TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal | The Nation

TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal

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Does anyone else sense something strange is going on with the apparently spontaneous revolt against the TSA? This past week, the media turned an "ordinary guy," 31-year-old Californian John Tyner, who blogs under the pseudonym "Johnny Edge," into a national hero after he posted a cell phone video of himself defending his liberty against the evil government oppressors in charge of airport security.

About The Authors

Mark Ames
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and...

Also by The Author

A Nation article investigating the Astroturf roots of the TSA scandal elicited a fierce rebuttal from Glenn Greenwald of Salon. The authors reply.

Also by The Author

A Nation article investigating the Astroturf roots of the TSA scandal elicited a fierce rebuttal from Glenn Greenwald of Salon. The authors reply.

No politician has ever suffered a more humiliating rejection than the former leader of Ukraine's Orange Revolution and its current sitting president, Viktor Yushchenko.

While this issue is certainly important—and offensive—to Americans, we are nonetheless skeptical about how and why this story turned into a national movement. In fact, this whole campaign feels a bit like déjà-vu: As the first reporters to expose the Tea Party as an Astroturf PR campaign funded by FreedomWorks and Koch-related front groups back in February, 2009, we see many of the same elements driving the current "rebellion" against the TSA: Koch-related libertarians, Washington lobbyists and PR operatives posing as "ordinary citizens," and suspicious fake-grassroots outrage relentlessly promoted in the same old right-wing echo chamber.

So far, all we know about "ordinary guy" John Tyner III, the freedom fighter who took on the TSA agents, is that, according to a friendly hometown profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "he leans strongly libertarian and doesn't believe in voting. TSA security policy, he asserts 'isn't Republican and it isn't Democratic.' " [Emphasis added.]

Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast.

At least one local TSA administrator wondered if Tyner hadn't come to the airport prepared to create a scandal. Tyner switched on his recording device before even entering the checkpoint—and recorded himself as he refused to go through the body scanner. Most importantly, Tyner recorded himself saying, "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested!"—which quickly morphed on blogs into the more media-savvy tagline, "Don't touch my junk!"

According to the Union-Tribune, when asked if the TSA was set up by Tyner, the local administrator coyly replied, "I don't know that it was an actual set up—but we are concerned that this passenger did have his recording [on] prior to entering the checkpoint so there is some concern that it was an intentional behavior on his part."

Tyner scoffs at the suggestion of a set up. "I can't set up the TSA side of this action," he said. In an interview with The Nation, Tyner said he doesn't belong to any libertarian organizations and did not have any contact with anyone mentioned in this article until after he posted his encounter with TSA agents.

Strangely enough, just a few days before Tyner's episode, another self-described "libertarian," Meg McLain, went online telling almost the exact same story of oppression and attempted sexual molestation at the hands of TSA agents. McLain is an occasional co-host of a libertarian radio show out of a libertarian quasi-commune located in Keene, New Hampshire. As reported in the Washington City Paper, the libertarian "Free Keene" movement where McLain makes her home is yet another libertarian project tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, the prime backers of the Tea Party campaign, through the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Meg McLain almost became a national celebrity as the first victim of the body scanner/TSA molesters. On November 8, McLain was preparing to fly out of the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, airport, when she claimed to have been the victim of invasive TSA molestation. According to McLain, when she refused to have her body scanned, the TSA agents supposedly started screaming "Opt out! Opt out!" and pulled her aside and "molested" her—specifically, they "squeezed and twisted" her breasts so hard that "it hurt." ("OptOut" is the name of a "grassroots" protest movement designed to tie up airports during the holidays—more on that later.) As she described it, "It's getting to the point where I feel more physically molested [by the TSA agents] than if some random guy actually came up and molested me. It's more intrusive than that." McLain also claimed that she was made to stand in an open area next to the metal detector, where every passenger could look at her while a TSA agent "screamed" at her, until, finally, she was handcuffed to a chair by a "dozen cops." McLain immediately called into the Keene libertarian radio show to tell her awful story, which was posted on YouTube, and spread virally after it was promoted on Drudge Report.

There was only one problem with McLain's story: she made it up. The TSA released video evidence showing that McLain wasn't molested, wasn't screamed at and wasn't attacked by a dozen cops and half a dozen TSA agents. In fact, other passengers don't seem to notice her, although a TSA agent does seem to be trying to comfort McLain, offering her tissues as the libertarian rebel breaks out crying.

