White House: Only 170,000 People Have Had Genitalia Groped by Complete Stranger in Last Week

The White House has started a pushback campaign on gate rape that is reminiscent of “Recovery Summer” or “Mission Accomplished” for its credibility.

It consists of a number of things, in addition to the inevitable army of talking-point-people using the word “enhanced” the same way Cheney did.

First, there are statistics. Such as their claim that only 1% of people undergo pat-downs.

In airports where body screening technology is available, about one in every 100 passengers are given pat-downs, according to another official, Sean Smith, the DHS spokesperson.

Which may or may not contradict their other claim, that less than half of one percent of all air passengers have undergone “enhanced pat-downs.”

For instance, the administration noted that fewer than one half of one percent of the 34 million passengers who traveled on airplanes in or to the U.S. last week were subjected to crotch-area pat-downs.

So the White House’s idea of effective pushback against objections to this invasive scrutiny? “Only 170,000 people have had their genitalia groped by a complete stranger employed by the federal government in the last week. Big. Fucking. Deal.”

That sort of seems like a lot of junk-touching in just one week.

They’re also citing the polls and the numbers of complaints from before the junk-touching started in earnest so as to claim that no one much cares about being groped.

But here’s the thing I find most offensive.

The president said this weekend that while he understands the “frustrations” that the policies seem to have caused, “at this point, TSA in consultation with counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.” [my emphasis]

Um, no. You see, after the underwear bombing, we had a whole bunch of studies that examined what went wrong and what might have been effective against the underwear bomber. And the answer–in the face of clear fuck-ups by the NCTC and CIA (and to a much lesser degree, the FBI for which John Pistole then served as second-in-command)–the answer was to stop fucking up and start sharing information. To claim that junk-touching is the only thing that would be effective at stopping the undie bomber, when we know that the intelligence community had already identified Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab but failed to stop him, is an out and out lie.

Mind you, crotch groping might be effective if al Qaeda or another terrorist organization decided to launch the same type of attack, this time from within the United States. Or it might be effective against another sort of attack we haven’t yet thought up. Then again, it pointedly wouldn’t be effective against an attack by an organization that has proven itself capable of adjusting and exploiting new weaknesses–that is, the organization we’re fighting.

But to claim crotch-groping in the United States is the only procedure that would have been effective against an attack launched by an identified terrorist flying from another country, which is, after all “the kind of threat we saw in the Christmas Day bombing,” when we know the procedure that would have been effective is in fact simply sharing the information we had already collected?

That’s a pretty brutal pinch of the ‘nads.

John Pistole Ignored DHS Advice to Warn about Gate Rape

Apparently, John Pistole not only promised to Congress–but failed to deliver–public education about why gate rape was necessary. But he ignored advice from DHS to provide a public explanation in advance, too.

In an hour-long discussion with reporters, Pistole said media officials at the Department of Homeland Security had urged him to “get out ahead” of the potential controversy by formally announcing plans for enhanced body searches and the use of new x-ray and radio-wave imaging devices at 70 airports beginning in November.

But doing so would have provided a “roadmap or blueprint for terrorists” to avoid detection by using other airports where the new technology wasn’t in place, Pistole said.

As you can see, he’s belatedly trying to do that education now.

Aside from being too little too late, consider what this says about Pistole’s relationship with the citizens who employ him. Regardless of his “risk based” assessment that he had to keep secrets from the terrorists, don’t Americans have the right to know what will happen to them at the airport?

John Pistole Wants Us to Be Afraid of His Shadow

I’m working on a longer post on John Pistole, the head of Transportation Security Administration who ordered the TSA to touch your junk.

But in the meantime I wanted to point out something appalling about his recent testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee. In it, he says the following to justify expanding the use of air marshal patrols at mass transit locations.

Another recent case highlights the importance of mass transit security. On October 27, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a Pakistan-born naturalized U.S. citizen for attempting to assist others whom he believed to be members of al Qaida in planning multiple bombings at Metrorail stations in the Washington, D.C., area. During a sting operation, Farooque Ahmed allegedly conducted surveillance of the Arlington National Cemetery, Courthouse, and Pentagon City Metro stations, indicated that he would travel overseas for jihad, and agreed to donate $10,000 to terrorist causes. A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, returned a three-count indictment against Ahmed, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility, and attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings to cause mass casualties at D.C.-area Metrorail stations.

While the public was never in danger, Ahmed’s intentions provide a reminder of the terrorist attacks on other mass transit systems: Madrid in March 2004, London in July 2005, and Moscow earlier this year. Our ability to protect mass transit and other surface transportation venues from evolving threats of terrorism requires us to explore ways to improve the partnerships between TSA and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement, and other mass transit stakeholders. These partnerships include measures such as Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams we have put in place with the support of the Congress.

Pistole suggests we need to be worried about mass transit attacks because Ahmed Farooque was arrested for planning what he thought was an al Qaeda attack on the DC area Metro.

But of course–as Pistole concedes–there was never an attack. Instead, there was an FBI sting, set up back when Pistole was still at the FBI. We have zero indication that Farooque would have targeted the Metro on his own, and even less that that’s what al Qaeda is currently targeting. Nevertheless, Pistole chooses to point to it–a planned attack entirely of the FBI’s own making–as a reminder of the threat to mass transit.

Now I’m not suggesting that our subway and rail systems aren’t exposed to attack. Indeed, that’s part of the reason why the “gate rape” to get on airplanes is so absurd, given how unprotected rail transport is by comparison. (Though a smart terrorist would probably choose another kind of venue entirely–like a football game or Wal-Mart on Black Friday–for an attack.)

But I am suggesting it is absolutely inappropriate for Pistole to point to the FBI’s own–his own–sting as evidence that we need to increase domestic surveillance. Next thing you know, the FBI will stage a sting involving Disney World so it can justify strip-searching children before they see Mickey.

Update: Pistole is out with a new statement suggesting he may back down.

We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve. We are constantly evaluating and adapting our security measures, and as we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security.   In all such security programs, especially those that are applied nation-wide, there is a continual process of refinement and adjustment to ensure that best practices are applied and that feedback and comment from the traveling public is taken into account. This has always been viewed as an evolving program that will be adapted as conditions warrant, and we greatly appreciate the cooperation and understanding of the American people.

We cannot forget that less than one year ago a suicide bomber with explosives in his underwear tried to bring down a plane over Detroit. The terrorists allegedly behind the thwarted cargo attempt last month are out there bragging about how they will strike again.

We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren’t necessary but that just isn’t the case. [my emphasis]

But his logic still amounts to “we need to feel up granny to try to find explosives worn by a terrorist entering the US from a place where they don’t feel up granny and because terrorists threaten to use the still-unsecured package shipping system.” That is, “because we’re not prepared to get the real terrorists’ flying or sending packages, we have to feel up granny.”