Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Opt-Out Day Review

You'll see a lot of press about how noone opted out; the TSA Twitter account is retweeting like mad all the people happy about how quickly the lines went today. A closer review reveals that the the TSA turned off many backscatter machines—there was no need to opt out, so no one opted out. It goes very far to demonstrate how unnecessary these machines are: if the machines were really critical for safety, rather than for public relations, then one hopes TSA wouldn't play with our safety so. But when push came to shove, the TSA was more concerned about the threat to its illusion of security theater, rather than the threat of an attack by terrorists.


  1. That's a shallow argument. If the TSA said: "potentially catching a terrorist trumps everything else, and if there are massive disruptions today, so be it" - you'd be (justifiably) criticizing them. They're saying the opposite, and you criticize them for that.

    The simple fact is that they're doing the reasonable thing.

    There is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical in saying: "Usually very few people opt out, so we apply the scan/patdown policy; if on a specific day many people organize to opt out, that creates massive disruption that makes the policy unreasonably burdensome".

    You should actually be applauding the TSA for uncharacteristically taking into account the price of their policies. If they continue doing so, the way to revert the scan/patdown policy is one of these:

    - Make the TSA understand that the price in passengers' privacy and dignity is higher than the public agrees to. This is being done effectively by public shaming of TSA in the media.

    - Make the public understand that if they opt-out on a regular basis, not just once a year, then the policy will be reverted permanently.

  2. My point is if that the benefit of the Rapiscans and "enhanced pat-downs" can be safely disregarded on November 24 to avoid a publicity nightmare, they can be safely disregarded the rest of the year. TSA hasn't been considering the cost-benefit analysis except when the cost might have political consequences for TSA.

    I agree that if every day were Opt-Out Day, the TSA would be forced to admit that the policy doesn't work. For me, every day is Opt-Out Day, and it should be for you, too.