Monday, December 13, 2010

Janet Napolitano's Appalling Judgment

When she ascended to her position as Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano let it be known that the “War on Terror” was over. Instead, she decreed, America would conduct an “Overseas Contingency Operation,” in order to avert “man-caused disasters,” of the type we experienced on 9/11.

Ah yes, “man-caused disasters.” One is struck by the passive sense of the phrase, as though folks may have set out with the best of intentions, but things went awry. By that definition, what else might qualify as “man-caused disasters”? The Titanic? The Hindenburg? “Showgirls”?

As to just who might be responsible for such future “disasters,” Napolitano opined that “rightwing extremists,” including returning military veterans, were cause for concern.

Such a peculiar world view would be troubling in any Cabinet official, especially one charged with keeping the nation safe. But Napolitano’s notoriously poor judgment has been reinforced for all of us in recent days, as she continues to insist that in order to wage the homeland portion of our “Contingency Operation” and prevent “man-caused disaster” in the skies, TSA officers must take naked pictures and grab the groins of American air travelers.

Much has been made of whether these measures are a trial run for some Big Sister society, and Napolitano has asserted that the use of nude, full-body scanners should be expanded from airports to shopping malls, sporting events, and the like. But I am doubtful a larger agenda is in play for the same reason I understand this is a bad system. That is, conspiracies rarely happen because so few people are competent.

Even so, freedom can be crushed without coordinated effort. What’s more, if you lead people into temptation, they will follow.

We hear reports from all over the country, and those of us who travel have seen it: young women lined up at airports, having been selected by male TSA officers to go through full-body x-ray scanners. The TSA continues with its silly-bears about images being viewed in separate rooms and not being stored, but they are unable to address the probability that their men in uniform relish sending nude female photos to one another, and they miss the salient point: It is disgraceful and dangerous for a government to give male officers such sexual dominance over women.

Look, you don’t have to be B.F. Skinner to figure this one out: A mostly male force, empowered to take naked pictures of the females under their authority, will do so.

But back to Napolitano, and her fear about “rightwing” bringers of “disaster.” Suppose some conservative-minded fellow, perhaps with a military background, saves up to take his wife and daughter on a trip. And let us suppose that, as the family goes through security, male TSA officers take a liking to the women and, with the glances and gestures we are coming to recognize at our airports, single them out for naked scrutiny. Finally – and to be clear as a millimeter-wave scan, I am not calling for or condoning such action – let us suppose the pater familias takes umbrage with the officers and a violent incident ensues. Will Napolitano have been proven correct?

There is resonance to John Tyner’s now-famous phrase, “Don’t touch my junk.” But ogle my wife or touch my child, and the conversation takes on a whole new tone. Why are we creating this problem for ourselves?

Oh, right – in the name of security. This is the claim, even as the Government Accountability Office has repeatedly informed Congress that naked scanners would not have caught the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who in any case, boarded his plane in Amsterdam, and about whom the State Department had received prior warning from his own father.

So again, why is this system in place? Well, if you thought Islamist terror acts could be stopped by calling them, “man-caused disasters,” you might also be persuaded that nude photos of every American flier are worthwhile.

Napolitano is not a thorough person – aside from her inspection preferences for innocent civilians, of course. She railed against the recent Arizona immigration law, calling it “bad law enforcement,” until she was compelled to admit before a Senate hearing that she had not even read the 12-page bill – and this was after she had seen her Cabinet colleague, Attorney General Eric Holder, similarly humiliated in front of a Congressional committee by confessing he had not read the law either, even as he was threatening to sue over it. Whatever you think of the Arizona legislation, consider the intellectual laziness evinced by this behavior.

Simply put, if you want to create and defend a system that compels Americans to be routinely and obscenely violated, you had better be someone who has the faith of the nation and a record of stellar judgment. Janet Napolitano is no such person.

Theo Caldwell is the author of Finn the half-Great.