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Monday, May 07, 2012

Ugly TSA Episodes: Does China Have More Freedom Than the United States?

After living in China and traveling to many parts of Asia this past year, it was a real shock coming to the United States a few days ago. The feeling of helplessly facing unbridled power was greatest when encountering the TSA gang in the land of liberty. Going through security in China, an officially Communist nation, is a pleasant breeze. They are fast, friendly, and respectful of personal privacy, in my opinion. Not so TSA in the United States. Not only are lines longer and slower than in many Asian nations, so it seems to me, but the procedures and attitudes seem more like what one would expect from a totalitarian power.

After flying from Shanghai to San Francisco, TSA caused me to miss my connection to Salt Lake, resulting in an 8-hour delay for the next available flight. After waiting through a long line, I had the choice of doing the objectionable "nude scan" or having the objectionable personal pat down. I would have preferred the pat down as a matter or principle, but could see that time was running out and so, to save time, submitted sheepishly to the nude scanner. Unfortunately, I still had on a simple knee brace and a money bag. I offered to take them off and go through again, but they refused to consider that option. I wait to wait a long time for a personal pat down, and then that wasn't good enough, so they took me to a private screening room once it became available for a more invasive pat down. They had to thumb through my cash in the money belt and ask me questions about it. America is safer, but I missed my flight. Ugh.

And then this morning, the pat down in Salt Lake was way too personal. Offensive, invasive, abusive. Just an ugly experience. It was more invasive than the TSA group in San Francisco. Did you really have to prod and touch like that?

22 comments:

Jon said...

In my personal opinion, we do not live in a free nation. Yes, there are remnants of a free nation left, but, for the most part, we are worse off now than we were when we started (basically the first 10 amendments to the constitution have all been eviscerated, except for 1). A great video that goes over this is called "The End of America" by Naomi Wolf.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1294790/

AuthorandArtist said...

It breaks my heart reading your post, Jeff. I wish the TSA would be dismantled. It doesn't do much good, but only terrorizes it's own citizens. They are supposed to show a professionalism and a level of kindness, but I've almost always found them to be rude, with the exception of those working in the Portland Oregon airport, who were really nice. TSA, simply put, is an invasion of our privacy and are unconstitutional, an affront to the Bill of Rights. They have swept the fourth amendment under the rug, believing it does not apply to them. It's a sad state of affairs.

Jon said...

AuthorandArtist,

"believing it does not apply to them"

Because by their very existence, it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I've got no interest in defending the TSA; in fact, I think it's a waste of money and an invasion of privacy.

But I'm a little troubled that you're comparing freedom in China (positively!) with freedom in the US. Let's not forget that in the US you won't be whisked off to home imprisonment or a forced abortion.

The better question might be why the US has airport security that makes you feel like you're in a communist country.

Jon said...

Anonymous,

I've done quite a bit of study on freedom in America. I would have to say that most people won't be whisked off, but some will, not in great numbers, but the CIA/FBI has been known to assassinate Americans in the US. Also, there has been precedence of forced sterilizations, up to the 80s by the government. That could still be happening, just not for "public" knowledge like before. So, yes, maybe not as bad as some of the things that happens in China, but we are not the shiny city on the hill like we used to be.

A good patriot recognizes the good in their country, the good of people that fought for freedom before, and, perhaps most importantly, the current problems that their country currently faces. It seems many people like to put their head in the sand for the last one, because of the dangerous "exceptionalism" paradigm.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,

I now live in Hong Kong and completely agree with you. TSA is out of control - we are effectively terrorized now - by our own gov. The terrorists succeeded. Getting in and out of HK is fast and easy (especially once you have a HK ID) - and SAFE. And I do not feel like I'm in a police state. I dread traveling back and forth now...

Dan said...

yeah, thanks a lot conservatives.

Jon said...

Dan, long time no see. I love you man.

Considering Obama is worse than what Bush was on the civil liberties front I don't know why you blame only the conservatives. There's enough blame to go around.

Time to get out the left-right paradigm!

Anonymous said...

Jon,

If you read my comment closely, you'll notice that my complaint was not the identification of problems in the US, but the moral equivalence with China.

It is great to point out the current problems of the US, I just don't think it makes sense to compare us to a country without freedom of speech, etc.

In China, these type of comments might even be censored.

Jon said...

Anonymous,

True.

Peter LLC said...

Going through security in China, an officially Communist nation, is a pleasant breeze. They are fast, friendly, and respectful of personal privacy, in my opinion.

Hospitality has nothing to do with freedom, of course, but I wouldn't mind seeing more of both at US airports.

Michelle Glauser said...

Every time I travel, I wonder how long people are really going to put up with such ridiculousness.

Jon said...

Since we're on the topic of China, here's some interesting China censoring S Korean rivalry:

Everyone knows that Chinese media is heavily censored. I recently learned from my Chinese tutor, who is from Korea, that the South Korean media delights in spreading China-is-scary-and-weird stories, which tend to be censored in China. Here are examples:

Jon said...

Michelle Glauser,

Yeah, that's why I choose not to fly unless I really, really need to. Otherwise I drive.

YvonneS said...

While I worry that we have less freedom than many of us think we have and I do not like the long lines and surly TSA employees, I think there presence is evidence of the amount of freedom we have rather than of what we are losing. In China there are surveillance cameras everywhere. The ubiquitous spying on their own people is what makes it seem more peaceful. Their public face is all neat and clean and carefully maintained. Westerners rarely see what is behind the curtain.

Still I think the full body scanning machines are more about profits for the manufacturers than they are security. I think the security industry in this country has a vested interest it keeping everyone afraid.

Jay said...

Comparing the US and China is interesting, but to suggest in any way that we are less free is absurd, just as it is absurd to claim we are not a free nation or that the first ten amendments have been eviscerated. If you know of a country with more freedom, I suggest you move there. Some of you guys need to stop watching Glenn Beck. That said, I absolutely despise the TSA.

Anonymous said...

surveillance cameras in China may be more visible but here in U.S. don't let the clever way they are hidden lull you into thinking they don't exist. you'd be amazed how many there are in some of the least likely, and safest, places you'd expect.

Jon said...

Hey Jay, Your welcome to continue living in never never land if you wish. Yes, we have it pretty good here compared to the rest of the world, it's very hard to beat. But the bill of rights has been eviscerated for the most part, except for one, yes, there are still remnants there.

When you have a president that can unilaterally assassinate Americans and people aren't in an uproar you know your country has some serious problems.

YvonneS said...

"surveillance cameras in China may be more visible but here in U.S. don't let the clever way they are hidden lull you into thinking they don't exist. you'd be amazed how many there are in some of the least likely, and safest, places you'd expect."

I didn't say the cameras in China are visible, I said they are ubiquitous. Yes there are cameras in many places here as well. The only ones I am aware of that are put up by the government are the traffic cams. The ones at banks and retail stores and parking lots are owned and maintained by private business entities. The ones on residences are belong to property owners. As far as I know, and I could be mistaken, there is no government sponsored program to put cameras on every street corner. Nevertheless the security industry in the United States is huge. People should be alarmed.

CF said...

Henry Kissinger's recent invasive pat-down puts an exclamation point on your post, Jeff. How ironic is that? Great timing!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Make no mistake, we are in a police state. The TSA are not there to find terrorists, or to make air travel safer; their purpose is intimidate the prisoners. If they were interested in finding terrorists, they would not be molesting children, elders, and attractive women. A 70 year old woman did not fly a plane into the towers, neither did a six year old girl. If you want to get past the TSA unmolested, dress like a Muslim.