By her own account, McLain was down in Florida visiting a pair of traveling libertarians who were spreading the word of libertarianism in what they billed as "Liberty On Tour," funded at least partly by Koch-backed organizations like "Students for Liberty." One of the libertarians that McLain met with, Peter Eyre, has spent much of the past five years on a variety of Koch payrolls: as an intern at the Koch-founded Cato Institute, a "Koch Fellow" at the Drug Policy Alliance and nearly three years as director for the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University, home also to the Koch-funded Mercatus Center.

George Donnelly, a libertarian colleague of McLain's who writes that he "loves" her traveling libertarian friends in Florida and "learned a lot" from them, also happens to be one of two men behind the WeWontFly.com, one of the main websites pushing the "National Opt-Out Day" movement. The domain was registered on November 3, 2010, five days before McLain's fake airport incident. Donnelly provided McLain with the funds to return back to her libertarian commune in Keene, New Hampshire, after the (fake) incident.

McLain wasn't the only questionable libertarian "victim" of the TSA turned into a freedom-hero on the Drudge Report. In fact, according to the TSA's account, the 6-year-old who was allegedly "strip-searched" by evil TSA agents had his shirt removed by his own father—and not at the TSA's request. And the latest "hero" of the Drudge Report, Samuel Wolanyk—who stripped down to his underwear in alleged anger at TSA agents in San Diego, earning himself top billing on Drudge—is also a libertarian activist in the San Diego area, home of the self-described "libertarian" hero John Tyner, III. (According to an SEC lawsuit that dates back to 2002, a Samuel Wolanyk from San Diego, roughly the same age as the TSA libertarian hero, was charged with securities fraud for engaging in illegal "pump and dump" stock schemes that ripped off investors for millions of dollars.)

Then there's Brian Sodergren, founder of the "National Opt-Out Day," when "ordinary citizens standup for their rights." But Sodergren is no "ordinary citizen." Cached and scrubbed online LinkedIn records show that Brian Sodergren is a Washington lobbyist specializing in "grassroots education" for the American Dental Association and ADPAC, the American Dental Association Political Action Committee. No wonder that Sodergren has gone out of his way to scrub his employment record.

So now let's take one more look at the TSA hysteria, and re-evaluate if we should continue to simply accept the surface narrative, or consider what we might learn by looking beneath the surface. Because everywhere you look, the alleged victims' stories often turn out to be false or highly suspicious, promoted by lobbyists posing as "ordinary guys," and everywhere the cast of characters is always the same: drawn from the cult-ish fringes of the libertarian movement, with trails leading straight to the billionaire Koch brothers' network of libertarian think-tanks and advocacy groups.

We could take it all at face value and just trust that they're all "ordinary guys." Or we could ask, "Who profits?"

One person who seems to have the answer is Rep. John Mica, the Florida Republican who is set to chair the Transportation Committee. Mica co-wrote the bill establishing the TSA in 2001, just over a month after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC. A little-known provision in that bill allowed airports to "opt out" from the federal agency's security umbrella and to instead hire private contractors. As Media Matters pointed out recently, the whole reason why the TSA was formed was because private contractors paying airport security minimum wages were considered a big part of the reason why the 9/11 terror attacks were allowed to happen. Since the formation of the TSA, not a single terror attack originating from an American airport has taken place. But apparently that's not nearly as relevant as the complaints of a few libertarians.

The links between Mica, the libertarians, the Kochs, and the TSA scandal are only now emerging, and we hope more journalists will dig deeper. So far, we have learned:

  • Mica's longtime chief of staff, Russell Roberts, lists the Koch-backed Mercatus Center as the top sponsor of Roberts' privately financed travel expenses, according to Congressional travel disclosure forms. Roberts stated in his form that he participated in discussions related to "transportation policy."

  • Immediately after the launching of the "National Opt-Out Campaign" by Washington grassroots lobbyist and "ordinary citizen" Brian Sodergren, Rep. Mica sent out letters to the heads of at least 100 airports across America advising them to "opt out" of the government-funded TSA program and hand over the job to private contractors. One of the first airports to sign on to Rep. Mica's privatization program, Orlando's Sanford Airport, happens to lie in Rep. Mica's district. The airport also happens to be a client of Rep. Mica's daughter, D'Anne Mica, who is listed as a partner in two lobbying/PR firms consulted by Sanford Airport. One of Ms. Mica's PR firms, "Grasshopper Media," boasts of its "history of success in organizing strategic and comprehensive grassroots campaigns." In other words: astroturfing.

