The latest scare tactic employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is that al Qaeda operatives (and by implication, others) are considering implanting bombs surgically into the bodies of suicide bombers and sending them off on commercial air carriers. This scenario — similar to a scheme in the 2001 movie Stiletto Dance — while far-fetched, may indeed be under consideration by one or more terrorists somewhere in the world. Who knows what bizarre schemes and hypotheticals terrorists and wannabees talk about sitting around the dinner table?
The problem is, whenever some new terrorist plot falls into TSA’s in-basket – no matter how far-fetched or hare-brained – it quickly becomes the basis for new and more intrusive techniques to which the agency subjects the flying public. That this then leads to calls for enhanced budgets for TSA is axiomatic.
The timing of TSA’s release of this latest “plot” is suspect, considering the recent and substantial criticism to which TSA has been subject because of its highly questionable tactics; such as repeated pat downs of small children and targeting diapers worn by cancer-ridden octogenarians. No doubt, TSA Administrator John Pistole made sure the “bomb implant” reports were made available quickly to supporters in Congress and the White House.
Even as TSA continues to employ every scare tactic it can muster to justify its existence and large budget, it is extending its reach far beyond the airport checkpoints that have given rise to so many horror stories of invasive pat-downs and naked body scans. At TSA, mission creep has become an art form.
TSA and agents with its parent, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), now consider it their mission to stop private vehicles on highways and search them. They have also begun to search bus and train passengers, sometimes after they exit the carriers; and the feds believe also they have authority to search people at shopping malls and elsewhere, such as sporting events. It is only a short step from such expansive ideas, to the notion that to protect the country, TSA and DHS have to be able enter private homes and businesses in order to ensure there are no terrorist tools therein.
The moniker given to this expansive TSA/DHS program is “VIPR,” short for “Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response”; and the program is moving forward in high gear. According to The Daily Caller, “TSA conducted more than 8,000 VIPR operations in the past 12 months alone.” One of these operations took place on a stretch of Interstate 20 west of Atlanta, Georgia last September; no terrorists or bombs were discovered, but rush hour traffic was brought to a standstill.
The TSA is now rolling out mobile body scanners to set up at these highway check points. After all, a terrorist could just as easily have a bomb implanted in themselves and use a car to transport it rather than a plane. The Cato Institute’s Jim Harper noted two years ago that the “natural illogic of VIPR stings is that terrorism can strike anywhere, so VIPR teams should search anywhere.” Harper was eerily prescient in 2009.
So long as the American people permit themselves to be controlled by public servants enforcing public policies based on abject fear of “terrorists,” the only certainty is that mission creep at TSA and DHS will continue.
By Bob Barr – The Barr Code