of their homes and living on the street because of fraudulent foreclosures, a massive wealth transfer from struggling Americans to the financial sector, ongoing wars that are bankrupting the country and killing thousands, the attack on public education and so on.

Our investigation called into question the official version of events as a “spontaneous” grassroots anti-TSA outbreak.

Which means it’s probably worthwhile to go back and point out how bizarrely bad the logic of their first article (and their response to Glenn) is.

Start with their basic project:

What our article did was look beyond the obvious surface, into possible reasons why this particular issue suddenly rose to forefront of the national debate,


Our investigation called into question the official version of events as a “spontaneous” grassroots anti-TSA outbreak.

They want to question “the official version” of why this particular issue “suddenly rose to forefront.”

At a threshold level, to prove their argument that something nefarious is afoot, they would need to start by dismissing other logical explanations for why this particular issue “suddenly rose to forefront.” Most obviously, they would need to dismiss the possibility that the opposition to gate grope rose so suddenly because the procedure at airport gates–the introduction of more RapeAScan machines and the related introduction of “enhanced pat-downs”–changed so suddenly. Unfortunately for them, that’s a pretty tough explanation to disprove. So they don’t even try. Their entire effort ignores the most obvious explanation, that the timing is explained by changes in TSA procedure, and the response to it grew immediately after the changes were introduced.

But their project also relies on something else: the purported existence of “an official narrative.”

Now, to be fair, I agree that the media in this country often develop “a narrative.” I just wasn’t aware someone had started certifying certain narratives as “official” or not. I certainly wasn’t aware that someone had certified a narrative about this issue yet. But that brings us to the second problem with Ames and Levine’s argument. They don’t prove the existence of or even point to examples of the narrative they’re trying to debunk. That makes their job a lot easier, mind you, because they can just claim a narrative exists that says this was all a grassroots movement, without having to deal with the nuances or sources of any actual narrative itself. Heck, I might even agree that some entities are making claims about the opposition to gate grope that aren’t true. But then wouldn’t the more sound response be to point to actual examples of press coverage that made inaccurate statements, rather than just argue against a straw man narrative that it’s not entirely clear exists?

This problem with their argument is particularly important, because it brings us back to the centrality of Tyner in it. Their entire article is based on the media’s purported designation of Tyner as the hero of the movement.

Does anyone else sense something strange is going on with the apparently spontaneous revolt against the TSA? This past week, the media turned an “ordinary guy,” 31-year-old Californian John Tyner, who blogs under the pseudonym “Johnny Edge,” into a national hero after he posted a cell phone video of himself defending his liberty against the evil government oppressors in charge of airport security.

Tyner is the only opponent to gate grope whom Ames and Levine suggest has been widely treated as the hero of opposition to gate grope. In fact, they seem to admit that Meg McLain pointedly wasn’t because her claims were debunked.

Meg McLain almost became a national celebrity as the first victim of the body scanner/TSA molesters.

And they seem to admit that the other false heroes of opposition to gate grope were primarily promoted through Drudge.

McLain wasn’t the only questionable libertarian “victim” of the TSA turned into a freedom-hero on the Drudge Report. In fact, according to the TSA’s account, the 6-year-old who was allegedly “strip-searched” by evil TSA agents had his shirt removed by his own father—and not at the TSA’s request. And the latest “hero” of the Drudge Report, Samuel Wolanyk—who stripped down to his underwear in alleged anger at TSA agents in San Diego, earning himself top billing on Drudge—is also a libertarian activist in the San Diego area, home of the self-described “libertarian” hero John Tyner, III.

The discrepancy in the media’s treatment–with Tyner being widely treated as one symbol of this movement, but with others being promoted by Drudge but then debunked and largely ignored by the national media–undermines Ames and Levine’s claim that there is an “official narrative.” Rather, there is Drudge’s narrative, and then there is the narrative that has survived media scrutiny.

Just as importantly, though, if Tyner is the only one sustainably picked up by the national media, and the authors now admit he “is in all likelihood innocent in his motives,” then their entire argument falls apart, because the person they claim to be most central in the national media is–according to Ames and Levine–just what their purported official narrative says he is, a citizen legitimately objecting to this treatment.

But of course, Tyner is not the only one whose story has been picked up by the national media. Which brings us to the other big problem with Ames and Levine’s argument. Perhaps the person whose story has generated the most outrage is not Tyner, but Thomas Sawyer, the man whose urostomy bag burst during a patdown. Mind you, he’s not involved in what Ames and Levine depict as the opposition to gate grope, though he has said he’d like to work with the TSA to be more understanding of people who rely on medical devices. But that doesn’t negate his justifiable frustration at his treatment, his public exposure of that treatment, nor the power that his story has in generating opposition to the TSA procedures.

But Ames and Levine don’t treat Sawyer’s treatment, or the way his treatment has mobilized opposition. They don’t treat a bunch of other people with bad stories about the TSA that have gotten publicity. They also don’t acknowledge the existence of anyone aside from a few libertarians mobilizing against this treatment.

