As far as I can discover, Janet “There’s Nothing To See Here” Napolitano’s newly created policy of feeling up and peeking under the skirts of random airline passengers has not resulted in the apprehension of a single terrorist.
Although Napolitano’s brainstorm—the Spanish tormenta en el cerebro is more evocative—gave us longer delays, missed flights, frustration, embarrassment, and ill will, and it hasn’t caught even one mad bomber, it has provided one positive benefit: a career path for perverts. The only thing this embattled minority had going for them previously was women’s prison guard. Now they can find ready employment at at any airport across the land. Celebrate diversity!
But to the statistics. The TSA’s policy of Grope, Peek, and Grab (GPG) is, of course, a screening program. Another screening program with which you might be familiar is prostate cancer checks, an examination which is now not that different from being allowed to fly by our beneficent, all loving government.
The possible result of any screen are four:
- The screen catches what it’s looking for. We’ll call this true positives. Thus, when the TSA agent snaps on his rubber glove and lovingly slides his lubricated—-wait a minute: that’s the PSA, not TSA, test. It’s so easy to be confused! For the TSA test, the agent snaps on his rubber glove and lovingly slides his non-lubricated hands over the parts of your body reserved previously for your husband or wife, he discovers that you have managed to wedge a destructive device into the folds of your shorts. The agent confiscates this device, an action which probably saves some lives. It is only “probably”, because we have not yet witnessed the use of a successful device, merely unsuccessful ones.
- The screen catches nothing, for there is nothing to catch. We’ll call this true negatives. The actions of the drooling TSA agent are the same as before. He comes at you with goggling eyes, rubs himself up one side, then down the other, only to discover no mysterious bulges (except in my case, of course). A search has been conducted, and nothing found. Disappoint abounds.
- The screen catches something innocuous. We’ll call this false positives. Same initial scenario: a guy who used to hang out in the airport toilets in a raincoat, but now wears a uniform and carries a gun, moves in for a leisurely grope. What’s this! Some gadget is discovered lurking in your smalls. You are disrobed—Marvin Gaye is pumped into the interrogation rooms—“We’re all sensitive people…”—and the gadget turns out to be a bobby pin pressed into service as a button, or something else the government had no business knowing about. Marvin Gaye is switched off, and a John Phillips Sousa tune escorts you from the room. No lives have been save, but at least you have been made to strip.
- The screen misses what it was supposed to have caught. We’ll call this the false negatives. Once more, the TSA agent pretends to be a fraternity member initiating pledges and tells the passenger to assume the position. Given the trajectory of Homeland Security pseudo-laws, the passenger will soon have to voice, “Thank you, sir! May I have another?” after each body part is poked. Failure to do so will be seen on par with “failing to cooperate with a law enforcement officer” (no snickering, please). But in spite of the earnestness of the TSA agent, regardless of his frequent forays into your foyer, he misses the destructive device you had hidden on you.
We judge the success of any screening program by inputing the true and false negatives and true and false positives into some fancy mathematical formula, which tells us whether the program has any skill. I have done this.
Conclusion: Napolitano’s GPG screening program has no skill. It has caught no one (no true positives), it has an incredibly high rate of pestering innocent passengers (nearly all true negatives), and when it does find something it always turns out to be harmless (a large number of false positives), and worst of all it has missed all instances of people truly sneaking on destructive devices (as far as we know).
Thus we can prove that the GPG program is a complete bust. It is inept, useless, and causes more harm than it says it prevents. The only possible argument that one can offer for continuing the GPG is that potential terrorists are dissuaded from flying because they might be searched. But I ask you: where is the empirical evidence for this statement? There is none. It is a belief, a model, unsupported by any observation.
Who can we blame for this predicament? Our founding fathers:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
See? Not one word about improper use of full body scanners or lubricating jelly.
Update My Marvin Gaye comment was prescient: I am listening now to WABC in New York (Saturday, 7:45 am) and they are playing a parody of the same Marvin Gaye song I had in mind.