  • According to a recent AP article, "Companies that could gain business if airports heed Mica's call have helped fill his campaign coffers. In the past 13 years, Mica has received almost $81,000 in campaign donations from political action committees and executives connected to some of the private contractors already at 16 U.S. airports." ("Airports Consider Congressman's Call to Ditch the TSA")

While so far there is no "smoking gun" linking Rep. Mica to the anti-TSA campaign, there is clearly enough evidence to call into question the official version of events as a "spontaneous" outbreak of anti-TSA hysteria carried out by "ordinary guys" that it claims to be. Instead, there is plenty of evidence of a coordinated campaign for purposes that are only just beginning to emerge—a campaign with a profit motive and a political objective. What we should not do is assume that, in the midst of the worst recession in decades, when untold thousands of families are being thrown out of their homes in fraudulent foreclosures, that the biggest most pressing issue facing Americans is the "porn scan" at airports.

But don't ask us, ask Americans themselves: a recent CBS poll found that fewer than one in five Americans object to the TSA's use of scans and pat-downs. Nevertheless, like the Tea Party libertarian protests that "erupted" "spontaneously" in February 2009, the protests against the TSA, and the media coverage of the spectacle, grips the nation.

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1. posted by: timenotonmyside at 11/27/2010 @ 7:46am

All these teabagger complaints should be taken to GWB. I'm sure teabaggers can find him at his next book signing. GWB started this shitstorm and he should do something to end it.

2. posted by: crabwalk at 11/25/2010 @ 10:57pm

People are funny!

SO much going on, and this is what they squawk about.

3. posted by: magicats at 11/25/2010 @ 1:21pm

"Does anyone else sense something strange is going on with the apparently spontaneous revolt against the TSA?"
No, but I certainly have noticed something strange going on with the purported "liberal" media, such as The Nation and MSNBC, as they fall rapidly in line with government dictates and ignore the depth, extent, and undeniably valid concerns voiced online and in airports by large numbers of people all across the policital (and non-political) spectrum. Of course a few politicians and business interests are going to try to exploit this for their own ends. That does not undermine the legitimacy and necessity of protest and resistance by people who recognize this new "security" protocol for all the rotten things it is: a boondoggle for the manufacturers and their lobbyists, a waste of taxpayer dollars, a painful choice between a dangerous dose of radiation and a purposefully disagreeable groping, and (most importantly) a large leap in the continuing process of conditioning the American people to submit to (1) further government intrusion into their privacy, (2) further erosion of their constitional rights and human rights, and (3) restrictions upon the ability to travel. Shame on The Nation for succumbing to government pressure and attempting to delegitimize a genuine uprising of a significant cross-section of the people. On the other hand, thanks for showing your hand and delegitimizing yourself!

4. posted by: nrasmuss13 at 11/25/2010 @ 1:10pm

So the guy's a libertarian? I should care? Have you ever heard the old saw: "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not following me?" Guess what: I may not agree with the guy's politics, but that doesn't mean he's not right when he points out the horrible abuse of our Constitutional rights this new policy is.

By the way - "nice" use of the "scare quotes." Great Smear! ... If this is what writers get paid to write, it's no wonder writers are having such a hard time getting paid these days!

5. posted by: zaulahtaw at 11/25/2010 @ 11:50am

What TSA doing is clearly breaking the fourth amendment of search and seizure. American is facing a big challenge concering homeland security.

6. posted by: davidraph at 11/25/2010 @ 6:19am

Is James Fallows, who has been writing about this in The Atlantic ad nauseam, part of the conspiracy?

7. posted by: Quadracentifiable at 11/25/2010 @ 5:39am

Is there something that have to convey?

8. posted by: Rio Bravo at 11/25/2010 @ 1:23am

Now this thread is one of the biggest heaping helping of unmitigated balderdash you will ever consume!

9. posted by: StarchildSF at 11/25/2010 @ 12:11am

I was one of the organizers of the National Opt Out Day protest at San Francisco International Airport today. SFO currently uses a private company, Covenant Aviation Security, to staff its privacy invasion checkpoints, and we were aware of this fact when we went there.

If this were about trying to privatize airport security in order for someone to make a profit (the weak theory you've advanced in an attempt to dismiss the recent wave of blowback against the new TSA body scans and groping procedures), don't you think we would have protested at an airport like Oakland or San Jose that uses TSA agents, instead of at an airport where security is already run by a private company? Do you think I would have made a point of mentioning at our press conference that SFO is not run by the TSA, as I did? The fact that rights violations are occurring at the hands of a private company following government-mandated procedures, rather than being perpetrated by government employees themselves, does not somehow magically make it okay with libertarians.