In other words, they cherry pick the people they want to call “this movement,” and then unsurprisingly prove (or rather, insinuate) that those cherry picked people have suspect motives. Or live in San Diego or work for dentists, which is apparently suspect in itself.

Now, even assuming the legitimacy of libertarians’ political activism really is suspect if those libertarians have ties to organizations funded by the Koch brothers (given that a number of my long-term allies in the larger civil liberties movement have gotten Koch cash, I’m not willing to go that far; also note, they only substantiate Koch ties for McLain and John Mica’s Chief of Staff, as well as one person whom they don’t claim has anything to do with the opposition to gate grope), discrediting the diverse opposition to gate grope because of the involvement of Meg McLain in it is like discrediting a million person anti-war rally because three hundred people from ANSWER had a role in organizing it.

Now don’t get me wrong. It is important to call attention to the way in which Republicans (both those on Koch’s gravy train and those not) will use this to try to privatize TSA. (Though it is equally important to call attention to Michael Chertoff and Linda Daschle’s interests in pushing the backscatters, which Ames and Levine seem to have no interest in doing, perhaps because it would show there’s corrupt money on both sides of this issue.) It is legitimate to discredit false stories like McLain’s–though the press has already largely done that. It is legitimate to treat complaints about the TSA procedures with the same skepticism you treat any self-reporting.

But what Ames and Levine have done here is 1) insinuate things about John Tyner they’re now backing off of 2) show that the discredited Meg McLain has ties to Koch and that another of the activists opposed to gate grope works for a goddamned dental PAC (apparently, the dentists have a nefarious interest in opposing gate grope), and 3) show that John Mica–who may or may not have ties to any of the other people Ames and Levine make insinuations about–has done what Republicans (and frankly, most politicians) do: capitalized on an opportunity to help his campaign donors.

At its base level, they’re suggesting correlation implies causation. But their evidence of correlation is really weak; and by their own admission, they don’t even manage to tie the two critical parts of their argument–McLain to Mica–together, except through really attenuated Koch links. And through timing. Which, as I’ve suggested, would be most easily explained by the timing of changes in the TSA procedure.

Now it may well be that those mobilizing on this are all motivated by payments from the Koch brothers; though they haven’t made that argument (funny! I’m now left wondering where my payments from both Soros and Koch are!). It certainly is true that fans of privatization (and profiling) will use the outrage at gate grope to push their pet projects–and those of us who believe privatization would make problems of airport security worse need to make that point more clearly.

At base, Ames and Levine’s article–the entire thing, not just their insinuations about Tyner–is just a poorly defended argument. They may well have a point; they may well someday prove this was all a scam designed to benefit John Mica’s donors. But at this point, what we have is an editorial failure: a bunch of loose connections built on top of insinuations about someone they now concede is probably innocent and relying on assumptions that have not been proven and really faulty logic. Sure, the question Ames and Levine ask might be worth asking–in a tweet or a personal blog post. But until they actually answer their own question, it’s probably not worth an article in the Nation.

  1. rosalind says:

    we’re all “domestic extremists” now. from shekissesfrogs diary:

    It labels any person who “interferes” with TSA airport security screening procedure protocol and operations by actively objecting to the established screening process, “including but not limited to the anticipated national opt-out day” as a “domestic extremist.” The label is then broadened to include “any person, group or alternative media source” that actively objects to, causes others to object to, supports and/or elicits support for anyone who engages in such travel disruptions at U.S. airports in response to the enhanced security procedures.

    For “any person, group or domestic alternative media source” that actively objects to, causes others to object to, supports and/or elicits support for anyone who engages in such travel “disruptions” at U.S. airports…is instructed to identify and collect information about the persons or entities, and submit such information in the manner outlined [within this directive].

    “alternative media source”, hmmm, whomever could they be referring to? and all the wheelies’ personal information is getting dumped into yet another gov’t database. what are we up to now, five? six?

    • fatster says:

      Did you see this, Jason? Imagine having to earn your living groping people, while being required to work only half-time during your first three years of employment! This whole thing is ________ (insert your own words, I’ve exhausted my thesaurus).

      TSA pat downs: ‘Horrible’ screener job gets worse


    • fatster says:

      I didn’t mean to imply in the least that you had faulted the TSOs, Jason, not at all. Apologies for giving that impression. I knew their jobs had to be miserable, but reading the quotes really brought it home and I just wanted to share.

  2. Gitcheegumee says:

    Happy Turkey Day to all .

    Imagine my surprise when I read an oped by Michael Winship,yesterday over at Truthout,where he refers to passengers concerned with enhanced screening procedures as “cranks”.

    At first,I thought it was snark. Evidently not.

  3. Barry Eisler says:

    Glad you wrote a follow-up, Marcy; Ames and Levine’s response was such a double-down it had to be done. “Why focus on the slimy part of the article when we also wrote something worthwhile?” is nonsense to begin with, and here, as you point out, it’s even worse because the slime wasn’t extraneous, but rather the foundation of the rest of their argument. Eliminate the slime and the rest of the article crumbles, too.

