Home > Primacy of Society, Public Service > Michael Roberts is my hero of the day

Michael Roberts is my hero of the day

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember a post from a couple weeks back in which I quoted an airline pilot named Michael Roberts.  He wrote a wonderful, principled letter to the Memphis Commercial appeal.  I’ll reproduce it again here, since it’s just so good:

As professional pilots, some colleagues and I recently issued a statement to our airline. We voiced our rejection of the policy changes being enacted by the Transportation Security Administration at airport security checkpoints across the country, including Memphis International (Sept. 18 article, “Virtual strip search / Random full-body scans launched at Memphis airport”).

We do not consent to the indignity of virtual strip searches as a matter of course in performing the duties of our profession. Neither can we conscientiously accept being physically frisked by federal agents every day as a reasonable alternative.

Obviously, our work places us inside the flight deck door by necessity. We wouldn’t have to smuggle a weapon into the airport to take control of an aircraft. After running the gantlet of required background checks, security training and screening procedures, it’s just plain silly to confiscate pilots’ pocket knives and corkscrews before we enter the cockpit. In short, here’s hoping the crew for your next flight is on the home team.

But that’s not even the point.

We are appalled that any citizen who is not under arrest, has made no threats, nor raised any suspicion of terrorism or other malice should be made to submit to either of these “options” in order to move about within his or her own national borders.

Federal airport security guards are often unskilled, entry-level responders to help-wanted ads affixed to pizza boxes. Perhaps novice agents lack the perspective to grasp the full implications of their work. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. But please don’t show them your naked body. Don’t let these strangers put their hands on you or your children. Their abuse protects no one. No, the good citizens of a free society must resist such authoritarian overtures at least as much as any foreign threat.

I offer my condolences if your flight should be delayed or canceled because the TSA won’t let us in the door. But I suggest that your freedom is more important. At any rate, ours certainly is.

Michael Roberts


Well, Michael Roberts is back in the news today, because he apparently was “randomly selected” to be strip searched by one of the TSA’s brand new privacy killing machines.  Michael Roberts refused, and that’s why he is my hero of the day.  According to news reports:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Tennessee pilot who says he’s tired of being manhandled by security agents is waiting to see if he will lose his job because he refused a full body scan.

ExpressJet Airlines first officer Michael Roberts was chosen for the X-ray scan Friday at Memphis International Airport. The Houston-based pilot says he also refused a pat-down and went home.

It is sad that he is in jeopardy of losing his job because he won’t submit to the demeaning intrusions of sub-literate government gorillas.  Mr. Roberts is absolutely correct when he says that the TSA is a “make-work” program that doesn’t make travel safer.  It’s perfectly intuitive that employing tens of thousands of mindless bureaucrats for the sole purpose of stealing water bottles and corkscrews is not going to make my flight any less dangerous.  According to TSA stats, almost 50,000 are employed for this function – imagine their inflated federal payroll and ridiculous pension and benefits!  We’ll be paying these philistines to violate our privacy long after they’ve retired at age 50.

And for what?  So that they can stop malicious terrorists like a 4-year old boy in leg braces?  So that they can allow 40% of their budget to simply disappear?  So that they can fail to stop bomb components from being slipped through screening literally 100% of the time in a GAO audit?  And then try to minimize their own incompentence by suggesting we disallow carry-on bags?  So that they can fail to track the security passes of their own former employees, thus becoming exactly the type of danger they exist to stop?  How about very simply stealing our things?  Or failing at a rate three to four times higher than private screeners at detecting bombs?  I could go on and on.

The TSA was a hasty, ill-conceived, hyperbolic and unnecessary response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  And what are the goals of terrorism?  It creates fear and breaks down trust and values, weakening the society that is attacked.  Getting rid of the TSA won’t allow the terrorists to “win.”  The fact that the TSA exists at all proves that the terrorists have already won.

I’ll leave you with a (possibly apocryphal, but accurate nonetheless) quote from Ben Franklin: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Instead of losing our liberty, let’s lose the TSA.

  1. MPH
    October 21, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    I have three personal anecdotes about how (in)effective TSA is.

    They all occurred at DTW, which I used to fly in/out of regularly.

    As I was trying to get past the “passenger harassment point” (which is what my wife and I call the “(in)security checkpoint”), I watched the man sitting at the x-ray monitor. He was so engrossed in the story being told him by a fellow TSAer about how he was replacing the roof on his house, that the x-ray screener wasn’t even looking at the screen. He just kept periodically pressing the key that advanced the conveyor belt. Keep in mind that this is at one of the country’s best airports for security (only 25% of contraband was getting past security, according to GAO audits, when the average nationwide was 40%). I never felt so safe as I did on my flight that day.

    The second one I was leaving the secured area late at night (10PM or so). As I was passing through, there were several TSAers standing around the screening area chatting (nobody was trying to enter the secured area). One of the women was commenting on how she was going to take every Friday off by using vacation days, then she’d call in sick, and then she’d just not show up. Yeah, that’s the kind of dedication I like to see in my federal employees.

    The same night as the preceding story, 50 yards past the screening area, I walked past a small game room, about the size of a large walk in closet. There were 6+ TSAers in it, and they were all playing video games (indeed, there was nobody BUT TSAers in it). I suppose it is possible that they were all on their “break”, but somehow I doubt it. I like video games, too. How do I get a job where the government pays me to play them? I don’t yet have enough tarnish on my soul to take a job where I am payed to do one thing, and do something else while on the clock. But I’m pretty sure they didn’t have that problem.

  1. October 28, 2010 at 3:22 PM

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