#1 By: Cory Doctorow, September 5th, 2013 14:46
#2 By: Neil Mcconnell, September 5th, 2013 15:13
This seems like the kind of problem that will correct itself, as soon as a terrorist ponies up the $85 to enjoy reduced scrutiny at the gate
#3 By: Ian McLoud, September 5th, 2013 15:27
Wrong. The point is that security theater ≠ security. Reduced theater for the rich doesn't mean the security itself is reduced.
The TSA is not catching terrorists, they're making millions for private corporations while compromising our dignity and civil rights.
Your personal security is far more likely to be compromised by the TSA than protected by the TSA.
Don't check any valuables. Watch your
checked carry on luggage very closely.
#4 By: drsam, September 5th, 2013 15:31
Cory: I agree with many things that you write, but I think you're being unnecessarily melodramatic here. If it was $85/trip, I'd be more inclined to agree with you, but it's $85 for 5 years, you're talking about $17/year. Even if you fly only every couple of years, it's still cheaper than checking a single suitcase. It's cheaper than a week of cable TV (which is probably far worse for you than going through a scanner), and frankly, if you can afford to fly at all, it's a marginal cost. It has nothing to do with "clout", and trust me when I tell you that the TSA folks manning the pre-check line are just as blank and drone-ish as the ones in the lines with the scanners.
If you believe that the background check isn't going to be effective for weeding out bad guys, then you're right, it's absurd. If you assume that it does, then it makes sense. Most of all, though, it's about saving time, and providing a path for those who want to pay (and sacrifice a little 'privacy' [scare quotes because the NSA/Snowden revelations should have amply proven that privacy is the real theater]) to be able to save some time at the airport.
The 20-30 minutes a trip that I save adds up for those who fly 2-3x a month. To pay $17/year to save an hour that can be spent hanging out with my child? That's something that anyone can appreciate.
Is it safe to assume that you're equally opposed to reduced rate tolls and faster toll-booth transit times for those who invest in EZ Pass (an upfront fee and potential loss of privacy for those who drive a lot on turnpikes), and the Global Entry system for those returning to the US (an upfront fee and potential loss of privacy for those who fly internationally, allowing us to avoid a face-to-face interview at passport control). So no "fee-for-convenience" for anyone?
As for the scanners, I always opt-out of the RapiScanners regardless. I'm, however, pretty convinced by the evidence around the safety of the millimeter wave scanners. The jury is out (for me at least) on the new AS&E Smartcheck HT scanners (the ones you're alluding to in your entry). They claim an exposure of 0.05 microSieverts (5 microRem), which is truly minuscule when compared to the exposure of the flight itself (at least according to the EPA, that's 2-5 milliRem for a cross-country flight).
#5 By: seyo, September 5th, 2013 15:31
Is the $85 a one time fee, or do you have to renew it yearly?
EDIT: thanks @drsam for answering my question and providing such a rational counter argument to Cory's pitchfork waving.
#7 By: Michael, September 5th, 2013 15:51
You qualify for free inclusion in the PreCheck program if you have a NEXUS card -- great for Canadians who live near the border. Only $50/5-years, so a better deal too.
#8 By: Duncan Cross, September 5th, 2013 15:52
Actually... not so much. I'm enrolled in the CBP 'Trusted Traveller' program, which earlier this year was the only way I could get into Pre-Check. I don't fly often, but I have a medical condition that gets me a gropedown every time I do. I hoped getting Pre-Check would spare me the humiliation. A month ago I tested it for the first time, and the TSA agents were pretty insistent on manhandling me. I showed the checkpoint manager my card, a note from my doctor, and a printout of their own regulations that specifically say they don't have to pat me down, and even then I had to beg them not to touch me. The guy was clear that my Pre-Check status wasn't keeping me from getting groped; it was his own decision, and I should expect future pat-downs.
#9 By: drsam, September 5th, 2013 16:07
I saw this happen to someone in the PreCheck line at SEA-TAC last month - he had a hip replacement and had a note and everything, but because he set off the magnetometer he got a pat down. I didn't look to see if he got the full Monty they give to the people who opt-out of the scanners, or if he got a lesser version.
#10 By: sounddevisor, September 5th, 2013 16:08
DuncanX provides a perfect illustration of the point I was going to make - is there any kind of guarantee for those who do decide to pony up the $85? What does that actually entitle you to? I can very easily see (again, as perfectly illustrated above) showing up to a security check point and being forced to go through the whole "shoes off, laptop out of bag, genitals on full display" routine regardless of having paid the $85. What recourse would I have in that situation?
#11 By: jhritz, September 5th, 2013 16:24
It's actually a three tier system. Precheck, regular and no-fly list. I wonder if you can pay the $85 to get off the no-fly list?
#12 By: Nonentity, September 5th, 2013 16:31
If you fly once in 5 years, that's $85 extra for the trip, plus all the extra personal information you need to give up.
Even if you fly only every couple of years, it's still cheaper than checking a single suitcase.
Some of us do whatever we can to avoid checking suitcases, because that crap's fricking expensive after you've already paid the rest of the fees and ticket price.
frankly, if you can afford to fly at all, it's a marginal cost.