Yes, I have "strongly libertarian" views. That's precisely *why* I'm against people being subject to intrusive and unconstitutional searches without probable cause. That's why I'm against TSA agents capturing nude images of airport travelers and touching travelers including women and children in ways that would meet the legal definition of sexual assault under other circumstances.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone...

10. posted by: chrisf at 11/24/2010 @ 11:41pm

I have to ask: Even if the protests were completely astroturfed, does that change *anything* about the radiation those full-body scanners deliver? That and the corresponding increased cancer risk are far more dangerous than the debate over privacy, I think.

11. posted by: handouts100 at 11/24/2010 @ 11:29pm

the Nation’s attack on John Tyner, an American hero, is indeed despicable. What makes it also laughable is the notion that the Kochs, plutocrats and therefore State-lovers, would fund such a subversive project as the anti-TSA revolt, even if—in sci-fi land—they could create it. The Kochs believe in faux-grassroots movements run top-down from Wichita. They hate and fear the actual people, and identify with the rest of the ruling class. Like their allies the neocons, the Kochs despise populism. That’s one reason they attacked Ron Paul. How dare he stir up opposition to their pals at the Fed? In addition, no Koch-funded institution or individual makes fundamental anti-TSA arguments—and darn few make superficial ones—while Koch-funded economists in the DC ambit, for example, actively defend the TSA. Koch-funded operations typically sound libertarian, but that is just an ideological cover for oligarchic goals. For example, Social Security Privatization was to be a payoff to Wall Street through a forced savings plan on American workers. There are many other examples, from the Ownership Society to School Choice. But in the highly unlikely event I’m wrong, and the Kochs are funding the anti-TSA cause: Charles, where’s my check?

12. posted by: quinn_d at 11/24/2010 @ 10:34pm

Mark Ames usually writes so carefully it is a shame to see him conflate objectionable libertarian hijinks with the reasonable objection to privacy impacting technologies. To suppose a theory of privacy that concludes "it's okay so long as the public doesn't get to see your naked scanned body" is to completely miss the point of privacy. Privacy an important virtue (and right) for any reasonable society, irrespective of your views on libertarianism.

And, Ames should not have made the mistake that just because there have been no effective terrorist attacks on American soil since 911 that the TSA had anything to do with that. The TSA has been shown to be, over and over, a poor form of security theatre.

13. posted by: lemonlime at 11/24/2010 @ 7:57pm

I am very liberal and have been upset about plans to install body scanners at airports since the TSA announced it was going to do this after the so-called underwear bomber. Unfortunately, few were interested in hearing my concerns until John Tyner said "Don't touch my junk." Regardless of who is spreading the word now (and it is hardly just conservatives), I am glad people are waking up to this invasion of civil liberties.

How knee jerk do you have to be to assume anything that is against what the administration is doing must have been fomented by the Koch brothers? I thought it was a liberal value to speak up for the right to privacy and protection from unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment. I think with this article you've shown that you are the paid shills, not Tyner. The assumption with no evidence of astroturf is asinine. This is especially true given that the story first gained traction on reddit, which hardly boasts a conservative slant among its posters. I have seen harsh criticisms of TSA policy across the web, on both liberal and conservative leaning sites and blogs.

If our "side" "winning" is more important than doing the right thing for our country, we have all lost.

14. posted by: Mr Whipple at 11/24/2010 @ 7:46pm

Is this supposed to be a fact based article, or an editorial/opinion piece?

Here's an example of an opinion:

"People who support the TSA are taking money from the AFL-CIO."

See? Just an accusation, no facts to back it up.

15. posted by: DHFabian at 11/24/2010 @ 6:54pm

I find it incomprehensible that otherwise-progressive speakers in the media would look at this issue and conclude: "Yeah, but I'm scared., so let's all hide under the protective wing of an authoritarian government." We know from history that subjecting people to the sort of humiliation we imposed by by the TSA is a powerful tool used to subjugate populations to authority. The virtual strip searches are just the most extreme example we've seen of this to date.

16. posted by: limoman at 11/24/2010 @ 6:48pm

Perhaps someone from the left can explain the consistency in having no issues with law abiding citizens being invasivly groped in airports and yet scream in moral outrage over an illegal alien being asked to show their papers in Arizona.

17. posted by: Jeff Norman at 11/24/2010 @ 6:47pm

Let's assume for a moment that Rep. Mica and his cohorts stand to gain from airports that opt out and use private contractors. That does not mean that if that weren't the case, people would be just fine with having their genitals groped by TSA officials. The connection alleged between citizens like Tyner and the possible motives of Mica and his like are so many degrees removed as to be thoroughly preposterous. And if there were a connection - if this was a case of a molehill being made mountainous by the right-wing media - then why (as another reader points out) is Bill O'Reilly making fun of Tyner and others? Did he switch sides? There is exactly as much evidence that Tyner is a right-wing stooge as there is that Bill O'Reilly is secretly working for Obama: zero.

