Security Theatre in North American Airports

According to the Montreal Gazette this morning, the federal government has just approved the use of “behavior-detection” agents at airports across Canada.

Once the program is fully implemented, specially trained officers with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority will be able to roam airports on the lookout for unusual or suspicious behaviour by passengers.

What this basically entails, as we covered on the last Liberty In Exile show, is that agents are now being trained to detect “terrorist intent” in people’s faces and micro-expressions. An ABC news report covered the same just a few weeks ago, a program which has already been in use in the United States for quite some time.

Instead of tangible proof linking one to terrorism, emphasis is placed upon one’s actions or behavior while they are at the airport.

In passenger-behaviour observation, officers are trained to detect irregular or suspicious behaviour.

“The emphasis is behaviour-based, for example — wearing heavy clothes on a hot day or paying unusual attention to the screening process,” according to a government background document.

“Screening officers trained in passenger behaviour observation screening may check a passenger’s documents and ask simple questions about the passenger’s identity and reasons for travelling to alleviate any security concerns.”

The program focuses on behaviour, not racial or ethnic profiles, the government is quick to point out.

This represents just another example of paranoid government action which will undoubtedly take more liberties away than it could ever save. Shall we continue to sacrifice our privacy for security which has not yet been proven to work in the slightest?

How is the detection of irritable or misplaced people at the airport, which must be practically everyone, at all reasonable or legitimate as a security measure? The majority of individuals at the airport are uncomfortable because of crowded public space, mediocre bathrooms, extended layovers, overpriced trail-mix, crying babies, bad coffee, unwashed benches, and countless other things. What is considered to be reasonable behavior or expressions after one has been traveling all day in a confined cabin, or is set to share 3 square feet of space with 50 complete strangers?

The truth doth be that this measure is not about security; it is about theatre. Beautiful, elegant, majestic theatre. A performance used to qualm the fears of the irrational populace who have been frightened and primed by their “virtuous” public officials who claim there is always danger on the horizon.

Waiting in the wings of this performance, however, is a billion-dollar industry. Millions of contracts for “security” experts and electronic devices which are guaranteed to MAKE YOU SAFE.

X-ray scanner machines, powder detection wands, 360 degree cameras with thermal imaging, bomb-sniffing dogs with a penchant for squeaky toys, and now: the behavior detection software. Yes, you heard it correctly. Individuals who have safely completed the four hour online training session in the windowless bastion of a basement-level government office are prepared to watch your face for clues. Is that a sniffle you just produced? A wink at a member of the opposite sex? Or is that a secret terrorist code, an idiosyncratic motion which will surely cause the destruction of millions of lives at one fell swoop?

The conscious public should be skeptical, not just in this particular case, but whenever a government agency is tasked with and promises to keep you safe. The measures put in place in the last ten years have done nothing but reassure a zombie population they will continue to be zombies, that billions of government money taken from the citizens will be used to defeat an enemy and protect you from an evil which they have themselves created by their actions and policies across the world.

Machines, gadgets, gizmos, suspicion, paranoia, and spying will never attack the problem at its root. It begins with the occupation of foreign land abroad, and ends with the promise to disintegrate the empire and return humbly to the front-line of the mainland. When war, occupation, and empire is forsaken for peace, trade, and partnerships, only then will these spurious threats be eliminated from memory. Only then will the grievances of our fellow man be thrown by the wayside and fraternity, harmony, and concord embraced above all else.

The enemy is not a fury-browed, tight-lipped imposter who travels with an Dooney & Burke accessory bag and aviators, but it is the policy of the governments which we have continued to give legitimacy to, despite their ultimate transgressions.

As liberal democratic countries continue to dilute the liberties and freedoms once enjoyed by their citizens for the sake of feel-good security measures, there must be voices of reason which guide us to a more just and more righteous existence in the polis. Liberty In Exile will continue to stand as a tool and mouthpiece for those liberties and freedoms we, as a people, once knew. To make government more the servant, and not the master of us all. In these free nations, we do not choose to be ruled, we elect to be governed.

More analysis and commentary will be covered this week on Liberty In Exile, broadcasting from Vienna, Austria.

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