My Theory of TSA Arrest Powers, By Mike Elk (Mr.)
What could be worse than a self-righteous TSA agent?
Answer: A TSA agents' union advocate.
One such arrives, dripping with angry entitlement on behalf of genital-pokers and prosthesis-fondlers everywhere, via In These Times. His name is Mike Elk, and he is concerned, very concerned, on behalf of our nation's TSA agents:
“A lot of people take this job very seriously—any vagina into which I stick my fingers could be my last,” said Heydrich Thomas, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) baggage screener who works at New York City's JFK airport and is also local union leader.
OK, OK, Thomas didn't actually say that in Elk's article — even though he may as well have. Thomas said "any bag I open could be my last." That prospect deeply concerns Mike Elk (Mr.), who emphasizes that the many guns TSA agents find every week (to say nothing, one supposes, of the many they don't find) illustrates the "dangerous nature of their jobs." Oddly, Mike Elk offers no evidence whatsoever that any TSA agents have actually been injured the course of searching Americans — just as the TSA offers no evidence that its search procedures has actually halted any terrorist attacks.
What are Mike Elk's more specific concerns? Well, he's upset that some TSA "supervisors are former military members who create a hostile work environment for employees." You know, military members — bad people. Bad people who, despite potentially having some relevant experience and training in leadership and threat detection as a result of a military background, have very little regard for the feelings and dignity-rights of the sort of people who are recruited via pizza boxes into positions of authority over strangers. Mike Elk is also very concerned because TSA agents tell him that they are being brutalized by uppity Americans:
TSA employees told In These Times that on a daily basis, workers are shouted at and have obscenities hurled at them by airline passengers upset for following TSA search procedures. Several workers complained that on several occasions airline passengers had physically assaulted TSA workers, but the passengers were allowed to board flights because TSA screeners are unable to arrest passengers who assault them.
Note that Mike Elk believes that (1) TSA agents are telling the truth about being assaulted, and (2) TSA agents understand what "assault" means, not to mention (3) we should give a shit about citizens cursing at polyester-clad strangers empowered by the federal government to grope their children. Some of us are more skeptical on each of those points. After all, we know that TSA agents think that reciting the Fourth Amendment is "disorderly conduct," that objecting to a government employee sliding her fingers between your labia is "defamation" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress," that being in the same aisle as brown people is "reasonable suspicion," that a small toy hammer used as a comfort object by a severely disabled man is a "weapon," and that traveling in the United States of America is a "privilege." So you'll pardon me, Mr. Elk, if I question both TSA agents' veracity and their grasp of legal terminology like "assault."
What does Mike Elk (Mr.) want, anyway? Well, he seems to want to give TSA agents more power. Specifically, he wants the United States to confer upon TSA agents the power to arrest Americans:
TSA cannot legally arrest or detain power under powers granted to it by the federal government; in order to make arrests, TSA workers must call local police situated in the airport.
TSA workers' inability to detain or arrest people also hinders their ability to protect airlines in general. “My job is to stand in the exit doors that passengers from arriving flights are leaving. I am supposed to stop people from entering the airport through those doors, but if somebody tries to run through those doors, all I can do is yell at them to stop and call the police,” said one TSA employee who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job.
If they only had that power, TSA agents could feel swell again. They could arrest people themselves for "assault" and "disorderly conduct" and for having sequential checks or carrying too much cash or for generally failing to respect their authority, rather than waiting for police officers trained (sort of, occasionally) in crime detection and law enforcement.
What else does Mike Elk want? Well, he wants Americans to adjust their priorities. Just as the TSA wants Americans to return to the days of unquestioning compliance, Mike Elk wants Americans to focus not so much on the fact that TSA agents are making money by subjecting them to demeaning and largely pointless searches, but on the fact that it's an unpleasant job, and agents need a better contract:
While there has been a very high degree of concern among progressives about the search policies of TSA, the often brutal working conditions of 44,000 people charged with protecting our airports have largely gone unnoticed. If those conditions had received as much media attention as the search procedures they are charged with implementing, it's possible America's newly unionized airport screeners might have had a first contract by now.
Damn those selfish Americans! Damn them for thinking that TSA agents are making money by subjecting Americans to unwarranted abuse in the name of insipid security theater! Damn them for thinking that TSA agents across America are drunk with power, largely incompetent to conduct their mostly symbolic job, and subject to very little scrutiny from a mostly canine news media! Oh, won't somebody think of the gropers?
Well, Mike Elk, I have thought about it. I've thought about the plight of people who have decided that it's okay to take a paycheck to promote the security state, advance the cause of unquestioning compliance with government demands, demean travelers without just cause, and stand in as feckless scarecrows. I've thought considerably about it. And now I invite you to examine my wellspring of sympathy, and do so methodically and carefully.
I'll tell you just where to find it. You're going to need those gloves.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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