I've been a subscriber to The Nation for decades. This is the worst piece I've ever read in the magazine. It doesn't even come close to any standards of journalistic credibility.

18. posted by: Marsha Miller at 11/24/2010 @ 6:15pm

Has the Nation forgotten how to do research? If you want to know more about John Tyner, ask him, do some more fact-finding, don't smear him by innuendo.

I am a life long progressive Democrat but frankly I don't care who my allies are in opposing the scanners and the groping. If Libertarians are leading the way, good for them. We certainly haven't seen any leadership from Democrats.

I am sick of having my privacy violated, losing my Consitutional rights just because I want to fly somewhere and having to put up with the hostility and surly attitudes of TSA personnel all for the sake of what is nothing but theatre.

I don't care if some people have lied or exaggerated negative experiences. I have seen enough unpleasantness when I have flown in the past to conclude that there is a real problem. I see the elderly and disabled trying to comply and having trouble and TSA employees just stand there and worse, they stop family members from assisting.

I am not convinced of the safety of the machines, I do not want to be groped by people who don't even change their gloves between gropes, and I am sick of being treated like a criminal or a terrorist. And now they want to extend these intrusions to travel and sports events and the like? Enough is enough!

Civil rights are important. I objected to the Patriot Act and all the abuses of the Bush Administration and I am not going to stop just because we have a Democrat in the White House. Maybe...

19. posted by: 2HAPPY at 11/24/2010 @ 6:07pm

Rather amazing The Nation is effectively equating plane tickets as LEGAL warrants for the Gubbers to search said ticket buyers....down to the bones!

How `liberal' of an interpretation!

20. posted by: propitiousmoment at 11/24/2010 @ 5:32pm

As much as I can't stand libertarians, and as questionable as I think the entire Koch political meddling to be, I have to agree that the new scanners and searches are problematic. We have already heard of TSA workers sharing and mocking photos, which can be permanently recorded even though we were assured they would not. The "pat-down" is now much more than that - TSA workers are allowed to use their palms and fingers to touch/probe, where before they were only allowed to pass the back of their hand across sensitive body areas. Somebody please tell me how many terror attacks have actually originated in US airports? It is exponentially safer to fly than to drive cross-country, but we are losing our collective minds over all this. I remember a campaign speech by Michelle Obama where she said "I'm tired of being afraid," referring to the manipulation of threat levels by the previous administration to keep the populace so scared of non-existent bad guys that we would slavishly surrender the rights that made us who we are. I'm tired of always being asked to be afraid, too. I thought Michelle's husband was going to take us past those evil days, but instead he is apparently prepared to extend some of the worst practices of 43 even further. I still like and admire him as a person, but I am ever more disappointed in him as our president.

21. posted by: jedi_mindtrick at 11/24/2010 @ 4:34pm

My greatest appreciation goes out to all of the posters who correctly identified the fact that the far more important topic here is our dangerously increasing subjugation to a sort of “full body search overkill”.

The requisite quote to bear in mind is probably this one--(paraphrased):

"Those who would surrender liberty for the perception of security, deserve neither liberty nor security."

On a lighter note...

Here’s my Holiday wish I’d like to share with everyone here at The Nation...

Bush brags in his book that he took responsibility for the use of torture tactics against detainees. “Damn right,” he asserts proudly, in keeping with his thuggish personality.

London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote:

"It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again."

Related links for your viewing pleasure…

Colbert: http://tinyurl.com/2dl2ood

“Hotdog!”: http://tinyurl.com/2vrqskt

22. posted by: LunaCity at 11/24/2010 @ 4:27pm

A) If the Koch brothers are financing TSA protests, perhaps they are not such bad people, after all.

B) What's an anti-libertarian?
Apparently, someone who thinks we should meekly submit to being groped by government agents in the name of the common good.

23. posted by: LunaCity at 11/24/2010 @ 4:20pm

A) If the Koch's are helping people fight the TSa, maybe they are not such bad people, really.

B) What is an anti-libertarians? Apparantly someone who thinks we should all meekly submit to authority and allow ourselves to be molested by government agents in the name of a more perfect union.

24. posted by: mje at 11/24/2010 @ 4:17pm

Some may complain, but I, for one, am pleased to see The Nation return to its Stalinist roots. Death to the revanchist libertarians who dare question the glorious heroes of the TSA in their struggle against bourgeois notions of personal privacy!