    As for the rest of the mea culpa, “We’re actually good people with good intentions, and if Glenn had only called us, he could have confirmed as much” is as embarrassing as the original piece.

    Glad to know you don’t have anything to do with the FRC, though. I was wondering, since you live near them and all.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, you have raised an important question Barry. Can we still trust Marcy, what with her regenerating in the hive of the FRC and Prince Borg now? Bears watching.

      • fatster says:

        Bears are watching? Don’t you dare let them attack Marcy. Aiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!

        (Sorry–stoopid joke day for me.)

    • emptywheel says:

      Worse, if you do the math, living next to teh FRC also means I live in the immediate vicinity of a certain uber-contractor’s home town. So a hater and a crass mercenary.

      But let’s keep that between you and I, huh?

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      My personal “favorite” part of the article was at the very end, where they try to excuse their sliming an innocent man by playing the victim card against Glenn Greenwald — a man who is forced to live in Brazil because the United States won’t recognize his marriage.

  4. Loo Hoo. says:

    Mediaite uses fuedlet!

    Aside from being a fun bit of grab-some-popcorn internet entertainment, this feudlet is a handy object lesson in policing your own side.

  5. matutinal says:

    EW, thanks for logic-checking the Nation regarding Ames’ and Levine’s somewhat bizarre article.

    In their apologia, the authors claim that “like many Americans, we found the TSA’s intrusive procedures offensive and we are against the invasive pat-downs and attack on our civil liberties. This was a given in our article, and we stated as much.”

    Well that’s not viewpoint I found stated or implied, from their phrases like “TSA hysteria” or “But don’t ask us, ask Americans themselves…fewer than one in five Americans object….”

    And if they had any real “regret” over “including extraneous details…about Tyner’s past” because it “distracted” readers “from the article’s main findings,” then they should have left it at that. But, no. They have to say it “distracted” “readers like Greenwald,” seeming to imply that they mostly “regret” his reading, not their own careless writing.

    The Nation needs to have higher standards than innuendo and decrying “TSA hysteria.” How low it has fallen as as a once-careful chronicler of 4th Amendment issues!

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. I found their claim to be opposed to grope gate pretty ridiculous, given their language. But then, I’m not much interested in assuming the false intentions of everyone out there.

    • skdadl says:

      We really are screwed, y’know, up here in the GWN as well. Yesterday Michael Ignatieff, the supposed leader of our fake loyal opposition (former Harvard, best friends with Cass Sunstein), gave one of the limpest answers to a presser question about scanners and grope-downs on record. It’s a mix of “Who minds being sexually assaulted, haha?” and “Fear-up” and “Gosh, those poor gropers have to wear latex gloves all day long, you ungrateful citizens.”

      He did that at just about the same time we read a report of a fifteen-yr-old girl groped for a flight between Sudbury and Toronto. (See Google maps: no U.S. air space, short hop, scope for terrist interest about nil.)

      What got me, though, was watching the Twitter feed of Cdn press gallery journos who reported Iggy’s remarks. They all thought that “I have people touching my private parts all day long” was such a hoot. When the rest of us reacted, we were told we have no sense of humour. Women, children, assault survivors — get over it, eh? Iggy doesn’t mind.

      That is what really angers me. I’ve been reading American bloggers talking about the Villagers for a long time now, but following our own press gallery on Twitter is giving me a very sudden cold shower, a real lesson in the self-satisfied pomposity of people who are supposed to be real reporters but have somehow lost their balance because they enjoy the access so much.

  6. Tom in AZ says:

    Maybe these two have spent too much time listening to the doughy pantloads who want to make me a ‘domestic extremist’.

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    I think there will be some re-Pistole-ing of the new **procedure** array as currently configured. Absent that reworking, I expect there will be many abscinders. Dont fly, dont say why nots; DFDSWNs. Other than those sorts of impacts, most of the hullabaloo is a tempest in a teapot, albeit a lubricious one for yellowsheet prose*s purposes. And I am expecting both the AK-ex-gov and her alter-ego Fey to opine in **libertarian** terms both homiletic and iconoclastic with respect to the Murdochized media*s championing of the unimpressed folk heroes TSA is creating. Further, transposing the entire new screening regime to one of any number of foreign countries as a postulate, is sufficient to produce all manner of hilarity, and this in a time of consumate integrity and seriousness of peace negotiations on so many *fronts*. Count me as one who opts for the xray vision machine, else forget flying; do like coach Madden and take the bus.

