What Do Voluntary Mean?

TSA boss John Pistole has offered to give Senators a pat-down search so that they understand the controversial new procedures.

TSA boss John Pistole has offered to give Senators a pat-down search so that they understand the controversial new procedures. This comes on the heels of an editorial asking, “Since the TSA molested my family, why doesn’t Obama volunteer to subject his family to the same security procedures?

While I’m all for public officials being forced to endure the indignities that we ordinary citizens must endure,* this sort of thing is really beside the point.   They’re of a piece with waterboarding defenders who tell us that soldiers get worse treatment in survival training.

Treatment one volunteers for in a controlled setting is far different from similar treatment for which one did not volunteer administered in a stressful environment.   A Navy SEAL being tortured in a training exercise may feel panic but he knows intellectually that he won’t be harmed.   A United States Senator, much less the president, knows that they’ll be treated with respect by government functionaries.

Yes, one technically “consents” to being searched as a condition of air travel.  But there’s growing resentment over this condition, especially as the indignities ratchet up.  And there’s no reason at all to have confidence that the searches will be conducted in a dignified, respectful manner.  Indeed, there’s every reason to think the opposite.

UPDATESteven Taylor captures the point more succinctly in the comments:

This offer is a farce because it utterly fails to capture the power relationship between a TSA agent and a 16 year-old girl (or, for that matter, a 42 year-old male). Indeed, it reverses them. The TSA agent giving a Senator a demonstration pat-down would be a situation wherein the TSA agent was in a a subservient role to the person being patted-down. If you or I are in the line at the airport the power relationship is decidedly reversed. We all know that the TSA agent can order our detention or make us miss our flight (or both). That is a very different situation.

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*Although, really, it’s a farce.  Presidents, Senators, and others who have passed extensive background checks and are obviously not terrorists shouldn’t have to prove otherwise to travel.  Then again, neither should the rest of us.

The post title is an inside joke for followers of the Dallas Cowboys, referring to a question asked by Emmitt Smith’s successor at running back.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I, for one (and perhaps only one), appreciate the joke. But wasn’t it the brother of said running back?

    In re: the post, I almost wrote something similar yesterday. This offer is a farce because it utterly fails to capture the power relationship between a TSA agent and a 16 year-old girl (or, for that matter, a 42 year-old male). Indeed, it reverses them. The TSA agent giving a Senator a demonstration pat-down would be a situation wherein the TSA agent was in a a subservient role to the person being patted-down. If you or I are in the line at the airport the power relationship is decidedly reversed. We all know that the TSA agent can order our detention or make us miss our flight (or both). That is a very different situation.

  2. sam says:

    I don’t know what it do mean, but I’ve an idea what it does mean…

  3. sam says:

    Yikes … sorry, me doos not follow football.