25. posted by: Mickey Dugan at 11/24/2010 @ 4:13pm

I am surpirised - and frankly - delighted, that The Nation magazine has finally grown up and accepted that we are engaged in a Global War On terror against radical jihadists who want to kill us all.

Our nation should properly have been brought under martial law in 2001, and we should be governed as such until this war is won. We are a nation under siege from the gravest existential threat since Nazi Germany.

Real American patriots understand the requirement to submit to power. If the TSA believes a full cavity search is required, then it's time to bend over and cough. The safety of property and the citizenry is sacrosanct.

It is well past time The Nation took a firm stand on the War on Terror, and I am gratified to see in this brave assignment that intrepid reporters are now taking baby steps to profound wisdom and inevitability.

Maranatha.

26. posted by: Alchemist at 11/24/2010 @ 4:10pm

I just discovered an amazing phenomenon.
I held up a copy of The Nation in front of a mirror, and saw the Weekly Standard. Flipped it over, and saw National Review.
Just goes to show, folks don't care about abuses of power when it's their people doing the abusing.

27. posted by: erikdnieto at 11/24/2010 @ 4:08pm

Wow. This article is as bad as Salon said it was.

28. posted by: eblair at 11/24/2010 @ 3:53pm

Horrible. Wow, the Nation really is irrelevant isn't it? CBS poll? That was a shilled up lie. Why don't you look at the latest Zogby poll? What a farce the Nation is. So shameful. So disgusting. Carrying Chertoff's water? Shill it up. Shill it up. Shill it up.

29. posted by: cka2nd at 11/24/2010 @ 3:45pm

...as a screen for a fight over profits between competing corporate interests.

30. posted by: cka2nd at 11/24/2010 @ 3:45pm

I find it interesting that most of the responses to this article, including Gleen Greenwald's, focus exclusively on its first half, where Ames and Levine question the stories of some of the individuals who have objected to the TSA's new practices, while ignoring or dismissing out of hand the second half of the article, questioning whether the movement against TSA's invasive searches is being encouraged to effect the contracting out of airport security functions to private, for-profit companies.

Ames and Levine would have done a better job if they had framed the second half of the story as possibly being an example of capitalist competition being played out behind the scenes by, on the one hand, vendors supplying the government with expensive and potentially dangerous technology (of questionable effectiveness, to boot) and, on the other hand, would-be contractors who would like to cut the feds out of the job altogether. And that for both sides, profits, not security, seem to be the priority. That's certainly the angle that caught my eye.

I too have been disturbed that some of the hosts on MSNBC are putting their loyalty to the Obama administration above their opposition to invasive searches, and would have preferred to see them focusing more on what security practices have been shown to work, and what might, MIGHT, be the unwritten story about a battle over civil liberties and personal inviolability vs. collective security taking place as a screen for a...

31. posted by: elemming at 11/24/2010 @ 3:12pm

This article is a smear job against a private citizen and the writers provide not a scrap of evidence to back up their insinuations about the subjects motives or backing.

The Nation should issue an apology to John Tyner and its readers.

I was very impressed with John's principled polite stance against unreasonable search and groping.

32. posted by: sinjan at 11/24/2010 @ 3:04pm

Well, that's too bad.

There are so many options for news and commentary out there, and relatively little time, that it's pieces like this one that are enough to change the status of The Nation from "occasionally read" to "don't bother".

What a sloppy, fact-free, (editor-unseen?), smear job on someone who, by all accounts (the fact-based ones), is worthy of respect and admiration. In a time of authoritarian excess, Tyner stood up for his rights (and yours, I might add), did so politely and civilly, and had the presence of mind to record it so that he could bring the whole ridiculous and offensive occasion to light.

And this last bit isn't the conspiratorial trade-craft the authors and the TSA official (granted anonymity why?) imply--Tyner is 31 and apparently tech-savvy, and if you haven't noticed, whipping out the cell phone and recording life is all the rage these days. You see, they make the videos and then they post them on the internets, on the youtubes.

Seriously, shame on you and your editors, this was just awful for so many reasons.

33. posted by: squanto at 11/24/2010 @ 2:53pm

What a dirty hit piece by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine. How did this ever get past the editors? You are trashing your brand and legitimacy by this hack work. And what about Chris Hayes showing up on MSNBC? Does this terrible story now rub off him and cast doubt about his authenticity?

34. posted by: Mike the Grouch at 11/24/2010 @ 2:43pm

Wow. This is the point in time at which The Nation, a magazine with a long and proud, but eroding, history, moves from merely irrelevant into "useful idiot" category.

