Congressional Staffers Embarrassed by “Enhanced Pat-Down” Demonstration

Laura Rozen at Politico:

The comprehensive briefing of House staff, by a TSA deputy, covered everything – the threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, screening procedures, pat-downs (standard and enhanced) – “the whole works,” one House staffer who attended the briefing told POLITICO.

He said that several House staffers were uncomfortable and averted their eyes when the TSA demonstrated an enhanced pat-down in the room of 200 people.

“The dumbest part: they did two pat-down demonstrations – male on male, and female on female,” the House staffer said. And they used a young female TSA volunteer “and in front of a room of 200 people, they touched her breasts and her buttocks. People were averting their eyes. The TSA was trying to demonstrate ‘this is not so bad,’ but it made people so uncomfortable to watch, that people were averting their eyes.”

From CNN:

“I feel bad for the girl they put in front of 50 people when they were doing a pat down,” said one Republican senate staff member about the female TSA employee who was part of the demonstration, reflecting the concerns of many passengers about being touched in their private areas by security agents.

However, a Democratic staffer who was there said it was all very professional.

“I don’t think there was an emotional reaction one way or another,” the aide said. “They explained — based on what we know and what the threat is — we think this is the best way to mitigate the risks.”

Oh Great. The Democrat sounds cold and efficient, and the Republican sounds empathetic.

One Democratic aide said the TSA’s effort to boost security has become a public relations problem because images of the tough new procedures are disturbing to many people.

“It’s always tough for the government to get their side of the story out compared to how quickly someone with YouTube video, Facebook, Twitter, all those things, can. For all the things they are trying to do to get the word out, one single isolated incident gets a lot more press than all the efforts they’re trying to do,” the aide said.

Oh Gee, it’s sooooo hard for the government to get their message out, poor babies. They only have the entire corporate media at their disposal when they want to “catapult the propaganda.” If that isn’t a match for social media, we’re in a lot worse shape than I thought.

Meanwhile, very important Villager people won’t have to have their genitals groped:

Cabinet secretaries, top congressional leaders and an exclusive group of senior U.S. officials are exempt from toughened new airport screening procedures when they fly commercially with government-approved federal security details.

Aviation security officials would not name those who can skip the controversial screening, but other officials said those VIPs range from top officials like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and FBI Director Robert Mueller to congressional leaders like incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who avoided security before a recent flight from Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

Oh well, as long as it’s only the serfs who are subject to gate rape, then no problem. We wouldn’t want Tim Geithner to be humiliated by having his crotch grabbed in public, now would we?

Emptywheel tries to calculate how many of us will be groped over the Thanksgiving break.

This is an open thread.

Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy. Many Americans are unaware that a great deal of archival information on the assassination and on Kennedy’s administration has become available at the National Archives in the recent years.

A number of important, even scholarly, books have now been published based on that new information. Unfortunately, more records–especially CIA records–remain hidden, but it seems clear that, as a Congressional Commission affirmed years ago, it is highly unlikely that Oswald acted alone. In fact, elements of our government were probably complicit in the assassination of a U.S. President. Here are some of the best of recent books dealing with the JFK assassination.

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, by James W. Douglass

The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by David E. Kaiser

The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence, by Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin

Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK, by John Newman

Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, by David Talbot

Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years by Russ Baker

Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA, by Jefferson Morley

Yesterday, the Atlantic published a piece by Jefferson Morley (the last author on my list): The Kennedy Assassination: 47 Years Later, What Do We Really Know?


…for all the crazy ideas out there, there remain sober and careful alternative views of the assassination. These theories may or may not ultimately be right, but they represent the continuation of serious discussion of the subject.

He then debunks “five common myths about the state of the debate itself.” It would be very hard to excerpt anything from this article, you really need to read the entire thing. But here is just a taste:

Myth 3. No one high-up in the U.S. government ever thought there was a conspiracy behind JFK’s murder.

Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, publicly endorsed the Warren Commissions conclusion that Oswald acted alone. Privately, LBJ told many people, ranging from Atlantic contributor Leo Janos to CIA director Richard Helms, that he did not believe the lone-gunman explanation.

The president’s brother Robert and widow Jacqueline also believed that he had been killed by political enemies, according to historians Aleksandr Fursenko and Tim Naftali. In their 1999 book on the Cuban missile crisis, One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964, they reported that William Walton — a friend of the First Lady — went to Moscow on a previously scheduled trip a week after JFK’s murder. Walton carried a message from RFK and Jackie for their friend, Georgi Bolshakov, a Russian diplomat who had served as a back-channel link between the White House and the Kremlin during the October 1962 crisis: RFK and Jackie wanted the Soviet leadership to know that “despite Oswald’s connections to the communist world, the Kennedys believed that the president was felled by domestic opponents.”

In the Senate, Democrats Richard Russell of Georgia and Russell Long of Louisiana both rejected official accounts of the assassination. In the executive branch, Joseph Califano, the Secretary of Army in 1963 and later Secretary of Health Education and Welfare, concluded that Kennedy had been killed by a conspiracy. In the White House, H.R. Haldeman, chief of staff to President Richard Nixon, wanted to reopen the JFK investigation in 1969. Nixon wasn’t interested.

