More on the Pat-Down


TPM Reader MP writes in: “I confess that your post comes across as a bit schizophrenic to me. Are you saying that people who complain about this are being silly? Do you think the new procedures are ridiculous and unjustified? It’s just not clear.”

He goes on from there. But this seemed like a good opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings about the post. If it seems like I’m not taking a clear position on the pat-downs themselves it’s because I’m not. I’m really not sure what I think of them. Or rather I don’t have a clear idea what our policy should be.My point in writing the post is essentially twofold. First, collectively as a citizenry we’ve gone the last decade signing off on any number of things that would earlier have been considered unthinkable in the interests of preventing terrorist attacks. Whatever your political persuasion or level of risk aversion, we’re collectively on the line for that. And it not only includes vast levels of expense and loss of life. It also involves a number of things that seem patently unconstitutional and a few others that probably count as war crimes. So having the pat-downs being the final straw is just comical at some level. Really, at a lot of levels. And that’s the case whether you think the earlier stuff was crazy already or if you think that this is just another thing we need to buck up and take.

Second, there’s an unmistakable pattern. At least in a political context, the folks getting the most ACLU-ey about this are the ones who were the most gung-ho about warrantless wiretaps, torture, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and (hopefully to them) Syria and Iran too. There’s an unmistakable element here of here of people getting much more bummed out about something that affects them directly, physically than someone that goes on half way around the world or to someone Muslim guy getting water-boarded. For these folks though there’s an even clearer distinction. This is something that is at least nominally authorized by a Democratic president, which makes all the difference in the world.

All that said, I know there are people like TPM Reader ML who writes in …

I think you’ve missed the point entirely. Those of us enraged by the security features in place now have been pissed about them forever. We never truly accepted the costs of heightened security and always viewed them suspiciously. Each added bit of ridiculousness was an added cost to us, and there happened to actually be a threshold cost we would no longer bear. The 3oz bottle requirement made it so that I had to check my toiletries, which then started costing me 25 bucks a pop, which forced me to no longer travel with toiletries. That’s one chunk. You pile up costs high enough there’s a price people are no longer willing to pay.

That makes sense. I’m not a frequent flier. So I’m not really one to judge. And I get that there are a lot of folks out there who weren’t crazy about warrantless wiretaps and don’t want to get patted down either. Still, there are some pretty basic balances we don’t seem able to draw.


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of