Glad I dropped my subscription to The Nation years ago. Given that the TSA and "Homeland Security" are Bush-era police-state moves, the Democrats and alleged liberals across this land should be looking to restore us to pre-9/11 levels of sanity and calm. Instead the Democratic administration defends and promotes more and more invasive, vile treatment of law abiding citizens and alleged liberals at The Nation smear those who say "enough".

35. posted by: Tom Horne at 11/24/2010 @ 2:33pm

TSA's claim that they are responding to a new threat, the failed underwear bomber is true, as far as it goes. The whole truth is that the new screening will not detect a bomb like the one used in an Aug 2009 assassination attempt in Saudi Arabia, a butt bomb. With a little more explosive, or in a smaller room the Saudi Interior Minister would have been killed, rather than wounded and covered with the unmentionable. To read about this clever, competently executed plot, Google "detonator inserted in his rectum".

How stupid will TSA and its supporters look if a Butt Bomb gets through and brings down a plane? Not stupid at all, since there will likely be no evidence to reveal what happened. It is very cynical of TSA and DHS to claim they are trying to protect us with this new very intrusive screening, when they know that their new screening will not detect the proven butt bomb.

We are acting as stupid PC sheep, tolerating this cynical intrusive screening that will not detect known threats. The solution is profiling, bag matching, and moving commerce out of the "secured" area. Anything less is "security theatre".

36. posted by: tippycanoe at 11/24/2010 @ 2:30pm

Wow, crabwalk obviously didn't read the Greenwald article. Yes, some of us actually have the ability to think outside of the left/right dichotomy... red/blue, us/them, Dem/GOP, coffee/tea...blah, blah blah, whatever. Sad spectacle, really. Especially when *your* guy has done nothing but take Bush's unconstitutional ball and run with it. From where I sit both of these parties are rotten to the core. Divide and conquer is working like a well-oiled machine.

And where was I? Well, on January 20, 2001... I was here:
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2001-01-22/article/3100?headline=Activists-protest-Bush-inauguration-

37. posted by: Tannim at 11/24/2010 @ 2:09pm

This article is a giant ball of crud, based only in guilt-by-association and not facts.

I guess in that vein The Nation and these authors were funded by the TSA's AFL-CIO union to attack the people instead of actually dealing with the issue, because they CAN'T deal with the issue without looking like idiots.

See also http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/11/24/tyner/index.html

38. posted by: crabwalk at 11/24/2010 @ 1:56pm

posted by: Reid Greenmun at 11/24/2010 @ 10:18am

I would say your understanding of the constitution is lacking...

Airports are PUBLIC places, and the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that when citizens are in public places privacy rights are far less secure.

Where were you guys from 2000-2008?

Cheering this stuff on!!

You made your bed, now you are peeing in it and wondering why you are soaked in urine. While blaming on the "government"!!

39. posted by: Carlton_Lufteufel at 11/24/2010 @ 1:56pm

Wow, I'm a little shocked that the Nation would publish an article coming out against Tyner and the TSA protests. It seems little more than innuendo and even some scare mongering thrown in... funding by the Koch brothers? Really?

Come on. Maybe civil liberties aren't on the top of your stack, but to many of us lefties it is one of the most important issues to address and we could use help instead of scorn from one of our preeminent magazines. And let's face it, just because this guy calls himself a "libertarian" doesn't mean he is an appendage of the far-right Kochtopus.

40. posted by: Reverend Unruh at 11/24/2010 @ 1:56pm

I just called your office to tell you all that you missed a few background facts for this story.

First, the Tea Party was my idea and second, I seriously objected to the scanning machines and raised a fuss, so if you want to know why those two issues seem to tap into the same energy, it is because of me. I did it.

I blog on firedoglake as kindGSL and in AlterNet comments as Sister Lauren.

I had a big idea to end war, all war, globally. It is a project based on constitutional law and freedom of religion.

Since I am leading a popular political movement, it offends me greatly that you put so much effort into both denigrating and ignoring it.

It is a fine line you walk there, to be sure, but to me it is highly offensive.

Sister Lauren

THC Ministry
Pleasant Hill, California
A Native American Church

41. posted by: Ertdfg at 11/24/2010 @ 1:51pm

Wait, someone isn't comfortable with minimally trained TSA agent groping the genitals of any child over the age of 12 who gets in an airport line?

Well they must be getting paid off. any rational person knows that groping children is a fine tradition; and one The Nation will defend to it's last breath.

Who are these shadowy figures trying to stop the groping of children? Clearly they're evil and only in it for the money... but who is paying them?