  8. Jason Leopold says:

    @faster: you did not give that impression at all. No apology necessary. The context of my comment had to do w/some folks I have had exchanges with believed much of the anger is being directed to the screeners and not TSA. At the same time, these people think all of the outrage is fake and that Koch is paying people. I’m appreciative you shared that link.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Things that “suddenly rise” to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness – like an actor’s “overnight success” – have usually been brewing for years. Airport security procedures, for example, since 9/11 have grown increasingly intrusive, expensive and of decreasing value in increasing security. It’s the media that suddenly takes notice of it. When it challenges beltway priorities, they take notice of it for as short a time as possible and in a demeaning way. Ames and Levine’s article is the sort of evidence for that proposition that would elicit from an English academic a harrumphing, QED.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Intrusive airport “security” measures are only one aspect of our creeping police state. It joins “border” checkpoints far from the border, sound detection systems in cities, millions of private and government cameras and scanners, more and more requests from private and government bureaucrats and some state legislatures to see Ihre Papiere, bitte, and tasering, which seems to have become the police sport of choice – even against easily overcome 86 year-old bed-ridden grandmas who are off their meds and need help, not 50,000 volt shocks.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Privatizing the TSA, of course, would add billions to the cost of nominal security, while not necessarily increasing it, and would repeal more of our civil rights when it inevitably becomes impossible legally to challenge the actions of private security firms.

    If the administration were really interested in imitating el Al’s purported effectiveness in maintaining security for traveling air passengers, it would mimick its hiring and training standards – college graduates – instead of hiring high school graduates and paying them near minimum wage, while giving them poor models of management restraint, effectiveness and oversight.

  12. fatster says:

    “Uniformed pilots cannot carry butter knives onto an airplane, yet apron workers and contract ground support staff — cargo loaders, baggage handlers, fuelers, cabin cleaners, caterers — can, as a matter of routine, bypass TSA inspection entirely.”


  13. Frank33 says:

    But Tyner did not go to Princeton ’81 as Vanden Heuvel. Katrina Vanden Heuvel is the most ineffective “progressive” allowed on the tee vee. She is dependable Veal Pen.

    But if The Nation wants to bend over to the Wall Street Overseers, go ahead. You cowards.

  14. eblair says:

    What this boils down to is:
    1) The Nation is a full fledged member of the CSSM (Corporate Stream Shill Media).
    2) The CSSM is really pissed that this anti-scanner narrative emerged. It is going to slow down the rush to a full fledged police state.
    3) The CSSM believes all stories about what the public prefers are manufactured (because they manufacture so damned many.)
    4) Thus, somebody must have manufactured it.
    5) “Libertarians” are the new domestic bogeymen (sorry “progressives” you came in second.) The “Libertarians” must have manufactured it.
    6) Equate the “Libertarians” with the professional Koch astroturfers and that will be the counter-narrative that the CSSM will manufacture! They float it first at the Nation and if that works, they start planting it at DKos and Huffpost.

    • mamazboy says:

      Well said. Reminds me of being at Newart Airport a couple of years ago when they confiscated a sealed 12 oz. bottle of juice I had in my carry-on. I asked them what they were going to do with and the guy laughed and said they give confiscated stuff like that to the homeless. One minute it’s potentially lethal; the next it’s handed to the homeless. No chemical test done. It’s all so stupid.

      • mui1 says:

        That guy that confiscated your juice sounds despicable. Let’s say your juice was poisoned (which I’m sure it wasn’t), is he saying he wants to poison the homeless? Does he think murder is funny because those people don’t have a home?

  15. b2020 says:

    There is a simple way to distinguish those trying to speak truth to power from those worthless sods that simply pollute limited bandwidth and waste eyeball time. True “follow the money” starts with power, not with those that, rightly or wrongly – and in this case obviously rightly – attempt to throw a wrench into e.g. the lucrative business of “security”.

    By that simple application on common sense, it is obvious why The Nation is a dispensable channel. Attention is optional, and might be counterproductive.

  16. parsnip says:

    eblair @ 27

    Karl Denninger has been blogging pointedly against Gate **** for the past week or so. He claims to have been one of the initiators of the Tea Party, before the Kochs usurped it, but now repudiates it. His post To The Tea Party: Go Screw Yourself is worth a read.

    His post today National Opt-Out Day Appears to Have Succeeded shows that TSA seems to have wimped out and used old-fashioned metal detectors. Perhaps the airlines ordered Pistole to holster it?


    I saw dozens of pictures of airports yesterday on the news. They all featured empty airports by comparison to any Thanksgiving holiday I’ve witnessed before – and I’m going on having witnessed 50 of them.

    In addition there were widespread Twitter reports (I was monitoring the news flow on the “opt out” topics all day long) that those airports with the scanners had them roped off and inoperative, and that the conventional metal detectors were in use instead.

    It appears that this was “Message Received”.

  17. chetnolian says:

    May a foreigner and longtime Marcy addict have a word?

    I’ve just left your land and been scanned at DFW. I was happy with that because I shared the wish of the TSA people there that I got on my plane and a bomber didn’t. In fact I probably cared about that more than they did.

    Why didn’t I mind?

    One, we didn’t invent the bad guys. They do exist, though they are, happily, rare.

    Two if you think the TSA guys and gals are bad, try dealing with the ones I deal with in Europe, especially, if we’re being mean, in Belfast. I met with nothing but efficient courtesy in Hawaii or DFW.

    Three, any sort of screening (yes even of our nether regions) is better than racial profiling. The nearer we get to thinking all people who look a certain way are bad, the more the bad guys have won.

