The Transportation Security Administration has never been more than security theater.
Ever since the TSA was created, it has had problems. Whether employees were stealing from luggage or getting arrested for a variety of crimes, including child pornography, it has always been more about security theater than catching terrorists.
With each passing year, the theater increases while our privacy diminishes. It has caused a decrease in tourism and, increasingly, it looks like the federal government is happy to turn away our allies as well as Americans with more and more invasions in privacy.
First, there was the fear mongering after 9/11. If you are kept in a perpetual state of fear, you won’t question why you need to show identification when flying internally. You’ll happily take your shoes off. You won’t carry liquids in a container more than 3.4 ounces because bringing four 3.4 ounze bottles isn’t a threat.
You’ll shrug when you hear stories about children on the no-fly list because its name is similar to someone who might be associated with terrorism.
You no longer question any action from the government because it has successfully spent 16 years scaring you into fearing a boogeyman who is unlikely to harm you. There are plenty of other things more likely to kill you.
The new form says nothing about its voluntary nature until the very last sentence of the fine print on the second page. Presumably, the DHS is hoping applicants will fill the whole thing out before getting to the statements saying they don’t have to. The wording also hints not filling out the form completely will result in a less favorable review of the application. The terms “delay” and “denial” are placed in very close proximity to the word “voluntary.”
Under the new procedures, consular officials can request all prior passport numbers, five years’ worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history.
I don’t know what all of my passport numbers are and I’ve only had five.
I have literally created accounts on dozens of social media sites. Many don’t exist anymore or I don’t visit them. I haven’t a clue what the account names or passwords were.
Visitors, even some in the visa waiver program, need to answer these questions. Gathering social media accounts is done under the guise of rooting out terrorism and creating guilt by association.
I’m so happy terrorists have social media accounts under their real names, don’t know what metadata is and gleefully discuss their plots online where they can easily be found. This is all about fear, not security.
“Individuals who fail to submit this form or who do not provide all the requested information may be denied a US visa. Although furnishing this information is voluntary, failure to provide this information may delay or prevent the processing of an individual via application,” the applicants are warned.
In the past five years, I’ve had about a dozen email addresses and several cell phone numbers. The change in phone numbers were due to different companies’ incompetence and not me being a terrorist, but would that matter if I was stopped and questioned?
Can you remember 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history? I can’t. If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s unlikely you are going to remember every single time you traveled.
I have a friend who travels 15-20 times per year for work all over the world. He’s done this for 20 years. I know he can’t remember all this precise information.
Complying with these requests is not about rooting out terrorists. The U.S. government knows this. It is about something more nefarious. It’s connecting you and your comments together to build a profile. It will give the government a better understanding of what you like, who your friends are, what organizations you support, and where you stand politically.
J. Edgar Hoover was very good at gathering this information the hard way. Now they want you to turn it over yourself by asking, “you aren’t a terrorist are you?” The fear of that association will get most to turn over the information.
There is also the consideration of the cost to process the information. It must be processed before the person travels to the United States. According to a post on Slashdot, there are more than 30 million passengers per year who travel through JFK airport.
That means 82,191 passengers need vetting each day.
Assuming they each take one hour (e.g. each person can do 8 per day) and you have 3 8 hour shifts, you would need 3,424 people just to handle the traffic at JFK.
And we dont even account for holidays,sick days, etc, etc. Then there will be the supervisors, computer support, Managers, payroll, etc etc etc so lets take that to 4,000 people.
Who is going to pay for the massive staff required to process these applications in a timely manner? Or is the U.S. purposely trying to kill the tourism industry?
These policies will kill the American tourist industry.
People aren’t coming here anymore. I can’t blame them. As the United States turns isolationist and cowers in fear, it will fall behind while the world moves on without us. All in the name of fear.