Thank you Nation for looking into this; I was thinking nobody understood that groping children is a security necessity and something we should treasure as a national pastime.

If someone tries to stop a child from being groped; The Nation will be there to ask "who profits from preventing this?"

The Nation attempts to defend and condone the groping of children... who profits?

42. posted by: crabwalk at 11/24/2010 @ 1:50pm

GREAT STORY, regardless of what the trolls think!

Just a few years ago, these same "ordinary citizens" were calling on the evil govt to kidnap, render, hold and torture ANYBODY that maybe, could possibly might be a "terrorist". Waterboarding? Fine. Womens underwear on their heads? Cool with the Teabagger. Menstrual blood smeared on mens heads? Sounded like good fun the right wing.

NOW? OMG, I might have to undergo security screening from a group put into place by republican president and republican congress!!

What it comes down to is that the Whiners and Criers are TOTALLY unwilling to make ANY sacrifice for their country, or for the well being of their neighbors. They were unwilling to pay for their wars, unwilling to fight for their country, and now unwilling to accept tight security in a public place.

---

Of course, then their is the Mr Chertoff angle...just more corruption from the Bush admin that continues to pay dividends. Thanks right wing!! you brought us this great economy, AND more things for yourselves to fear and whine and cry about!

Mission accomplished!

43. posted by: ino shinola at 11/24/2010 @ 1:11pm

1. Read Greenwald, heard that Levine and Ames had written a defamatory article about a seemingly courageous protestor.

2. Checked article to see if it was as full of innuendo and pure sloppiness as described.

3. It was.

4. Lost respect for Nation, concluded that Levine and Ames are utter hacks.

5. Awaited some show of contrition and remorse from these clowns....

44. posted by: janass at 11/24/2010 @ 1:03pm

I keep thinking of the study that where when the authority figures told people to shock other human and the people being shocked were actors and screaming and yet the majority of the people continued to shock, just because the authority figures told them to. this study was related to what happened in Nazi Germany. I always thought, no way, I would not have done that to my fellow humans just because someone told me to and now I see who all those people were that did do it. If this was the Bush administration you would be screaming your heads off, but since it is Obama it is OK. Bring on NAFTA II, killing the mediaII, killing welfare II while people that should know better stand by and allow it to happen.

45. posted by: Gilly at 11/24/2010 @ 12:57pm

wow, whats next? 2 fingers and a glob of vasoline up the wazoo? its the next logical step. think about it. 2 fingers all in the name of safety while "the nation" here thinks only tea party members are making the fuss. where can one find real journalists creating real news stories?

46. posted by: JMWeleski at 11/24/2010 @ 12:49pm

Right-wing organizations will seize upon any issue that paints Barack Obama and the Democrats in a poor light and ceaselessly bleat about it until they are blue in the face. That is a given.

However, just because right-wing organizations sieze upon an issue doesn't mean that the actual issue is vile or unworthy of left-wing support.

Also, there is a fine line between merely tying the recent TSA-related outrage to the "Kochtopus" and other right-wing astro-turf groups, and attempting to discredit/dismiss the justifiable outrage of those who don't appreciate it when government agents grope or X-ray them before a flight. This article appears to cross that line.

The Nation's inability to recognize nuance (i.e., my political opponents can support commendable causes for partisan, self-interested reasons) resulted in what can only be described as reflexive, "They support X, so we oppose X" hackery.

~~~

Oh, but lest I forget; "Rah, rah! Go Democrats! Woo! You're number one! Obama is the man! Yeah!"

[I added the last part so the serious, pragmatic authors of this article would know that I am not a "libertarian rebel," and would thus take my argument seriously.]

47. posted by: vlicklider at 11/24/2010 @ 12:45pm

This "article" is disgusting and embarrassing. I just subscribed to The Nation this year and was extremely proud of that until right now. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Remove this right-wing smear job immediately, so I can stop being ashamed of my subscription.

48. posted by: mark_proulx at 11/24/2010 @ 12:34pm

This article is far beneath the customary journalistic standards of The Nation. In fact, it is so ludicrous that one could expect to find it in The Onion. Glenn Greenwald provides a marvelous deconstruction of this piece of tripe:

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/11/24/tyner/index.html

49. posted by: Beethoven1 at 11/24/2010 @ 12:33pm

And once again, all of the wacked out John Birchers aka tea goober heads come out of the wood work.

Talk about people wearing tin foil hats....now there's your group.

50. posted by: Marech at 11/24/2010 @ 12:30pm

Exactly when did the Left decide to get into bed with Big Coercive Government?

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