    Four, from my brief experience of the US mainstream media this is being used as yet another stick to beat Obama, which I would have thought was, from my and most of your poins of view, on balance a bad thing.

    • fatster says:

      For many of us, defense of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is the primary concern.

    • skdadl says:

      First, there is no safe level of ionizing radiation. Ask your dentist. At least dentists and doctors give you the chance to give informed consent to a valuable procedure.

      And “low risk” is a statistical term — it has meaning only in relation to population size. There is a huge population going through those machines. “Low risk” means that inevitably those machines are going to make many people sick and are going to kill some of them.

      Second, I’m also a foreigner, and I don’t doubt there are terrists about, but I also think a lot about why they’re there. I can’t dismiss them as the “bad guys,” mostly because I’ve seen our own bad guys up close, and they scare me more. They are committing crimes in my name. For that, you and I should sacrifice our liberty? I don’t think that’s the solution.

      Time for a rousing chorus of Born Free. (And cheers to the mother country.)

  18. marymccurnin says:

    Lets see. The powers that be want to privatize TSA. What is happening again in Afghanistan? Oh yea, Xe (Blackwater) is being relieved of duty with our military and the Afghanistan forces because they were uncontrollable and unreasonable.

  19. Frank33 says:

    Can we share on this T-Day. Can we share with Blogger Bob our friendly TSA Gruppenfuhrer. Make that Gropenfuhrer! I keep forgetting to check the official TSA blabity blah. But Opt Out is Opt In! Just as the Tea Party is the new Professional Left. Opt Out Day is TSA Appreciation Day. Reports that Al Qaeda is shorting airline stocks are only outrageous rumors, made up by me.

    What some protesters threatened as an opt out day has turned into a TSA appreciation day.

    As reports continue to come with normal or below-normal wait times, this will be our final update of this post today.

    Though volume was around expected levels, our preparations for today kept wait times at such a minimum that some airports are closing screening lanes due to a lack of passenger throughput.

  20. mrsanfran says:

    You can parse any of the articles and responses anyway you want. I do believe the original authors premise of wondering why this all of a sudden became the issue of the day/week is worth looking at. The media does guide and embellish certain things/issues and ignores others. It did strike me as strange that this is the first sort of breaking point in all the Homeland security/Nazi restrictions put on this country since Bush, that got people all riled up. I don’t know the motive if any, or if Tyner is just a concerned citizen acting without anyone behind him. My gut, though, says something is suspicious and I am not sure of the motive at this point, or who stands to benefit.

    • skdadl says:

      I don’t believe that cui bono does it for this uprising.

      It’s true that there’s an irony that liberals (U.S. usage) have to recognize: many members of various marginalized groups have always been casually abused by the agents of authority as a matter of course, in your country and mine. This uprising suddenly took off when large numbers of white middle-class people realized that their health could be compromised or they could be sexually assaulted, by fiat, in violation of the constitution.

      So what? To me, it’s good that people are recognizing that the abuse is happening, however they get there. It would have been better if we all had been defending marginalized groups all this time (and many of us have), but better late than never.

      Who benefits by defending the Fourth Amendment? Anyone who believes in democracy.

  21. bolloxref says:

    Obama WH pushback.

    Sure, these machines were ordered under the Bush regime.

    But the implementation has been on Obama’s watch. The number of Obots reflexively supporting ‘their’ man over this has been startling.

    Ordering demeaning, aggressive pat-downs just when these cancer scanners turned up is no coincidence………….. just cynical, Pisshole-led manipulation/crowd control. “You Will Do As We Say……….. Plebs!”

    And Pisshole’s boss would be……………

  22. mui1 says:

    This Nation article scares me. I went to a high school that had a lot of republican daddies.

    They also mention CBS statistics like its the gospel:
    “But don’t ask us, ask Americans themselves: a recent CBS poll found that fewer than one in five Americans object to the TSA’s use of scans and pat-downs. Nevertheless, like the Tea Party libertarian pr…otests that “erupted” “spontaneously” in February 2009, the protests against the TSA, and the media coverage of the spectacle, grips the nation.”:

    That’s also very scary, IMHO.

  23. Frank33 says:

    I find “The Nation” offensive but that is just me.

    we found the TSA’s intrusive procedures offensive and we are against the invasive pat-downs and attack on our civil liberties.

    Disturbing…not so much.

    One disturbing part of Greenwald’s attack is when he accuses us of being some kind of Democratic Party centro-fascist goon duo patrolling the public, out to repress any citizen who doesn’t declare fealty to the two-party system

    They are helpers and have a solution. They want to separate the sheep into three herds.

    1. Trusted Travelers, $$$$$$
    2. High-risk travelers…body-scanners or pat-downs as mandatory, routine screening.
    3. Ordinary travelers basically everyone else, who would go through metal detector and put carry-ons through 2-D X-ray machines. They would not have to remove shoes or jackets

  24. mui1 says:

    Ooh look, the authors of that Nation piece got toots from Insanity Fair.
    ” Normally both of us, no strangers to controversy(Insanity Fair link), view attacks on our articles like today’s by Glenn Greenwald’s as a badge of honor.”
    By correlation equals Chris Hitchens. Tee hee.

