Friday, July 20, 2012

flying naked

"Airport stripper brings Portland more exposure"

It was one of those headlines designed to catch the attention of the wit-starved.  The promise of nudity tied with a rather pedestrian pun.

But I knew the facts behind the headline well before reading what The Oregonian had to report.

Three months ago a 50-year old business walked into the hearts of libertarians and other people of common sense -- in the buff.

John Brennan was at the Portland airport to catch a flight to San Jose.  He declined to step into one of the security body scanners, but he complied with TSA's request that he walk through a metal detector and submit to a pat down.  The frisk detected the presence of nitrates.

Brennan then did what a lot of us have thought of doing.  He started calmly disrobing.  Well, disrobed.  Where he stood for five minutes until the police showed up.

At the time, he said he did it for two reasons: to prove that he was not carrying a bomb and to protest the process. 

But my favorite comment was: "I also was aware of the irony of taking off my clothes to protect my privacy."  You have to admire a guy who can sum up postmodernism in a single line. 

So, why am I writing about this three months after it happened?  Simple. 

He went to trial on Wednesday.  And was acquitted.

Of course, he was.  It was Portland.  The Oregon Court of Appeals decided almost thirty years ago that nudity statutes cannot be applied against people who are protesting.

When you consider the fact that Portland sponsors the world's largest annual naked bike ride (over 10,000 riders ran the risk of seat chaffing this past June), you also have to wonder if the Multnomah County District Attorney's office is staffed by hermits residing on pillars.

In an attempt to dodge the bullet (and I suspect to create financial pressure to get a plea bargain), the prosecutor lowered the charge from a misdemeanor to a violation.  Brennan didn't bite.  Why should he?  He had already made his stand.  And he had a fig leaf -- the law.

Airport security checkpoints are mere street theater.  They are there for the sole purpose of making passengers feel secure.  In the same way that children are told daddy is home to scare away the monsters under their bed.

Intelligence operations catch terrorists.  Usually, far away from airports.  When intelligence fails, so does airport security.  And we end up with terrorists from a Jimmy Breslin novel who can't set off the bombs in their shoes or underwear.

John Brennan is my hero.  I doubt I will ever go as far as he did.  His five minutes of standing in the buff resulted in some of his fellow travelers photographing him and then posting the results on the internet.  As you can see at the top of this post.*

But, after years of getting dressed before I head to the airport, and then being forced to take off my jacket, take off my shoes, take off my belt, and dig around in my pockets for any small object that may get me kicked out of the body scanner and into the hands of a frisker ready with an intensive and thorough pat down, I have considered an alternative.

I am seriously thinking of showing up at the airport in my robe and slippers.  And then getting dressed after I successfully maneuver the shoals of security. 

It would certainly double down on whether a security guard was really interested in doing a pat down search.

John Brennan.  We lift a stout one in your honor.

* -- I was going to run a photograph of John Brennan at trial.  But that was not the site of his victory.  If he was brave enough to protest on our behalf, we should honor his true moment of triumph.  Thus, the photograph. 


John Calypso said...

Why is it always fat people that are willing to demonstrate naked?

Felipe Zapata said...

First I've heard of this guy, whom I now love. When my wife and I flew to Cuba in April on a Mexican airline, I enjoyed sitting in the departure hall watching people getting on flights to the U.S. being pawed and inspected. When we got on our flight to Havana, we just got on the plane, and that was it. No pawing or extra security at all. Same routine when we left Havana for the return flight. Quite a contrast.

I haven't flown into the U.S. in about a decade, so I've missed most of the relatively new foolishness. I may never fly up there again either.

By the way, the Mexican airline was Interjet. Highly recommended.

Steve Cotton said...

 Ironic,isn't it?  All f this pre-boarding security began in the 70s with fears if being highjacked to Cuba.

Steve Cotton said...

 Because they make up a large portion of the general American public?

One Small Voz said...

Applause for John Brennan! If everyone were this brave they would have to shut down those silly machines. He is lucky to be from Oregon - I'm from the heart of the midwest, where, he would have had no sympathy. From the court or passengers in his presence.

Steve Cotton said...

Oregon's founding fathers had the wisdom to include a broad "freedom f expression" provision in its constitution -- not to mention a weapons provision that makes the Second Amendment look weak.  I would like to think the American heartland would have stood by John Brennan.  But you may be correct.

DonCuevas said...

"John Brennan.  We lift a stout one in your honor."

Um; what do you mean by "a stout one."?

Saludos, Don Cuevas 

Steve Cotton said...

 A beverage.

Todd McIntosh said...

This brings to mind a news story I just read about an American man at the Toronto airport stopped because his penis was so large

Shannon Casey said...

Well done John!!  He found a way to make a statement against all this silliness to which someone would actually have to listen.

al lanier said...

Steve: You are writing posts at around 5 in the morning. Even irate Libertarians need some sleep.


Tancho said...

I am sure that John Brennan knows how much support he has around the country. As you say the TSA is just for show, a massive waste of money and effort.
The US should do what Israel does, but the PC correct folks would call that profiling....a good thing in my estimation.
But that might offend some jerk.
Some people just need to be offended more so they can build up a resistance to it.
I would rather get on a bus than go through that crap in the US. Flying in Mexico you are not subjected to that nonsense.

Steve Cotton said...

Why does this sound like the setup to a Saturday Night Live skit?

Steve Cotton said...

I am preparing my robe and  sippers for my trip north.

Steve Cotton said...

And Americans make fun of Mexican bureaucracy.  I have noticed that the metal detector and carry-on x-ray inspections at the Manzanillo are rather lackadaisical.  The detector goes off?  Go right on through.     The see it for what it is.  Just another public job.

Steve Cotton said...

 Irate?  We  live in Mexico.  No one gets irate.

Irene said...

Sitting in an airport and raising a cheer for John.

Tancho said...

 Ha....when we were flying around Mexico looking where to stop we use to fly into Lazaro Cardenas...they had the walkthrough detector unplugged, and the guy just kept waving you through...
Some other airports were just like you described...nothing seems to be a big deal...NOB, you walk thru the box and  if it goes off the SWAT team will invade the terminal..

Steve Cotton said...

 An appropriate action in an appropriate location.