Wow. Way to project your personal situation on the rest of the country.
#13 By: JGS, September 5th, 2013 16:45
As a serial opt-outer myself, I have no bone to pick with the general snark of the piece. But what are these "new more radioactive versions" you're talking about? That link points to a NYT opinion blog piece that has nothing whatsoever to say about radioactivity. Nothing. Whatsoever. For that matter, it doesn't say anything about any new equipment being deployed that increases dosages of any kind of radiation over previous machines. The only thing it says that bears an even passing resemblence to "new more radioactive version" is this:
But those lower doses may be temporary. In October the T.S.A. signed a contract, potentially worth $245 million, with a third company that supplies a variety of “X-ray detection solutions.”
That's so far from supporting the quote it's not even funny.
#14 By: drsam, September 5th, 2013 16:51
Well, if you fly once in 5 years, then a single scan/trip through the queue is probably no big deal in terms of time, potential radiation exposure, etc. So don't spend the money. No sweat off my behind. And frankly, if you fly once every 5 years, you probably have other things to think about than whether or not Pre-Check is "fair" or not. If you fly once in every 5 years and have strong feelings about Pre-Check being available for a fee, then you need to reconsider what you'r choosing to get upset about. There are bigger issues.
If you fly every couple of years and the extra $30 bucks is going to be too much of a burden, then wait in line with your too-big-to-cram-into-overhead suitcase. Again -- who cares. It's your choice. Opt out if you don't want to be scanned. Nobody is judging you if you want to fly cheap. Why judge those who want to spend a little more? It's their choice.
As for the marginal cost bit - if you can afford to fly domestically to get from point A to point B, then you're already demonstrating that you've made a judgement that your time is worth a certain amount, because there are cheaper ways to get from point A to point B in the US (Amtrak, Grayhound, walk, drive, bike, hitchhike) that don't involve flying. People fly because these modes take longer. The truth is that flying is not a 1% activity anymore. It hasn't been for years. There are over 600 million boarded passengers in the US each year. Even if the 75% of those flights were taken by international travelers, business travelers, the wealthy elite, and frequent fliers, that's 75 million passengers per year in a country of 300 million. Clearly there aren't 75 million millionaires in the US, so I'm betting that flying is a basic mode of transportation accessible to most people. And since the average domestic US airfare (regardless of point of origination) is between $300-500, then the fact is that even the full $85 for the 5 years of PreCheck is to some extent a marginal cost (especially when you consider travel to-from airports, parking, etc.).
I'm not projecting my personal situation on the rest of the country. I'm just making a rational and objective assessment of the cost of PreCheck versus the cost of travel and judging it to be marginal. Those are the numbers.
So are you that upset that people choose to spend a little bit more to save a little more time? Are you pissed that government makes it possible? Are you bitter that some people choose to pay more for something that's a little "better" (faster/easier) in their eyes? Do you get this upset at people who pay the extra $65 for expedited passport service? Or those who pay the extra fee to upgrade to first class on the airplane? Or those who choose to pay $3.00 for a Starbucks instead of $2.00 for a Dunkin' Donuts? I don't understand what the complaining is about.
#15 By: drsam, September 5th, 2013 16:53
#16 By: Garett_Trietsch, September 5th, 2013 16:54
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might think you work for the TSA PR team...
#17 By: JGS, September 5th, 2013 16:54
What recourse would I have in that situation?
The same recourse you have now without having paid it?
#18 By: JGS, September 5th, 2013 17:04
OK. Though that doesn't support either "more" or "radioactive", unless we're going to stretch the definition of "radioactive" to mean "any ionizing radiation" and that of "more" to mean "less". (As to "less": Rapiscan's product sheet, while evasive, suggests their dosage per scan is something like 7 uRem, while in an earlier post you cited 5 uRem for the AS&E units.)
I still won't go through one of them though. Well except for the one time in Amsterdam where the martinet running the checkpoint baldly gave me the choice of doing it or missing my flight.
#19 By: Marc, September 5th, 2013 17:04
I wonder how much of an impact the intrusive security theater has turned off potential air travelers.
Personally, I used to think of air travel as a fun thing, now I think of it as simply a fucked up hassle.
#20 By: chenille, September 5th, 2013 17:13
Charging people not to go through something that only exists because you created it is generally a reason for them to be upset. In fact, in many other contexts it's called extortion.
Because people who don't have lots of money definitely have the spare time to hitchhike across America.
Is it required that every time someone complains about the TSA doing something, someone else has to pretend the alternatives to planes - taking time off for long voyages, finding new jobs, giving up on family - are always super easy for everyone?
#21 By: drsam, September 5th, 2013 17:26
Sorry, @chenille: you are simply, and obviously, factually incorrect here. You're charging people to go through screening in a different way (via a background check and linking their background to their airline ticket/travel habits), and in return you're excusing them from a redundant screening. You're not charging people and letting them out of screening. And you're not coercing or forcing people to go through the PreCheck process, which is why it's not extortion, and which is exactly why people shouldn't be upset about it. If they don't want to do it, then they can simply stand in line.
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