  25. mui1 says:

    “Here is what the article really said: Like many Americans, we found the TSA’s intrusive procedures offensive and we are against the invasive pat-downs and attack on our civil liberties. This was a given in our article, and we stated as much.”
    No it wasn’t a given. I got confuse when they cited the CBS statistics like the gospel.

  26. mui1 says:

    “What our article did was look beyond the obvious surface, into possible reasons why this particular issue suddenly rose to forefront of the national debate, when dozens of other, more pressing issues are getting so little attention–people being kicked out of their homes and living on the street because of fraudulent foreclosures, a massive wealth transfer from struggling Americans to the financial sector, ongoing wars that are bankrupting the country and killing thousands, the attack on public education and so on.”

    Because this another expansion on the War on Big Terra. That’s my point of view. Yet another piece of that noose strangling the American public. Imagine all the Rumsfeldians out there saying, I got groped, there fore it’s not torture.

    Uh oh. They’re implying that Greenwald didn’t include critcism of Rickie Santorum and Krauthammer. Hope they’re not trying to make another nasty little insinuation. They also haven’t read his later posts on TSA in which he does do some wider and very depressing criticism.

  27. mamazboy says:

    The authoritarian mindset — which seems to be the one that Ames and Levine embrace whether they know it or not — will not admit failure or apologize for a mistake. It won’t matter to them that their wretched Nation piece (which is doing some serious damage to the reputation of an otherwise respected and helpful publication) is being dismantled by multiple sources, and universally denounced for the irresponsible, unethical, and generally clueless hit piece it is. They obviously cannot back down from what they’ve written because they’re incapable of admitting they were wrong. Or perhaps they’ll take the coward-apologist’s way out: “If anyone [e.g., Tyner] was offended by what we wrote, we apologize.” But no, they won’t even do that. If The Nation cares about its brand, these two boobs will be canned.

  28. Neil says:

    The wurlitzer is cranking up too with the spin that the technology will be applied throughout our transportation infrastructure and destroy all freedom due to Obama, The anti-Obama hyperbole aside, I feel dirty finding myself on the same side as right wingers, who have for 8 out of 10 years traded freedom for security. I think this swing by the right is opportunistic,not planned.

      • alanhawaii says:

        “I showed Pistole pointing to the FBI-created Metro attack” — Missed that one, and it sounds very interesting. Link, please. Thanks for your excellent work, all the time.

        • bmaz says:

          Hi Allan. Somebody emailed me a comment you made on SCOTUS bouncing the DeLay verdict. I pretty much agree it stands a very good chance of being tossed, but think it far more likely to be in a Texas appellate court as the charge was bases on a state statute. And would not be surprised if it is done simply on some spritzed up version of “the evidence cannot support the verdict”. Texas criminal appellate courts are notoriously conservative and impugn in their actions and that kind of basis makes it a lot less likely to ever gain any traction at SCOTUS. But that is pretty off the cuff; interested in what led you to the Citizens United type of considerations; interesting theory, although would have to be stretched because of the way Citizens United affects, or in some regards does not affect, direct corporate contributions to candidates as opposed to issue ads.

    • eblair says:

      The Right is not monolithic. And isn’t it just a wee bit possible that some people on The Right have realized the error of their ways prior to this? And isn’t it just a wee bit possible that some people on The Right are at this very moment realizing the error of their ways? To think that people first check their often inchoate and amorphous politics before they decide whether they like being abused in this way is ludicrous. And to maintain that there is much of a Right or Left in America anymore is a hopelessly implausible Corporate Media meme. It seems pretty damned clear to me, and I have been following this story since the beginning (FDL picked it up at least a week late. Indeed, I was wondering whether they would even pick it up at all.) that ALL of the initial outrage was by local news or pretty clearly non-partisan national news or by Matt Drudge.

      The real focus now should be on The Left. For anybody who claims to be on The Left and yet defends this complete outrage against civil liberties is a LIAR, a phony, and Trojan horse. cf. Joe Lieberman.

      • Neil says:

        Didn’t mean to imply the right is monolithic, if I did. Of course there are people who have had a change of heart about security versus personal liberty but I suspect those would be people who have had personal experiences as opposed to people who have not. The shift on the right on the issue is far more significant than the number of people who have had personal experiences. Clearly there are also folks on the right exploiting this for cheap political gain and those opinion-leaders’ followers – Red State, Malkin, Fox, Limbaugh.

        • eblair says:

          Nah, that doesn’t make much sense to me. You don’t need to actually have flown in the last few weeks. The mechanism is called sympathy. I’ve never agreed with Ann Coulter on anything so far as I know until now. I have no idea what it would be for her to exploit this for cheap political gain. What exactly does she gain? And you know what, if The Right decides that they are more opposed to this than The Left, I will take that as proof that The Left has been compromised. In the meantime, there are plenty plenty plenty of people on The True Left who are disgusted about this and see it for the fascist power grab that it is, a fascist power grab by a Democratic administration, and no amount of invoking the Koch brothers or anybody else is going to make fucks difference to how they see it. Those who want to pretend that the Koch brothers are somehow behind this are the ones who we should really keep an eye on and whose motives are very very suspect.

