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‘Experts’ justify profiling, body scanners with familiar paranoid rhetoric

By Gavin Dahl
Sunday, January 3, 2010 20:35 EDT
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In the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound flight, a large number of so-called experts have raised the ire of civil libertarians in their pursuit of increasingly draconian security measures.

Appearing on Fox News Saturday, a retired U.S. general called for “very serious, harsh profiling,” singling out in particular all 18-28 year old Muslim men, calling for them to be “strip searched” at airports.

As new TSA regulations take effect, passengers flying into the country from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called “threat-based” screens.

Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney set up his egregious recommendation by claiming first that “in the next 30-100 days,” there is “very high probability a US airliner will come down.”

When the host blandly objected that racial profiling would not go over in the United States, he replied, “I agree, that’s the problem.”

While he spoke, Fox News framed his image with the words, “POLITICAL INSTABILITY HELPING AL QAEDA TO FLOURISH IN YEMEN” above a news scroll blaring race-tinged scary stories about Bin Laden’s daughter, Somali pirates, Brazilian mudslides and even gun-fighting black NBA players. The entire production of the show seemed to shift over to editorial support of the guest, and away from the fairness and balance practiced by the purported news team at Fox News Channel.

“It is not racial profiling,” he added, now controlling the conversation. “It is profiling just like the Israelis do. Let’s use the same procedures that the Israelis do.”

Before he got around to threatening host Julie Banderas and viewers that political correctness will lead to “imminent disaster,” the retired general took shots at Islam, defining Muslim identity as “an ideology, not a religion.”

The desire to violate American ethical and legal standards, supported by alarmist rhetoric, is reminiscent of the scandalous domestic Pentagon propaganda carried out over the US airwaves under Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates.

Turns out McInerney is not even the first surveillance advocate this week seen hawking serious violations of civil liberties on cable news under the guise of expertise and authority.

According to Alternet, last week Michael Chertoff played “a little fast and loose with the public trust” using his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients. He was talking up whole-body-imaging technology as an airline security solution when the conflict of interest came up in a Wednesday interview on CNN. His Washington Post editorial cautions against, “privacy ideologues, for whom every security measure is unacceptable.”

Reporters in Britain have discovered that new airport scanners touted by PM Gordon Brown would not have detected the underwear bomber, leading The Independent to ask if the entire plan is a scam. “The solution is to acknowledge that there isn’t a single technology out there that is an answer to the whole problem,” security expert Kevin Murphy told the paper.

In fact, there are currently at least two other known alternatives to full-body scanners up for consideration.

American Civil Liberties Union is advocating the use of the “Puffer,” a machine that analyzes puffs of chemically-sensitive air blown around an individual. Greg Soule, a spokesman for TSA told The Christian Science-Monitor 18 Puffer machines, originally developed by General Electric, across the US but are being phased out due to maintenance issues.

Another potential alternative is the “Guardian,” an “explosive trace-detection portal machine” more advanced than the Puffer. Chris McBee, director of sales and marketing for Syagen Technology, told CS Monitor, “We have a better mousetrap. There are solutions out there that are viable alternatives to whole body imaging and that have superior detection characteristics.”

Suspected conflicts-of-interest can cause cable news fatigue, but consider that current Defense Secretary Robert Gates oversaw the continuation of a domestic propaganda program created to build support for the US invasion of Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld recruited military analysts with US taxdollars to espouse optimism and spin on unquestioning TV networks and NPR, even when the analysts suspected the information was false or stood to profit from weapons contracts, according to a bombshell report in The New York Times.

Well, according to reporting from Agence France-Presse and The New York Times the US has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the Al-Qaeda terror network in Yemen. (During November, battles raged between Yemeni rebels and Saudi forces.)

In 2008, despite heightened public awareness of the illegal domestic propaganda campaign carried out over their airwaves, Fox News and a dozen other broadcasters failed the country when they neglected to address their flawed guest-vetting policies. As author and journalism professor Robert Jensen said in an interview at the time, “We shouldn’t expect an institution to undermine its own credibility, and that’s what we would be asking the corporate media to do, to report on how they have become tools of propaganda for the government.”

November of 2009, Raw Story’s Brad Jacobson reported on a new Pentagon investigation into the Bush propaganda program. Whether or not the program has continued in some form is still unclear.

Inside-Out the Beltway, a political humor site, offered this insight into the lessons of Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney:

(1) We must inflict this “harsh” (and exciting) policy against every “18-28-year-old Muslim man” that seeks to board an American plane because Saudi Arabia hasn’t issued a fatwa against Islamo-fasco-terro-Arabism.

(2) If we don’t, we will “lose an airliner” definitely within the totally scientifically calculated range of time Sergeant Slaughter came up with while fondling himself to Oliver North’s War Stories.

(3) Now, everyone just hold your horses a minute here, this isn’t racial profiling, it’s other profiling based on 9-11 and stuff, and the fact that Islam isn’t a religion, it’s an “ideology” — an ideology designed to make Captain America here crap a box of cigars every time someone at the airport or on the train utters a foreign language that’s not Mexican.

 
 
 
 
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