Please read the whole thing. IMHO, 1963 is the year when everything started to go to hell for our country. The murderers were allowed to go free and even stay within our government, and today we are living with the results of allowing corruption to run rampant without any accountability.

I know not everyone likes Chris Hedges’ writing as much as I do, but please read his latest column at Truthdig if you can. It is depressing reading, I admit, but I believe Hedges is right and should be heeded. Again, a brief excerpt can’t do the piece justice, but I’ll include one anyway.

There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations, remains passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.

The liberal class, which Barack Obama represents, was never endowed with much vision or courage, but it did occasionally respond when pressured by popular democratic movements. This was how we got the New Deal, civil rights legislation and the array of consumer legislation pushed through by Ralph Nader and his allies in the Democratic Party. The complete surrendering of power, however, to corporate interests means that those of us who seek nonviolent yet profound change have no one within the power elite we can trust for support. The corporate coup has ossified the structures of power. It has obliterated all checks on corporate malfeasance. It has left us stripped of the tools of mass organization that once nudged the system forward toward justice.

Obama knows where power lies and serves these centers of power. The tragedy—if tragedy is the right word—is that Obama, after selling his soul to corporations, has been discarded. Corporate power doesn’t need brand Obama anymore. They have found new brands in the tea party, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Obama has been abandoned by those who once bundled contributions for him by the millions of dollars. Obama and the Democratic Party will, I expect, spend the next two years being even more obsequious to corporate power. Obama clearly loves the pomp and privilege of statecraft that much. But I am not sure it will work.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing. We are approaching the point of no return–we may even have passed that point, as Hedges argues.

This morning I came across this op-ed from a PA newspaper. I think it really expresses what we saw in Obama early on, and what so many other people seemed not to see.

Above all others: Obama’s arrogance, by Ralph R. Reiland, associate professor of economics, Robert Morris University

Reiland argues that Obama’s inflated self-esteem is a huge problem. You’ll recognize the quotes, but Reiland ties them all together nicely. Here is just one:

Patrick Gaspard, former community organizer, ex-lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union and now director of Obama’s Office of Political Affairs, is quoted in a 2008 New Yorker article describing what Obama said to him during his job interview: “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

As much of the world is now beginning to understand, Obama’s opinion of himself is not very accurate, and unfortunately he has surrounded himself with sycophants who reinforce his false self-image to the detriment of our country.

Long-time media sycophant Marc Ambinder presents the White House case for gate rapes (h/t Emptywheel) at The National Journal:

The White House and the Department of Homeland Security indicated today that they won’t yield to demands to amend new airline passenger screening rules that have been decried as wildly intrusive.

On the contrary, administration officials are quietly and aggressively defending the policies against what they see as a media frenzy of distorted information. 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.

They also disputed the very notion of a public backlash, even as those words played ubiquitously on news tickers and as video parodies of the Transportation Safety Administration were being emailed around the globe. Before press coverage of the new rules reached a roar late last week, TSA received only 700 complaints nationwide about its procedures, an administration official said. The official insisted on anonymity because the information was not intended for public release. The issue is sensitive because physical space intrusions are just about the last thing an administration cast by Republicans as prone to governmental overreach needs.

Talk about clueless. I can’t imagine how Obama and his Chicago gang actually believe he can be reelected with such tone-deaf strategies.

At FDL, Emptywheel is doing yeoman’s work on the TSA story. Here’s a bit of her latest post: 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.

She is particularly angered by Obama’s claim that naked body scanners and crotch gropes are the only techniques that can prevent attacks like the one attempted by the underpants bomber:

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.

If only fighting terrorism were the real goal of these police state tactics. Unfortunately, the goal (IMNSHO) is to scare the bejesus out of innocent American citizens to soften them up for even more invasive tactics to come.

Remember how Obama acknowledged that he doesn’t have to go through the nightmare of naked body scanning like the “small people”? Ian Welsh reminds us that most rich people don’t have to deal with this crap either–it’s just us serfs.

If important people don’t have skin in the game, things don’t get fixed and the quality of whatever experience they don’t experience doesn’t get better. Everyone, most especially the rich and powerful, must fly on the same planes, must be subject to the draft, must have their kids go to the same schools and so on. Only then will the general quality be high.

To the extent possible the rich have created an entire alternative structure: they don’t fly on the same planes, their kids don’t go to the same schools, they don’t fight in the wars, they have hotels that you will never enter (can you afford 50K a night?) They live in a system parallel to that of ordinary people.

The rich must never, ever, be allowed to opt out of the shared social and economic experience. Fly first class? Sure, but not on private jets. Drive in a limo? Sure, but not fly in a helicopter avoiding congestion. Get a room to themselves in the hospital? Sure, but not jump the queue for treatment in front of anyone.

Too late, that ship has sailed.

Okay, I’ve probably thoroughly depressed you, and I’m sorry for that. But still, where there’s life, there’s hope. Maybe you guys can find some cheerful news even though I couldn’t. What stories and blogs are you following today?