          • Neil says:

            I can’t say specifically why Anne Coulter or any righty in the extreme rhetoric club has taken a u-turn on civil liberty versus safety but I don’t think I’d attribute any shift by her as driven by sympathy.

            • eblair says:

              I disagree. Sympathy is a nearly ubiquitous human mechanism. If somebody steps on someone’s foot, we wince a bit. That is all that I meant by sympathy. The point that you were trying to make and still trying to maintain is that it makes some big difference whether you had actually gone through the TSA since the changes. That I disagree with.

              • Neil says:

                So you’re going with 1) Anne Coulter and other right wing opinion-leaders are moved by sympathy for Americans being groped to reverse their long-standing position of security over individual civil rights and 2) the right wing is not being opportunistic by using this controversy against Obama. What’s makes you think so?

                • eblair says:

                  I’m not interested in going round and round with you. Sympathy just means you don’t have to have your toe stepped on to know what it feels like. Not all of the right wing is opposed to this. How many right wing Senators have come out against this? Name them. Let’s see your list. You seem to want to talk about the right wing. This thread was about debunking The Nation. Do you have any thoughts on how full of shit The Nation is? Do you have any thoughts on how full of shit CBS news is?

              • Fractal says:

                Those are incredibly vivid narratives from passengers who actually went thru the gate-grope. Your worst imaginings came true for those folks. Not sure I can fly again. Shit.

                • klynn says:

                  The narratives on the ACLU site would make an interesting and important follow-up post.

                  Thanks for the post EW. Great insight and clarity.

  29. fatster says:

    TSA does background checks on applicants for TSO positions, as stated on their website. Ah, but behold the exceptions:

    TSA worker accused of assault did jail time for stalking, harassment

    “‘ . . .misdemeanor harassing and stalking is not included on the TSA’s long list of “disqualifying offenses.”‘


  30. pseudonymousinnc says:

    It’s possible to think all of the following without self-contradiction:

    –that Tyner’s political activities and beliefs are a bit cranky;
    –that the new gropedown protocols made the headlines primarily because they affect a particular group of flyers previously oblivious to the existing treatment of other groups
    –that the right-wing call to privatise TSA functions would be worse than useless
    –that cranky Heinlein-reading software engineers’ preferred models of airline security are probably not optimal ones.


    –that the TSA is dysfunctional and excessively proceduralist and that “security theater” is ultimately futile.

    • Ann in AZ says:

      The part that always bothers me about calling for privatization of the TSA is that the reason that TSA exists is because of 9/11. Before that airports and the airlines paid private entities to do the security screening. Then after 9/11 got blamed on all the hijackers boarding those planes with no particular problems of getting thru security, it was decided to take that security out of the hands of some minimum wage, largely untrained work crews and make it a gov’t function. They’re going back to the future!

  31. klynn says:

    markpkessinger posted this on Wednesday:

    [Here is the response I posted to Ms. Marcus in the Post’s comments section.]

    I think what constitutes “immaturity” is for the country to allow policy to be driven by raw emotionalism and irrational fear rather than by a sober, data-driven analysis.

    According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, there are approximately 28,537 flights per day in the U..S. That means in the past nine years since 9/11, there have been over 93 million flights. In the same period, there have been three attempts to carry explosives onto commercial aircraft (none of which were successful): (1) Richard Reid, the “shoe-bomber,” (2) the London liquid bomb plot and (3) the more recent “underwear bomber.” So, based on three incidents, or 1 in 31 million, hundreds of millions of people are being asked to endure, respectively (1) the absurd ritual of removing belts and shoes, (2) having their shampoo confiscated if its half an ounce bigger than what is now permitted and (3) being subject to a virtual strip search or intrusive pat down, in effect being treated as if they were criminal suspects. Yet people still buy into the line that these things are “necessary to keep us safe.”

    The right to be secure in one’s person is surely at the heart of the Constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment stipulates the requirement of “probable cause,” which the courts in recent decades have relaxed to the lower standard of “reasonable suspicion.” In the case of airline passengers en masse, there is neither. But the TSA, by using the scanners and/or pat-downs, is effectively treating everyone as if they had reasonable suspicion sufficient to warrant a search of their persons.

    Given that it is generally accepted (intellectually if not always emotionally) that there is no possible way for the government to provide a 100% guarantee of safety, what, then, is a fair margin of risk? With a rate of occurrence over a nine year period of 1 in 31 million, WITHOUT (prior to) the scanners and/or newly intrusive pat downs, I would say we are doing a fine job already, and that we don’t need to go around instituting new procedures every time an incident occurs (and there will, inevitably, be more occurrences). How “safe” do we really need to be?

    Finally, the question begs: if a rate of occurrence of 1 in 31 million rises to a level of risk sufficient to broadly abrogate citizens’ rights under the Constitution, what, then, can the government not justify in the name of “safety” or “security?” At that point, we’ve pretty much defined out of existence the possibility of any search under any circumstance being deemed unreasonable.

    So, no, Ms. Marcus, the issue is not one of “immaturity” on the part of those who are opposed to the new machines and/or pat downs. But there may well be a maturity issue with those blindly accept anything the government tries to impose upon us (and anything former government officials are getting rich from selling to us) in the name of “safety,” when they have never actually remotely made that case.
    11/24/2010 1:39:49 AM

    This is a great response to The Nation piece as well.

    Thanks for posting this markpkessinger.

  32. rosalind says:

    ot-ish: something’s up in Escondido (adjacent to all those suspect Oceansiders /s). a naturalized U.S. citizen from Serbia has been busted for possession of explosives, including PETN. Favorite quote in the article:

    The house came to the attention of authorities when a gardener was hurt in an explosion.

    i keep picturing the poor gardener going into the shed with the suspect yelling after “no, no, not THAT fertilzer”.

    the article does not say how the gardener is doing, so the above is written in the spirit that he is OK.

  33. Fractal says:

    Glad to see this thread persisted through overnight. Has anybody heard of passengers being told that the millimeter wave X-ray backscatter porno-scanners actually do not create any radiation risk because they are “only radio waves?” I know somebody who went through a scanner yesterday (11/25) at National Airport in Arlington, VA (DCA) because TSA told the passenger that there was no radiation danger because the machine used “radio waves.” Is that the new lie TSA is using to avoid gridlock at the gate and to cut down on the opt-outs?

    • PJEvans says:

      Yeah, and sunburns are not radiation burns, either.
      At some point they’re going to try that line on someone with a background in physics, who understands what ‘THz radiation’ actually is – and they’ll get told where to put that ‘radio waves’ language.

      • eblair says:

        Well, having studied mucho physics, I can tell you all the basics about radiation, but you really need a biology/physiology/medicine person and even then you need one who knows a lot of physics also and even then you need one who is actually up on all the latest studies and theory. My sense is the people who are most qualified to address the question probably have enough intellectual humility to refrain from giving any answer that a layman would find particularly helpful. The dearth of experts being quoted is due to real communal ignorance rather than the usual crappy reporting.

      • Fractal says:

        Thanks, PJ. Have you heard of that cover story being used at other airports? I knew at one point but forgot that there are two different types of full-body scanners. This news clip from NYT states as fact that only one machine, the X-ray “backscatter” machine, uses radiation, while the other machine uses “millimeter-wave” radio waves. The same story reported that about half of the machines (211 out of 385) use X-rays, while the other half (174 out of 385), use radio waves.

        But your point is that the tera-hertz (THz) frequency of the millimeter-wave machines could be as dangerous to certain parts of the body as X-rays. The X-ray “backscatter” machines were apparently invented over 30 years ago.

  34. fatster says:

    Wonder what these web sites have to do with national security.

    Homeland Security shuts down dozens of Web sites without court order


    Oh, and Obama just got hit in the mouth with a baseball, requiring lotsa stitches (rawstory “developing,” so no link yet).

  35. Gitcheegumee says:

    I am quite taken aback that this issue has NOT been exploited by O’Keefe and company “teabuggers”….TSAbuggers?

    IIRC,seems they were held in high esteem by Drudge ,Breitbart, and their ilk.

    • eblair says:

      From what I can tell, there just as much diversity of thought among self described Tea Baggers as there is among self described FDLers. Not a very strong statement, but true nonetheless.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        Perhaps…but just consider the visuals of the Pimpostor and his paramour going through the pat downs and xrated scanning.


  36. jerry says:

    Hi Emptywheel, I’m with you up until this:

    “Sure, the question Ames and Levine ask might be worth asking–in a tweet or a personal blog post.”

    I think tweeting this sort of innuendo is just as bad if not worse than posting the whole article.

    Tweet: Maybe EmptyWheel is a Koch funded sleeper agent. Anybody checked that out?

    ReTweets follow.

  37. fatster says:

    Well, the roles are definitely expanding. “Homeland security” has grown from concern with international terrists to illegal file-sharers to environmental documentarists.

    “The Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security appears to be at least as heavily focused on anti-oil and gas documentaries as it is on international terrorism. In October, it was revealed that the department had declared the documentary Coal Country to be a “potential catalyst for inspiring ‘direct action’ protests or even sabotage against facilities, machinery, and/or corporate headquarters.”‘


  38. fatster says:

    Why the TSA pat-downs and body scans are unconstitutional

    “Although the Supreme Court hasn’t evaluated airport screening technology, lower courts have emphasized, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in 2007, that “a particular airport security screening search is constitutionally reasonable provided that it ‘is no more extensive nor intensive than necessary, in the light of current technology, to detect the presence of weapons or explosives.’ ”

    “In a 2006 opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, then-Judge Samuel Alito stressed that screening procedures must be both “minimally intrusive” and “effective” – in other words, they must be “well-tailored to protect personal privacy,” and they must deliver on their promise of discovering serious threats.”